Carnegie Mellon University

Applying to Law School

Ideally, candidates who have decided to apply to law school should plan on a process and time line of at least two years before that point when they intend to enroll in law school.

The Pre-Law Society, the pre-law advisor and other faculty members are trusted sources for information. Students can also gain valuable insights by visiting law schools and attending law fairs (sometimes referred to as “Forums”). Law school forums are hosted in the summers in Washington D.C. and in the fall throughout the U.S. and Canada by the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC). In addition, the University of Pittsburgh hosts an annual law school fair (usually in October).

There is no single set of criteria that all law schools follow when selecting students for admission. Most law schools attempt to make selections based on a combination of objective criteria, such as GPA or LSAT scores and more subjective criteria, such as letters of recommendation, personal statements, personal and professional history.

LSAT & QPA: The two key objective measures are an applicant's Law School Admission Test score and cumulative undergraduate grade point average (GPA). The common approach is to use the two scores to initially compare and assess applicants. While extracurricular activities, work experience, letters of recommendation, personal statements and other criteria may impact a law school's admission decision, the predominant factors, at least in the first phase of review, are LSAT score and QPA.

When to Take the LSAT: Applicants should avoid taking the LSAT until they have completed three academic years of college since the exam is designed for students at that stage of their academic careers. There are preparatory courses available to help test takers understand proper techniques and to become familiar with the type of questions presented during the exam.

Practice Tests & Scoring: Practice tests are available, but it is not recommended to take the actual LSAT for practice. All scores will be reported to each law school when applying. Although most law schools only consider an applicant's highest score, they can see all scores and retain the option of averaging multiple scores.

Did You Know?

Several law schools, including Harvard Law School, have begun to accept scores from the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) as an alternative to the LSAT.

Learn more

According to the Law School Admission Council (LSAC), the factors listed below are among those that students say influenced their choice of a law school. 

Candidates should carefully consider these categories, features and characteristics and think very carefully about those that matter most to them. Use the list of criteria below to research law schools, to identify those that reflect these priorities and to determine where to apply. 

  • Admissibility (based on LSAT score and GPA)
  • Bar passage rates
  • Breadth and support of alumni network
  • Breadth of curriculum
  • Clinical programs
  • Collaborative research opportunities with faculty
  • Commitment to innovative technology
  • Cost (and projected post-law school debt)
  • Diversity within the faculty and student body
  • Educational orientation, or philosophy
  • Externship options
  • Faculty accessibility
  • Financial aid availability
  • Intensity of writing instruction
  • Interdisciplinary programs
  • International programming
  • Job placement rates and resources
  • Law library strengths and services
  • Loan repayment assistance for low-income lawyers
  • Location (including climate)
  • Parent university
  • Part-time enrollment option
  • Public-interest programs
  • Quality of teaching
  • Rank
  • Religious affiliation
  • Size of first-year classes
  • Skills instruction
  • Specialized areas of faculty expertise