Q&A: How to Reapply to Law School

Welcome to the latest installment of Law Admissions Q&A, a feature that provides law school admissions advice to readers who send in inquiries. If you have a question about law school admissions, email us for a chance to be featured in a future post.

My dream is to get accepted into a top five law school in the U.S. My LSAT score is 168 and my GPA is 3.9. I applied twice to these schools and got rejected. Do you have any advice about how I could get accepted next year? – MA

It must have been heartbreaking to receive rejections from your dream law schools twice. I think your ability to persevere, and to bounce back from a setback, will serve you well in your legal career.

It sounds like you are applying from abroad. While foreign applicants face an uphill battle, their share among J.D. programs in the U.S. has risen rapidly in recent years. It reached 7% among top-tier law schools in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic restricted travel.

Unfortunately, the last two years have been unusually competitive for law school admissions, with a surge of applicants since the pandemic began. Admissions trends seem likely to return to baseline next cycle, but it is too early to know for sure.

To reapply to law schools, especially for a third time, you should show a substantial change in your candidacy.

At a minimum, you should write a more compelling personal statement. There is no requirement to rewrite your essay, but admissions officers will have access to your previous applications, and recycling the same personal statement would appear lazy.

On the other hand, you do not necessarily have to shake up other materials, like your recommendation letters, resume and optional essays.

However, unless you made a critical error on your application, a change in your personal statement alone would be unlikely to tip the scale.

To have a real shot, you would need to pair a new personal statement with a more concrete change in your candidacy, like new work experience or an improved LSAT score.

If you don’t anticipate a promotion in your current job, consider taking time to gain legal experience as a paralegal or volunteer at a nonprofit or government office. That may help round out your resume.

If you feel willing and able to retake the LSATa score in the 170s would help significantly for the top-tier schools you are targeting. Many high-ranking law schools have seen a rise in the median LSAT score among incoming students in recent years. An unusually high number of test-takers achieved scores in the 170s when the LSAT first moved online in 2020, and this temporary surge made it harder than ever to get into a top school with an LSAT score in the 160s.

Many top law schools, like Harvard Law Schoolallow applicants to apply up to three times total. So, while you could reapply one more time, you would need to make your last shot count.

You don’t want to put all your eggs in just a few baskets, especially when some law schools like Yale Law School and Stanford Law School have very small classes. Even applicants with prestigious honors like a Rhodes or Marshall scholarship are routinely rejected by their top-choice law schools.

Fortunately, there is no need to aim for only the highest targets. You don’t need to get into a tippy-top law school to have a highly successful career. Instead of fixating on a few dream schools, take a fresh look at some other highly regarded law schools that may be within slightly easier reach.

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