Cornell College has a long history of preparing its graduates for the rigors of law school and for success as legal professionals. Consistent with the best advice of law schools themselves, Cornell has no formal "pre-law" major and no specific list of required courses. The Stoll Program for Law and Society is designed to continue that tradition by offering students direct guidance and support throughout the law school admissions process. Faculty and staff pre-law advisors will help students narrow down a range of law school options, review personal statements, write letters of recommendation, and give feedback on admission offers.
Preparing for law school does not start with the application. It doesn't even start with preparing for the LSAT. Rather, you should be thinking about developing the skills you need in law school as soon as you know that it is something you want to do. The skills you need to succeed in law school are critical thinking and analysis, reading comprehension, and writing. Here are some ways you can develop these skills:
- Critical thinking and analysis. Consider taking Philosophy of Law, or another class that encourages open discussion and critical analysis through writing assignments.
- Reading comprehension. Choose a news article every day to read and summarize. Read books on topics you normally would not be interested in.
- Writing. This is one of the most important skills you should develop before law school. Do not choose classes because they will be easy and keep your GPA up - rather, choose classes that will push you to do better, especially as a writer. Taking writing-intensive classes will hone your skills as a writer better than anything else. It will be hard, but it will pay off in the end.
Selecting a law school, much like selecting an undergraduate college, requires thoughtfulness and a clear goal of selecting the institution that best meets your needs and interests. Some items to consider as part of your law school search include:
Likelihood of admission
Size of the student body
Areas of specialization offered
Reputation and character of the school
Strength and interests of the law school’s faculty
Facilities such as library, classrooms, study spaces, and availability of student housing
Extracurricular programs (i.e., law review, moot court, other student organizations)
Cost of a legal education (i.e., tuition, fees, room and board, insurance, etc.) after financial aid is factored in
Opinions of legal professionals about the school
Level of assistance with job placement after graduation
Deciding which law school to attend should go beyond observing school rankings. Accesslex has developed a tool, XploreJD, that you can use to help you narrow down a list of schools based on the criteria that is most important to you. This tool should be only one in your toolbox that includes law school visits, talking to current students and alumni, and looking at official 509 disclosures.
Admission to law school is an accomplishment, and requires time and effort to complete.
Start early! If you’re considering going directly into law school, it is recommended you take the LSAT and begin narrowing down a list of law schools by the end of your junior year. During the fall of your senior year, law school applications should be in full swing and submitted to schools by the start of winter break.
Funding for law school applications and law school campus visits
We know that law school applications and visits can get expensive. The Stoll Program for Law and Society through the Berry Career Institute may be able to assist you with some application fees and travel expenses. If you are pursuing entry or visiting a top tier law school and would like to inquire about funding assistance, please contact the The Stoll Program for Law and Society Associate Director for consideration. Please detail your specific situation and why you’re requesting funding.
Law school timeline and checklist
- Make an appointment with a Pre-Law Advisor to discuss your law school interests
- Start playing logic games at least once a week
- Create a short list of professors (tenure or visiting is fine) that you might approach for a letter of recommendation. Make sure to cultivate a professional relationship with those professors because the quality of their recommendation is more important than who they are
- Research law schools online
- Attend law fairs including the LSAC law forum in Chicago - usually in October or November
- Create a preliminary list of law schools you are interested in attending
- Begin scheduling visits to your top pick law schools
- Participate in the LSAT Prep Course offered through the Pre-Law Program
- Make an appointment with a Pre-Law Advisor to update your law school plans
- Review the LSAT/CAS registration information
- Register for the June LSAT online
- Update the list of law schools you are considering
- Begin reaching out to individuals to request letters of recommendation - ask if they would be willing to do that
- Meet with the Berry Career Institute to create or update your resume
- Take the LSAT - Scores will automatically be sent to schools where you’ve applied or plan to apply
- Register for the LSAC Credential Assembly Service (CAS)
- Start your law school applications, especially your personal statement, and keep track of deadlines!
- Request official academic transcripts from all undergraduate institutions be sent to CAS
- Review LSAC letters of recommendation process and create information packet to give to recommenders; include your resume, a copy of your transcript, personal statement, courses taken with recommender, test scores, letter of recommendation form and large manila envelope with postage pre-addressed to LSAC (if mailing)
- Make an appointment with a Pre-Law Advisor to review your plans
- Confirm with potential recommenders that they will be able to write you a positive letter - make sure you give them a deadline prior to the actual deadline
- Fine-tune your personal statements; remember to tailor one for every law school
- Take/retake LSAT
- Attend LSAC Law School Forum in Chicago (if needed)
- Check in with recommenders to make sure they are on track to submit your letters
- Complete and send early decision/early action applications
- Follow up with recommenders to make sure they have submitted letters to LSAC
- Send thank you notes to recommendation letter writers
- Update your academic transcript with CAS
- Submit regular decision applications before you leave for winter break (earlier the better)
- Check CAS/law schools to make sure all of your application information was received
- Submit FAFSA to receive financial aid award for law school
- Keep track of seat deposit deadlines for law schools you have been admitted to
- Keep in touch with law schools you have not heard from, consider updating your file
- Review financial aid awards
- Visit law schools, if possible
- Follow up with law schools that have you on their waiting list
- Make your seat deposit to the law school you wish to attend by the school’s deadline
- Send Cornell's Pre-Law Program an email with your final LSAT scores and admission decisions
Law school can be an expensive undertaking. Tuition, fees, books, housing, insurance, and food costs add up quickly. Scholarships, grants, loans, and jobs can all contribute to fund a law student’s education.
Make sure to take the time to research your different financing options. The Law School Admission Council (LSAC) has resources on paying for law school that can help you identify your options. From there, contact the law schools where you have been admitted for further, more detailed information.