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A Guide to Transferring Law Schools

August 13, 2021 · 5 minute read

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A Guide to Transferring Law Schools

Are you thinking of transferring law schools? If so, know that plenty of law students are in the same boat. In 2020, 1,612 students transferred law schools after their first year. That’s about 4.2% of the 38,500 students who were 1Ls the previous year. Law schools are becoming more open to high-achieving transfer students as a way to increase revenue. Curious about which law schools took the most transfers? The top five last year were Georgetown (105), George Washington (74), NYU (51), Columbia (44), and Harvard (43).

On your end, you might be thinking of transferring for a variety of reasons. Maybe you didn’t get into the law school of your dreams initially, but you think your performance during your first year might position you to be admitted as a transfer. Perhaps you aren’t a big fan of the faculty or students at your current school, or even just can’t stand the weather in your new city. It could be that your spouse or partner needs to move, and you want to go with him or her. Perhaps you need to move closer to home to care for an ailing or aging family member. Or maybe the cost of your current institution is just too high for you to stomach.

Whatever the reason, transferring schools is a big decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Here’s a guide on how to make a transfer happen and what you should consider before choosing to make the move.

What to Consider Before You Transfer Law Schools

Switching law schools involves a lot of work, and it can involve some trade-offs. Here are some questions to ask yourself before you take the leap:

Is the law school you want to transfer to ranked significantly higher than your current one? If you’re looking to change schools in order to upgrade, moving to one that is only ranked slightly higher probably isn’t worth the trouble. It won’t change your job prospects very much, and what you sacrifice could eclipse any benefits. Aim to jump to at least the next tier of law schools. If you’re already in the top tier, you may want to focus on just the top five schools.

Will a “better” school be right for you?

When you move to a higher-ranked school, you may see your grades fall or feel stressed because of stiffer competition. You may get less personalized attention from faculty and administrators and have a harder time getting to the top of the list for institution-based law school scholarships and internships. Setbacks like these aren’t guaranteed, and you can certainly bounce back, but make sure you think through the move carefully and get to know your prospective institution well.

Are you willing to put in the work?

Applying as a transfer student requires pretty much the same amount of time and effort as applying to law school the first time. You’ll also have to pay application fees of up to around $100 per school.

Are you OK with potentially losing out on opportunities?

When you change schools, you may have to give up scholarships, the chance to study abroad, or the opportunity to participate in the law review or moot court. You will also have to give up your first-year grades (you don’t bring them with you to the new school).

Can you deal with setbacks in your relationships?

When you transfer, you might lose the bonds and connections you’ve started forming during your first year.
Conversely, many of the students at your new school will have formed strong friendships as well, so you might have a harder time breaking in. Considering the importance of networks in career advancement, this could affect not only your personal life, but also your professional future.

How to Complete a Law School Transfer

Most students transfer after their first year, which allows them to receive a degree from their new school with no mention of the original institution. Many schools will not allow you to transfer after your second year, or if they do, they’ll still require you to attend two additional years at the new school.

Applying for a transfer looks very similar to applying for law school in the first place. Generally, you’ll need to submit:

•  A résumé

•  A personal statement

•  Two letters of recommendation

•  Transcripts

•  A report of your LSAT score

Applying to transfer does not guarantee that you’ll be admitted. Your GPA and class rank are usually the most important factors in your application and are weighed more heavily in transfer decisions than your LSAT score and extracurricular activities.

Most schools will only admit transfers that are in the top 10% of their class. Your class rank must be even higher if your school is ranked relatively low. To improve your chances, focus on getting good grades in your first year. You should also start early on building relationships with professors who might offer recommendations by reaching out to them, attending office hours, and speaking up in class.

A law school transfer personal statement must focus not only on why you want to study law in general, but also on why you want to transfer. The reason you cite should be substantive and tied to the institution you want to attend, rather than a purely personal motive, such as being closer to family.

Don’t just cut and paste the essay you submitted when applying to law school initially, and don’t turn in a generic statement. Instead, tailor the essay to the school you want to transfer to, and why they are the right fit for you. Steer clear of trash-talking your current law school—that doesn’t look good to the admissions committee. Instead, speak in positive terms about what you’ve gained and accomplished, and make clear what contribution you would make to the school if you were accepted.

What to Do if Your Transfer Is Accepted

If you’re admitted as a transfer student, congratulations! Once you’ve committed to switching schools, you’ll need to take care of a number of things to ensure a smooth transition. First, inform your current school of your plans to transfer (and tell your landlord if you’re moving). Next, get in touch with your new school to confirm which of your credits will be transferred, and take careful note of all the classes you need to earn your degree.

You will also want to reach out to the financial aid office to make sure your package is squared away. And don’t forget to contact career services to connect with your advisor and sign up for on-campus interviews and other opportunities. If you’re moving, you’ll need to get set up in a new apartment. Once you’re at your new school, work extra hard to build relationships with professors and peers. These will pay off in terms of future recommendation letters and lifelong networks.

How Student Loan Refinancing Can Help

As a lawyer-in-training, you’re probably on track to make a good living once you graduate. But in the meantime, the high cost of law school can be overwhelming. In the 2020 to 2021 academic year, tuition and fees at private law schools cost an average of $51,268, and the expense has nearly tripled since 1985, adjusted for inflation. That high price tag, especially when combined with the cost of undergraduate education, is one reason that law school students are graduating with an average of $145,500 in student debt.

Maybe you are looking to transfer because your current law school is too expensive, or maybe you’re upgrading to a higher-ranked school that also comes with higher costs. Either way, student loan refinancing can help get your law school debt under control.

Refinancing involves getting a single new loan from a private lender to pay off all your existing student loans. You can refinance both federal and private loans. Your new loan comes with a single payment, and a new loan term and interest rate.

The Takeaway

Refinancing might be right for you if your current loans have high interest rates and if you have a solid credit score. Keep in mind that if you refinance federal loans, you give up the opportunity to take advantage of income-based repayment plans or federal relief offerings such as deferment or forbearance. You can consider refinancing your undergrad loans while in law school, or once you have a steady job after law school, you can refinance your undergrad and law school loans.

You may also consider taking out a private student loan with SoFi to finance the rest of your law school experience. SoFi offers flexible repayment plans and a quick application with no fees.


Learn more about private student loans with SoFi.


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