It’s not unusual to experience some doubt before applying for law school as an adult learner.
Pursuing a career in law can be an exciting and enriching prospect. You have the ability to genuinely impact people’s lives as well as perform deep dives into fascinating areas of the legal field. However, applying to law school can be daunting.
It’s important to recognize that law school isn’t just the domain of recent high school or college graduates. If you’re an adult returning to education, you have a lot to offer the legal community, as well as a great deal to gain from being a law student. While being a mature learner isn’t always easy, taking some preparatory steps at the outset of your journey can make a big difference.
Research Law Programs
An important part of any law school application is to research the programs available to you. All programs will cover similar basic elements of law practice. However, if you’re intending to specialize, it’s wise to ensure that the schools you are applying to offer courses in this field. You can do this by looking at school websites and by arranging in-person tours to speak to professors.
Importantly, as a mature student, you should research each institution’s suitability for older learners. Talk to representatives to understand the level of support they provide mature students to help them excel at school. You should also read reviews from other non-traditional students.
Plan for the Costs
It’s no secret that law school can be an expensive prospect. The average cost of tuition alone sits at around $146,484. There aren’t a lot of people who have that amount of money readily available, so it’s important to plan for these costs.
Technically speaking, some universities allow students to pay tuition fees with a credit card. This can be more practical for older students who may have higher credit limits than their younger counterparts. You may also be able to benefit from 0% introductory rates of interest, which could see you paying less than you would with a loan. However, it’s important to bear in mind that the university may apply additional charges for payments by credit card.
Nevertheless, it can be wise to first seek out grants or scholarships for your target law program.
The good news is that there are various financial programs specifically aimed at adults returning to school and other minority groups.
Maintain Future Financial Security
One of the more challenging elements of returning to school in later life is that it can disrupt your financial security. Particularly if you’re leaving a full-time job, you may see a drop-off in your benefits and retirement savings.
Prioritizing part-time or evening law programs may mean that you don’t need to immediately give up your full-time job and benefits. Your employer may provide some benefits to you if you are looking to return to school. If you’re planning to enter a degree program within a few years, you might also consider making top-up contributions to your retirement now to mitigate any shortfall that occurs during your education.
Build a Support System
Law school — even from the application stage — can be a challenging experience no matter what age you enroll. Alongside the purely practical tools you arrange in preparation for your application, you need to maintain your emotional and psychological wellness. Ensuring you have a strong support system can make a significant difference in all areas.
This may include professional mentors who are already practicing in the area of law you’re interested in. They can help you with your application, potentially provide you with references, and offer guidance during your schooling. You can also discuss your plans with a range of family and friends. They may provide moral support when school inevitably gets tough.
Prepare for Relocation
It may be the case that the law school that best suits your needs is not in your local area and doesn’t offer remote courses. As a result, you might have to consider moving closer to the school in order to attend. Even after graduation, job opportunities in your desired legal field may be limited to specific locations.
Preparing for a career-related relocation tends to benefit from careful consideration in a range of areas. If the move is likely to be long-term, take time to reinforce your relationships with your family. Discuss any concerns about the move they have and the steps you can take to make the transition easier. Money can also be a factor in any significant relocation. Some employers and scholarship providers can help offset these costs. Otherwise, it’s vital to start saving for your move well in advance.
Embrace Your Unique Qualities
It’s not unusual to experience some doubt before applying for law school as an adult learner. After all, there can still be some stigma around people entering education later in life. It’s important to start fostering a positive mindset around your unique qualities and your value as an older entrant into law. This can help motivate you to continue.
Indeed, make your unique experiences a core part of your application. Utilize your rich personal perspectives in admission essays, as these show the insights you’ve gained over the decades. During admission interviews, provide examples from your history that demonstrate the adaptability, determination, and critical thinking that demonstrate you would be an asset to their law program.
Applying for law school as an older applicant can be challenging. It is vital to take the time to research potential programs for their suitability as well as seek out sources of financial support that can help you handle tuition and living costs. Commit to building a strong practical and emotional support system, alongside considering the hurdles related to relocation. Don’t forget that as an older learner, you have a great deal to offer, so lean into your experiences and unique traits throughout your experiences. With some solid preparation and a little guidance, you can thrive through this new chapter in your life.