NOTE: If you have not read all the information on the page entitled “Get Informed and a Sense of Purpose,” then make sure to do so before reading the information on this page. It’s important to know whether and why you want to go to law school before figuring out how to get into law school …
It is often a good idea to not start law school right away after graduation. Instead, it is often a good idea to seek professional work experience and/or a different graduate degree prior to starting law school. But since many students aim to begin law school right away, this page covers everything you must do your junior and senior years to get into a good law school the fall semester after graduating from GSU. If you decide to not go to law school right away after completing your undergraduate degree, this advice is still helpful. You just need to think of the “senior year” as “the year prior to beginning law school,” etc. If you are a freshman or sophomore, it is a good idea to read this information because it will help you understand what you should be doing now to prepare for what is coming next. After reading that, you can read the section below that is entitled “What You Can (and should) Do your Freshman and Sophomore Years to Prepare for Getting into a Good Law School.”
Vital Information for Juniors and Seniors
When to apply
You should plan to apply for law school about one year before your first fall semester of law school begins. So, for example, if you plan to begin law school in fall of 2020, then you should plan to apply in the fall of 2019. (A good rule of thumb is to aim to have everything in before Thanksgiving.) Thus, if you plan to go straight to law school after graduation, you should apply fall of your senior year. Do not be misled by the fact that most law schools list a spring date as the deadline for fall admissions. The reality is that law schools use “rolling admissions,” which means they begin admitting students as soon as they receive applications from qualified applicants. Thus, by the time the spring deadline arrives, there might not be many slots open. It will also be more difficult to get funding (e.g., fellowships and scholarships) if you apply later in the process. If, for some reason, you are unable to apply in the fall, you can still apply and possibly get admitted in the spring, but your odds will be lower.
Elements of a strong law school application
Here is what a strong law school application looks like:
- High GPA
- High LSAT Score
- High-quality letters of recommendation written by professors who taught you in class and/or worked with you outside of class and can attest to your academic ability, character strengths, commitment to a legal career, and likelihood of excelling in law school and beyond.
- A well-written personal statement that demonstrates your writing ability and that says something relevant and interesting about you as person.
- A resume that inspires confidence that you are a responsible, well-rounded person who is truly committed to successfully pursuing a career in law. Ideally it will include experience in leadership roles, community and/or public service, and experience (through jobs and/or internships) working in law offices or courts.
By far the two most important elements are your GPA and LSAT. In some cases, these are in themselves sufficient for getting into law school. In other cases, they are sufficient for keeping you out of law school (even if your letters, personal statement, etc. are great). Thus, there is no substitute for high grades and high LSAT scores.
What to do your junior year
If you plan to start law school the first fall after graduating, then you need to apply for law school during the fall semester of your senior year. In many cases, taking a “gap year” (or multiple years) before going to law school can be a good idea, but the advice in this section is directed at those who plan to go straight to law school after graduating. (And all other students can think of this as guidelines for things to do at least two years before you plan to start law school.) There are several things you need to do your junior year (if not before) to prepare for having a strong law school application in the Fall of your senior year.
- Keep your grades high. Remember, a high GPA is essential for getting into a good law school.
- Prepare for the LSAT. Besides maintaining a high GPA, nothing is as important as getting a high LSAT score. To do well on the LSAT, you must devote significant time to preparing for it. For most students, taking an LSAT prep course is the best way to prepare, but some students are able to prepare effectively on their own. Either way, you should play to devote at least three months to studying for the test. Practice and preparation can improve LSAT scores, so make sure to do all you can to prepare to do your best. This means you need to do this in the fall and/or spring of your junior year because you need to take the LSAT early enough to send in your law school application in the fall of your senior year. Opportunities for free or discounted LSAT prep courses are regularly posted on this site, so this yet another reason to make sure to take a few seconds to subscribe to the weekly digest of news items posted to this site.
- Create an account at LSAC.org and register to take the LSAT: You will eventually use LSAC.org’s Credentials Assembly Service (CAS) for organizing every aspect of your law school application process. But, for now, you just need to create a free LSAC.org account so that you can register for taking the LSAT.
- Take the LSAT. You should aim to take this in June between your junior and senior year. However, if you do poorly, you can take it again in fall of your senior year. Law schools used to average LSAT scores, which meant it was very difficult to significantly raise scores by retaking the exam. But most law schools now take your top score, thus making it easier to raise your reported score by retaking the exam. However, you are allowed to take the exam no more than three times within any two-year period.
- Get to know at least some of your professors outside of class. Having high quality letters of recommendation can help you get into good law schools. Law schools prefer most, if not all, letters to be written by faculty members. Thus, to get high quality letters, it is important to have at least three faculty members who know you well enough to speak about your strengths, skills, character, passions, and likelihood of success in law school and beyond. One way to demonstrate these things is to take a leadership role in a pre-law student group. You can also attend their office hours and, if their work interests you, ask if they would like a student research assistant. You should start reaching out to professors no later than fall of your junior year because you will need to ask them for letters in the summer before your senior year.
