How to Get Into Harvard Law School
By James Goodnow
I’m a graduate of Harvard Law School. Gaining admission to Harvard Law required hard work and following a specific roadmap. By drawing on my personal experience and working with the Going Ivy team, I’ve outlined that roadmap below to help you on your journey to Harvard Law or any other top law school in the U.S. In addition to Harvard Law School, I was also fortunate enough to gain admission to Stanford Law School and many other “top 10” law schools.
Some people call Harvard Law a lottery school because of the difficulty of gaining admission even if you have good statistics. While there is an element of truth to that, some students understand that they can make their luck. Here is some background information about the school and some Harvard Law School admissions tips to help you to increase your chances of being admitted. Learning how to get into Harvard Law School is only the first step, and the rest will be up to you and the work that you are willing to put in.
What is Harvard Law School’s acceptance rate?
Harvard Law School is one of the most selective law schools in the U.S. and consistently is ranked at or near the top of all of the law schools in the country. According to the American Bar Association, there are 203 ABA-approved law schools in the nation. Law schools in the U.S. are generally ranked in tiers from one to four, with tier one schools including the top law schools by rank. According to U.S. News & World Report’s Best Grad Schools rankings, Harvard Law is currently ranked as the number three top law school in the U.S. behind only Stanford and Yale. The school’s rank changes each year, but it is generally found in the top three schools.
Knowing that Harvard Law is recognized as one of the best law schools in the country should help you to recognize that it is also very selective. According to data from Harvard Law’s class profile for the class of 2022, Harvard Law School received 7,419 applications and offered admission to 916 applicants. This means that the admissions rate for the school was 12%.
It also helps to recognize that the pool of applicants to Harvard Law is even more competitive than the pool of applicants to may top undergraduate programs. To have a chance of admission to Harvard Law, students will have to have completed their undergraduate programs with excellent grades and top scores on the Law School Admissions Test or LSAT. Most students who apply to Harvard Law School will have great grades in their undergraduate degree programs and good scores on the LSAT. To learn how to get into Harvard Law School, you will need to understand how to demonstrate to the admissions office at the school why they should want to include you in the upcoming 1L class.
What LSAT score do I need to get into Harvard Law School?
All of the ABA-approved law schools in the U.S. and Canada accept the Law School Admissions Test or LSAT. If you want to learn how to get into Harvard Law School, you must learn how to conquer this test and get the best score possible on it. The LSAT is offered by the Law School Admissions Council and is comprised of 100 questions in five subsections together with an essay. When you take the test, your raw score will be converted into a scaled score that ranges from 120 to 180. A raw score of 99 to 100 converts to a 180, for instance. This test is not like the standardized tests that you took when you were applying to your undergraduate program. Instead, it is notoriously difficult and will require you to plan plenty of time to prepare.
In its 2022 class profile, Harvard Law School reports the following LSAT scores for the middle range of admitted students on the LSAT:
- 25th percentile – 170
- 50th percentile – 173
- 75th percentile – 175
This means that you will need to get a top score on the LSAT if you want to have a chance of being admitted by Harvard Law School. Beginning to prepare early to take the LSAT is critical. Unlike undergraduate admissions tests like the ACT or SAT, the LSAT does not test you on subject matter that you should have learned during your undergraduate program. Instead, the LSAT tests your ability to think, reason, use logic, write, and comprehend written material. While this might make you think that you cannot possibly prepare for this test, that is not true. With practice and preparation, you will begin to see patterns emerge in the types of questions that are asked and gain a better understanding of how to answer them.
How do you prepare for the LSAT?
I can offer several tips for preparing for the LSAT. The overarching tip is that you will need to rewire your brain for the LSAT. As I mentioned before, this test is not like the ACT, SAT, or any other standardized test that you have previously taken. While there are similar core aspects, you still need to know how the LSAT works and be willing to put in a lot of preparation time. Here are some things that worked for me when I prepared for the LSAT.
1. Get lots of old LSATs and practice.
The first thing that I did was to get copies of several old LSATs, and it is a good idea for you to do the same thing. Once you get the tests, take and retake them multiple times. Look at each test attempt and the answers that you got wrong. Correct your mistakes and analyze why you missed each one. After you have taken each LSAT, return the test to the pile of old LSAT tests and continue doing the tests over and over again. While you may know the answers after taking the tests before, you will start to see patterns emerge and begin to recognize that there are a limited number of types of questions that are asked on the LSAT.
2. Forgo the big, branded test-prep programs and opt for a private tutor.
The big, branded test-prep programs generally have one instructor either in a classroom or online who attempts to give lots of different students tips for taking the LSAT. This generally is not helpful because it isn’t tailored to the individual student. I tried one of these types of group test-prep programs, and it was not helpful to me.
