Top Questions Asked by Students Considering Law School
Below are answers to some of the frequently asked questions about the law school application process. You can find Part 1 here. If you have questions you’d like answered in future FAQ, you can submit them to email@example.com.
The Law School Application Timeline
When should I start thinking about law school?
If you’re just starting to think about law school in the fall (or later) of the year you want to apply, it’s recommended that you wait until the following admissions cycle. While you may be able to submit your application materials by the deadline, it will not be worth the rush. You want to apply when you have the strongest application. If you’re putting it together at the last minute, it’s not going to be your best work.
Completing law school and working in the legal profession requires a substantial commitment in time and work, and therefore, the decision to pursue this path should be done with thorough research and consideration. It’s easy, and understandable, to panic when you realize you’re about to graduate college and have no idea what’s next. But it’s better to give yourself time to figure it out than rush into a challenging (and expensive) career path. Conversely, it’s also possible to decide on law school too early. You’ll change and grow during college, so it’s important to keep an open mind about what comes next. If you enter college already planning to go to law school, you may miss out on valuable opportunities. Remember, whatever you do next doesn’t have to be what you do for the rest of your life.
When should I apply to law school?
Every law school admissions committee is different in how, and how often, they review applications. For the best chance of admission, you’ll want to apply as early as possible in the admissions cycle. Most schools release their applications in September, although some wait until later in the fall.
With that said, you still need to make sure that your application is the strongest it can be before you apply. If you rush your application and then have to reapply later because you got rejected, schools will check to see if there’s any meaningful difference between your old application and your new one. While updated soft components can help, you’ll also need something more tangible, like new work experience or a better LSAT score. Keep in mind that some schools have a maximum number of times you can apply – Harvard caps it at three.
Law School Application Process
If I’m planning on applying to law school, what should my college major be?
Unlike medical school, there are no prerequisite classes you need to take before you can apply to law school, so you can major in anything. Many pre-law students mistakenly think that they have to major in Political Science or similar majors, but successful law students and lawyers have majored in all kinds of subjects (i.e. Philosophy, Biology, Theater, etc).
Your grades will matter greatly to admissions officials. STEM majors may be concerned about this, since they tend to have lower GPAs. STEM majors are valued by law schools because they know that such majors require rigor, admitting STEM majors adds academic diversity to their student body, and it is increasingly relevant to areas of law beyond patents.
However, LSAC doesn’t have an official GPA “curve” for STEM majors, so as with many things, how much law schools will take your STEM major into consideration when looking at your GPA will vary from school to school.
What are the components of a law school application?
There are two “hard” numbers in your application that law schools pay special attention to: your undergraduate GPA and your LSAT score. For the LSAT, most law schools will focus only on your highest score (though if there’s a big jump in points, you may want to write a quick addendum explaining why). However, you’ll want to check each school’s website, as some schools, especially the highest-ranked ones, average your LSAT scores instead.
In addition to your GPA and LSAT, there are “soft” components to your application: your personal statement (and possibly others, like a diversity statement, a “why x law school” statement, optional essays, and any addenda, depending on each law school’s application) and your letters of recommendation.
Statements and letters of recommendation will be covered in more depth in later FAQ, but for statements especially, it’s important to pay careful attention to each school’s prompt(s). The admissions consultants at Admit Advantage can help you figure out which statements to write and what to say (or not).
Which parts of my application are most important to law schools?
For better or worse, the two most important factors of your law school application are your undergraduate GPA and LSAT score. While graduate work will be taken into consideration by admissions, it’s not factored into the official GPA that LSAC calculates. That means that starting in undergrad, getting good grades is the most important thing to focus on if you’re thinking about law school. After all, you can take the LSAT again, but you can’t re-do your college years.
Why do admissions committees care so much about these two factors? First, numbers are an easy way to sort applications. When admissions officials are dealing with thousands of applications, they need a systematic way to go through them. Second, law schools are always mindful of the almighty U.S. News rankings, which unfortunately weigh admitted students’ GPA and LSAT score heavily. No law school wants to drop in the rankings.
That said, don’t be fooled into believing that the rest of your application doesn’t matter. Instead, think of the other components, like your personal statement, as helping you against someone with similar stats.
