Pre-Law at Grinnell College
No matter what your current level of interest in law school, you can make an appointment to discuss plans by stopping by the CDO or calling x4940.
* Join the Pre-Law Distribution List * Criteria for Admission * Deciding to Attend Law School * Law School by the Numbers * Fellowships * Law School Forums * Recommended Coursework * Personal Statement * Law School Admission Test (LSAT) * Recommendation Letters * Helpful Websites * Financial Aid Basics * Timeline * LGBT resources
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There are various criteria for admission used by law schools. This list of criteria is in a typical order of importance as determined by law schools.
- LSAT scores
- Letters of recommendation
- Personal statement
- Course of undergraduate study (rigor)
- Out of class activities
- Work experience
- Motivation for law school
- Ethnic background
- State of residency
The first question you should consider as you think about attending law school is what kind of outcome are you seeking? Is being able to develop a specialty or have access to certain kinds of elective courses important to you (e.g., environmental law, entertainment law)? Is being a lawyer your goal or do you intend to use your degree for other purposes (e.g., a career in government or public policy)? What qualities are you looking for in a program? Competitive or cooperative? High-ranking? Urban or rural? What locations have you targeted? Consider the state in which you will want to take the bar and eventually practice law. Consider your level of competitiveness as an applicant and apply to schools in three tiers: top tier schools, realistic schools and safe schools. Most students apply to 5-10 schools. To help you decide how competitive you will be as a Grinnell College graduate, consult with the Pre-Law Advisor at the CDO. Review this document to learn more about what schools fellow Grinnellians are applying to and matriculating. Also review the average GPA and LSAT scores of the Grinnell College applicants.
Follow this link for a profile of Grinnell's 2010-2011 applicants to law school (based on the most recent data from the Law School Admission Council). NEW! Aggregated data from 2008 to 2011 are now included; follow the same profile link and click to open a PDF of these data.
The American Bar Foundation sponsors a program of summer research fellowships to interest minority undergraduate students in pursuing graduate study in the social sciences. The summer program is designed to introduce students to the rewards and demands of a research-oriented career in the field of law and social science. Eligible are American citizens and lawful permanent residents including, but not limited to, persons who are African American, Mexican, Native American, or Puerto Rican. Applications will be considered only from sophomores and juniors, that is, students who have completed at least the sophomore year and who have not received a bachelor's degree by the time the fellowship begins. Applicants must have a Grade Point Average of at least 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale) and be moving toward an academic major in the social sciences or humanities. Application materials are available at the American Bar Foundation's Website. The ABA Legal Opportunity Scholarship Fund will award $5000 of financial assistance annually to each scholarship recipient attending an ABA-accredited law school. An award made to an entering first-year student may be renewable for two additional years. Applications can be downloaded from the ABA website.
You may want to consider attending one of several free Law School Forums, located in major cities throughout the United States. Each forum offers the opportunity to talk with representatives of Law School Admission Council (LSAC)-member law schools from across the U.S.; obtain admission materials, catalogs, and financial aid information; view video programs about the law school admission process, legal education and careers, and multicultural perspectives on legal education; attend informational sessions on the law school admission process, financing a legal education, and issues of importance to multicultural applicants; and purchase Law Services publications and LSAT preparation materials. Review the LSAC Forum Schedulefor upcoming event dates.
There is no established pre-law curriculum at Grinnell. In keeping with the philosophy of a liberal arts education and Grinnell's open curriculum, there are no prescribed courses that students must take. However, this does not mean that you should not be thoughtful about your course selections. The deans of law schools nationwide list the four things an entering student must be able to do to be successful in law school: read critically, think analytically and write and speak well. Each of these skills can be developed in courses across the curriculum. No one major provides better preparation for law school than another. Similarly, no set of courses guarantees admission. You should choose courses with professors who challenge you to read critically, think analytically and write well.
The personal statement is in your complete control. Often your assignment is simply to "tell us something about yourself we are unlikely to know from other parts of your application." Each school will likely have a slightly different question (or questions) they want you to address in essay form. Be sure to answer each question directly; do not assume that the exact same statement will be appropriate for all schools to which you are applying. The content of the personal statement is of great importance. Since each statement should be as individual as the applicant writing it, following the form or style of someone else's successful essay is inappropriate. Below is a list of DO's and DON'Ts to help guide you as write your statement. Personal Statement - Do's and Dont's
- Write well - make it flow
- Have a good first sentence
- Double space it and leave good margins
- Make sure ink is dark
- Keep it within two pages (unless otherwise prescribed by school)
- Put your name on each page
- Be specific and accurate
- Be truthful
- Have statement support and be supported by the rest of the file
- Look beyond fraternity/sorority offices or athletic experiences
- Acknowledge negatives in your file
- Turn positives into positives
- Mention sensitive subjects in an appropriate way (not overly dramatically)
- Tell them why you've chosen law
- Show them who you are - this is your interview
- Overuse the thesaurus.
