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Non-Traditional Law School Applicants: What You Need to Know

August 25, 2023


Reviewed by:

Former Head of Pre-Law Office, Northeastern University, & Admissions Officer, Brown University

Reviewed: 05/09/23

If you’re unsure what a non-traditional law school applicant is and want to know if you’re one, read on to find out more!

Law school is a big commitment! It leaves students with copious amounts of debt, and it also takes three intense years to complete! Accordingly, deciding the perfect time to go to law school isn’t simple, and people’s paths to their JDs differ greatly!

Those with different paths are generally considered non-traditional law school applicants. 

However, the line between a “normal” law student and a non-traditional one can get murky. To make the distinction easy, we discuss the most common types of non-traditional law students, tips for non-traditional students applying to law school, and the best law schools for these students.

What is a Non-Traditional Applicant?

There aren’t any clear boundaries that put students in the traditional versus non-traditional category. But, the most common non-traditional applicants are those that don’t attend law school right after their undergrad.

Students with a gap of several years between their undergraduate degree and law degree are typically considered non-traditional. That said, older students are also non-traditional applicants. Since most law students enter their JD at or around the age of 25, those over 25 deviate from the norm.

The experiences these applicants have also makes them non-traditional. For instance, many of these applicants may have waited to go to law school because it wasn’t their first choice. They may have attended other graduate schools, trades colleges, or started their entrepreneurial endeavors. 

As such, many of these applicants have yet to gain employment experience in the legal sector but a substantial amount in others.

Circumstances can also make applicants non-traditional. For instance, students with lower socio-economic backgrounds or other personal disadvantages may be non-traditional because they have unequal access to wealth or resources compared to most students. Students with military backgrounds are also non-traditional. 

Lastly, students with low GPAs or LSAT scores can also be considered non-traditional law school applicants.

Tips for Applying to Law School as a Non-Traditional Applicant

There has been debate over whether non-traditional applicants have an advantage when applying to law schools. Some argue that these students are accepted into programs more frequently because law schools know older students can increase their student body’s diversity. 

On the other hand, some argue these applicants are at a disadvantage because they have been out of school for so long. This gap in their education hypothetically makes keeping up with the academic rigors of law school exceptionally challenging for non-traditional students. 

Regardless of whether or not non-traditional students have an obvious advantage, they can use their non-traditional status to their favor by ensuring their applications highlight how valuable their unique perspectives can be to their education.

Focus on Your Experience

Whether you’re an older applicant or someone with abundant experience in a non-legal field, you should emphasize your experience in your application. If you’ve been working in a particular field for several years, you’ve likely cultivated a unique skill set that could translate well in the legal field.

Don’t Overexplain

You may feel like you should spend your personal statement explaining why you’re a non-traditional applicant and why you chose the path you took. In actuality, you should focus on explaining why you’re an excellent candidate despite or even because of your non-traditional status.

Prove Your Dedication

Deciding to go to law school after you’ve already been out of school for a long time or have already been successful in another field is difficult! 

Focus on this dedication to enter the legal field in your application. Even if you didn’t always want to be a lawyer, realizing it’s your passion and working hard to make it happen is impressive and shows the admissions team how committed you are!

Best Law Schools for Non-Traditional Applicants

Now that we’ve answered the question “what is a non-traditional applicant?” and provided some tips on increasing your chances of admission as a non-traditional applicant, we’ll cover which law schools are best depending on your unique circumstances. 

Best Law Schools for Older Students

If you’re a non-traditional student because you’re older than the average JD student, you’ll feel right at home at these two schools:

Brooklyn Law School

Brooklyn Law School is one of the best law schools for non-traditional students because it is known to accept students of varying ages. The average age of their entering 2022 class ranged from 20-47. 

Students hoping to get into Brooklyn Law School are expected to have an undergraduate GPA of 3.5 and an LSAT score of 159.

The University of Virginia School of Law

Like Brooklyn Law School, UVA’s past class statistics prove it regularly accepts older students. Its 2025 graduating class ranges from 19-34 years old. This law school is an excellent option for those looking to join a T14 law school. UVA ranks 8th in the nation and is highly prestigious!

As a high-ranking school, UVA applicants must have high scores to be considered competitive applicants. UVA’s median GPA is 3.91, and their median LSAT score is 171.

