How to Choose a Law School
So by now you’ve wrapped up your undergrad and passed your LSAT. Now it’s time to find a law school, which in and of itself is a daunting task. Everyone and their mother is still clawing their way to an Ivy League school, while everyone else panics about going to a lesser known school and not getting hired.
The process of finding the right law school (or maybe, more accurately, the one that will accept you) is similar to any other student trying to get into a university. It all depends on your existing GPA, your test scores, your extracurricular activities, and all the other stuff that’s robbed you of a social life or sleep.
Keep Your School Close
Getting into Harvard is great and all, but it may be more beneficial finding a smaller school closer to home. Not only will it typically be less expensive, but it will also be less competitive. No, this doesn’t mean settling for Princeton; unless you have the resources to try and get into one of the more famous law schools, don’t even try. At the end of the day, you’ll spend a ton of money you don’t have, as well as drive yourself nuts trying to compete against the ones who do.
The good news is that, when choosing a school based on location, it’s a blessing in disguise. If you have to travel thousands of miles to attend a school, that means going the extra distance away from firms that you’d probably want to get hired on with in the end. By staying local, it gives you an edge later on when applying for work. Think about it like this; once everyone is done tossing their graduation hats into the air at Harvard, all those thousands of recent grads are going to be trying to get into the same exact firms. If you thought the competition to get into school was tough, just wait until you see what it’s like getting hired in the same area.
Settle Within Reason
So maybe the law schools closer to you aren’t exactly as well funded as the bigger names. That’s fine; in today’s post education market, for the most part, many industries don’t exactly care where you went, just so long as they are accredited, and you didn’t slack off. Just be sure to use your best judgment and intuition. If your law school is little more than a cardboard box surrounded by a dog fence, maybe go somewhere else.
Money isn’t everything, and not all schools can be as prestigious as the big guys. But even still, it isn’t too difficult to find a great university, either in your state or the neighboring one that has a dedicated law school. Chances are, it’ll still be competitive, but having an undergrad already under your belt will help.
Try and Research Their Background
Higher education is big business now; however, many students and parents take what’s written on the school’s website at face value. If you can, try to do some background information on the school, its program, the program director, and some of the faculty, if you can. There are many types of law, and simply because you’re able to get into a school doesn’t mean that it’s the right fit for you.
Like many types of schooling, online law schools are a possibility. Again, use your best judgment when choosing them. Online educational offerings can be a Wild West scenario, with some schools achieving better results over traditional ones, and some being little more than a side project while the owner spends most of their time running their towing service or working as a septic tank installer.
What Are They Looking For?
Despite what every parent, teacher, and guidance counselor will tell you, grades aren’t everything. In fact, they are more or less a baseline metric; once two students have matched on everything else, their GPAs can be the final criteria considered in their admittance. Grades are important, but they may not be the most important thing the institution is looking for. In fact, when it comes to paying out of state tuition, many schools will let less than stellar grades slide because they know they can charge them a higher tuition. Like I said, education is big business.
More competitive schools may want students who have already dipped their toes into the water with an internship. Others will want to see charity work, while others still are strictly about their preferred fraternities and sororities. Know your enemy, in this case, their admittance preferences, and you can boost your chances of getting in.
Are They a “Good” School?
While “good” may be a point of view, it’s worth figuring out before spending the time and money applying to that particular school. If the best thing about it is landing on a top ten list for best parties, a degree from there may not be the most prestigious. Try to find some defining metrics of success, such as graduation rates, hire rates, alumni donations, and even well-known graduates and any law firms they may have started.
When it comes time to getting hired, later on, it won’t just be your reputation on the line, but your school’s as well. You aren’t just competing against other candidates who have a higher GPA, but those who attended a school with a better track record. When you’re making do with less, just be weary of how much less your school ranks than others.
How Easy is it to Change Gears?
Every student, at one point or another, struggles with wanting to change majors or degree programs. While doubting yourself is easy, physically making the change can be difficult, if not impossible. Of the biggest favors, you can do for yourself now is find out how easy it is, or isn’t, to change up your major down the road. You may never need to; but if you do fall out of love with your current graduation plan, it is good to know that making the switch is doable. The last thing you need is to wind up being stuck in a program you hate.