Law School Application Essays
Most law school applications ask you to write three types of essays: a Personal Statement, a Diversity Statement, and an Addendum/Additional Information.
I haven’t done anything exciting or unique, so what should I write my personal statement about?
This would be a great topic of conversation with an Admit Advantage consultant, since everyone’s experiences are different, but one helpful strategy is to focus on moments of growth. How can you demonstrate a moment of personal growth through a story, so that you’re showing rather than telling? It should ideally be a moment during or after college, though there are exceptions for life-changing stories and/or stories related to why you want to go to law school.
Aim for no more than 750 words. If you’re struggling to keep your draft under 1,000 words, you’re trying to cover too much. Remember, law school admissions committees are reviewing thousands of applications, so you want to keep your personal statement pithy and punchy.
Does my personal statement need to address why I want to go to that specific law school?
Only if you have something to say – don’t add it merely for the sake of having it in there. Moreover, highly ranked law schools like Harvard and Yale know why you want to go there, so there’s no need to waste space. You’ll also want to avoid referring to a specific professor, since they might move schools.
If you’re genuinely excited about a school because of a unique program that they offer, or because you have a connection to the school, go for it – just make sure you tie it back to why that program or connection makes you an especially good fit for that school.That said, if a school gives you the opportunity to write a separate statement on why you want to attend that school, take advantage of it! The more space you have to convince them that you’d be a great fit, the better.
Should I write a diversity statement?
If you’re wondering whether you “qualify” to write a diversity statement, it will depend on each school’s specific prompt. Some schools’ prompts are broad. For instance, Boston University’s prompt says, “This essay is your opportunity to discuss any aspect of your background or life experience that you believe will enhance your ability to contribute to the diverse BU classroom experience and community.”
In contrast, other schools’ prompts are narrow. For example, NYU Law’s prompt states, “New York University School of Law seeks to enroll a student body from a broad spectrum of society, including members of groups underrepresented in the profession as well as persons who have experienced socioeconomic and/or educational disadvantage. Please indicate [in this statement] any such groups in which you would include yourself.”
The admissions consultants at Admit Advantage can help you navigate each school’s prompt to figure out whether or not you should submit a diversity statement.
Should I write an addendum about my low grades and/or LSAT score?
It depends on your specific situation. Did something happen the day of the LSAT? Were you facing personal challenges your freshman year? Do you have a learning disability?
Many applicants write addenda that are unnecessary, too long, or even damaging. The admissions consultants at Admit Advantage can help you figure out whether to write an addendum, and if so, what to say or leave out.
Law School Letters of Recommendation
How do I decide which professors to ask for letters of recommendation? And how do I ask them?
Many applicants make the mistake of thinking that they can or should ask any professor who has given them an A. But to a professor who gives out A’s to most of their students, that will be a tough sell without more experiences to speak about. Did you improve in a particular area over the course of the class? Did the professor get to know you through office hours? Focus more on professors with whom you have a good relationship with than professors who just gave you an A. Otherwise, their LORs may betray their lack of personal knowledge and hurt your application.
In terms of asking for a letter of recommendation, a well-crafted email is usually the way to go. The email should include which class you took with them and when, why you enjoyed their class, and why you think they might be able to write you a strong LOR. You should close by offering to meet if they’d like to discuss it further.
There are two exceptions to asking via email. First, if you know from experience that they never answer emails. In that case, you should go to their office hours. Second, make sure to check their syllabus to see if they have a unique procedure that they want students to follow in requesting letters of recommendation. Since professors love when you read the syllabus, that can only help your chances that they’ll say yes!
I’ve been out of school for a while – do I still need a letter of recommendation from a professor?
If you’re about to graduate or have recently graduated, and you know you’re planning to take a few years off before law school, ask your professors now if they’d be willing to write a recommendation, while they still remember you clearly. Even professors who truly enjoyed having you in their class may have fuzzy recollections if they’ve had hundreds of students between the time you were in their class and when you apply to law school.
If you’ve already been out of school for several years, it’s a little trickier. You’ll need at least one letter of recommendation from a professor, since you are applying to school, after all. Unfortunately, you may have to just reach out to a few of your old professors, remind them which class you took and when, and hope for the best.