I distinctly remember getting my first acceptance email to one of the schools I had applied to. It was a feeling of pure joy mixed with relief knowing that I got in. Even better, I scrolled down and in the email I was also informed I was going to receive a full-tuition scholarship, renewable for three years of study at one of my top law school choices. Needless to say I instantly began crying and called my mom, because that was the moment I realized my dream of attending law school was about to become a reality.
Now, before I give you my tutorial on how to go to law school for free, I want to insert a little disclaimer. A full-tuition scholarship doesn't really mean you'll get free school. You probably know from undergrad that tuition is just one of the several expenses you will have when attending school. You'll still have to pay fees, textbooks, living expenses, and personal costs. However, since law school often costs upwards of $40,000 per year for tuition alone, a full-tuition scholarship can't hurt.
So, here are things to keep in mind if you want a full-tuition (or even any) scholarship:
1. Have a good undergrad GPA
Clearly, this is something you need to think about way before you plan on attending law school. This starts with your first semester of undergrad. (Pro Tip: Pad your GPA by getting A's during your first years, so that when classes get harder your GPA won't be hit as hard by a lower grade or two) This is extremely important, because GPA is one of the biggest factors in both getting into law schools, as well as scholarship consideration. Ideally, to get a full-tuition scholarship, you probably will want a GPA and LSAT score at or above a school's 75th percentile. Even the lowest ranked schools have median GPAs of over 2.75 usually, so you should plan on being at least a B student.
2. Have a good LSAT Score
This is something you want to think about around a year or so before you begin applying to law schools, but I wanted to include it at the top of the list because this is one of, if not the most important factors in scholarship consideration. Like I mentioned before, you want to get a score that is at least at the school's 75th percentile for a full-tuition scholarship. Some schools that don't tend to give out as many scholarships (University of Florida, for example) tend to look for scores even higher than their 75th percentile. Every point helps.
If you sign up for CRS - Candidate Referral Service, law schools will look for you based on your LSAT score. Some schools may even contact you telling you that you are a candidate for a full-tuition scholarship, or other scholarships based on your placement in that school's LSAT range.
3. Pad your resume with extracurricular activities and get to know your professors
I'm lumping these two things into one category, because you know what you need to do. Get involved with a few clubs or activities to show that you are more than just an average student. Volunteer, work a part-time job, tutor younger students, join a club, etc. You know the drill.
Also, get to know your professors so that they will write you awesome letters of recommendation. Seriously, I went and bugged one of my professors during his office hours about once a month over the course of two years for class help, advising, and eventually law school help. And then when I needed him to, he helped write me an awesome letter of recommendation. I also had a professor that I kept in constant contact with that helped me completely dominate my personal statements, which was an immense help. This is some of the same stuff you need to get into law school, but they take all of these into account when determining scholarship help as well.
4. Write a personal statement that is actually personal
There's a lot of pressure for incoming law students to write amazing personal statements - but that's because this is the one thing that truly sets you apart from other students applying and gives you a chance to beg for admission and scholarships. So make sure your personal statement stands out from the rest of students describing their journey to law school. Whether it is made personal by a great story about overcoming hardships, reasons why you are different from the rest of the other applicants, or a reason why the school is a perfect fit for you, make sure it is extremely personal. Along with my personal statement, I added a one-page addendum describing why the school I am attending would be a perfect fit for me, and why I would be a perfect fit for the school. Honestly, I think that is what helped seal my scholarship. I showed that I was not just interested in becoming a law student, but I was interested in the school and was aware of the unique things it had to offer.
5. Be smart - apply to schools where you have a good chance of getting scholarships
Look for schools where either your GPA or LSAT scores are above the school's 75th percentile. Ideally both would be above that mark, but that is not always necessary. A good GPA can make up for a lower LSAT score to an extent, and vice versa. All of the schools where I received a full-tuition scholarship, both of my scores were above the 75th percentile. Also, apply to schools where they tend to give out more scholarships. It does not matter if you have stellar grades and an incredible LSAT score if a school only gives out five scholarships per year.
You can find data on all of this information on most law schools' websites. They are mandatory disclosures required by the ABA, so you should be able to find this information pretty easily.
6. Apply Early
This one seems pretty obvious, but you would be surprised how many students tell you they are still considering applying to law school and have not started the process when you are already putting your first deposits in. Schools will run out of scholarship money, so apply early for the best chances. The only downside to this is that some schools do not start making scholarship decisions until early January, so you might hear back about your admission decision well before your scholarship decision.
7. Don't Be Picky - Apply Everywhere
Okay, everywhere is an exaggeration. But apply to a lot of schools. I applied to six, which seemed like a lot considering I only applied to three schools for undergrad. You might have your dream school figured out, but if it costs five times as much as another school, it might not be worth it. Shop around a little bit and see where you get the best scholarship offers. I did this and received full-tuition scholarships to three schools, and generous partial scholarships to other schools.
This is not fully about just shopping around, though. On most law school applications, admissions councils will ask you where else you are applying. The more schools you apply to, especially within similar ranking ranges, they are more likely to be competitive. So applying to several schools is also strategic.
These are my biggest pieces of advice when it comes to getting a good scholarship for law school. Overall, just work hard and keep the goal in mind. A year ago, I had no idea that I would have three full-ride offers to amazing law schools, but I committed to the dream and now I get to go to law school for free - well, almost.
Talk to you guys soon,