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Choosing which law schools to apply to is a complicated decision informed by a multitude of personal, professional, and academic factors. Geography, GPA, LSAT scores, and future career goals all play a major role. For example, if you are interested in following a career track into the federal judiciary, you'll want to apply to schools that secure a large number of federal clerkships for their students. Or if you are interested in public interest work, you may want to apply to schools that offer stipends to students who do pro bono work during the summer.
The possibilities and permutations are almost endless, and, in many cases, you may not yet know exactly where you want your law career to take you. That’s okay. If you follow these tips, you will be well-positioned to make smart choices when it comes to where you apply.
Sign up for the Candidate Referral Service
Through the Candidate Referral Service, law schools will reach out to you based on your GPA and LSAT scores. In addition to offering fee waivers to competitive applicants, law schools will frequently send notifications about virtual information sessions, webinars, and other events where you can learn more. If a school sends you a fee waiver, that means they are interested in you, in which case it can't hurt to reach out to the school and ask to learn more about its law program.
UGPA/LSAT Score Search
When selecting law schools, it’s helpful to know roughly where you will be a competitive candidate and where you won’t. For that, LSAC’s UGPA/LSAT Score Search is a useful tool. Just plug in your Undergraduate GPA and your LSAT score, and the site will calculate your odds of getting into various schools. This is a great way to identify safety schools, where your chance of getting in near or at 100 percent, and reach schools, where your chances of admission are less than 50 percent. Keep in mind, however, that this is only an algorithm, and law school admissions boards often use a more holistic approach in their decisions. While it is true that your GPA and LSAT score are the most important factors in admissions, there will be plenty of opportunities on your application to show why these metrics don’t tell the whole story about your chances to succeed in law school.
Attend law fairs
Increasingly, law fairs are migrating online, so if you don’t live in a major metropolitan area or university hub, you can still participate in these valuable events. The online component also makes it easier for schools from across the country to “send” representatives to law fairs no matter where they are hosted. These events give you the opportunity to speak directly to admissions representatives and to hear answers to questions asked by your peers. If you’re not sure what you’re looking for in a law school, these events are designed for you. Admissions officers effectively pitch their institution’s strongest attributes to applicants, making this a great way to compare and contrast law schools. And if you do know what you’re looking for, law fairs are perfect opportunities to grill schools on what they look for in candidates.
You should ask yourself where you want to live during law school but also where you want live after you graduate. In most cases, the state where you study law will be the state where it is easiest to find a job after graduation. This isn’t always the case, however. Law students at Washington University in St. Louis, for example, are famous for finding work outside St. Louis after they graduate. If you’re interested in a school but don’t want to live in that school’s state forever, you will definitely want to ask an admissions rep for data on where a school’s graduates end up.
Learn about the school’s culture
To excel at law school, you’ll need to be in a culture you’re comfortable with. Campus visits are enormously helpful in this respect, but spending a month traveling the country visiting law schools isn’t feasible for most candidates. Instead, try reaching out to a student organization at a law school to set up a call or video chat with an existing student. That way, you can learn about the school’s commitment to things like diversity or mentoring from a source that is more likely to be candid than an admissions rep.
No matter where you attend law school, tuition will be steep. While federal student loans are always an option, limiting your debt after graduation is an all-important consideration. Fortunately, the amount of scholarship money you stand to receive isn’t limited by merit or need. Some schools are simply far more generous than others with scholarship money, independent of the quality of the education. For example, New York University is ranked only two spots below Columbia, but it gives out twice as many full scholarships each year. The aforementioned Washington University, which is ranked 17th in the country by US News and World Report, also ranks 9th in the percentage of students who receive full scholarships. Also, don’t be afraid to apply to more schools than you think you need to. It is impossible to predict who will give you scholarships and who won’t, and it is best to maximize your opportunities by applying to as many schools as you reasonably can.