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Myth: In a country that churns out thousands of lawyers per graduating class, it does not seem to make a difference where you go to law school, as long as you get the good pay day in the end.

Fact: Too many aspiring law students fall into the mind-set mentioned above.

This is your wake-up call! Do not fall into the trap! Due to the poor state of the economy, students have been hypnotized by large dollar signs, which cause them to send their applications (and boatloads of money) aimlessly to law schools with the best reputation for the best-paying jobs upon graduation. If you are smart about where you send your applications out, you will not only save money on application fees, but you will also be pleased with the amount of large envelopes you receive in the mail. The strategy is so simple, yet countless students forget it every year: apply where you think you have the best chances to get in and apply to schools you can see yourself attending.

Law schools publish fact sheets with last year’s entering class numbers (LSAT and GPA) to demonstrate what caliber of student they are looking for. Do not think that you are the exception that will be admitted with a subpar LSAT score, unless you have a truly compelling story of why you need to go to that specific law school. If you are like the common law school applicant, you should apply where your numbers tell you to apply. Although it hurts to admit, the LSAT is actually a decent predictor of how you will succeed in law school, and law schools take that three-digit number more seriously than any other item in your application packet. Therefore, before you sign your life savings away for application fees, do your research and apply to schools in which your LSAT score falls between the 25th percentile and 75th percentile of scores from last year’s entering class. Generally, applying within that range will give you the best chance to get in. Do not forget that your GPA needs to fall within that range too! As a rule of thumb, you should apply to about four or five schools where your score is within their range, one or two that put your score below the 25th percentile (reach) and two or three that place your score above the 75th percentile (safety).

As a quick note about safety schools, admissions committees will recognize when student’s numbers exceed their average numbers. Lately, they have been putting those overly-qualified candidates on the wait list to see if they are actually interested in the school. Only apply to safety schools that you can see yourself attending. Do not waste the admissions committee’s time if you do not plan to go to the school in the first place.

The general mantra that follows students through their application process is “apply to schools in the region where you would most like to practice law.” If you want to be a big Hollywood agent in California, an education from Cornell in Ithaca, New York would not benefit you, simply based on where the schools are located. If you want to practice law in the New York metropolitan area, apply to a school in that general vicinity (preferably not farther than Connecticut or New Jersey). The logic behind this is that law schools in a particular city will have the best connections with the big law firms in that city. Do not hesitate to apply to a less-recognizable school if you really do not want to be anywhere else other than where that school is located. For instance, Widener School of Law in Wilmington, Delaware is an excellent regional law school that will place you in a good law firm in the Wilmington or Philadelphia area. But, it is considered a “Tier-3” school by U.S. News and World Report. Please, do not allow the term “Tier-3” dissuade you from applying anywhere because it just means that it is a “regional” school. However, where you apply to law school is ultimately your choice. But, learning to strategize now will help prepare you for a better career in the future. It’s that simple.

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