How to Succeed in a Very Competitive Admissions Cycle

Applications to law school are way up so far, this year. I’ve never seen them increase so much in one cycle. Understandably, the uncertain job market, and interest in politics and social justice are some of the reasons. 

How can you increase your chances of being successful, if you are applying to law school in a competitive application cycle?  

  • Get Your Information from Official Sources: When you are deciding where to apply to law school, assess your admissions chances from official sources, such as the admissions webpage for schools you are applying to, rather than from friends or online blogs. I really like the comprehensive GPA/LSAT score admissions chart from the online LSAC Official Guide to ABA Approved Law Schools, because the data is from law school admission’s offices. Input your GPA and highest LSAT score here to see your chances.  
  • Add Additional Safety Schools: In a competitive application cycle, you want to make sure you are admitted to some law schools, and have options. If you are hoping for merit or other scholarships based on your numbers, you also want to have several additional safety schools, because schools where your LSAT and GPA are above their medians are schools that may be more likely to offer you a partial or even full merit scholarship with your acceptance letter. So I would recommend adding extra safety schools in this cycle. 
  • Apply Early: When you look at applications, law schools may indicate March, April or even beyond that as your final deadline. So you may think you can wait until the deadline to apply. Unlike college admissions, law school has rolling admissions. So the further into the cycle you wait, the fewer available spots that law school may have left, and the less available pool for scholarships, potentially. So I would recommend getting your applications in as soon as possible, and do not wait until close to their application deadlines to apply. Some schools have priority deadlines, so I would meet those deadlines and hopefully apply much earlier, to give yourself the advantage of the early part of the rolling admissions cycle. If you are not on schedule for this year, or need more time for LSAT prep, I would consider taking a gap year instead, and applying in the following cycle. 
  • Get Discounted or Free Applications: Like many others, you may be particularly concerned about finances this year. LSAC has a fee waiver process you can apply to, and an opportunity to appeal if you are not at first granted the fee waiver.

In addition, if you email a law school admissions office directly, you can ask if they might waive your application fee if circumstances are making it a hardship. Quite a few law schools now also have free applications. Also, if you are still studying for the LSAT, the Khan Academy online now has free LSAT test prep.

  • Be a Careful Consumer: You can find information about law school employment outcomes, bar pass rates, merit scholarship retention rates, and a list of law schools deadlines and application fees by looking through the ABA 509 Standard Disclosures on each law school’s website, or the ABA webpage.


Hillary Mantis works with pre-law students, law students and lawyers. She is Assistant Dean of the Pre-Law Advising Program at Fordham and author of career books including Alternative Careers for Lawyers. You can reach her at