How to Make Your Law School List
December 13, 2021
How to Make Your Law School List
You’re planning out where you will spend the next three years and gain your legal education—this isn’t an easy task. There are many things to consider, such as your statistics, the location, each school’s academic specialties, etc. The amount of options out there is overwhelming. But, it all starts with prioritizing what’s important to you. While you have a dream school, it’s also crucial to apply to more than just the Ivies. If you’re still deciding where you want to apply, use this blog as you work out how to make your law school list.
Before You Begin: Questions to Ask Yourself
As you work out how to make your law school list, if you don’t have a lot of time, start with a set of 20 questions to get you set on the right path. We will go into more detail in a bit but as you think about the options (there are a lot of schools to narrow down from!) consider the following:
- What specialty within law are you considering?
- What unique offerings within your interest do different schools offer?
- What are the legal clinical opportunities like at different schools?
- What is the median GPA and LSAT in the schools you have in mind? Do yours line up with the average numbers?
- What are the acceptance rates and selectivity levels like for different schools?
- What is your ideal class size?
- Are you looking for programs that emphasize the importance of a diverse student body?
- Do any law schools have particular research or internship opportunities available on or near campus that would be beneficial to your career?
- Consider location—do you have an affinity towards a particular location in the US?
- Do you want to live close to home?
- What is your housing budget?
- Is there an in-state law school where the benefits appeal to you?
- Tier your choices into reach, fit, and safety—do you have a balanced list?
- Are there extracurricular activities at different programs that stand out to you?
- Research alums—where are they now?
- What are financial aid and scholarship opportunities like at different programs?
- Which schools’ faculty stands out to you?
- Are there any mentorship opportunities for you?
- What are the opportunities for recreation outside of school in the surrounding town?
- Will you get research stipends or assistantships at any of the programs?
Use your answers to these questions to conduct thorough research, narrow down your list, pay careful attention to any course offering, faculty listing, or an on-campus resource that stands out to you.
Taking a Closer Look at the Factors to Consider
Know the Numbers
To find out how to make your law school list, you first need to know the kinds of numbers you need to get your foot in the door. Check out the table below for the top 30 law schools in the US, their locations, median LSAT scores, and acceptance rates to help narrow down your options based on your own numbers and preferred location.
Unsurprisingly, the top 30 schools are highly selective, with numbers in the high 160-170 range. If your scores aren’t too competitive, consider keeping a balanced school list, retaking the LSAT, and working hard on your personal statement. If your story and background are unique enough, you might be able to make up for low numbers!
Academic Specialties at Top Schools
It’s obviously important to know the different areas of study, joint degree programs, and practical opportunities offered at the top JD programs. When you apply to law school, you should have some idea of the career path you want to take, the kind of law you see yourself practicing. Choosing the right school can help you build connections at clinics, expand your world views and knowledge of a specific field of the law, and set yourself up for a promising career post-graduation.
If you want to study Human Rights Law, for example, and it’s not offered at your top choice schools, you should rethink your list. For example, even though most schools have common academic offerings in Civil Law, Criminal Law, Financial Law, Torts Law, and International Law, there are unique programs such as Gender & Sexuality at NYU, Innovation and Technology at Northwestern, and Japanese Law at the University of Michigan. All of the top schools offer strong clinics and study abroad programs as well if those are important to you.
The importance of where you choose to go to school shouldn’t be underestimated. You could be drawn to a particular type of weather, or think about your job and internship prospects. If you enjoy the sun, UCLA or USC might be the right choice for you. If you want to attend a school with easy access to politics, look into Georgetown or George Washington, located in the heart of Washington, D.C. The location of where you go to law school determines a lot, from the cuisines you could be eating every day to how much of the year you’d find yourself trudging to class during heavy snowfall, so consider the setting of the schools on your list when thinking about how to make your law school list.
Once you’ve narrowed down some locations, it’s time to think about housing availability. If you attend a law school near where you already live, great! If not, you need to consider whether you want to live on campus or off, how much you are willing to pay, what you look for in roommates, and more. Many law schools, such as Harvard, Yale, Duke, Stanford, and Columbia, offer on-campus housing. If you want a bit of space from school, you might want off-campus housing. Rent and JD tuition add up, so don’t forget about this crucial factor!
In a similar vein, it is important to think about the local social scene when thinking about how to make your law school list. You can’t just study all the time—sometimes you need to go out, explore, and have fun. The social life at most campuses is dedicated to undergraduates, and if you live off-campus anyway, you’re probably wondering what to do in the town on a Friday night. UC Berkeley, for example, is a city packed with art, music, film, and political activity. Cornell is located around student-friendly bars, while the University of Georgia offers access to miles and miles of hiking trails. While it’s definitely important to prioritize your career and education, consider what you might benefit from in your downtime to help you relax once in a while.
The number of students in a class and the overall student body population could affect how to make your law school list. The sizes of each class impact how many of your classmates you’ll get to know, as well as your academic experience with your professors. At many top law schools, classes are broken down into smaller sections. Yale’s sections are far smaller than Harvard’s. At Georgetown, class sizes can go above 100 students per session, so if you’re looking for smaller classes, don’t just apply to any top school! The size of your overall class also will also shape your law school experience. UC Irvine, Vanderbilt, University of Washington, and Stanford are some of the top schools with the smallest overall populations. UVA has a significantly bigger student population than Columbia. Although Columbia has a large student body, first-year writing classes can be as small as 10-12 people, with lecture classes as small as 30 people.
The alumni connections and networks at the programs on your list can help you figure out how to make your law school list. The law school alumni network can help you gain support and advice from those who have been in your shoes. Law school is a huge financial burden, and you obviously want to choose a school that will help your career prospects. Building the connection to alums can prove valuable once students graduate. When considering your options, look through the specialties the graduates of each class go into. The more alumni support you might find in your area, the greater your networking options.
Plenty of factors go into thinking about how to make your law school list, from how your numbers align, to what kind of law you want to practice, to whether you want to live by the mountains or by the ocean. It can be hard to find a school which perfectly meets your requirements, but the right program doesn’t have to match all your criteria. Once you narrow down the kind of law you want to practice, the location and housing options, along with what you value in alumni support and class size, you can make a balanced list of schools where you see yourself succeeding. Who knows, you might be surprised by what you gravitate toward!