Choosing which law schools to apply to is essential in your progression in your education and career. However, knowing when to select those schools is nearly as important. This information can help shape your performance in your undergraduate and develop your expectations for law school. There are two times when you should evaluate what law schools you should apply for. First, when you decide to attend law school. Second, after you take the LSAT.
Initial Law School Application Selection
The purpose of selecting law schools early is to establish a goal of what law schools you would like to attend. You want to select your initial law schools when you first decide to attend law school. Hopefully, you decide to attend law school early in your undergraduate so that there is more time to reach your goals. If you want to attend Harvard Law but have not prepared during your undergraduate, you may have a difficult time being accepted.
This initial selection is more idealistic rather than practical. You will not know what law schools are likely to accept you until you have taken the LSAT and have a good idea of what your final GPA is going to be. So, in reality, you are not ready to apply to law schools. However, you would want to select potential law schools this early to establish realistic goals. By selecting early, you are beginning your law school journey with the end in mind.
Choosing law schools after taking the LSAT
The second time you will want to evaluate which law schools you want to apply for would be right after receiving your LSAT score. At this point, you should be in your junior or senior year of your undergraduate and can begin to know what schools you have a chance of being accepted to. Although law schools evaluate more than the GPA and LSAT score during their admissions evaluations, those two factors are the strongest indicators of what law schools are willing to accept. So the best time to practically choose your potential law schools would be when you have both indicators established. You typically know your LSAT score later than your GPA (give or take a couple of semesters that may impact your GPA); so, it would be smart to wait to solidify your application choices until you have received that score.
ASAP (preferably freshman year) – Select what law schools you would be happy attending.
ASAP (preferably freshman year) – Evaluate what it takes to be accepted to those law schools.
Up until junior or senior year – Maintain the grades and develop the relationships necessary to reach that goal.
Junior or senior year – Take the LSAT.
Right after getting your LSAT score back – Reevaluate your options and choose several law schools to apply for.
Dana graduated from high school with the full expectation to attend law school. She knew what her desired career was and had determined that law school would be the best way for her to start on that career path. She chose a major that aligned with her interests and was excited to begin her freshman year of college. Dana also knew that she needed to prepare for law school. She had done the research and determined that one of the Ivy League schools would be ideal for her career development. Consequently, she set a goal to attend Harvard, Yale, Stanford, or Columbia.
Dana continued through her undergrad. She worked hard to maintain a 4.0 GPA and developed strong relationships with her professors. During her junior year, she took several classes designed to prepare her for the LSAT. After several practice tests and taking the actual test, her score came back as 172. Dana felt prepared to apply for her choice of law school with her LSAT score and GPA. In addition to applying to Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and Columbia, she chose several schools she would attend if her top choices rejected her application.
Dana went on to attend and graduate from Harvard and meet her career goals.
Will graduated from high school fully anticipating attending law school after college. He was excited to attend classes and worked hard to maintain good grades. He had an idea of which law schools he would like to attend and set goals to attend the law school of his undergraduate college (BYU).
Although Will worked hard throughout his undergraduate, he graduated with a 3.69 GPA. Instead of taking classes to help prepare for the LSAT, he determined that self-study would be sufficient to gain a good enough score to be accepted to BYU law. Unfortunately, his LSAT score came back as a 154. Disappointed, Will knew he would not likely be accepted to BYU.
With this information, Will examined several law schools that would help him meet his career goals and accept his LSAT score and GPA. He applied to 12 schools with a variety of chances of being accepted. He still applied to BYU with the hope that he may still be considered but was denied. Will was still offered several opportunities to attend law school and determined that Drake Law School would best help him meet his academic and career goals.
* Dana is not a real person but created for the sake of the example.