3 Lessons I Learned While Applying to Law School

Going to law school is hard enough, but the admissions process can feel like half the battle. Here are lessons one student learned while applying to law school.
portrait of Ciara Callicott
Ciara Callicott
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Contributing Writer

I am a junior at the University of Alabama, where I study political science and international studies on the pre-law track. At UA, I serve as chairwoman of the Advisory Council on Wellness as well as director of strategic initiatives for the Student ...
Published on March 8, 2024
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Cobretti D. Williams, Ph.D.
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Cobretti D. Williams, Ph.D. (he/him), is a scholar, writer, and editor. Cobretti's research and writing focuses on the experiences of historically excluded students and faculty and staff in higher education. His work has been published in the Journal...
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This past summer, I began applying to law school. Going to law school wasn’t something I was ever sure I wanted. I didn’t really want to be a lawyer, and I definitely didn’t think I could afford it. Nearly every lawyer I've ever met has vehemently warned me against going to law school; if I recall, some descriptors they used were “soul-sucking” and “the worst time of my life.”

However, my opinion changed when I helped a survivor of human trafficking obtain legal services to pursue justice. At that point, I knew this was what I wanted to spend the rest of my life doing, and I embarked on the journey of applying to law school.

A Daunting Endeavor

I’ve spent most of my young adult life working while in school. When I decided that law school was my chosen path, I knew I would have to get creative to take on what felt like a Herculean task. Since I was not a financially secure college student, if I wanted to accomplish my goals and dreams, I’d have to go about them differently.

Higher education — specifically attending graduate schools and programs — has always required a certain level of financial security to attend unless you are willing to take on student loan debt. Not only is there the cost of attendance to consider, but there’s also the cost of living. And unless you have someone to help care for you, it can be pretty challenging, especially if you're already in school.

Before I started applying, the law school admissions process seemed daunting. Aside from the financial barriers, many types of inherent knowledge get passed down from family and friends who already went through the process — this includes knowledge about how to be a standout applicant, knowing the “right” way to reach out to admissions officers, and what clothes to wear to interviews. Having access to people with the resources and information you need to succeed is a serious advantage and an issue that often deters applicants from applying.

Ultimately, these are challenges you don’t discover until you go through the process; in particular, there were three big lessons I learned that I wish I had known well before applying to law school. Now that I’m on the other side of admissions and considering which law school to attend, hopefully, I can offer some tangible advice to anyone navigating the law school admissions process for the first time.

Studying and Taking the LSAT

The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is the test that most law school applicants take, and it plays a significant factor in their chance of acceptance. The average LSAT score for accepted students can vary from 150-180, and most schools display a median score on their website that gives applicants a sense of what to aim for.

Some students decide not to take the LSAT, electing to apply with a GRE score instead. In rare cases, students can apply by only submitting a resume and their transcripts. Different schools have different paths to admission. However, the LSAT and your college grade point average usually play the biggest roles in your chances of law school admission.

Applying to law school kind of feels like the Hunger Games, where the tributes try to impress people from the Capitol to get a score high enough to survive. This put a lot of pressure on me when I took the LSAT, and it’s easy to become obsessive and place too much emphasis on your score. As someone who studied — and agonized — over this exam for months on end, here’s some advice to consider as you study for the LSAT:

  1. 1

    Make sure you study at a calm(ish) point in your life

    When taking on a task as steep as the LSAT, it’s important to prioritize as much time as you think you need. The reality for most working students like myself is that there aren’t many opportunities to study during the school year, so I began studying in May after the semester ended and took the exam in August. Some people would say you need more time than that, but my brain works better under time crunches, so it was right for me. Make sure that the study timeline you pick works best for you.
  2. 2

    Apply for an LSAC fee waiver well in advance of the deadline

    My biggest mistake when applying to law school was not applying for the fee waiver before taking the exam. The Law School Admission Council (LSAC) provides fee waivers to help with the cost of the test and application fees. This is super helpful, as some schools have steeper application fees than others. However, it takes a while for them to process and approve the fee waiver. It also requires teamwork with your parents or guardian if you’re a dependent, so beginning that process as far in advance as possible can be a game-changer in the admissions process.
  3. 3

    Be selective and purposeful with the study tool you use

    LSAT prep courses can be expensive, with some costing over $1,000. I recommend using a study tool because, if you're like me, it is very hard to do well on a test without knowing the format, timing, and type of questions asked. I chose 7Sage because they offered a lot of free content to familiarize myself with before committing to paying a $69 monthly fee.

Make a List and Check It Twice

As I mentioned earlier, there can be steeper application costs based on which schools you apply to. Something that was really helpful for me was making a list of all of my potential schools, comparing their application costs, and then prioritizing the schools from there. I applied to my first-ranked school and then continued until I filled the quota for the budget I made.

Another factor to consider is that even if a school has no application fee, it costs $45 to send a Credential Assembly Service report. And every school you apply to needs to receive one of these reports. This service is provided through LSAC, and it essentially consolidates required documentation like transcripts and letters of recommendation and sends it to a school. However, the fee waiver provided by LSAC can help with this expense if you have access to it.

Make Connections and Expand Your Network

It can be easy to get wrapped up in comparing yourself to others, especially if you don't know anyone who has attended law school or if you're the first person in your family to attend graduate school. I was fortunate to have a close friend who was my lifeline in this process. But to survive, you will need to find community.

A great way to combat imposter syndrome or feel slightly less confused and alone in this process is to intentionally make friends and connections in legal spaces. Join the undergraduate law society on your campus, reach out to friends of friends, or even join online community spaces for future law students. Nothing is more valuable than relationships when forging a new path for yourself.

It’s hard not to think about what your score could have been if you had dedicated more time, had more resources, or knew more going in. However, the lessons you learn and the relationships you build during the process are the most valuable things you can gain from applying to law school. You can learn more about yourself, push yourself outside your comfort zone, and meet amazing new people.

There’s enough competition in life. Save yourself the trouble of worrying about others and focus on your law school admissions process — a personal journey where no one exists but you.

Meet the Author

Portrait of Ciara Callicott

Ciara Callicott

Ciara is a senior at the University of Alabama, where she is the Chairwoman of the Advisory Council on Wellness and the Director of Strategic Initiatives for the Student Government Administration. She's the founder and CEO of 501(c)(3) nonprofit Unite to Fight Poverty, which aims to address poverty by promoting the power of advocacy. Ciara will be attending law school next year, with the goal of becoming a legal advocate for survivors of human trafficking and domestic violence. Her writing credits include lifestyle, fashion, and personal essay work for Her Campus Magazine, and she plans to publish a personal essay collection one day.