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Getting in to Law School

Academics / Departments & Programs / Pre-Law / Law School & Beyond / Getting in to Law School

Law school is competitive and challenging, and there are a number of steps and considerations that you should prepare for during your undergraduate education. With assistance from Calvin, you can graduate equipped with the tools, knowledge and experience you need to attend law school and follow the path to pursue a rewarding career in law.

Plan for your future

While there is not a specific pre-law major at most college or universities, Calvin University students gain an excellent liberal arts education, culminating in a Bachelor's Degree that prepares them for the rigors of law school. Advance planning as you consider a career in law is important, including when to enroll for various courses and when to apply at law schools.

Law school applications

The written application plays an important role in decisions made by law schools about whom to accept, giving you an opportunity to represent yourself in the best possible light. Law schools carefully review applications and an individual's personal statement to determine writing ability as well as potential contributions to their school.

Everyone applying to a law school in the United States or Canada must take the LSAT. The schedule is published by the Law School Admission Council. Generally, students are advised to take the LSAT in February or June, a full year before they plan to attend law school so they can receive their score in the spring, allowing them to make decisions about whether to apply and where. To learn more about the LSAT, visit the pre-law program's information page.

Your personal statement

The personal statement is both an analytical writing sample as well as a presentation of yourself as an applicant. You need to sell yourself while not sounding arrogant, and also demonstrate excellent writing skills. A good personal statement is not easy to craft, but the following can help you:

  • Identify two or three incidents in your life that were pivotal in your decision to go to law school
  • Describe why you are unique (most law schools are looking for a broad spectrum of people)
  • Tie your reasons for going to law school with some particular strength of the school to which you are applying
  • Keep your statement well organized and mechanically correct
  • Do not repeat things that are readily apparent in the rest of the application (GPA, honors received, LSAT score); instead make it an interesting picture of yourself as a candidate
  • Allow yourself enough time to prepare at least four or five drafts before finalizing the statement

Deciding where to apply

Law schools are ranked in three categories: national, regional and local.

  • National schools recruit their students from the whole country and place their graduates in jobs across the country (some of the top ranked schools are listed below)
  • Regional schools recruit and place students from the states which are contiguous to its geographical location, for Calvin this would include: Illinois (Champaign-Urbana), Indiana (Bloomington), Iowa, Minnesota, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Wisconsin
  • Local schools typically recruit and place their graduates in a particular city or region of a state. Strong local schools in Calvin's area include: Case Western Reserve, Chicago-Kent, Cincinnati, Cleveland State, DePaul, Indiana (Indianapolis), Loyola (Chicago), Marquette, Michigan State, Penn State, Pittsburgh and Wayne State

Law school forums are a good source of information to help you decide where to apply. Representatives from numerous schools are featured, and they provide information on a wide variety of law school-related questions. The LSAC sponsors a number of forums each year, and Calvin publicizes other smaller forums as we are notified on our Events page.

How many applications to submit

Consult the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) website or www.lawschoolnumbers.com to determine where you might be competitive for admission (based on your GPA and LSAT score). Then, apply to two or three of the highest ranked schools you believe you would be accepted to, two or three more that fit your scores and one or two additional options that are a bit below your hopes but would be useful as fallback possibilities.

Law school is expensive

A three-year law school education can cost nearly $195,000 in tuition, books, fees and room and board. About 80% of law students rely on educational loans as their largest source of revenue to pay for law school.

  • The average debt for a recent law school graduate (including undergrad and law school costs) is $148,000
  • Repayment of that debt can be more than $1,708 per month on a 10-year payment schedule
  • The national median salary for 2019 law school graduates nine months after graduation was $72,500 per year (about $6,040 per month), with a medium law firm starting salary at $125,000. However, salaries vary widely and according to the National Association of Legal Professionals, one third of graduates earn less than the published average. The median salary for government jobs was about $62,000, for public interest organization positions was $54,300, and for judicial clerkships was $57,000.

New York University Law School financial aid officials composed the “Golden Rules of Financing Your Education.” Their top recommendations were:

  • Budget your money as carefully as you budget your time
  • Not all loans are alike; know the differences and borrow wisely
  • Limit your use of credit cards to emergencies only
  • Pay your credit card debt off completely before you start school
  • Don't pay tuition with credit cards! Find out about payment plans available at your school
  • Maintain complete records of your loans; keep track of your debt
  • Being independent has its limits — accept any offers of assistance

Make sure to talk to the placement office at your top choice schools

Ask them what percentage of their graduates were employed (and where) their first year after graduation; look at another school if those answers are not promptly responded to by the placement office.

The Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) has a recorded session on Pre-Law Student Professionalism with details and guidelines about interacting with admissions representatives and other members of the law school community, such as navigating waitlists, scholarship appeals, discussions with admission professionals and more.

Top 15 law schools in the nation*

  1. Yale
  2. Stanford
  3. Harvard
  4. Columbia
  5. University of Chicago
  6. New York University
  7. University of Pennsylvania
  8. University of Virginia
  9. University of California, Berkeley
  10. Duke
  11. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  12. Northwestern University (Pritzker)
  13. Cornell University
  14. University of California, Los Angeles
  15. Georgetown University

*According to U.S. News & World Report, 2021

For alternative rankings and discussion, see the "Educational Quality Ranking of U.S. Law Schools" by Brian Leiter, www.top-law-schools.com, or www.abajournal.com

Top schools Calvin grads have been accepted to:

  • Yale
  • Harvard
  • Stanford
  • Columbia
  • University of Chicago
  • New York University
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • University of Virginia
  • University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  • Duke University
  • Northwestern University
  • Cornell University
  • University of Texas, Austin
  • University of Iowa
  • University of California, Los Angeles
  • Emory University
  • Boston University
  • University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
  • Vanderbilt University
  • University of Southern California
  • George Washington University
  • Notre Dame University
  • Boston College
  • University of Colorado

Preparing for the First Year of Law School

Your first year of law school is extremely important and competition can be fierce. Students feel a lot of pressure very quickly, and a high-quality law school prep course can help ease that pressure, lower anxiety and provide confidence that you are ready from day one of law school.

JD Advising offers a free Law School Prep Course designed by an individual who graduated as a #1 student in his law school class. Click here for more information. [This course is not endorsed by or affiliated with the Calvin Pre-Law Program, but is provided as a potential resource for students.]

Take the next step:

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