We answer a lot of admissions questions throughout the year. One of the most prevalent is about going to law school. Kudos to all of you pre-planning future law students! With that in mind, here are some pointers for you looking to get your JD.
These are the two basic requirements to be able to apply to any law school in the United States.
- A high school degree and an undergraduate degree from a four-year college/university. You cannot go straight from high school to law school!
- An official score from the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT). Go here to learn more information about that test.
The Finer Details
There isn’t a specific formula for getting into law school! People from many different paths end up in law school. There isn’t a specific college class you should take or college major you should have, either. What you need to possess is a stellar academic record, an exceptional LSAT score, excellent letters of recommendation from college professors, and a résumé that reflects your involvement at your undergraduate. Let’s break that down a little further.
- Academic Transcripts. The closer you can get to a 4.0 GPA, the better. It will open quite a few doors for you in law school admissions.
- LSAT Score. The test’s scoring scale is 120-180. To have a shot at the best schools, you need to aim as high as possible. Do research on the schools you want to go to for the full details, but to get into the top schools, you need to aim for a 172+.
- Letters of Recommendation. Just like the teacher recommendations you need for your college applications! These help demonstrate your character to law schools from another perspective. Make sure to foster relationships with the people you learn from.
- Résumé. Law schools don’t prefer a specific type of internship or activity. What you should focus on is demonstrating commitment to and leadership in two or three causes over a number of years, rather than sporadic participation in 10+ activities.
Even with all that, admission is not be a definite thing. You’re going to face some tough competition! For example, Yale Law has the lowest admission percentage of all law schools in the United States at just over 7%.
Set Some Goals
For now, your aim needs to be to finish high school and get into the college. Then, focus on doing the following during your college years in order to create a solid applicant profile that puts you at an advantage in the law school application process.
- Pick a college major that requires a lot of reading- and research-intensive classes. Students aiming to apply to law school often go into political science, history, economics, or sociology. You’re certainly not limited to these disciplines, though! These studies help prepare you for law school and demonstrate to law schools that you can handle a heavy academic load.
- Keep an upward grade trend throughout college. This means that your grades either get stronger as you go through school, or start off strong and remain there throughout your college career. Most law schools want to see GPAs of 3.5 or above. That said, 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 is to keep your grades as high as possible, and then keep them high.
- Take a challenging class load. Intro classes are okay for freshman and (maybe) sophomore year of college, but once you get to junior and senior year, your focus should be on upper-level classes and seminars that allow you to really hone in on your specific interests within the major. As always, keep your grades up throughout.
- Establish rapport with your professors, particularly in your junior and senior years. You can achieve this by attending office hours, working for them as a research assistant, and talking to them after class. They will be the ones writing your letters of recommendation and will only be able to write effective, overwhelmingly positive ones is if they have specific, anecdotal knowledge of you and can favorably compare you to other students in your class.
- Work on your extracurriculars. Don’t worry about being a part of 30 student groups. Instead, focus on 2 or 3. Get involved during your freshman and sophomore years, then obtain leadership positions in them during your junior and senior years.
- Take the LSAT either the summer after junior year or the fall of your senior year of college. This will allow you to get the LSAT out of the way and apply as early in the admissions cycle as possible, which is beneficial to your overall chances.
Once you start putting together a list of schools you want to apply to, start researching law schools and becoming familiar with their LSAT and GPA requirements as well as 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!