After another summer, heading into another semester, many of us have come to a certain stark realization: not only will college not last forever, but also, when we leave this bubble above 114th, we will need to figure out what our next stage will entail. Join Senior Staff Writer Gabrielle Kloppers as she explores one of your options—law school—and how Columbia can help you get there.
First of all, before deciding to embark on law school, you should ask whether it is the right path for you. It is often seen as a sell-out move for English or History students who no longer want to lecture in front of sweaty college students and wear tweed jackets. But it is a serious commitment, both financially and in terms of the sheer quantity of tedious reading required.
Now, if that didn’t put you off, keep on reading this article.
Most law schools have a deadline somewhere in February, so keep that in mind. If this is your senior year, you will need to get cracking. Furthermore, most law schools work on a rolling admissions basis, so they will favor applicants who get their applications in early. So ideally, you’re looking to submit those applications by late November or early December, but EARLIER is BETTER, so don’t procrastinate, this isn’t a CC Reading that you can do a week before the final. So you ideally want around a year for preparation.
Firstly, the report given to law schools is generally compiled by the Credential Assembly Service (CAS), which is provided by LSAC and required by most reputable law schools. This service will assemble a report containing your transcript, LSAT score, and letters of recommendation; basically, everything the law school will be using to base its assessment of you. Law schools will contact CAS directly and request a copy of your report after you have applied. CAS is a great service; but, as great services often do, it comes at a price. In this case, you will need to pay a fee of around $185, as well as the $180 you will need to pay just to sit the LSAT. It’s insane, and it’s worth looking around at Columbia to see what methods are available to you, especially if you are on financial aid or in a Scholar program.
Now, I said a scary acronym just then – the LSAT. The LSAT is a standardized test offered by LSAC (you may recognize them as the body that also provides CAS). It is required by almost all law schools, so it is imperative that you take this. And this is not an SAT that is offered with extreme regularity; it can be taken only at 4 sittings a year: in February, June, October and December. So, you will need to book early for these, as places fill up fairly quickly. It is highly recommended that you study for quite some time for an LSAT, usually around 6 months. There are a variety of in-person and online courses that can help you score higher, and luckily, as we are located in one of the biggest cities in the world, it is usually pretty easy to find something that will fit your needs. Your LSAT score will be a large indicator of success for your application, so it’s important to take it more seriously than you did your FroSci final; this is your future we’re talking about.
What else is part of your application? Law schools will also require your school transcript, recommendations, and a personal statement.
Transcript: Request that your advisor send your transcript to CAS in around August of your Senior Year.
Recommendations: It is generally considered best to get letters of recommendation from both academic and work-related sources. So, ask your boss at your last internship or someone who can really vouch for your work, and also pester a professor who really knows what you’re capable of. It’s best to do this in around September, when internships still remember you and professors realize they’re back in a school semester.
Personal Statement: The rest of your application is relatively straightforward, so the personal statement is really where you can let your flair show through. Many law schools are beginning to break away from a model of just looking for a certain workaholic, so it may be beneficial to show how you are different, and what you will be adding. Note, however, that your approach is specific to you.
What can you do beyond this, and how can you use Columbia to reach your goals?
- Access a pre-law advisor. If you’re registered as a pre-law student, you can contact your normal academic advisor about getting a pre-law advisor to help you navigate the ins-and-outs of application.
- Visit CCE or Barnard Career Development to talk to a counselor for a quick drop-in meeting during their office hours, or email them to schedule an appointment. They can help you figure out what path is best.
- Join the Columbia Pre-Law society or the Columbia Undergraduate Law Review to be around other likeminded students.
- Attend career fairs: even though most of the fairs seem to center around Investment Banking/Consulting rather than law firms, the connections you make in these spheres may nonetheless be instrumental in getting into Law School.
- RUSH BWOG and come to our first open meeting at 9 pm on Sunday in Lerner 501. You’ll meet a lot of other English/History majors who are selling out and want to go to law school!
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