The cost of applying to law school in Canada
On April 19, 2019 I decided to start the process of applying for law school. For context, I have my Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Alberta and currently work in the government where I’ve been for two years.
The purpose of this blog post is to describe my experience of the LSAT and the law school application process from a perspective that looks at the financial cost. I chose to write this because I couldn’t find a comprehensive cost breakdown or guide on how the process works with the money part clearly laid out.
This blog post will discuss costs prior to the LSAT and costs associated with completing the law school admission process. I will include a total cost breakdown at the end.
Registering and Completing the LSAT
The very first step of completing the LSAT is registering for the exam. Prior to registering you need to make an account on the Law School Admissions Council website. You create a profile, upload a photo, and select your preferred test date. After doing this, you formally register for the LSAT.
This will cost you $200 right off the bat. This is not including additional fees such as $125 to change the test centre location or $125 to change the date of your LSAT.
Personally, I was unable to pay for in person LSAT courses or study material. So I finessed the system by doing the free Khan Academy LSAT course and materials friends have sent me for free. I’ll find out on August 28th if this method was worth it.
So far, the cost breakdown prior to writing the LSAT was $200 for me.
This is not a normal method and I overheard many students in the test centre talking about their in person courses. I will include the cost of in person courses and official books at the end to show the difference.
My experience writing the LSAT
Writing the LSAT for me was ok. I felt alright after and completed each section with a minute or two to spare. I won’t get into specifics of the exam but I felt prepared with my method.
Once again, I will find out my score on August 28th. This is shitty because the deadline to register for the September LSAT is August 1. While unfair, the Law School Admissions Council (which is apparently a non-profit) has a monopoly and can choose to fuck candidates over.
While I already wrote the LSAT the process is not over and I want to ensure I get my ideal score (a 160). In addition, re-writing the test is extremely common so let’s tack on another $200 for the September LSAT just in case.
An LSAT score is extremely important since it can weigh heavily on a university’s decision on whether or not to admit you. The LSAT score ranges from 120 to 180 with 150 being the average. From my research, a 160 is what’s considered a ‘good’ score for law school applicants. However, your GPA factors in and you may require a higher LSAT to make up for a lower GPA.
You may also see people throwing around numbers like -8, -9, or -10 around when discussing the difficulty of an exam. What they are referring to is the total number of questions you can get wrong to still get a 170. So a -10 exam is where you can miss 10 questions and still get a 170.
At this point my total costs are $400.
After the LSAT
This is where it gets expensive. Quick recap, I just paid $400 to a ‘non profit’ to write the LSAT twice. Now, I need to pay $195 to register for the ‘non profits’ Credential Assembly Service (CAS). This system is how your LSAT score and profile is sent to schools. You would assume that’s it.
Well it turns out you need to pay an additional fee for your score to be sent to each school you’re applying to. This is $45 per school.
In short you are paying this ‘non profit’ to write the exam, paying to register for their service and also paying to send each law school your LSAT score. Keep in mind that everyone is ok with this system lol.
Anyways, I’m applying to six Canadian law schools. I want to stay in western Canada so the schools I’m applying to are the University of Victoria (UVic), University of British Columbia(UBC), University of Alberta(UofA), University of Calgary(UofC), University of Saskatchewan(UofS), and the University of Manitoba(UofM).
Of note, each of these law schools require a *separate* application fee. Below is a breakdown of the application fee for each of these schools.
In total, the cost of the CAS system, each law school report, and each law schools application fee will cost me: $1,127.25 ( (45x6) + 195 + 100 + 125 + 125 + 125 + 91.50 + 95.75).
Adding this brings my total law school admissions cost to $1,527.25 (1,127.25 + 400).
This is the base cost of all the mandatory fees one needs to pay in order to write the LSAT and to apply to six schools.
This is 101 hours of work on a $15 minimum wage.
But wait...there's more
Remember, this breakdown does not mention the cost of an LSAT in person course or the official books. Some people take LSAT courses and buy the most up to date books to give them an edge. As I mentioned before, I overheard many people at my exam centre mention their courses.
Courses can cost up to $1,399 while study books can cost upwards of $87. For example, Oxford seminars offers a 48 hour LSAT course for $845 (plus tax) while powerscore offers an online course for $995. Kaplan has the most expensive courses I’ve seen at $1,399 for an in person course. I also overheard someone at my test centre mention a $2,000 course they took. All these costs omit the practice test books which can cost $40 each.
Let’s assume you took the Kaplan course ($1,399) and paid for one study book ($87) and three practice test books (40x3 = $120). These extras would cost you $1,606.
Combining these - often essential - extras with your base fees brings the total cost to $3,133.25 (1,606 + 1,527.25).
This is 208.9 hours of work on a $15 minimum wage.
Options besides official courses
Other common study help includes hiring tutors ($90-$125/hr) and using an online prep course by 7sage ($179 for the starter course and $549 for the ultimate).
Hiring a tutor at $100/hr for 3 hours plus the $549 ultimate 7sage course would bring your total cost (including the base fees) to $2,376.25 ( (100x3) + 549 + 1,527.25).
This is 158 hours of work on a $15 minimum wage.
Conclusion and Additional thoughts
I knew the process was going to be expensive and complicated but all of this surprised me.
This entire process has made me realize that I would have never been able to afford the law school admissions process right after I graduated university. The base costs would have simply been too expensive.
Personally, I am very lucky to have worked for a few years in a career and to have a predictable salary. But even with a full time job I was unable to afford an in person course.
This entire process is a scam and puts people from low-income backgrounds at a disadvantage. The LSAT and the law school admissions process is a game. A pay-to-win game. Where generational knowledge and money puts you many steps ahead of people like me.
So it looks like that I can avoid the CAS fee for the time being. The schools I am applying to don't require it. This reduces my costs by ~$465. However, it turns out Ontario has a similar system to CAS with a $200 registration fee. I'll need to pay this if I apply there.
Keep in mind that this brings my total costs are still over a grand. This is without paying for any study material or in person courses. It is absurd that the bare bones cost of applying to law school in Canada is over a grand. More if you want to get an edge.