- Use cliches or quote others extensively.
- Misspell words. Use your spell-checker, but don't rely on it completely!
- Use the third person.
- Title your statement.
- Send multimedia presentations or accompanying photos.
- Gush about law school or the role of law in society.
- Be too cynical.
- Come across as a "victim".
- Be too specific about what you want to do with your law degree, unless your experience shows that it is a logical extension of what you've already done.
- Focus too much on another person, even if they have been influential in your life.
- Just list the activities and experiences that are already in your application.
* From the National Association of Pre Law Advisors
The LSAT is required by all Law School Admission Council-member law schools as a part of their application procedure. The LSAT is intended to give no advantage to test takers from a particular academic background and does not test specific knowledge obtained in college classes or achievements in any given area. The scored sections include one Reading Comprehension section, one Analytical Reasoning section, and two Logical Reasoning sections. There is also an unscored writing sample section that is sent to each law school to which you apply. Application materials are available in the CDO library. Information regarding the LSAT can also be obtained from their website, or Educational Testing Service. Take the test that is offered in the fall (October) of senior year, if not in the summer between junior and senior year. For more information visit LSAT Information and Test Dates.
A snapshot of Grinnell College
(Note: any current or past student can sit for the exam.) Average LSAT score for Grinnell students sitting for the February 2010 Test: 167 December 2009 Test: 157 June 2009 Test: 162 The national average for application year 2008-2009 was 152.8.
Law Schools normally ask you to provide two letters of recommendation from people familiar with your academic work. The objective of the letter is to provide an admissions committee with an informed and detailed reference. The best letters of recommendation will offer comparative information about you relative to other students the professor has known. The worst letters will be written by professors who are doing so reluctantly. It is therefore important that you choose your recommenders carefully. How To Ask For a Letter of Recommendation
- Law School Admission Council
- American Bar Association
- FAFSA on the web
- Law School Numbers
- US News and World Report
- Law Jobs
- Law Crossing
- Practice Tests for Logic Games
- National Lesbian and Gay Law Association
- Attorney Jobs
- Management Information Exchange
- National Legal Aid and Defender Association
- Western New York Law Center
- Maryland Legal Services Corporation
- Michigan Poverty Law Program (MPLP)
Start the financial aid process in January to be well in advance of the school's particular filing deadline. You should not wait until after you receive admission offers to begin the planning process. Obtain the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) online or on paper from the financial aid office, or from a law school to which you are applying. FAFSA is a need-analysis tool developed by the US Department of Education. As the name implies, there is no charge for the collection and processing of data or the delivery of financial aid through this form. Do not pay to process your free application. Money for law school is available in the form of scholarships, grants, work-study, and loans. Law students finance most of their educational expenses through federal government and private loan sources. The amount of aid available and the form it takes is largely determined by the law schools. Applicants should, therefore, rely on the law schools as the primary source of information about financial aid. Financial Aid Questions to Ask
Types of Financial Aid
Scholarships and Grants
A scholarship or grant is an award that does not have to be repaid. It may be given on the basis of need or merit or both. Most scholarships are conferred by individual law schools. Some individual organizations may also have scholarships to offer. Among them are local bar associations; fraternities, sororities, and other social clubs; religious or business organizations; and veterans' groups. You will have to take the initiative in researching these possible scholarship resources. A number of companies offer tuition reimbursement benefits to their employees and to their employees' dependents as well.
There are three types of federal loans available to law students the Federal Stafford and Ford Loans, the Federal Perkins Loan, and the Graduate PLUS Loans for Law Students.
- (Subsidized) Federal Stafford and Ford Loan Up to $8,500 a year is available in subsidized Federal Stafford or Ford Loans to students who meet the need criteria.* Interest is paid by the federal government while you are enrolled in school at least half-time. You must begin repaying the loan six months after you graduate, withdraw, or drop below half-time. You can obtain an application from any lender that participates in the federal loan program, or from any law school.
- (Unsubsidized) Federal Stafford and Ford Loan In combination with the subsidized loan, a student may borrow up to a combined total of $20,500 in subsidized and unsubsidized loans.* The amount the student receives in the subsidized loan is deducted from the $20,500 in order to determine eligibility for the unsubsidized loan (for example, if the student is only eligible for $3,000 in subsidized loans, he or she could receive $17,500 in unsubsidized loans).