Instead of wasting money and time on a group LSAT test-prep program, consider hiring a private LSAT tutor who gained admission to a top law school, including Harvard, Stanford, or Yale. After trying the branded test-prep program, I did not see any movement in my test score until I went to a private tutor. My tutor went to Stanford Law School and had me sit down and look at each section individually. This helped me to see more patterns and to identify strategies that worked instead of trying to use the one-size-fits-all strategies that I learned in the branded group LSAT course.
3. Don’t underline information and take notes while reading a passage.
One of the tips that my tutor gave to me was to stop underlining information and taking notes while I read a passage on the reading comprehension section. He pointed out that I would not have this information available to me when I took the test. Instead of doing this and using it as a crutch, he told me that I should instead remind myself that I would be expected to internalize the information as I read and remember it. This helped me to greatly speed up the time I spent on each passage. Instead of taking notes, I told myself as I read a passage that I would need to remember the information and simply read each passage with strong attention. Recognize that if you have nothing to rely on other than your memory, you will rely on it and remember the information out of necessity during the test.
What undergraduate GPA do I need to get admitted to Harvard Law School?
If you want to learn how to get into Harvard Law School, the process starts with you earning the best grades possible during your undergraduate program. The 2022 class profile for Harvard Law School reports the following undergraduate GPAs for the middle 50% of the class:
- 25th percentile – 3.79
- 50th percentile – 3.89
- 75th percentile – 3.96
Just like with the LSAT score percentile ranges, you should strive to achieve an undergraduate GPA at the upper end of the percentile range reported by Harvard Law. My tips for achieving the best grades possible during your undergraduate studies are simple. Work hard at all times. There is no substitute for hard work. While it might be nice if there was a way to slack off and still get the types of grades that you will need to get into Harvard Law School, that is not true. You will have to work harder than other people do if you want to get into a top school like Harvard Law. While it might not seem like much fun to skip going out to study for a test, doing so might allow you to have a better future.
If you are struggling in a class, you need to get help early. Don’t wait. If you miss learning some fundamental concepts in a core class, you will be in trouble. Take advantage of your professor’s office hours and ask for help when you need it. Hire a tutor and do what you need to do. If you do not understand a subject, as time goes on, you will end up having problems in higher-level courses. Getting good grades involves being prepared to work hard, getting help early, and get solid foundations. If you do those things, you will do well an will get the types of grades that you will need to be competitive for a top school like Harvard Law.
Do you need to get a particular undergraduate degree to get into Harvard Law?
Harvard Law School does not require applicants to pursue any particular undergraduate degree program. Instead, the school accepts students from all different undergraduate degree programs. The school prefers that students have a broad college education instead of taking many courses that are designed to provide vocational training. The admissions officers at Harvard Law School will be interested in the quality of your classes and your academic performance in them. They want to see that you have engaged in thorough learning in a major field area of your choice, including mathematics, government, science, philosophy, the classics, economics, history, or others.
Some students wonder if Harvard Law has a preference for applicants from STEM backgrounds. The school emphasizes that it accepts applicants from all academic programs. If you do have a STEM degree, Harvard Law encourages you to gain a couple of years of experience in your undergraduate degree field. Applicants who are interested in studying how science and technology intersect with the law might be interested in Harvard Law’s program of study in law, science, and technology.
Who should write my letters of recommendation for Harvard Law School?
Harvard Law School requires all applicants to the J.D. program to submit two letters of recommendation. The school strongly recommends that you submit at least one letter of recommendation from a professor or academic advisor who can talk about your scholarly and academic abilities.
My tip for this component of your application to Harvard Law School is to not be lazy with your letters of recommendation. If you do not plan for your letters of recommendation, it can be a huge missed opportunity when it comes time for you to apply. If you wait until you have finished your undergraduate degree or until your final year to think about applying to Harvard Law School and finding someone to recommend you, it is not good. Who to choose to write your letters of recommendation requires some forethought.
If you know fairly early during your undergraduate program that you want to go to law school, that is a good time to think about who you will eventually want to write your letters of recommendation. I knew early on that I wanted to go to law school. If you have professors that you enjoy in subjects that you also enjoy, take several classes from them. Take the time to build relationships with those professors. Take advantage of their office hours, and consider becoming a teaching assistant for them.
1. Develop relationships with the professors you want to write letters for you.
If you take the time to develop relationships with these professors, you can make sure that they actually know you when it comes time to apply to Harvard Law School. Your professors will not simply see you as a grade but will instead be able to provide great insight to the admissions officers about your academic abilities and who you are.
2. Write a tailored resume to give to each of your recommenders.
After you have taken the time to build a relationship with the professors you want to write letters of recommendation for you, you should write a detailed, tailored resume to give to each of them. Even if you took several classes from your professor, attended his or her office hours, and worked as a TA for him or her, you will still want to include detailed information on your resume to spark his or her memory. Remember that professors may have thousands of students over the years, and you might need to jog your recommender’s memory about your work on a specific project, for example.
