Getting a law degree used to be seen as a ticket to a successful career. However, as the cost of law school tuition has risen and the number of students finding jobs right after graduation has dropped, more people are questioning the value of a law degree. Andrew Chen, a Harvard Law graduate who runs the blog Harvard Law Admissions, says that attending anything other than a top-tier law school may not be worth the investment. Admissions to top-tier schools are fiercely competitive, and students must begin preparing early in their college careers.
Earn the Best GPA Possible
Grades are one of the top criteria used to evaluate law-school applicants. At Yale Law School, ranked the No. 1 law school by U.S. News & World Report in 2014, the average GPA for incoming students is 3.9, according to the Princeton Review. At Duke Law School, ranked 11th by U.S. News & World Report, the median GPA for the 2016 incoming class was 3.77. According to Business Insider, law schools look beyond the numbers to the rigor of the curriculum when evaluating grades. Business Insider says that a degree such as criminal justice is seen as too easy, while a degree in philosophy or political science was seen as much more challenging. Students who perform well in a challenging curriculum will have the best chance of getting into a top school.
Get a Top LSAT Score
Every top-tier law school requires applicants to take the Law School Admission Test, which is widely seen as an indicator of a student's future performance in law school. The test measures reading comprehension and analytical and logical reasoning. The top possible score is 180. At Harvard Law School, ranked No. 2 by U.S. News & World Report, applicants in the top 75th percentile of test takers scored 175 on the LSAT, while applicants in the 25th percentile scored 170. At Emory University, ranked 23rd, the median LSAT score is 165. Students who want to get into a top-tier school must score very well on the LSAT.
Earn Professional Experience
Law schools look for applicants who have diverse experiences that can contribute to the law school community. Professional experiences can alter students' world views, influence their interactions with other students and faculty, and enrich their participation in classroom discussions. U.S. News & World Report says that law schools like to see that students were involved in a project over a long period and that they held leadership positions or took leadership initiative. Students who achieve this experience and are able to illustrate it well in their application have a better chance of getting into a top law school.
Write an Outstanding Personal Essay
Law schools also want to know what makes students unique and why they want to study the law. Business Insider says that the personal essay is one of the most important factors in a student's chances for admission. They recommend writing an essay that is both meaningful and memorable, including personal anecdotes about important experiences and the lessons learned from them, rather than a rehashing of the student's resume.
- Business Insider: Here's What It Takes to Get Into America's Best Law Schools
- Harvard Law Admissions: Question From a Reader: Is It True That Attending All But Top Tier Law Schools Is a Personal and Financial Mistake?
- Duke Law School: Class of 2016 Profile
- The Princeton Review: Yale University Law School
- Harvard Law School: HLS Profile and Facts: Class of 2016
- Law School Admissions Council: About the LSAT
- Emory Law: Admission Requirements
Maria Magher has been working as a professional writer since 2001. She has worked as an ESL teacher, a freshman composition teacher and an education reporter, writing for regional newspapers and online publications. She has written about parenting for Pampers and other websites. She has a Master's degree in English and creative writing.