December 2, 2023

What I wish I’d known when applying to law school


This archived article was written by: Nathaniel Woodward

Eighteen months ago I knew exactly what I wanted to do, who I wanted to be. I worked hard in my career, provided a valuable service and did my job well. I had no intention to deviate from the path I was on until in August 2015 that all changed when a letter came in the mail from a small private university law school offering me an opportunity to advance science in a way I knew was needed, but had no idea was possible. Without the assistance of a law adviser or any guidance whatsoever, I embarked down this strange and time- consuming path towards a law degree. Following is not meant to be the standard for everyone who plans on attending law school, rather a list of obstacles and challenges I wish I had known about when starting this journey.
Instead of an itemized list, I will give one overarching statement, applying to law school is expensive, exhausting and extremely puzzling. I picked 10 universities to apply to, ranking each from my first to last choice. But before even beginning the application process I needed to register for the Law School Admissions Test or LSAT, a five to six hour exam testing logic and problem solving followed by a lengthy handwritten exam. What the test lacks in difficulty, makes up for in exhaustiveness. It’s brutally long with questions designed to make you think and rethink which, for me torture.
Once you finish the LSAT, you wait several weeks for your score to be emailed to you and posted on your law school admissions account. This number is terrifying as it ranks you against every other person you are now in competition with. I was satisfied with my score and did not need/want to take the LSAT again as many do. Next you pay for a credential assembly service (CAS) to round up and verify all of your academic records, again an annoying and lengthy process as you pay someone else to round up all your academic accomplishments.
Finally, after the LSAT, CAS and obtaining meaningful letters of recommendation you can begin applying to your schools. Now, this was not clear to me in the beginning but be forewarned, this part gets pricey. Every university has it’s own application fee, ranging from 0-$115. Many schools waive the fee if you apply early enough or request a fee waiver, but it’s important to check before because you cannot submit your application until it’s paid. Next the website all applications are submitted through, known as LSAC, charges a fee of $30 per application, meaning for the 10 schools I applied to, I paid $300 just for their services.
I looked at everything I had to offer, the strength of my GPA, LSAT score, letters of recommendation, resume and personal statement and catered each to the school’s individual application. A hard truth many need to learn is that if your GPA and LSAT are not on par with the schools acceptance standards, your likely not getting in. It’s tough news for people dreaming Harvard dreams with a 3.2 GPA (in reality you need around a 3.7 minimum).
The oddest part of applying to law school is the schools you get into and the ones you don’t. You may end up getting rejected from your eighth-ranked school, but accepted to your first and second and that’s something you need to come to terms with, don’t take rejection personal. You may be the smartest student from your town/school, but so are all the others applying, its not personal, it’s just business. The torture of deciding on a school is another burden you’ll have to bear if you get accepted. In my instance, as I received my acceptance letters I received scholarships with each, but not all equal. One of my lower- ranked choices offered my a full-tuition scholarship while a top choice very little comparatively. So comes the decision as to whether to attend a more prestigious school and graduate with a huge debt burden or graduate from a lesser-known school free of debt but with less opportunity.
Do your research and see if law school is really for you and once you make a decision, go at it with everything you have. If it’s not hard, it’s not worth doing.

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