Applying to law schools can be incredibly stressful, especially if you aren't too sure where you should be aiming your applications at. The pressure of wanting to make the most out of your application cycles and make sure you're accepted into at least one school can be a very overwhelming experience for many law school hopefuls.
Fortunately, we're here to help you make sense of everything. In this article, you'll learn which schools you should prioritize during your applications and how to best take advantage of your application strengths and weaknesses.
Figuring Out Which Law Schools to Apply To
When narrowing down your law school choices, you can start to place each school into the three categories below. This will help you organize your applications and give you a good idea of your acceptance chances.
Most students will apply to two reach schools, three target schools, and two safety schools, as a general rule. You should aim most of your applications at your target schools, with only a few applications saved for reach and safety schools.
On average, students will apply to between 5 and 15 law schools each cycle; your application cycle may vary based on your scores and dream schools, but it is a good idea to have at least 5 applications sent out. And while spreading a wide net over schools can be a good thing in certain scenarios, you should try to avoid overapplying (think 20 or more applications) unless absolutely necessary, as this can be expensive and take up a lot of time and mental effort.
Reach schools are the schools on your list that you don't have the best chances at acceptance at, but there still may be a chance. Usually, for a law school to be considered a reach for you, your GPA and LSAT scores are below the school's median scores, or your GPA is higher and your LSAT score is below the 25th percentile score.
Factors like your personal statement, resume activities, and individual background can increase or decrease your chances, but in general, a reach school will be just that – a reach. You may get accepted; you may not.
You shouldn't apply solely to reach schools and should only send out a few applications to the schools you are most interested in.
Target schools are the schools on your application list that you have the highest chance of getting in. These are schools where your GPA and LSAT scores are at or above the school's median scores, or either your GPA or LSAT is above the median score, and the other is below (this is commonly referred to as being a splitter).
Most of your applications should be submitted for target schools, as these are schools that you have a good chance of admission at and that you would be excited to attend. When making your list of target schools, make sure to take into account some of the factors we discuss below.
A safety school is one that you are highly likely to get accepted into, as your GPA and LSAT scores are both either above the school's median scores or at and above the school's 75th percentile scores.
It is always a good idea to submit a few applications to safety schools, as they will act as a backup if things don't work out with your target or reach schools. Safety schools may also offer you scholarships that you can use to negotiate with other schools that are higher on your list. Like with reach schools, you don't want to apply to too many safety schools in your application cycle and should stick to sending out only a few applications.
If you are not sure exactly which schools to add to your list, or you want a better idea of your admission chances, you can use one of the many free online law school predictors. These calculators quickly compare your data to previous years' admissions cycles and other students' scores, giving you a rough idea of your admissions chances at a particular law school.
Considerations for Your Law School Applications
As you are creating your law school application list, you should keep in mind these important factors. They can help you make a decision between schools and determine if a law school is a good fit for you.
Realistic Admission Possibilities
Some of the most important things to consider when choosing law schools to apply to are your grades and LSAT scores. Evaluate whether a school is a good fit for you by checking on the school's median and 75th percentile scores and comparing them to your own. This will tell you whether the school is a reach, a target, or a safety school.
Resume and Personal Statement Boosters
In addition to scores, you should be evaluating your resume and crafting your personal statement to perfectly showcase your unique story, motivations for law school, and background.
You may find that some schools prefer to accept students with diverse backgrounds, older students, or students with particular softs (you can read more about softs here), so make sure to do extensive research on the law schools you are interested in.
Character and Fitness Issues
If there are any glaring character or fitness issues on your application, keep in mind that they could hurt your chances of admission, no matter how high your GPA and LSAT scores are.
However, you shouldn't let this discourage you from applying for schools you are very interested in; you may even be able to spin these issues to your advantage in your personal statement.
The Location and Culture
Besides your admission possibilities, you should make sure that whichever school you apply for is one that you actually want to attend if you get accepted.
Look into the surrounding area, search the school's website for student life activities, housing possibilities, and the general culture of the location that the law school is in. All of these things can tell you if the school will be a good fit for you and should be included on your list.
Options for Financial Aid
Law school can be expensive, so while you are deciding which school to apply to, check out the law school's website to see what percentage of students receive financial aid and how much aid they get. This can give you a good idea of how much you might receive.
You should also apply for all merit scholarships that come your way, and don't be afraid of taking scholarships and negotiating with schools, as you can sometimes raise how much aid you receive like this.
Not only is law school expensive, but the applications to get into law school can also be expensive. In addition to paying for the school's application fee, you will almost always have to pay the CAS fee, as this is a part of the LSAC application submittal service. Most schools only accept admissions online through the LSAC portal that uses the CAS, so you will have to pay both fees to get your application fully submitted.
Make sure that you are prepared to pay any of the fees that come with applying to law schools, and structure your application list around what you can personally afford. Additionally, you can email law schools' admissions services centers and ask for application fee waivers, as they will occasionally give these out to eligible students.
Your Application Timeline
Some schools have early admissions deadlines, while other schools won't give you an acceptance or rejection until sometime in the summer of the year after you applied (if you applied sometime before December). You may be placed on waitlists, you may be rejected or accepted quickly, and you may never hear back from some schools.
All of these factors should be taken into account when you are planning your application timeline, as they can help you determine which schools you truly want to pursue and which you are ok with not hearing from, allowing you to properly structure your application list.
If you want more information about forming an application timeline, we suggest checking out this complete article.
Make Your Law School Dreams a Reality
Law school is the thing of dreams to many students, and once you've taken your LSATs, you may find yourself one step closer to that dream. The only hurdle left to cross is applying and being admitted into law schools, one of the most stressful steps of the process.
However, with careful planning of your applications and a good understanding of your admissions chances, you should be able to tailor your application strategy to give you the highest chances of admission, making your law school dreams a reality.