Law Students

How to Get Accepted at a Top Law School
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Attending a top tier law school is often a golden ticket to a Biglaw firm and lucrative legal career. Many aspiring lawyers hope to get into these highly ranked schools to ensure they get the best legal education and jump-start their legal career. However, getting accepted in some of these extremely selective law schools is not an easy feat.

Law Schools that are rated highly in the U.S. News Best Law Schools rankings have competitive acceptance rates and admit students with exceptional academic credentials.

For example, in fall 2017, Yale Law School had an acceptance rate below 8.4 percent. The median undergraduate GPA was 3.91 on a 4.0 scale, and the median LSAT score among entering students was 173 out of a maximum of 180.


With that in mind, experts say that J.D. applicants with these five traits have a better shot of getting admitted at top law schools than their peers.

1. Excellent Academic Credentials

First and foremost, you have to have a competitive GPA, and you have to have as good of an LSAT as you can get.

If you are determined to get accepted in a top law school and become a lawyer, you must show excellent academic performance, as this is the deciding factor for admitting a candidate to a top law school.

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Top law schools need to determine whether you can succeed while you are there, and substantial undergraduate grades are the best indicator of that. 

There is a popular opinion that a prestigious undergraduate college will put you at an advantage when applying in some of the top law schools, due to the assumption you’ve already been tested against the country’s brightest. However, your median GPA is ultimately the deciding factor whether you will get accepted into law school or not. Top law schools don’t exactly care where you got your undergraduate, they care what your GPA is. Going to a random college with a 4.0 GPA might get you into Harvard, whereas going to Stanford with a 3.5 GPA will not.

Therefore if you aspire to attend a top law school, you should not slack off your college courses. No matter how extraordinary your extracurricular activities are, it will be difficult for them to compensate for a low GPA.

The LSAT test is another determining factor, as LSAT scores are heavily emphasized in the law school admissions process.  

Admission officers use the LSAT scores to determine your reasoning and reading skills, all of which are essential for success in law school. Widely different from any other standardized high school or college tests, LSAT is designed to measure and estimate your ability to excel in law school. Preparing for the LSAT is often an overwhelming, long, and stressful process. You should be physically and mentally ready for the test. Getting the best LSAT score requires months of continuous effort.  

Even though this goes without saying, you should devote a significant amount of time and effort to preparing for the LSAT.

2. A Strong Argument for Pursuing a J.D degree

A great way to distinguish yourself from other J.D. applicants is to have a persuasive essay with a striking theme and a clear argument of why you have chosen a legal career. Spoiler Alert — “I am a fan of Law and Order” is not a winning argument for pursuing a law degree. 

According to Ethan Rosenzweig, the dean of admission at Emory University School of Law, out of the 4,500 law school applications the school has received this year, only a handful tell a compelling story.

If you want the admissions committee to connect with you personally, as well as academically and professionally, tell an honest and consistent story throughout your application. 

Captivating personal events that have inspired you to pursue a career in law could make for a strong application, provided the story is well-written and highlights your interest and commitment to a career in law. 

While the admission officers don’t expect you to write about which area of law you want to practice, as you likely still don’t know what type of lawyer you intend to become, they expect you to highlight a sophisticated argument for why you want to attend law school.

If you manage to communicate your interest in law in a creative and compelling way without using cliches, you are more likely to impress admission officers.

3. Extracurricular Activities

Whether you participate in college athletics, hold a leadership position within a journal, or are learning a new language, extracurricular activities will improve your chances to get admitted to top law school.

Interesting academic projects or extracurricular activities that illustrate leadership, voluntarism, or athleticism may help you compete in the J.D. admissions process. If you take rigorous undergraduate courses and do compelling academic projects, chances are you will have a remarkable leg up in the J.D. admissions process.

For instance, a history major with straight A’s could have a strong law school application regardless of extracurricular activities. However, an applicant with the same stellar academic record and published articles and honors thesis would have an even stronger application.

4. Detailed Endorsements

One thing which can transform a ‘meh’ law school application into an exceptional one is a compelling recommendation letter.

Recommendations provide integrity to your application as they represent third-party evaluations of your academic performance. Recommendations from professors are exceptionally important, as they can indicate your academic intellect, as well as your interest in law. That’s why it’s important to get a letter of recommendation from a trusted source.

5. Real-World Experiences

J.D. admissions officers value work experience. According to legal academics, students who applied to law school during college are less competitive than those who apply to law school after college.



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