Pen and Chisel Q&A: The Cost of Applying to Law School

Eileen ConnerPlease welcome back law school admissions essay expert Eileen Conner, founder of Pen and Chisel, who has some excellent advice on handling the costs of applying to law school.

If you missed any of her other admissions Q&As, check them out here.

If you’re planning to apply to law school this coming fall, you’re probably already thinking about how to fund your legal education. But that’s not the only financial aspect to keep in mind! The application process also requires some monetary outlay.

Right now — well before application season — is the best time to plan out your law school application expenses. If you take the time to understand these costs now, you’ll be able to begin budgeting and saving for your application expenses well in advance.

Taking the LSAT

Let’s start with the basic exam required for entrance to nearly every ABA-accredited law school program in the country: the LSAT.

According to LSAC, the current price for taking the LSAT in 2014-15 is $170. But if you have more than just a straightforward exam to consider, there may be additional auxiliary fees to pay.

For instance, late registration comes with an additional charge of $72. The cost of a test date change is $85, and the cost of a test center change is $37. While these surcharges can be avoided with some simple advance planning, it may be a good idea to set aside some extra cash, just in case you need to make a last-minute change.

And, of course, if you need to take the LSAT a second time, you’ll need to pay these fees all over again. To avoid this extra expense, make sure you study thoroughly and effectively before the exam — and if you know you aren’t ready to earn the score you need, it may be worth paying the fee to change to a later test date.

Studying for the LSAT

It’s certainly possible to study successfully for the LSAT with a minimal financial outlay. For instance, most university and public libraries will have a variety of LSAT study materials and resources on hand in their reference section.

Many study materials are also available free online. LSAC provides a set of free official prep materials, including basic explanations of question types and a practice exam, at their Preparing for the LSAT page. Additional resources can be at your fingertips with a bit of googling.

Buying a few prep books and studying from them at home is another affordable study option. And if you have a few friends who are also planning on attending law school, it may be worthwhile to pool your resources, share study materials, and work together to prepare well for a relatively low cost.

However, if you’d prefer to study for the LSAT with a rigorous class or prep series, your costs may go up significantly. Online or in-person classes can range from a few hundred dollars up into the thousands, depending on the length of study and the amount of hands-on instruction. Before you begin your study regimen, take some time to research the different options and price points that are available, and consider which would work best for you.

Credentials and letters of recommendation

Next, it’s time to think about your academic records. Most law schools require transcripts and letters of recommendation to be sent through LSAC’s Credential Assembly Service. This service collects and delivers applicants’ credentials for a baseline fee of $165, plus an additional $28 per report sent.

Of course, to deliver these credentials to law schools, LSAC needs to have the necessary information. While letters of recommendation should not cost you anything besides a few conversations with recommenders, transcripts may be a different story.

While some colleges and universities provide transcripts free of charge, many require a small fee for this service. Check your school’s policies to discover how much you will need to pay for this. And remember that LSAC needs to receive transcripts from every institute of higher learning you’ve attended — if you’ve completed multiple degrees or taken summer classes at different schools, you’ll need to request transcripts from each program.

Application fees

Like undergraduate programs, law school programs frequently require an application fee. These fees vary wildly from law school to law school. Some schools allow aspiring lawyers to apply with no fee at all; others may charge up to $100 or more.

To discover how much you need to budget for application fees, list all the schools to which you plan to apply. Include any “maybe” schools, so you have all the necessary information at your fingertips when you make your final application decision. Check each law school’s online materials to find their application fees. Add all the different fees together to come up with a total amount to budget.

Writing help and consultation

Finally, it’s time to consider the cost of your application essays. If you have excellent writing skills, you may be able to write and edit top-notch application essays, from your personal statement to any necessary supplemental essays, entirely on your own. If you are still in college, you can get application essay help from your undergraduate writing center or your school’s career office. But if you want professional assistance with your essays, you may want to consider budgeting for one more expense: essay writing and editing help.

Depending on your needs, you may find it helpful to get one-on-one help with a consultant (hello!), take online or in-person classes, or have your essay critiqued by a professional editor. These services can range in price dramatically, based on the services and the amount of individual attention offered. Do some research about the kinds of writing help that are available and think about what might work best for you.

Fee waivers

Applying to law school is starting to look more and more expensive! However, if you are in financial hardship, you have a few options for reducing your fees.

First, LSAC offers fee waivers for LSAT administration and the Credential Assembly Service for those applicants who demonstrate financial need. You can get information about applying at the LSAC fee waivers page.

As well, individual law schools may waive application fees for applicants in need. Information about application fee waivers is frequently available through each school’s online resources. You can also contact admissions offices directly if needed — a simple, polite email of inquiry should do the trick.

If you qualify for these waivers, they may reduce your application costs significantly. But to benefit from fee waivers, you do need to put in your legwork and apply in advance.

Start planning now!

Once you have a good idea of what you might need to spend to successfully apply to the law schools of your choice, it’s time to think about where that money will come from. Now is an excellent time to look at your budget — or make one — and think about how you can start saving for your basic application expenses. By considering your financial needs well in advance of application season, you’ll be able to avoid any unpleasant surprises at the eleventh hour.

— – —
Thanks, Eileen! And good luck to everyone applying!

Got an admissions question for Eileen? Leave it in the comments!

More about Eileen:
Eileen Conner is the founder of Pen and Chisel LLC, where she specializes in helping law school candidates perfect their application essays. 

A graduate of the University of Michigan’s prestigious creative writing MFA program, Eileen is the former Senior Editor for Law at Revision Editing. Read On:

As you embark on your law school application journey, you might want to bookmark Applying to Law School 101: What You Need to Know to Succeed.

Then check out some of the rest of the Pen and Chisel Q&A:

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  1. Great thoughts here! It’s good to consider lots of things when getting into law school – it’s not something that can be done lightly. And of course the time and energy used to study and get in should be factored in too. Thanks for sharing!

  2. This is great advice. I think that speaking with someone who has been through law school or is going through it would be of great service. They can tell you how it really is to be there and can guide you in the right direction. Thanks for the tips!


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