Instead of simply listing a bunch of bulleted accomplishments on your resume, provide some detail. For example, if you led a group on a project for your professor, write down that you did, and detail the outcomes of your work. This can help your professor to recall what you have done so that he or she can provide concrete examples of your exemplary work in his or her letter of recommendation. Remember that your letters of recommendation can be a key differentiator between you and the other applicants who are applying to top law schools like Harvard Law.
What should I write in my essays for Harvard Law School?
Harvard Law School requires that all applicants submit a personal statement. Applicants can also submit an optional statement. A key difference is that your personal statement is required while the optional statement is truly optional. You should only submit an optional statement if it will provide more information to the admissions office about your background and how it has influenced your decision to pursue a law degree. You should not submit an optional statement that simply continues the information in your personal statement or that is simply a recitation of your resume. Similarly, your personal statement should not simply list your accomplishments and other information that can be found elsewhere in your application.
When you begin to write your personal essay, remember that the admissions officers at Harvard Law School have to read thousands of essays. Put yourself in the shoes of an admissions officer and think about whether you would be moved by reading an essay that is a narrative version of an applicant’s resume. The admissions officers likewise will not find this type of personal statement to be compelling.
My principal advice for your essays for Harvard Law School is for you to be willing to put yourself out there and be vulnerable. Don’t be bombastic or try to cram all of your accomplishments in your personal statement.
Your goal with your personal statement is to tell a compelling story that demonstrates your writing skills, your ability to be succinct, and that you are capable of profound insight, knowledge, and reflection that will move your fellow law school students when you are discussing or debating cases in your law school classes. I recommend that you avoid writing about a bunch of different topics in your personal essay. Choose one topic and be willing to show your who you are at the core. Pick something that demonstrates how you reached a moment of self-reflection. Remember that the personal statement must only be a maximum of two double-spaced pages long. You will need to be able to express who you are compellingly in a short amount of space.
Harvard Law School wants students who are deep thinkers and who are capable of both understanding the black-letter law and the reasons behind the various laws. Your essay should demonstrate your ability to think deeply while also creating an emotional connection. Be honest and vulnerable, and be willing to expose your weaknesses. This makes it likelier that you will create an emotional connection with the admissions officer who reads your essay, which can give you an edge when they decide whether to offer admission to you.
Start working early on your personal essay. Plan to write several drafts, and continue reworking it until it is as good as it can be. Ask people you trust to review it and make suggestions. Be prepared to accept criticism and to continue rewriting it until you are happy with the result.
When should you start preparing to apply to Harvard Law School?
If you know that you want to attend Harvard Law School, you should begin preparing as early in your undergraduate career as possible. Even if you are not sure what you want to do after you finish your undergraduate degree program, working hard during your college years can help you if you decide to pursue a career, attend graduate school, or head to law school at Harvard.
You should approach your grades in every class as important beginning with the first semester of your freshman year in college. Strive to achieve an A in every class. Take the time to get help if you are struggling in a subject, and begin developing relationships with your professors in the classes that interest you the most. If you are already a junior or a senior, you will not have as much time to prepare to apply to Harvard Law School. Hopefully, you have already achieved great grades in all of your classes and have a strong GPA. If you earned a less than stellar grade in a course, consider retaking it to replace the grade and improve your GPA.
Take advantage of the opportunities that are available to you throughout your undergraduate years. Participate in research, apply for teaching assistant positions, and pursue your education wholeheartedly. Complete an internship in your field of interest, and be willing to stretch yourself intellectually and academically.
If you are a junior or senior in college, you should begin practicing the LSAT. Work with a private tutor to identify the patterns on the test and the strategies that you can use to improve your scores. The key to preparing to apply to Harvard Law School is to begin as soon as you think that it is what you would like to do. If you haven’t started already, you should do so now.
Is an interview required for admission to Harvard Law School?
Harvard Law School interviews students by invitation only. The interviews are conducted via an online platform. The admissions officers do not interview all of the applicants. However, you will not be admitted if you are not interviewed. If you are chosen for an interview, you will be notified by email with more information.
If Harvard Law School selects you for an interview, make sure to prepare. While it is a good sign that you have been chosen to be interviewed, you should put just as much effort into preparing for it as you did in preparing for the other parts of your application. Reach out to other people who have gone through the Harvard Law interview process to get an idea of what to expect. Read some example questions online and practice for those that you anticipate. Remember that the interview is evaluative, so it will be important for you to do your best while remaining as relaxed as possible.
While your interview will be conducted on an online platform, you should still make sure that you are dressed appropriately. You do not need to wear a suit or dress, but you should wear something nice and professional. Make sure to log into the platform on time, and listen carefully to each question that you are asked. Do not interrupt the interviewer. Smile, be thoughtful in your answers and be yourself.
