With law school admission really competitive and the need for a top-tier law school degree more important than ever, you’ll need to seriously up your game if you want to get in. It might take some pre-planning, but here are some things to consider doing before you apply for law school.
Increase your GPA
A higher grade point average will be looked upon favorably when you apply to law school, but if you didn’t do so hot during your undergraduate studies, not all is lost. Most law schools will look at the GPA from your undergraduate degree first, but some -- not all -- will also consider any studies you’ve done beyond that as well. Ask the law school admissions office how they calculate your GPA, and if they’ll factor in post-graduation coursework, take a few classes at a local college and aim for high marks. If you’re still in college, don’t slack off on your studies; if your GPA is on the low side now, consider staying in school a bit longer than you might need to in order to earn some higher grades that can raise your GPA. And speaking of that, law schools will look even more favorably on high marks earned in more challenging courses. In other words, high marks in courses such as political science are going to look better than high marks in ceramics.
Take a test prep course
You might think you have the test sections down pat, but you may be surprised at how difficult it gets once you’re actually required to do those things under a time constraint. The test prep courses are good at not only training you to thrive in the various sections of the admissions test, but also to get good at doing them in a timed environment. Law students who have taken a test prep course say it’s been worth every penny.
Visit the law schools you want to attend and meet people
It’s worth your time to take a tour and get a feel for the environment you might be spending a lot of time in, but the campus visit serves another purpose: It helps you make a good impression. Beyond the tour, contact some of the professors and ask to sit in on their classes. Also contact the admissions office and set up a meeting to talk to the staff. The staff will often make a note of your name and their first impressions of you, which can help to get your foot in the door.
Get the best letters of recommendation you can
While you won’t get to see what they write, you do have control over who you ask to write your letters of recommendation. College professors and former employers are good, but also look to family friends who may be alumni of the law school and who can speak to your character, or people with whom you’ve volunteered or worked alongside in some non-academic setting. Without making it seem like you’re telling the letter-writers what to write, give them an outline of your career highlights, your academic success and your community involvement, so they’ll have something specific to discuss in your letter. Even if only one or two letters are required, it doesn’t hurt to gather a few extras.
Tailor each application
Every law school has differing priorities and a different application process, and sending a generic application to all of them is not going to help you win any points. Read anything and everything you can about each school’s admissions criteria, and be sure you understand what types of law the school excels in. In your personal statement, mention why you’re a good fit for that particular school and vice versa.
Getting into a good law school -- or any school at all -- can be a challenge to even the most diligent student, but taking extra steps to make your application shine can really pay off.
Image courtesy Beatrice Murch, Flickr