Many factors should be considered in deciding where to apply: geographical region, setting (urban or rural), size, selectivity, status, cost, financial aid possibilities, special programs (combined degree, affirmative action admissions, night law school), clinical programs, and so forth. The Official Guide to U.S. Law Schools is a good place to begin your research. The Guide presents two-page descriptions of the various schools prepared by the schools themselves. It gives a good sense of how the schools see themselves—what they think they do especially well—as well as specifics about their programs and financial aid. Many include a grid of their admissions record from the previous year at the various GPA and LSAT levels, which can give you some ideas of how likely you are to be accepted at any particular law school. The most recent copy of the Guide is available in the Department of Political Science office, or it may be ordered from Law Services using the publication order form in the Registration and Information Book.
Law school admissions personnel are usually happy to provide information to prospective applicants. You should take the opportunity to meet with many representatives in person each fall (usually late September) when they come to the Chicago Law forum. Held in Chicago each fall, it is there you can meet recruiters from most law schools, collect information and ask questions. Dates and locations of the Law Forums are listed in the Registration and Information Book, and in the Prelaw Society newsletter.
Once you have established a list of potential law schools, you should write to ask for catalogs and applications. New catalogs are available in August or September.
Selecting a law school is a critical decision. You should gather as much information as you can before you commit your time, money and energy. The following is a checklist of items you should investigate before you make a final decision:
Make an attempt to contact current students and recent graduates as well as law school representatives to get answers to your questions.
You should select a range of schools for application. It is wise to apply to a few schools that will almost certainly admit you. You should also include a few on the other end of the scale, where you are not likely to be admitted, but would dearly love to attend if accepted. Your middle range should be schools that may or may not accept you, but you would be happy to attend.
You can apply to as many or as few schools as you wish or can afford. Each application requires a fee; fee waivers are available in cases of financial need. You should apply to enough schools to be sure of being admitted to a school you would like to attend.
If possible, visit law schools before you make your final decision about which one you will attend. Most schools provide tours, arrange for you to sit in on classes, and to talk with professors, students and staff. Since law schools do not conduct formal interviews, visits are a good way to introduce yourself to school representatives at the same time you are gathering direct knowledge about the school.
Your application is the school’s first impression of you, so take care in preparing it. Neatness counts, so unless otherwise directed, type all forms. Follow directions carefully, and include all requested information as completely as possible. To avoid making corrections on an application, you may want to copy the forms and fill out the copies first. Law Services now offers a CD-Rom that allows you to fill out applications on your computer. All of the ABA approved law schools have applications on the disk. It saves time and effort and is well worth the $50 investment. See the LSAT/LSDAS Registration and Information Book for ordering information.