- Get (or remain) involved with at least one pre-law student group. Hopefully you will have done this long before your junior year, but it is better to start now than never. Being active in at least one pre-law student group–such as the Pre-Law Society (formerly Pre-Law Club), National Black Law Student Association, Mock Trial Team, and/or Criminal Justice Student Association--can help you in many ways. For law school admissions, participating in these groups can help you to improve your resume and be among the first to hear about opportunities for doing law school visits or interviews, receiving discounts on LSAT prep courses, attending workshops on preparing law school applications, and internship opportunities. Being active in one or more of these groups can also be a way to get to know faculty members who, in turn, can write recommendations for you.
- Tour law schools and/or seek an opportunity to sit in on a first year law school class at GSU College Law.
- Try to secure a law internship or job. An internship (or job) working with a law office or court can, among other things, strengthen the resume you submit with your application materials. Since you will be applying for law school in the fall of your senior year, if you hope to report an internship on your resume when you apply, then you need to start an internship during the spring or summer before your senior year at the latest. But it will be better to start your internship sooner than that if possible. Thus, you should start trying to secure internships no later than your sophomore and junior years. See the page entitled “Get Prepared” for tips on how to do this successfully.
- Ask for letters of recommendation. You want your letter writers to submit high quality letters of recommendation. Thus, you want to give them plenty of time to write quality letters. Typically, when possible, you should ask for a letter at least six to eight weeks prior to your application deadline. However, it is common for professors to get flooded with requests in the Fall, so it is best to ask them in the Spring or Summer prior to your senior year. The article at this link provides very sound advice on all aspects of the letter of recommendation process. Make sure to read and follow it carefully except for the suggestion that you send your letter writers the LSAC submission form right after they agree to write a letter. Instead, you should request the letter long in advance and then, if they agreed, send them the LSAC form two-three weeks before your deadline as a reminder (unless, of course, they request it sooner).
- Begin writing your personal statement. It is important to write a good personal statement, and, as with all good writing, this means you need to go through the process of writing multiple drafts and receiving feedback along the way. This means you should start writing your personal statement as early as possible. The Pre-Law Society (formerly Pre-Law Club) and other student groups try to host workshops once or twice per year to help students with writing quality personal statements. You should also ask for feedback from qualified advisers on your drafts as you write them.
What to do your senior year
If, during your junior year, you have taken the steps necessary for being ready to submit a strong law school application in the fall of your senior year, then you only have two main tasks your senior year:
- apply to law school (ideally before Thanksgiving) and
- decide which, if any, law school’s offer to accept (if you receive multiple offers).
This page only offers advice for the first task (applying for law school). For advice about which, if any law, school’s offer to accept, you should consult with the professors who wrote your letters of recommendation and/or members of the pre-law advising network.
Senior year checklist:
- If you have not already, take the LSAT. If your score was lower than hoped, retake it. Most law schools now take your top score. However, you are allowed to take the exam no more than three times within any two-year period.
- Sign-up (and pay for) Credentials Assembly Service (CAS) at LSAC.org.
- Follow these instructions for having your GSU academic transcripts sent to LSAC.org for uploading to CAS. (If you also attended other colleges or universities, you will need to work with them to have your academic transcripts sent to LSAC as well.)
- About three weeks before you plan to submit your application materials, use CAS to send letter of recommendation forms to your letter writers. Then send a separate email to your letter writers thanking them for agreeing to write a letter, reminding them of your deadline, and letting them know that they should have received an LSAC request form (and offering to resend if they did not receive it).
- Complete your personal statement, which should by now have gone through multiple revisions with feedback.
- Finalize your resume. Make sure to have someone with experience in admissions or hiring provide feedback on formatting and content.
- Decide which law schools to apply for. Hopefully you began this process during your junior year if not before. For this, you should…
- research law schools using resources available online, especially LSAC.org;
- visit any prospective law schools you can; and
- attend one or both of the free law school forums conducted in Atlanta each fall: (1) the LSAC forum, which normally has representatives from every law school in the country, or (2) the Law Admissions Workshop Series (LAWS), which involves a series of small workshops conducted by representatives from the top ranked law schools in the country.
- Acquire applications from prospective law schools. Dr. Evans often receives application fee waivers from local law schools (e.g., GSU, Emory, and Mercer), so make sure to contact him before paying fees for applying to those schools.
- Use CAS to assemble all of your application materials and, once complete, send it all off (preferably before Thanksgiving).
What You Can (and should) Do your Freshman and Sophomore Years to Prepare for Getting into a Good Law School
If you have read everything else on this page, the advice that follows should not be surprising. If you hope to get into a good law school, and especially if you hope to receive a scholarship or fellowship for law school, then your freshman and sophomore years you should seek to get off to a good start by …
- getting high grades;
- getting to know your professors outside of class;
- joining, and seeking leadership positions in, pre-law student groups;
- seeking jobs or internships in courts or law offices; and
- volunteering for community and/or public service.
As is discussed on the Get Informed page, there is more to being a pre-law student than simply doing what is necessary to get into law school. You also need to go through a process of discovery to make sure that a law career makes sense for you and to find out what area of law you will find most fulfilling. This will require learning about the legal profession, learning about yourself, and confronting the risky financial investment that law school entails. You cannot begin that process early enough, so it is important to read and follow the advice on the Get Informed and Get Prepared pages as soon as possible–ideally beginning your freshman year.