- Federal Perkins Loan This loan is available to students at some schools. Each student's award is determined by the school based on information obtained from the FAFSA. The maximum annual loan is $6,000.
- Graduate PLUS Loans for Law Students Graduate students with an absence of bad credit may be eligible to borrow a Graduate PLUS loan. The PLUS is federally guaranteed and the interest rate is subsidized. Interest accrues while the student is in school, and repayment begins immediately. The interest rate is 8.5 percent fixed for the life of the loan. Forbearance is available while the student is in school. Many students who have good credit are choosing Graduate PLUS instead of private loans.
Private and PLUS Loans
There are a number of private loan programs available to credit-worthy borrowers. Many of these programs allow you to borrow federal as well as private loans, which may help you keep track of your loan portfolio. Many also offer phone-in or online application for their private and federal loans. Some lenders make available postgraduate loans for bar-review study. These bar examination loans are available to most students who have good credit. The terms and conditions of these programs vary greatly. Pay careful attention to the explanations found in loan application brochures and consumer information. You can also contact the individual programs or visit their websites for further details.
Federal work-study is a program that provides funding for students to work part time during the school year and full time during the summer months. Students sometimes work on campus in a variety of settings or in off-campus nonprofit agencies. Additional information is available from any law school financial aid office. Not all schools participate in the federal work-study program.
Private loans are approved on the basis of your credit. Lenders will analyze your credit report before approving a private loan. Most offer prequalification services on the Internet or by phone. If you have a poor credit history, you may be denied a loan. If there is a mistake on your credit report-and there are often mistakes-you will want adequate time to correct the error. It would be wise to clear up errors or other discrepancies before you apply for a private or PLUS loan. You may want to obtain a copy of your credit report so that you can track and clear up any problems. You can order your free copy from one of the major credit reporting agencies by calling 1.877.322.8228, or you can go to www.annualcreditreport.com. You may also mail a request to Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. NOTE: All figures and calculations are based on current interest rates, loan terms, and fees, and are subject to change. *The "Financial Aid Basics" information has been adapted from and is available at the Financial Aid portion of LSAC.org.
The following timetable is a guide to aid students who plan to apply for admission to law school. The process typically begins during the first term of the students' junior year, or two years prior to law school entry. Students should plan to have their applications in to the law schools the November prior to their year of matriculation. The Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) is offered four times a year; June, October, December, and February. Students should focus on the June test, but only if prepared to do so. (The LSAT should not be taken lightly.) For additional information see the Law School Admission Test (LSAT)section. Pre Law Timeline Checklist
Junior Year (or 2 years prior to law school entry)
|Target Date||Applicant's Responsibility|
|September||Join the Pre Law List.|
|If you have not done so already, begin establishing ties with the faculty members who later may write your letters of recommendation.|
|October||Attend the Career Development Office Graduate and Professional School Fair.|
|March||Register to take the June administration of the LSAT and begin preparing for the test.|
|June||Take the LSAT.|
|Begin drafting your personal statement and construct a resume to be included with your applications.|
|Research law schools; prepare a list of places to which you will apply.|
|July||Receive LSAT score.|
Senior Year (or 1 year prior to law school entry)
|Target Date||Applicant's Responsibility|
|September/October||Register with the Law School Data Assembly Service (LSDAS).|
|Have official transcript(s) sent to LSDAS.|
|Check LSDAS report for accuracy.|
|Register for and take the October LSAT if you did not take it in June.|
|Formally request letters of recommendation be sent to LSDAS.|
|Send away for catalogues and application materials or order the LSDAS electronic application.|
|Finalize personal statement and have it reviewed by the writing lab, the career development office, and several other readers.|
|October||Attend the Career Development Office Graduate and Professional School Fair or a law forum.|
|November||Complete and send applications.|
|Begin investigating sources of financial aid. Obtain applications and file as early as possible.|
|December||Check with law schools to be sure your files are complete.|
|File your financial aid applications.|
|Have an updated transcript with your fall term grades sent directly to law schools.|
|Evaluate offers of acceptance and financial aid. You will not be required to place a deposit at any particular school until after April|
The Out & In publication by the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) is a helpful guide for LGBT individuals considering law school. Stop in the CDO to obtain a copy. There is also many LGBT topics and resources on the LSAC website, including coming out on the application and what students are saying about their law school experience. Additionally, check out the CDO resources for LGBTQ students.