Looking for a secret password that will get you into any law school in the country? Unfortunately, these don’t exist, but hard work does. If you need a little help along the way, try out these four tips that will make your life easier.
1. Get organized early on
Talent, effort and a positive attitude are all important when it comes to getting into law school, but the one skill that will take you far in a law degree is organization. You should start developing this skill early, too. In fact, begin as an undergrad if possible. Staying on top of everything from your grades to transcripts to contact lists and all the other information under the sun is key. But it’ll never be more important than while you’re applying to schools – starting with the LSATs.
The Law School Admissions Tests are going to take a lot of preparation, so make sure you’ve created a strict schedule for yourself. In between studying, take the opportunity to research what schools appeal to you most, and plan your LSAT test date with their admissions period so you don’t waste time in between. Also give yourself plenty of time to request letters of recommendation from past professors, employers or internship coordinators. Err on the side of offering each writer extra time to put together his or her letter.
Make sure an undergraduate transcript is handy for submission alongside your LSAT scores. By registering with the Law School Admission Council on its website, you can upload both documents for easy application. LSAC will provide you an excellent home base for monitoring your application statuses and acceptances as those roll in.
2. Write a stand-out application essay
To be fair, writing an amazing application essay isn’t just another checklist item. It takes a lot of time, editing, consultation, rewriting and then even more editing. However, the right essay that manages to stand out from the crowd could be your ticket into the law school of your dreams.
As How Stuff Works points out, after the whirlwind of LSAT scores and GPA rankings, getting into a law school can seem like just a numbers game. But, like law, there’s a human element there, too, and your application essay is all about tapping into that.
Personal essays are usually used to discuss one’s background, experiences, volunteer work or community activities. It’s mostly a brag sheet. You’ll want to include all this information, but don’t limit it to these details alone. The key ingredient to your essay is going to be more than just writing skills – it’s passion.
There’s no checklist for the unique and stellar personal essay, of course. You’ll have to figure out what makes yours special on your own, which is why the process takes so long. Just remember that not only are you trying to sell yourself to application readers, you’re trying to sell yourself to application readers who have already slogged through dozens of other candidates that day. Write something that would stand out to you in such a situation.
3. Maximize your financial aid opportunities
As with any grad school application, a major part of getting into law school is figuring out how you can afford to pay tuition. U.S. News and World Report recommends not only being realistic about the cost of a legal education, but looking for ways to find the best financial aid opportunities out there.
A good way to start, the source suggests, is with the old technique of classifying schools as safety, target and stretch institutions. Look into the financial packages offered by your top choices for each category. Some law schools give out generous merit-based scholarships based on GPA and LSAT scores, and they may be worth making a safety school even if you’re not crazy about the campus or location. Investing in an LSAT prep class could offer a great payoff if it wins you a merit scholarship down the road.
4. Show interest
It’s possible to get stuck on law school wait lists, but before this experience of purgatory happens to you, make sure to show as much interest as possible in the school itself. Being a lawyer requires excellent networking skills, so now is a good time to start. Visit the school, go in for several interviews, ask questions, show enthusiasm, stay in touch with admissions workers and generally make yourself a known presence.
U.S. News and World Report suggests applicants send further letters of recommendation along after the initial application. But most of all, if you do land on a waitlist, don’t despair. Wait patiently to hear back and hope for good news. At the very least, they’ll have you on file for next year’s applications.