We answer a lot of law school admissions questions throughout the year. One of the most prevalent comes from the younger crowd of aspiring law school applicants. “I’m only a junior/senior in high school, but I already know I want to go to law school. What do I need to do to increase my chances of getting into [law school]?” First of all, kudos to you for pre-planning! Here are some pointers to help you on your path.
These are the two basic requirements you need to apply to any U.S. law school.
- Finish high school and obtain a four-year undergraduate degree at a college or university. You cannot go straight from high school to law school.
- Take the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT).
Fundamentals for Admission
Of course, there is a lot more to it than that. Keep in mind that there isn’t a specific formula for getting into law school. People from many different paths and walks of life end up in law school! There isn’t a specific college class you should take or a college major you should have. What you need is a stellar academic record, an exceptional LSAT score, excellent letters of recommendation, and a résumé. Let’s break that down a little further.
- Academic Record. The closer you can get to a 4.0, the better. Having an excellent display of achievement in your classes will open numerous doors for you when applying to law school.
- LSAT Score. This goes hand-in-hand with your GPA. Combining a stellar GPA with a high LSAT score is the ticket to getting into any school you want. The test has a scoring scale of 120 to 180. But, to have a shot at the best schools, you need to aim for at least a 160. Preferably, a 165. If you want to go to the very top schools, you need to aim for 172+.
- Letters of Recommendation. Similar to the teacher recommendations you get for your college applications! When the time comes, you will need to ask your college professors for recommendations.
- Résumé. Specifically, one that shows involvement. Usually, law schools don’t prefer a specific type of internship or activity over another. The purpose of this is to demonstrate commitment and leadership in two or three causes over your college career. Rather than sporadic participation in 10+ activities, focus on a few core activities that matter to you.
Even with all that, admission is not a definite thing. You will still face some tough competition! Spots in a law school class are often intense, regardless of their credentials, particularly if you’re aiming for top schools. Yale Law, for example, has the lowest admissions percentage of all the law schools in the United States (just over 7%). For now, your aim needs to be to finish high school and get into the college of your choice.
What to Focus on in College
Once you’re in college, here’s what you can do to create a solid applicant profile. Hopefully, if you do everything right, you’ll have an advantage in the law school application process.
- Carefully Choose a Major. Pick a college major that requires a lot of reading- and research-intensive classes. Students that aim to apply to law school often favor political science, history, economics, or sociology. Although, you’re certainly not limited to these disciplines. These not only prepare you for law classes but demonstrate that you can handle a heavy academic load.
- Keep an Upward Grade Trend. This means that your grades either get stronger as you go through school or start off strong and remain there. Most law schools want to see GPAs of 3.5 or above. Like we mentioned above, the closer you get to a 4.0, the better. If you get a B during your freshman year, it’s not a deal-breaker! Don’t stress too much if you flounder initially. Your focus should be keeping your grades as high as you can and keeping them there.
- Challenge Yourself! Intro classes are okay for your freshman and maybe sophomore year of college. Once you’re a junior, your focus here on out should be upper-level classes and seminars. This allows you to really hone in on your specific interests within the major. As always, try to keep your grades up throughout.
- Establish Rapport with Professors. Particularly in your final years of college, form strong relationships with your professors. You can do this by attending office hours, working for them as a research assistant, and talking to them after class. They will become the ones writing your letters of recommendation! They will only be able to write effective and positive ones if they have specific, anecdotal knowledge of you and can favorably compare you to your peers.
- Work on Extracurriculars. Don’t worry about being a part of 30+ student groups. Instead, focus on 2 or 3. Involve yourself in these groups in your freshman and sophomore years, then obtain leadership positions during your latter years.
- Take the LSAT Early. Taking the LSAT either the summer after your junior year or the fall of your senior year offers multiple advantages. It allows you to get the LSAT out of the way and apply as early in the admissions cycle as possible.
- Research Law Schools. Put together a list of law schools you want to apply to in your sophomore or junior year. Start by researching them and becoming familiar with their LSAT and GPA requirements. Take note of their acceptance percentages. A great place to start is LSAC’s Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools.
For now, focus on doing very well in high school and getting into a great college or university. Once you’re there, start applying the tips above to create a solid law school applicant profile. You’re already on the right path by starting to think about this so early on, so just keep on being as dedicated as you are now, and you’ll do great!