Law school admissions is both a competitive and capricious process. Very few applicants are guaranteed to get into a school of their choice, and most applicants find themselves with a realistic chance at many law schools. Therefore, it is important to apply to a wide range.
As applicants start to put together their target list based on their grades and standardized test scores, they might feel daunted. While law school applications tend to have the same basic elements like a personal statement and resume, some have extra essays or other quirks that require additional thought and effort. Too many applications can be unmanageable.
Moreover, application fees can quickly add up to a substantial sum.
If you find yourself with a sprawling target list, do careful research on each law school’s website. Weed out schools whose location, offerings or culture align poorly with your own interests and career goals. Three years is a long time to spend in the wrong place.
How Many Law Schools Is Too Many?
A good rule of thumb is to apply to at least a dozen law schools: five reaches, five midrange schools and two safety schools.
Reach law schools are highly competitive, admitting applicants with average GPAs and LSAT scores that may be a bit higher than your own. It is worth applying to several reach schools, anticipating the likelihood of being waitlisted or rejected at each one. As long as you are being realistic, there is no harm in taking a chance. After all, if you receive no rejections, you may wonder whether you could have aimed higher.
Be sure to target several midrange law schools, as well. These are schools at which your odds of admission are good but not assured. Select these schools carefully, since they may present your best options. Don’t make the mistake of focusing only on your dream schools.
Finally, be sure to apply to at least one or two safety schools, where your chances of acceptance are solid. Such schools may even offer to waive your application fee.
Reasons to Send Out More or Fewer Applications
For some applicants, it might make sense to apply to at least 15-20 law schools.
If you have a low GPA and a high LSAT score, or vice versa, then it can be challenging to determine your odds at a target law school. The best approach for “splitters” like this is to apply to more schools, knowing that admissions offices may differ in how much weight they put on each factor.
Likewise, you may want to broaden your target list if you feel you have unique strengths that compensate for lower numbers, like a distinctive background, compelling personal story or relevant work experience. Such soft factors may stand out to some admissions officers but carry less weight with others.
In contrast, some applicants may choose to apply to only a handful of schools, particularly if they are focused on a narrow geographic range or are seeking law chools with specific programs or resources.
No matter how many schools you apply to, make sure they are schools you would gladly attend. Unlike college applicants who are anxious to receive at least one acceptance, law school applicants tend to have other career options. Even if you have your heart set on law school, you can take time off to strengthen your candidacy and reapply later.
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