Applying and Paying for Law School
UMN Pre-Law Advising Office
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If and when you decide to apply to law school—whether you’re still an undergraduate or you’ve already earned your bachelor’s degree—you’ll be looking at a process that typically takes one to two years before you’ll matriculate.
Applications for law school are reviewed on a rolling basis, beginning in September for admission the following fall. The earlier you apply to a particular school, the greater your chances of admission and of receiving a scholarship.
Applications to all law schools are submitted through the Law School Admission Council (LSAC). Individual schools’ requirements vary, but all require the following:
- Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) score. The LSAT is offered several times per year. You can check the updated schedule on the Law School Admission Council’s website. Your LSAT score is good for five years, and you can now take the test as many times as you wish. (However, it’s recommended that you not take the test more than three times.)
- Transcript(s). You are responsible for sending official academic transcripts from every institution where you’ve received college credit. This includes dual enrollment during high school, summer school at a community college, and study abroad programs if you attended the foreign university for a year or longer. LSAC will calculate a cumulative GPA based on all of your undergraduate coursework, not just your time at the University of Minnesota. LSAC takes every grade into account equally, even if you have repeated a course.
- Letters of recommendation. Most schools require two recommendation letters, including one from a professor. So build relationships with professors early, and ask for recommendation letters well before you need them.
- Personal statement. This essay is typically two to three pages long (double-spaced), and you should customize it based on each law school’s application instructions.
- Résumé. Résumés included in law school applications can be over a page long. There isn’t a specific format you must follow, and you can include details about extracurricular activities as well as academic projects, volunteer work, foreign language skills, and more.
- Character and fitness disclosures. Law school applications require you to disclose illegal activity and, in some cases, both formal and informal misconduct in which you’ve been involved.
If you’re wondering not only what you need to do to prepare for law school application, but also when, take a look at this handy planning timeline.
(Note: It is not preferred or required that you begin law school immediately after finishing your undergraduate degree. Thus, you can adjust this planning timeline accordingly so that it coincides with the date you expect to start law school.)
Two Years Prior to Beginning Law School
- Determine when you’ll be taking the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), and devote four to six months to preparing for it. (Note: If you’re studying abroad, think about how the LSAT will fit into that timeframe, and be realistic! The LSAT is offered internationally if you need that option.)
- Research potential law schools and their career outcomes.
- Approach professors, supervisors, and others to ask for recommendation letters.
- Take the LSAT in the summer to submit your law school application(s) in September.
- Begin working on your personal statement during the summer.
- Consider taking the CLA Career Services course ID 3205, Law School Exploration.
One Year Prior to Beginning Law School
- Finalize your personal statement.
- Fill out law school applications for early review processes.
- Register for the Law School Admission Council’s (LSAC) Credential Assembly Service (CAS), a centralized application system, approximately six weeks prior to submitting applications.
- Take the LSAT (if you haven’t already).
- Fill out Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) materials to be considered for scholarships for law school.
Attending law school is extremely expensive. Tuition at a private law school, plus living expenses and books, can run well over $60,000 per year.
Only a small percentage of students can afford to pay this amount of money as they go through three years of law school. Most students have to borrow substantially to finance their law school education.
The average debt for graduating law students is on the order of $100,000; for students at many schools, it approaches $150,000. These figures do not include debt from undergraduate schools.
Given these numbers, it’s critical that you do two things:
- Before deciding to attend law school, carefully consider whether it’s a good investment for you.
- If you do decide to attend law school, make a solid plan for how you’ll finance your education.
Increasingly, law schools are offering merit-based scholarships, which are largely determined based on your GPA and Law School Admission Test (LSAT) scores and how they compare to the school’s median scores. It’s very important for you to research how scholarships are awarded at law schools, how they are renewed over the course of the three years of school, and what your total cost of attendance will be when factoring in scholarships and living expenses.
Scholarship amounts are often given at the time of admission decision, and increasingly they can be a point of negotiation with a school. The UMN's Pre-Law advisor can give you more advice on how to handle merit-based scholarship negotiation for each individual circumstance.