For many aspiring law students, the LSAT can be such a major hurdle that it blocks out almost every other dimension of the law school admissions process. But let’s say you’ve finally finished going through the process of studying for and taking the LSAT. You’re probably longing to sit back and relax, but there’s still a ways to go in your law school admissions journey.
One crucial next step will be officially deciding which law schools to apply to. With nearly 200 ABA-accredited law schools in the US alone, this is can be an extremely daunting and complex decision. That’s why we’ve prepared this article, which can serve as a primer to help you make the best decisions for yourself about which law schools you should apply to.
Are All Your Ducks in a Row?
Before making your official list of the law schools you want to apply to, you’ll want to make sure you’ve got all your ducks in a row. The first obvious step is to have taken an official LSAT exam and earned a score you’re happy with. Hopefully you put in a lot of prep time and even worked with an LSAT tutor to ensure the score you wound up with represents the peak of your capabilities, thus giving you the best shot of gaining admission to the schools you end up applying to.
Beyond your LSAT score, there are several other application requirements you’ll need to prepare in order to actually apply to law school. First, you’ll need to secure your college transcripts and have them ready to send along with the rest of your admission materials. This process can sometimes take weeks, so you’ll want to be proactive in getting in touch with your undergraduate institution.
You’ll also need to prepare a top-notch personal statement, which paints the best picture of yourself as an applicant and a future lawyer for the schools of your choice. You may want to tailor this statement somewhat to speak to each unique school you apply to, but you can prepare a general statement ahead of time. And make sure you don’t just rush through the writing process. You’ll want to put serious time into drafting and redrafting your personal statement until you can be sure it puts your best foot forward. Make sure to consult with people whose writing advice you respect. And if you’re working with one of our LSAT tutors, they’ll also be able to help you craft a top-notch personal statement.
What Do You Want from a Law School?
The next step toward choosing the law schools you want to apply to is asking yourself what’s really important to you about your law school education.
For many aspiring lawyers, prestige is the number one concern, and it trumps all others. This is understandable—attending an elite law school can help you land a high-profile job at a top firm upon graduation. But you should be aware that, if prestige is the most important factor for you in choosing a law school, a) gaining admission will be more competitive, and b) you may have to make sacrifices or compromises on the other dimensions of your choice, especially cost and location. To get a better understanding of the most prestigious law schools, you can start by reviewing the US News & World Report Best Law Schools Rankings.
Those rankings are based on a general level of prestige, but you may already have an idea of the field of law you want to specialize in, and the best schools in your specialty might not correspond to the most generally prestigious law schools. For that, the US News & World Report also offers separate rankings based on different specializations.
Another major consideration for which law schools to apply to is cost. Law school tends to be extremely expensive, but there is significant variation in cost between different schools. A top-ranked private JD program like Harvard Law is likely to cost significantly more than a law program at a state school. But don’t just look at the overall cost of attendance—you should also look into which schools offer scholarships and financial aid packages for which you may be eligible. These can significantly alter how much you end up having to spend on law school.
One factor many students neglect to consider is the size of the law program—and the entire university—they end up attending. But size can have a major impact on your satisfaction and your success. Some students thrive most in a small pond, whereas others perform at their best in a more heavily populated environment. Be sure to research the class sizes of the law schools you’re considering, and ask yourself which kind of environment will be most conducive to your success.
Finally, you may want to think hard about what kind of location is best for you. Do you want to study in or near a big city, or do you prefer a small college town? You may want to study somewhere close to where you currently live, or else you may want to study somewhere near the area where you’d most like to practice law upon graduating. You may also decide location doesn’t matter anywhere near as much as the other factors we’ve outlined.
How Many Law Schools Should You Apply To?
You’re also probably wondering how many law schools you should apply to. For most students, the answer falls somewhere in the 5-15 range. Any fewer than that, and you risk not getting into law school at all. Any more than that, and you’re probably just wasting your money for the sake of not narrowing down your list.
The factors that matter most to you will determine the right number of law schools to apply to. For example, if you have a highly specific location you’d like to study in, there may be a limited number of schools that qualify.
You should also remember that most applications cost money, usually between $75-85 per school. Some schools offer application fee waivers to qualifying students, however. This is worth researching if the cost of applying is significant for you.
As you make your official list of schools to apply to, be sure to include a substantial number of “Target Schools.” These are schools you’d be happy to end and have a reasonable shot of getting into. You can get a better sense of your chances at each school by comparing yourself to the average student profile for admitted students at each school, which includes LSAT scores and GPA. You should also include a few “Reach Schools,” which may be more competitive based on prestige and student profile, but more rewarding if you get in.
Applying to law school is like running a marathon before a series of marathons. Satisfying all the admissions requirements takes a significant investment of time, energy, and money. Therefore, you’ll want to be smart and intentional when deciding which law schools you should apply to.
If you want to give yourself the best shot of getting into the right school for you, consider working with one of our tutors. MyGuru’s expert LSAT tutors will work one-on-one with you to help you achieve your best possible LSAT score. They can also offer expert coaching and support to help guide you through the entire law school admissions process.