As thrilled as you may be to hear that your son or daughter plans to apply to law school, it’s natural to feel some uncertainty about your role in the process.
After all, law school applicants are generally in their 20s. While they may still depend on their parents for moral and financial support and valuable advice, they are responsible for their own decisions.
As much as parents of law school applicants may fear overstepping their boundaries, they may also have concerns about educational debt and job security. They may not want their children to have unrealistic expectations about the admissions process and how much work it requires.
If your child is considering applying to law school, consider the following advice about how to be supportive without being misinformed or misunderstood.
Don’t expect law school admissions to be like the college admissions process.
Unlike college, law school is a professional school. While law school admissions officers are not looking for applicants who fit some sort of mold, they do seek particular traits like the ability to communicate well and make a sound logical argument.
There are other important differences between the college and law school admissions processes. Grades and standardized test scores matter more. Waitlists have a larger role. Safety schools are less important, since unsuccessful law school applicants may choose to reapply later or pursue a different path.
Understand how law school admissions has changed over time.
When I was applying to law school two decades ago, my parents were wonderfully supportive and helpful. But their knowledge of the law school admissions landscape was limited by their own past impressions.
For example, they were skeptical when I told them I was considering a gap year before applying, which was uncommon in their generation. I had to convince them that my time would not be misspent or misperceived by law schools.
Fortunately, there are now many more sources of expert advice readily available, including hundreds of Law Admissions Lowdown articles. Look out for resources put out by admissions offices themselves, from admissions pages to blogs and podcasts. But be careful about taking anything in an online forum too seriously.
Research will clear up common misconceptions about the process. For example, there is no longer any real penalty for taking the LSAT multiple times. Tuition has risen, but merit-based financial aid is more common. The number of law school applicants is higher than it was a decade ago, but still far lower than it was before the Great Recession that began in 2007.
Help your child identify his or her strengths.
Through their law school personal statement and optional essays, applicants have the chance to tell admissions officers who they are, beyond their transcript and resume.
But while college students often have a strong impression of who they are and what they believe in, they may lack the perspective to see what sets them apart.
Help your son or daughter brainstorm essay topics by discussing his or her achievements and struggles. You may remember a seemingly trivial event from childhood that ends up providing a recurring theme in your child’s essays.
Consider expert help.
Encourage your child to reach out to prelaw advisers at their college, even if they are recent graduates. Talk to your child about LSAT prep options and help him or her establish a realistic study plan.
If your child seems stressed and uncertain about how to navigate the law school admissions process, a law school admissions coach may be worth the investment. Even a brief counseling session or independent review of a personal statement draft could save your child from heading in the wrong direction or making an irreversible misstep.
Inevitably, you and your son or daughter won’t see eye to eye about the law school admissions process. Try to approach the situation with humor and perspective. Don’t be afraid to ask your child to make a case for his or her point of view. It will be good practice for law school!