Jacky is in her final year of the JD and maybe wrote this piece while procrastinating. She likes drinking tea and planning holidays she cannot afford.
Applying for the Melbourne JD? The admissions process is pretty confusing so let’s chat about what you need to know.
1. Admissions criteria have changed
Over the last few years, the JD admissions process has undergone a substantial transformation. You are no longer asked to provide a personal statement, the timing of applications has shifted, and you no longer get your offer and fee type simultaneously. You can find all the details of the updated criteria here. Basically, your application is judged only on your GPA and your LSAT score.
2. You need to sit the LSAT
Like Elle Woods, you are going to need to put yourself through this exam. It’s pretty difficult to teach yourself, but there are lots of resources around. You can find out more about the LSAT here. You should also check out LSAC, who administer the test. There is not a particular score that admissions are looking for. What score you should aim for will depend on your GPA and whether or not you’re hoping for a CSP (more on those in a minute). You can also sit the exam more than once, so don’t feel downhearted if you don’t score as well as you’d like.
3. Your GPA is a thing, but it is not everything
Half the admissions criteria is now your GPA, so it really does count. However, a less-competitive GPA can still get you in if you have a stronger LSAT. The admissions office has recently begun giving much stronger indications of what kind of scores they’re happy seeing.
If your GPA is…
- 80 or above: You’re looking good! You application will be highly regarded, but don’t use this as an excuse to be lazy when it comes to the LSAT. If you do poorly on the LSAT, you might still miss out.
- 70-79: This is a competitive GPA. Match this with a good LSAT score and you will have a strong application.
- Below 70: You can still have a competitive application if you have a strong LSAT score. This means you want to be aiming for a 158 or higher (top 25th percentile). If you fall into this category, you should also be sure to look into Graduate Access Melbourne (point 9).
4. You can get an offer in six weeks…mostly
Do you have a valid LSAT score? Do you have 2.5 years of undergrad marks on your transcript? Then you can apply for the JD today. And get an offer in a very nervous four to six weeks.
Because of the way the admissions process has restructured, you’re going to know whether or not you have an offer about six weeks after you apply, irrespective of when you send in your application. You can apply at any time before September 1st for admission in the following year, providing you have a valid LSAT score (or are registered to sit the October LSAT) and 2.5 years of undergrad marks.
So if you’re due to graduate at the end of the year, you can apply as early as July and have an offer in August. Although this is a firm offer, it is conditional on you finishing your degree, so don’t totally blow off your final semester. If you’ve already finished undergrad and have a valid LSAT score, you can apply today if you want. However, the admissions board will not disclose what type of place you are being offered until November. But, if you’re an international student, you don’t need to worry about that because there is only one type of place available.
5. If your application is unsuccessful…
There are only approximately 360 offers made for each intake, so offers are very competitive. And if you miss out the first time, that’s ok! You can apply again! You’re completely welcome to boost your GPA and/or sit the LSAT again to better your chances of success. It’s worth noting though that, by this point in your degree, you’ll only have a few subjects left to change your GPA so it’s unlikely you’ll be able to change it by much. You’re probably better off doing the LSAT again and aiming for a higher score.
Even if you are successful, you can still sit the LSAT again to better your chances of being offered a CSP if that’s important to you.
6. Applying early does
nothing one thing
If you apply in July, you have the same chances as someone applying on August 31st. There’s no real advantage to applying early except that if you are unsuccessful, you’ll get a bit more time to consider your options.
7. There are a few different fee types
The JD offers different types of places and you really should figure out what you are eligible for before you apply.
- CSP. This means you pay a student contribution amount (currently $1,305 per subject) and the government subsidises the remaining cost of your subjects. You start repaying your debt when you earn over $54,126/yr, just like undergrad. You’ll be eligible for a CSP if you’re an Australian citizen, Australian permanent resident, or New Zealand citizen.
- Full Fee. This is for international students and domestic students. This type of offer means you are liable for the full cost of your subjects (currently $4,736 per subject). Note that over the whole degree, this cost will exceed the upper limit of FEE-HELP ($99,389 currently but this amount is indexed so will increase slightly over the course of your degree) so you’ll need to find a different way to cover the remaining cost (roughly $16k). The University has some financial assistance options to help with this.
- Bursary. This is for domestic students. The university offers about 100 bursaries for full-fee domestic students of approximately $15,000. A bursary place is the same as a full fee offer, but the university will cover the difference between your loan limit and the full cost of the course. This means you won’t be paying out-of-pocket but you will still wind up with a fairly substantial FEE-HELP debt to repay.
If you’re eligible for a CSP, I strongly recommend spending some time thinking about whether you are prepared to accept a full fee or bursary place. That loan is real money, and a full fee place is expensive. Personally, I was not so attached to the idea of law school that I would be willing to owe such a substantial amount. For others, the Melbourne JD is what they want and absolutely worth the investment. Don’t let people talk you into a choice that’s not going to work for you.
8. You might be eligible for guaranteed entry
If you scored 99+ in VCE, and did your undergraduate degree at the University of Melbourne while maintaining an average of 75+, you will be eligible for guaranteed entry and you won’t have to bother yourself with sitting the LSAT. That said, unless you scored 99.9+, you won’t be eligible for a guaranteed CSP offer, so you might want to consider sitting the LSAT anyway. This doesn’t jeopardise your guaranteed full fee place at all, so you don’t really have anything to lose (unless you don’t want to do the LSAT, which is fair enough).
9. You guys, Graduate Access Melbourne is a thing and it is amazing
The University likes to make things a bit easier for disadvantaged students. As such, roughly 20% of the very limited CSP places for new JD students are given to students in this category. ‘Disadvantaged’ is defined fairly broadly here so there’s a whole range of reasons you might qualify. For example, if you went to school in a regional or rural area, you probably qualify. If you have difficult family circumstances or financial difficulties, you probably qualify too. I seriously recommend looking into this even if you think you won’t be eligible. Even better news: some Graduate Access applicants are also given a scholarship.
If you’re applying for the JD, you want to research scholarships. There are so many available, and heaps of people are eligible but don’t realise it. Applying doesn’t hurt. Being broke does.
– Good luck, friends! You’ll be fine.