After deciding to go to law school months or perhaps years ago, you now find yourself face-to-face with the daunting application process. You have to craft a personal statement, diversity statement, résumé, and optional essays, as well as identify and solicit the best possible recommenders.
The law school admissions process is quite different from your college applications, and top law schools may be much more competitive than your college or university. The stakes are higher, with the rank of the school you go to dictating to a great extent the job you will obtain after graduation. The ubiquitous question "Where did you go to college?" will soon be replaced with "So, where are you going to law school?"
Where should you turn for help? Below are three sources of valuable advice as well as the pros and cons of relying on each.
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1. Parents: For many of us, our parents have always been there to help. I have seen time and again over the 10 years I have advised applicants how parents can be vital sources of anecdotes about your past.
They've known you longer than anyone else and can help you identify and emphasize your strengths. Perhaps one or both of your parents even went to law school and have some insights about the admissions process.
However, keep in mind that your parents can likely not be entirely objective. They are going to be biased—what school wouldn't want their baby as an addition to its community? This means that you may also want to find someone a little less close to home who can help as well. Even if your parents have gone to law school, they will likely have as many questions as you do about the application process, which could be dramatically different from when they applied.
2. College prelaw adviser: A college prelaw adviser is another great source of information, particularly about law school presentations on your campus. Your college prelaw adviser will likely be much more objective when helping you identify your application's strengths and weaknesses and may have valuable insights about where other students from your college have gone to law school. Just don't feel pigeon-holed by those who came before you.
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While college prelaw advisers are hard-working and well-meaning, time is a significant limitation of the support they can provide. The vast majority of college prelaw advisers have far too many students to provide the level of support you will likely require to do your best on your law school applications.
3. Professional admissions counselor: Another option is to seek help from a professional law school admissions counselor. The most reputable counselors offer a comprehensive package for a fixed price that guides applicants through the entire law school application process, from help with initial introspection and school selection to essay outlining and editing, finding recommendations, managing the wait list, and negotiating financial aid.
The most successful of these experts guide dozens of applicants through the admissions process every year, and they know specifically what each law school values, so they can help you personalize your essays for every school.
While it is important to manage your expectations, the effect professional admissions counselors can have is significant. For example, my team at Stratus Prep and I have helped students with LSATs in the 150s into Northwestern University and Yale University, and last season, we had three students with LSATs between 161 and 163 get into Harvard University.
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A potential drawback of admissions counseling is that you will be expected to commit a good portion of time to introspection, essay drafts, and résumé editing to be sure that you put the best possible application forward. Admissions counselors help you do your best work, but do not actually do the work for you—be wary of companies that promise staff members will write the essays.
There is also a cost associated with hiring a professional admissions counselor. However, for many students, this cost of a couple thousand dollars is repaid with a substantial merit-based financial aid package worth between $75,000 and $100,000 or more.