Out of 200 choices, how do you pick? When it’s time to apply for law school, choosing which ones to apply to can feel overwhelming. Where do you even start? And each of the applications cost money? And what if you’re not sure that you’re T14 material, do you still just apply to the top schools?
The first thing to remember is that the application process is a numbers game and while you shouldn’t limit yourself, you should be realistic about where to apply to make sure it’s the best option for you. And there are so many other things to consider beyond rank. Take my case, for example, I could have applied to Wisconsin Law, which is a top school. But because I could only afford to apply to four law schools I had to be super selective. And Wisconsin for me didn’t make sense—first, your girl doesn’t drive, second, I didn’t plan to work in Wisconsin—and those two factors ultimately showed me that there were better options to consider even though it is a highly ranked school.
So what should you consider?
One. Location. Always a major, major factor. The adage of going to law school where you want to practice is smart and makes things easier. Of course it doesn’t need to be the exact city (and the law school may not be exactly where you want to practice) but look at schools throughout the state you’re interested in or surrounding cities. I’ve cautioned before that location will impact your state of mind, but I would not limit where I apply just based on location. If there’s a school you’re interested in but it’s in, say, Indiana, if you can afford to apply, go for it. Don’t limit your options before they have a chance to grant admission.
Two. Numbers. Look at the median LSAT/GPA for the latest class listed on the school’s website. This will let you identify which school will be a reach, a safety, and more realistic option. But go beyond and look at employment rates, look at bar passage, and see what scholarship options they offer. Don’t forget to check the percentage of students of color! That seems simple enough but it means really digging into those figures and gaining an understanding of what your priorities are in terms of where you want to go—-maybe you’re willing to go to a small town instead of a city if the school has better options or you realize there are certain things you don’t want to give up regardless of the program.
Three. Opportunities. Research opportunities that go beyond the “traditional” options like law review or moot court. Every school will have those options. But what else do they highlight? What kind of clinics do they offer? What alumni do they feature? Are they major players in OCI? And while I don’t think moot court is as an important of factor, I would check out how they feature the student of color moot court teams to get a sense of how/if those students are supported. Same with the Latino law student group—even if you’re not sure if you’ll participate, how the groups are featured will help gauge support.
Four. Notoriety. The last thing is to google the school to see if they have been involved in any recent scandal. You may be surprised (ha) at how many professors in different, “good” schools say the n word during lecture. How many professors espouse racist rhetoric with little support for students. Or they let their fed society run amuck. That should be something you consider in terms support, comfort, and general wtf-ness that you’ll need to deal with.
Deciding where you apply can feel overwhelming and the guidance of just apply to top schools doesn’t take into account the very real factors that will impact you for the next three years. So, take a deep breath, take the time to really dive deep, it’s a big decision but remember that school must work for you because it’s a space where your want to thrive, not just survive.