Doctor, lawyer, engineer–the three dream jobs every Vietnamese parent has for their children. Today, I’m going to talk about lawyers, and specifically the long path towards law school that begins right about now for many students across the nation.
The great thing about law school is that it doesn’t require any specialized undergraduate degree. Sure, there’s a ton of political science majors that tend to go into law school, but to actually get into law school, all you need is a degree, any degree. So for those of us who failed in the first two paths to our parents’ approval, there is always law school.
There are of course some major problems with a profession that allows pretty much anybody to enter into it (over-lawyering being one of them, but I’ll address that next time). For now, all you 3rd year undergrads who just decided that medicine or engineering isn’t for you, take heart because you can still apply for law school!
So what can you start doing right now to get into law school?
Start studying for the LSAT. Doing well on the LSAT is the single most important thing anybody can do to get into a good law school. The LSAT is the universal law school admissions test. The LSAT tests you on your logical reasoning and analysis. That’s why it doesn’t really matter what major you are, though philosophy majors and those with a strong math background tend to do well on the LSAT because of how much those subjects emphasize logical thinking.
The LSAT is administered several times a year, with the most popular test time being in late September. It’s a good idea to take the June LSAT because it gives you the summer to prepare the rest of your application. Additionally, this is also well timed because it provides you with three more chances to retake the LSAT (September, December and February) if you don’t do as well as you’d like. The LSAT is scored from 120-180, with the average score around 151. Law schools vary in how much weight the put into an applicant’s LSAT score. Generally, top-tier law schools accept students with an average score of 166 and up, translating to applicants that are within the 94th percentile of test takers.
I would dare to say grades matter to law schools, even more than getting into a top tier medical school or your desired engineering job.
Your junior year spring grades are usually the last grades a law school will see if you are applying after junior year to go straight into law school after college. Typical applicants apply early in the fall and find out about acceptances spring of their senior year, giving them the possibility of supplementing their senior year grades. However, you shouldn’t depend on last minute grade improvements to influence your chances significantly. Your undergraduate record is taken as a whole, and it is advised that you do well all throughout college.
A “good” GPA is hard to determine as it naturally varies across majors and schools. Hard science majors tend to be considered more difficult and are often more valued, while popular “easy” majors valued less. There is no actual required GPA, but the higher your GPA, the better your chances. Most top law schools have a 75th percentile average GPA of around 3.75. A GPA of 3.75 translates to getting a transcript with the majority of As and few B+ or A-.
Law schools start accepting applications around October, some even earlier. The actual deadline may be in late spring. An important factor to note is that most applications are considered on a rolling basis so most available spots may already be filled up even before the deadline. So apply early when room is plentiful, and admissions officials are a little more free with their hand in admitting students.
Finally, one last piece of advice: emphasize diversity! Almost every law school in the nation values diversity in the classroom and considers it in their applications. This doesn’t necessarily have to mean race, but can be anything from socio-economic background, worldly experience, or interesting talents and hobbies. Whatever it is that sets you apart and makes you unique, make sure to emphasize that in your personal statement! Law schools can be a brutally cold and dreary experience, not to mention a mind-numbing subject. For that reason, law schools try hard to stimulate and liven their classrooms and halls by bringing in truly interesting students. Show law schools that you can bring in a unique view point and add an interesting kick to the class!
To Sum Up…
Aim for that 170 on the LSAT, do well during your undergraduate years, be extraordinary, and APPLY EARLY!
C’mon prospective law students who spent time saving babies in Vietnam and volunteering for OneVietnam Network… show us that getting into the top-tier law school is possible!
This is the first of a series of “Graduate School” articles. Stay tuned!