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US law school applications for international students

Katie Schenk - October 09, 2019

US law school applications for international students

There are countless reasons for pursuing an LLM degree at American law schools – even if you don’t intend to live or practice in the United States.

But the application process can be complicated. There are a few steps unique to law degrees and American law schools

Plus, US law school applications take time; you won’t be ready to submit your application tomorrow. Just take a look.

Applying to US law schools? You might need LSAT and TOEFL scores

As an international student applying to American law schools, you will probably need to take at least one exam. 

hen again, you might not. The requirement for both exams is typically based on past experience, but expectations vary from school to school. 

Here's what you need to know about both exams.

Preparing for the LSAT exam

The Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) is required for students that don’t already have a legal degree. If you received a recognised law degree already, you can breathe a sigh of relief. However, if your undergraduate degree is in a different field, you will need to set aside plenty of time for this exam.

Just like the GMAT for business school, the LSAT demonstrates your ability to work with the basic concepts of your field. And, it’s not easy (for most people, at any rate). You’ll need about six months to prepare for the LSAT exam, and you should plan to take the test a few months before you apply.

Studying for the LSAT is best accomplished with a tutor or through a class. There are plenty of online e-classrooms and study materials from reputable test prep companies if you don't find a local LSAT-prep option. 

Keep in mind that the LSAT exam is primarily an American test, however, and not available in every country. However, the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) will work with you to provide options if a testing facility is not currently available in your city or country. 

If you can, it's not a bad idea to travel to the United States to take the exam. There isn’t any preference given for taking the test on American soil, but it will give you an opportunity to visit a campus or two.

Find out whether you'll need the TOEFL exam

Many American universities require international students to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). If you completed your undergraduate degree at an English-speaking institution, you don’t need to sit for the TOEFL to submit your applications to most American law schools.

Even if you haven’t previously studied in English, some universities will require the TOEFL exam (such as Stanford) and some won’t (such as Harvard and Columbia). 

However, if English is not your mother tongue, you may want to take the test even if your preferred schools don’t require it. Think of it as preparation for the language work ahead of you.

US law school applications are submitted centrally

Each and every American law school is registered and works with LSAC. And, this is usually good news for international law students. Rather than preparing and mailing LLM applications to individual schools, you complete every law school application online through the LSAC website.

This means you’ll only need to submit your documents once even if you apply to more than one American law school.

Submitting your American law school applications

To submit your applications, you will need to:

  • Shortlist the US law schools you want to apply to. Each one will have unique application requirements, despite centralised application systems. At the very least, you should expect to provide your: 
    • Undergraduate transcripts,
    • Resume or CV,
    • Personal statement or a required essay
    • Recommendations from colleagues undergraduate professors, 
    • Standarised test scores (LSAT and TOEFL)
    • Proof of identification and residence. 
  • Register for the Credential Assembly Service (CAS) on the LSAC website. Each of your documents will all be evaluated through the CAS Authentication and Evaluation for Internationally Educated Applicants (CAS A&E). It's this service that allows you to submit a single application, even if several schools appeal to you.

Investigate financing to attend law school in the US

While you wait for a positive outcome on your American law school applications, it's wise to investigate international student loans. 

You'll need plenty of time to compare home country and host country possibilities. Don't be alarmed if banks in your home country aren't able to offer the full cost of your international education. And, keep in mind that US banks will almost definitely require an American co-signer on your student loans.

To overcome these challenges, you may need to consider cross-border lenders like Prodigy Finance. With us, you can even apply for a preliminary loan offer (for as many programmes as you like) while waiting for acceptance so you know all your options. 

You'll need that clarity; once you've been accepted, you won't have much time to submit your funding plans. You'll provide this information to your school first; they'll generate an I-20 form which immigration officials will need with your F-1 student visa application

And, finally, with your international student visa in hand, it's off to the US law school of your dreams and an amazing career in law

Need a loan to attend your dream US law school?

Prodigy Finance can help. Since 2007, we've supported international students to attend highly-ranked universities across the  globe, including top US law schools. 

Prodigy Finance Ltd is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

Post updated for accuracy and freshness on October 9, 2019. Originally published on August 26, 2016.

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