The Best Advice for Getting Into Law School from a Columbia Law Student

The law school application process can be extremely daunting. One visit to the law school section of Barnes and Noble can be enough to send even the most dedicated applicant into a blind panic. There are LSAT prep books, law school prep books, books on how to apply, books on where to apply, and even books on why NOT to apply.

Here is a quick and dirty primer for those of you who have made the important decision to embark on a legal career path, but aren’t sure exactly where to start:

During College

The most important thing you can do to strengthen your application during your college years is to maintain a high GPA. This is easier said than done, obviously, but it always helps to have a clear, numerical goal in mind.

Take the time to review the GPA averages of the schools you are interested in applying to. This site is a goldmine for law school admissions statistics, and there are many more like it around the web: lawschoolnumbers.com.

If your GPA isn’t quite there yet, you will know how hard you need to push yourself to get where you need to be. If it is within or above your school’s desired range, congratulations! You’re ready for step two.

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On the LSAT

Your score on the Law School Admission Test will be one of the most important factors in determining whether and where you get into law school. Take it seriously!

Keep in mind that even if you have excelled on standardized tests in the past, you will still need to dedicate many hours to learning the particular quirks of the LSAT. The good news is that it’s a very learnable test.

Target your problem areas (for most people this is the Logic Games section, but your mileage may vary), and power through practice problems like it’s your job.

You absolutely do not need to pay thousands of dollars for an LSAT prep course, although if you happen to have the extra cash available, more power to you. What you do need is discipline, and a routine that you can stick to. Plenty of sleep before test day never hurts either.

Recommendation Letters

The process of requesting letters of recommendation will be different for every applicant, but in general, you should strive to give your recommenders as much notice as possible. Time is of the essence in the application process, and writing your recommendation letter will likely not be a priority for your busy professors.

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Once all your recommendations have been submitted, definitely take the time to send a thank you note. It’s the least you can do to thank your recommenders for going the extra mile, and you never know when you might need them again.

Essays

Take time to reflect before putting pen to paper (or finger to keys). Be honest. Be genuine. Be grammatically correct. And above all, take the time to read “The Ivey Guide to Law School Admissions.”  It is the only book I read before applying to law school, and it made me completely scrap my existing essays and start again from scratch.  It’s a quick read, and a vital one.

If you follow the advice above, and maintain a healthy dose of perspective throughout the application process, there will be no stopping you. In the immortal words of Elle Woods, “What? Like it’s hard?”