Are you going to law school but don't know where to apply and how to narrow your list? Worried and without direction about a decision that will affect the rest of your life? With a few tactical tips, you can effectively go through this process.
Send 10-12 applications
First, you should send 10 to 12 applications. While it may seem expensive in the short-term to spend $50-$90 each on a dozen applications, the total cost of getting a law degree is in the hundreds of thousands so it is crucial that you spread your applications to give yourself the best chance in your admissions cycle.
After you take the LSAT, many times, you will receive application fee waivers that let you apply to their respective universities for free (and they benefit from doing this by receiving more applications and a potential better class). Taking fee waivers into consideration, the cost of applying could be around $400 total. But the greater freedom to choose among more places to get your legal education that will impact your career earnings, which could total millions of dollars, will make the 10 to 12 application fees worth it.
Find dreams and safeties
Credit: TheNutManYour list should comprise dream and safety schools, as well as places within your LSAT and GPA numbers range. By this, I mean that almost all legal institutions will release the 25th-50th-75th percentile LSAT score and GPA range of their most recent admissions class, and you can use this data to compare your numbers. Obviously, if the entering classes 25th percentile LSAT score and GPA is higher than your numbers, that is under the dream category. The opposite is true if your numbers are higher than the law schools 75th percentile numbers, making that a safety.
To qualify these statements, your LSAT score and GPA are only few factors in the process among your recommendation letters, personal statement and resume. But these two numbers are the most important in admissions and can be trusted as appropriate benchmarks in estimating your chance of acceptance.
Visit your top 5
After you make your list and apply, the ball is out of your hands for the time being until you are notified of their decision. During this time period it is important to visit the campuses that you think you have a good chance of being accepted and could see yourself attending. I would recommend mainly visiting the schools that your LSAT and GPA numbers align close with, because otherwise you're making visits that you might have a tiny chance of getting in. Add a visit to one safety and then wait to visit a dream university. You can also always visit after you have been accepted. Because visiting can be expensive with travel, hotels, and food costs, I recommend making around five law school visits.
Pick based on finances and feel
Assuming you have been notified at this stage about your acceptance or denial, it is time to pick one. Now is where you benefit from all the work you put in when you made your list, found dream and safety schools, and visited campuses. First, cost of attendance has to be in the forefront of your decision. Cost of attendance includes tuition, housing, food, travel, and all your extra costs. Do not only look at tuition, because tuition numbers fluctuate and your housing plus other expenses can equal a year of tuition in some locations. My advice, in almost all situations, is to never pay full price of tuition. If a law school accepts you and does not give you a scholarship, leverage their no offer with your acceptance or scholarship offer at another competitor. If they still say no then say no right back and find yourself a better option.Credit: CC @ http://401kcalculator.org
Second, location is huge in making your decision. If you want to practice law in Texas, it would be a much better idea to go to a law school in Texas rather than Minnesota. Plus, you will be living in this area for three years, so your preference of weather needs to be noted. Do not go to a Chicago if you cannot stand the cold.
Third, and most important with cost of attendance just behind it, is the law school's employment statistics. Don't go so you can be cool in front of your friends. Going to law school is the step needed to practice as an attorney. All accredited universities have their employment prospects on their website. Check it out, and if under 50% of their class is unemployed, that is a red flag.
Only you can put these factors into context of importance and decide what law school is best for you. Your feeling about a law school needs to be balanced with the reasoning of is the cost of attendance, location, and employment stats worth my investment. Finally, if none of your options feel right, for one or more reasons, you could always take a year off to get work experience or study and retake the LSAT, in order to reapply the next fall with better admissions results.
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