5 Tips for Parents of Law School Applicants

Parents won't be going law school, but they still play a critical part in the application process.

By + More

There are websites, forums, and articles for every type of law school applicant—freshmen in college, paralegals, older applicants, engineers and scientists, and more.

But there are few resources for one group that is not actually applying to law school, but is still often heavily involved: parents.

As a parent of a law school applicant, you want to support your child as much as possible, but you may not know how. Even parents who are lawyers themselves may realize how competitive and complicated the application process has become in recent years and may be unsure what advice they can offer.

[Read about law school trends for 2012.]

Here are five things you can do to support your law school applicant. 

1. Motivate your child to perform well academically: Your child's undergraduate GPA is one of the most important quantitative factors of a law school application, and one bad semester can mean the difference between a top 10 law school and a top 50 law school.

The difficulty level of college courses is much less important than the grades received in those classes, because law school admissions committees do an initial sort of applicants based solely on GPA and LSAT scores. Urge your son or daughter to take academics seriously throughout all four years of college. 

2. Recognize the importance of the LSAT: The LSAT is just one standardized test but is typically more important than one's cumulative GPA, which is the result of hundreds of tests, papers, and more. Thus, be patient as your son or daughter prepares for the LSAT, and do not pressure your child to take the exam before he or she is ready.

[Get seven tips for LSAT success.]

On average, people spend three to nine months preparing for the LSAT, but it could take more than a year to reach one's target score. Schools prefer to see only one or, at the most, two scores, and you are only allowed to take the LSAT three times in a two-year period. Allowing your son or daughter to wait to take the test until he or she is completely comfortable with it is in your child's best interest.

3. Brainstorm essay topics with your child: One of your most helpful contributions may be having a few simple conversations with your son or daughter about his or her biggest accomplishments and struggles. You may remember a seemingly trivial event from childhood that ends up being a recurring theme in your child's essays.

[Avoid these five law school essay mistakes.]

Spend some time reviewing the last 20 or so years, and note instances of your child overcoming a fear, battling an illness, taking initiative to fix a problem, and so forth.

4. Understand the intricacies of school selection: When it comes to deciding which school to attend, there are many factors involved. You may absolutely want your child to attend the school closest to home, or the best-ranked school, or the cheapest school to which he or she was admitted, but all three of these factors—location, ranking, and cost—need to be taken into consideration. A recent column of mine goes into further detail on choosing a law school.

[Explore the U.S. News law school rankings.]

5. Consider expert help: If possible, offer your child the expertise of test preparation and admissions counseling professionals who help hundreds of applicants through the law school application process every year. These specialists know how to make your son or daughter stand out to the admissions committees, and they can offer expert advice on everything from test-taking techniques to negotiating financial aid.

For more information and insights on this topic, attend my first-ever "Parents of Law School Applicants: How to Support Your Child Throughout the Application Process" events in a few weeks. On Wed., June 27, I will be hosting a free in-person event in Stratus Prep's Manhattan office from 7-8 p.m. EST. Then, from 8:30-9:30 p.m. EST, I will host a free webinar online on the same subject for parents around the world. 

Space is limited, so RSVP as soon as you can to michelle.shapiro@stratusprep.com. Parents, I hope to see you there. Applicants, tell your parents about these events soon if you think they may be interested.

As always, if you have any questions or comments, E-mail me at shawn.oconnor@stratusprep.com or contact me via Twitter at @StratusPrep.