You took the June 2013 LSAT, yay! As congratulations, I'd like to give you $3,000.
Ok, I'm not going to give you the cash. Instead, I'll tell you three magic words that are worth even more than that. They were passed down to me from a fellow student (thanks Liz!) in my Fox Test Prep class... “Application Fee Waiver.”
Here's the deal: Each school's application fee is about $100, and since you're taking Nathan's advice and applying to 30 schools (to maximize your chances of admission and scholarships) the total for your apps will add up fast. But you can avoid having to pay these fees* if you simply email law schools and ask for application fee waivers. Some of them will say yes, just because you asked. Others will want you to provide evidence as to why they should give you a waiver. Weird, right? Someone applying to law school being asked to show evidence?
Different schools offer fee waivers for different reasons, so when you email a school and ask for a fee waiver, you'll want to say which of the three main types you're asking for: merit-based, service-based, and/or need-based. You can list one, two, or all three types, but you'll have to provide evidence for each, which I'll explain in more depth later.
Here's what your email should basically look like:
Dear XYZ University Admissions,
I'm very interested in applying for admission for Fall 2014, and I'm emailing to ask for a XXX- based fee waiver(s).
Here is why you should give me a fee waiver: (insert evidence here)
Thank you for your time,
You want to be nice, professional, and to-the-point in your email. Mine was about 300 words long. Don't whine, beg, or have a pity-party, just present your evidence.
THREE TYPES OF FEE WAIVERS:
You have to provide evidence that you are a strong applicant, meaning you will help the school raise their GPA and/or LSAT numbers.
If your GPA is above their median, tell them your GPA. If you already have an LSAT score, and it's above their median, tell them your LSAT score. I sent out emails to schools before I had my LSAT score, and I included a line like “I'm awaiting my October 2012 LSAT score, but have consistently been scoring XXX on previously administered LSATs proctored through Fox Test Prep in San Francisco.” Some schools might say no, but a lot of schools told me yes, and many others told me to try back again when I had an official score.
You have to provide evidence that you did some type of commendable service.
Many schools list this explicitly on their admissions websites. Some common examples include AmeriCorps, Teach for America, Peace Corps, or the military. I didn't do any of those, but I did complete a teaching program, and included this line in my emails: “I noticed that several law schools automatically waive the application fee for alumni of the Teach for America program. I completed the UCLA Teacher Education Program, which has similar service requirements to Teach for America, and I'm hoping this could qualify me for a Service-Based Fee Waiver.”
You have to provide evidence that you “need” the waiver because you can't afford to pay for it, but you have to do it without ending up looking like this:
My email included a blurb about how, as a teacher, I wasn't getting paid very much, and that my monthly student loan payments were quite sizeable, having paid for my undergraduate education on my own. Presenting your evidence as to why you are unable to pay will help you from sounding like Mrs. Iglesias above.
There might be even more types of fee-waivers out there, but this is the gist of what I learned from my application process. I received fee waivers to over 25 schools (including many Top-20s), and only had to pay to apply to 5 of my 30 schools. Oh by the way, you still have to pay $21 per application to the CAS, even if you get a fee waiver.
So since you've already done the hard part (taking the June 2013 LSAT), use this time while you're waiting for your score to get as many fee waivers as you can. Most schools will say yes, and even when they say no, you've opened communication with the Admissions Staff and introduced yourself as a budding super-lawyer.
* You can also shortcut this process and get fee waiver in two other ways. The first way is to apply for the LSAC's fee waiver (under MyAccount at lsac.org) - if you get it, almost all schools honor it, and won't charge you an application fee. However, they're really strict on who qualifies and I've never talked to anyone who did. (Here's a somewhat helpful article that explains more about the LSAC's fee waiver and the CRS fee waiver system, in addition to what I already covered.) The second way is to get a fee waiver in person by attending a law school recruiting event and talking with an Admissions Staff directly. Spend a few minutes chatting, be nice, professional, and ask meaningful questions (more to come on this in a future post), and then ask for a fee waiver. Lots of times they have fee waiver codes pre-printed and ready to give out.
About the Author:
Hi! My name is Annie. I started studying for the October 2012 LSAT in mid-July of the same year. I started as many of us did: my first score was a 152, I only wanted to apply to top-ranked schools in California, and my dream was to get a big scholarship.
On the October LSAT, I got a 163, which was lower than I'd been averaging, and Nathan encouraged me to take the test again. Thankfully, I was fully drinking the Fox Test Prep Kool-Aid by then, and I followed his advice. I ended up with a 174 on the December 2012 LSAT, and applied to over 30 schools across the country, ranging from unranked “regional” law schools to Top-20's. I negotiated a scholarship at my dream school, UCLA, and I start in the Fall.
I moved to Los Angeles earlier this summer and I'm spending my time doing private LSAT tutoring, trying to share what I learned from Fox Test Prep. If you're reading this blog, you're already on a good path to law school. If you have additional questions regarding the law school application process, or are interested in private tutoring, please feel free to email me at banks.LSAT@gmail.com.