What factors are considered in law school admission decisions?
There are basically two factors involved in the law school admissions decision: your grade point average and a your score on the LSAT (Law School Admission Test). Those who have sufficiently strong scores simply get admitted. Those who do not get rejected. Applications in the middle range are helped by recommendations and information about extracurricular activities, internships, work experience and foreign travel.
When should I take the LSAT?
Ideally, you should take the LSAT in June between your junior and senior years. Generally, you are less busy in June than you will be in the midst of a semester when the other test dates occur. Furthermore, if you don't score as highly as you had hoped, it is not too late to retake the test in September/October prior to the fall in which you plan to enter law school.
Should I take the LSAT once for practice?
Probably not. Whenever any of your LSAT scores are reported, all of your scores are reported. Although most law schools take the highest score, some schools average your scores. In that case every score is important. Regardless of whether you apply to schools that take the highest score or to schools that average, if your first attempt is substantially below your expectations, you should consider retaking the test.
Should a student take one of the commercial LSAT preparation courses?
Approximately 40 percent of law school applicants have taken a commercial prep course. Students who have taken such courses say that they do familiarize the student with the format of the test and that it reduces test anxiety. They also report significant improvement in their scores. If you choose to take one of these courses, you should take it as near to the time of the actual test as possible.
Commercial prep courses are not going to harm you. On the other hand, if you have real discipline, they do not do anything for you that you cannot do for yourself. The Law School Admission Council (LSAC) sells preparation packets which contain previously administered tests. If you supplement these tests with a good prep book, you can prepare yourself quite well.
Prep books can be found at virtually any college bookstore or ordered from online stores like Amazon. One benefit of taking a prep course is that you are more likely to sustain a preparation regimen if you have paid dearly for the opportunity. Prep courses are very expensive--ranging in price from $600 to $1,200. So if you think that you need the additional incentive, by all means, spring for a prep course.
Keep in mind that no prep course is going to be able to develop your analytical or reading skills in three or four weeks. Therefore, you should seek out courses at St. Bonaventure that will help you develop those skills over the entirety of your undergraduate education.
What major should a student choose?
In general, law school admissions officers do not care what your undergraduate major is. Law schools prize students who can read, write and think clearly and well. Thus, courses and majors that help you develop those skills should be high on your list. You should major in something that you enjoy. This is prudent for several reasons.
First, if you change your mind about pursuing a legal career, you will have a fall back option. Second, if you enjoy what you're studying, you are likely to make better grades and that will increase your chances of gaining admission to the law school of your choice. Third, if you enjoy what you're studying, you will enjoy what you're studying.
Will a double-major increase my chances of getting into law school?
No. A double-major is fine if you want to complete one, but it is irrelevant in terms of law school admission.
Are foreign languages required for admission to law school?
No. Learning a foreign language can sharpen your analytical skills, increase your understanding of English and enhance your appreciation of other cultures. But, strictly speaking, study of a foreign language has little impact on the admission decision. On the other hand, if you plan to practice international law, or expect to travel internationally, a foreign language may be beneficial. All St. Bonaventure Arts and Sciences majors are required to complete a foreign language through the sophomore level.
Are there specific courses that a prelaw student is required to take?
No. Law schools are looking for students who can read, write and think clearly and well. Some courses are better than others at helping you to develop these capacities. The St. Bonaventure Prelaw Program has identified some courses that we recommend to supplement your undergraduate major. See the recommended course list.
When should I apply to law school?
In September, a year before you plan to enter law school, you should do three things: (1) write to law schools, or go to their web sites, to order catalogues and application forms; (2) sign up for the September/October LSAT, if you did not take the June test; (3) consult with the prelaw advisor. Applications should be completed as early as possible, preferably in November, but certainly before you leave for Christmas break.
How many law schools should I apply to?
As a general rule of thumb, you should apply to one or two schools where you have an outside chance of being admitted, three or four where you believe you will be very competitive, and one or two sure things. On average, students should apply to about seven schools. Keep in mind that each application includes a fee, so this may limit your choices.
Which are the best law schools?
This depends on a large number of factors. Obviously, some schools have better reputations than others, but that doesn't mean they are the best school FOR YOU. Some students prefer small classes and this can influence your decision. Some law schools spend more time on courtroom training (this is called advocacy training) so if this is, or is not, your interest, you may choose a law school on this basis.
Others may offer more courses in particular areas, e.g., tax law, environmental law, immigration law, and again, if you have special interests then this will be a relevant consideration. Private schools cost more than state schools, and this may be an important factor in your choice. Consequently, be careful not to be overly influenced by all those lists purporting to rank the law schools.
Rather, you should examine a school's curriculum, size, location, etc., when deciding where you would like to go. You are making a major investment here so you will want to make this choice with great care.
How expensive is law school, and how can I pay for it?
Legal education is not cheap. State schools in general are less expensive than private schools. Tuition alone can range from $5,000 a year to almost $40,000 per year. You also have to consider housing, food, books and personal expenses. There is not a lot of scholarship money available, but every school will have a financial aid office to help you explore your options.
Most law students borrow money to go to school; there are several loan programs. Although money generally is tight, it is still true that, assuming you have a good credit rating, you will be able to obtain a loan if you are admitted to an ABA-approved law school. Again, each school has a financial aid office to help you, and the Law School Admission Council also has a publication concerning financing your legal education.