Best Law Schools For Students With Other Commitments

Whether you’re an older student with a family or you have a job you don’t want to lose, you shouldn’t have to compromise important parts of your life to earn your JD. With the following schools, you won’t have to! 

St. Mary’s University School of Law

As the first fully-online part-time ABA-approved program, St. Mary’s offers busy students the chance to complete their JD without sacrificing other commitments or responsibilities. 

St.Mary’s part-time programs rank as the 53rd-69th best in the nation and require students to have a GPA of 3.14 and an LSAT score of 151.   

Georgetown University

While Georgetown University’s evening part-time program takes place in person, it is the best part-time program in the nation! Despite taking one year longer to complete, Georgetown assures its part-time students receive the same curriculum and opportunities as its full-time students!

As another prestigious T14 law school, Georgetown has high expectations of its prospective part-time students, with a median GPA of 3.75 and a median LSAT score of 168.

George Washington University

For students interested in joining a less competitive part-time program, George Washington University’s part-time program is the second best in the nation. It also has less strict admission requirements than Georgetown.

Students need a GPA of 3.68 and an LSAT score of 164 to apply to this law school.

Best Law Schools For Students With Low LSAT or GPA Scores

For students who are non-traditional because of their low LSAT or GPA scores, you may want to consider applying to these schools:

Southern University Law Center

Southern University Law Center is one of the easiest law schools to get into. While its national ranking falls between 147-192nd, it’s an excellent option for students with low scores. 

This law school’s median GPA is 3.03, and its median LSAT score is 146.

University of the District of Columbia

Another one of the easiest law schools to get into is the University of the District of Columbia. While its overall rankings match Southern University’s, it ranks fifth nationwide for clinical training!

With slightly higher admission requirements, students interested in applying to this law school should have a GPA of 3.08 and an LSAT score of 149. 

Best Law Schools for Veterans

While there is only a small percentage of non-traditional applicants that are veterans, it’s worth noting there are several excellent law schools for those with a military background!

The University of Michigan - Ann Arbor

U-M is said to be one of the best law schools for veterans because it strongly values the diverse perspectives military-connected students can bring to the Michigan community. U-M offers vets applying to their law schools several benefits, including the GI Bill program that significantly reduces veterans’ tuition costs. 

U-M also participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program, which covers up to 100% of eligible veterans’ tuition. 

As the 10th-best law school in the nation, getting into U-M is challenging. This law school has a median GPA of 3.84 and a median LSAT score of 171. 

The University of Pennsylvania

UPenn is another excellent option for veterans. This school also participates in the GI Bill and Yellow Ribbon programs. 

To get into UPenn, students need a 3.9 GPA and an LSAT score of 171.

FAQs: Non-Traditional Law School Applicants

For any remaining questions about non-traditional law school applicants, read on to find your answers.

1. What is Considered a Non-Traditional Applicant for Law School?

While there is no set definition of a non-traditional applicant, the following individuals can be considered as such: 

  • Older applicants 
  • Students who took gap years after college 
  • Applicants with work experience in a different field
  • Applicants with unique personal circumstances
  • Marginalized applicants
  • Applicants with lower LSAT scores or GPAs
  • Veterans

While this list covers which applicants are considered non-traditional, this status is also applied on a case-by-case basis depending on one’s circumstance.

2. Does Being a Non-Traditional Applicant Help You Get Into Law School?

If you use what makes you a non-traditional applicant to your advantage by explaining how it would bring diverse perspectives to your desired law school, it can definitely help you get into law school! 

3. What are the Disadvantages of Being a Non-Traditional Law Student?

If you’re an older applicant, you may have several more commitments than a recent graduate in their early twenties. As such, you might be limited in time and the types of law schools and programs you can apply to.

If you’ve been out of school for several years, you may also find it challenging to secure strong letters of recommendation from professors. You may also find it difficult to readapt to the academic setting after being out of it for so long.

4. How Old Are Most Law School Applicants?

Most law school applicants are 25 or younger.

Final Thoughts

With law schools increasingly prioritizing diversity in their schools, being a non-traditional law student with unique perspectives and diverse experiences can help you get into law school. It can also prepare you for your practice and help you excel within the legal field! 

Regardless of your journey to get into law school, you can still reach the same destination as a non-traditional student and secure a prosperous legal career!

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