Should you visit Harvard Law School to increase your chances of admission?
If you want to attend law school at Harvard Law, you need to demonstrate your interest. One key way of doing this is by showing the school that you know something about it. One way to demonstrate your interest and help you to make your case about why the school should want you to attend is to visit the campus. Visiting Harvard Law School, taking a tour, and learning about the clinical programs can indirectly improve your admissions chances. Visiting the law school can also allow you to explore the community and the campus so that you can determine whether it is the right choice for you.
Visiting Harvard Law School, attending tours, taking online courses, and engaging with the school in other ways can help you to show that you care about the institution. That will show through your application and help you to make the case that you should be admitted. Harvard Law School offers several ways for you to connect with the admissions department. You can attend in-person events, introduce yourself, and attend online events. Take full advantage of all of the opportunities that you have available to get to know Harvard Law and to demonstrate your interest in attending the school. Make your case for why you should be accepted to Harvard Law School in every part of your application.
What does Harvard Law School look for in applicants?
Harvard Law School searches for applicants who have demonstrated superior intellectual and academic capabilities, have obtained great grades and test scores, and have strong characters and the ability to contribute deep insights in their law school classes. They want to see that you will make good contributions to the school while you are a law student and that you have the potential to positively impact the world in your future as a lawyer.
Your undergraduate record, letters of recommendation, and your essays should demonstrate that you are self-motivated and willing to work hard to achieve success. You should demonstrate intellectual curiosity and a willingness to stretch yourself. No matter what law school you apply to, your character will be important. Lawyers are expected to be highly ethical, and law schools want applicants who demonstrate great morals and strong character in everything that they do. If you have a disciplinary record, answer the question honestly, and provide the accompanying documentation to explain what happened. If you leave out information about a disciplinary record, your application will likely be denied or an offer of admission may be withdrawn.
The admissions officers will also want to determine whether you will be able to withstand the pressures that come with attending Harvard Law School. You should be able to handle pressure and stress both inside and outside of the classroom at Harvard Law. Show the admissions officers that you have contributions to make to the school and the community. Make sure to convey that you have something to offer and that other students and faculty members will want to get to know you and challenge you in your classes.
How should you prepare to apply to Harvard Law School?
After reading this article to this point, it should be clear to you that starting as early as possible to prepare to apply to Harvard Law School is important. Another key factor in the preparation process is to get and remain organized. You will need to be organized to make sure that you have enough time to study for all of your classes, participate in your interests and activities outside of class, work or complete an internship, and perform other tasks you must complete.
Throughout your college years, you should use a planner to remain organized. You can use freely available calendaring apps to help to keep you on track. Create a goal plan that includes smaller goals on your way to your application. These goals should be written by the semester with individual steps to reach each goal. Being able to see everything that you have accomplished can also help to keep you motivated as you work to achieve your goal of getting into Harvard Law School.
How do you apply to Harvard Law School?
Harvard has an electronic application that must be completed through the Law School Admissions Council or LSAC. The application is available on the LSAC website in the fall of each year. When you complete your application, you can submit it electronically together with the application fee or print the certification page, sign it, and mail it with a check for your application fee to the school.
You will need to either take the LSAT or the Graduate Record Exam. While Harvard Law School accepts either test, it might make more sense to choose the LSAT since it is accepted by all of the ABA-approved law schools. Make sure to practice with old LSATs as previously described and work with a tutor so that you can achieve the highest possible score on your LSAT. List Harvard Law School when you take the LSAT so that your scores will be transmitted to the school.
Register for the Credential Assembly Service with LSAC, and pay the associated fees. This service allows you to submit your transcripts, other documents, and your letters of recommendation one time and to have them sent from LSAC to the schools to which you apply. Make sure to have all of your undergraduate and graduate transcripts sent to LSAC. Have your recommenders send your letters of recommendation to LSAC.
Once you have completed your Harvard Law School application, submit your application, your resume, and your personal statement to LSAC. The organization will transmit all of your documents to Harvard Law School once they are received. Pay the application fee of $85, and check online to see the status of your application. Harvard Law School has a checklist so that you can make sure that you remain on track during the application process.
The application deadline for Harvard Law School is Feb. 3, and the applications close on Feb. 28. If you submit your application to the school after Feb. 3 but before Feb. 28, it will be reviewed. However, different deadlines will apply to the decision process. If you submit your application before Feb. 3, you will receive a decision by April 1. If you submit your application after Feb. 3 but before Feb. 28, you will receive the decision by May 1.
Gaining admission to Harvard Law School is not easy. However, if you are willing to work hard and to follow some of the tips that have been provided to you, you can greatly improve your chances. Going Ivy has helped many people get into elite schools, and we created this page to help you to understand how to get into Harvard Law School.