Every year, multiplied 1000’s apply to law school. Acceptance rates at the most selective schools run in single digits. How do YOU get picked?! The application is like your first case before the judges sitting on the Admissions Court.
By far, the two most important factors boil down to two numbers: 1) LSAT (Law School Admissions Test) 2) G.P.A. (Grade Point Average)
That’s why the Official Guide to U.S. Law Schools tries to put in LSAT/G.P.A. Tables for each school. Some schools provide very detailed breakdowns–to the point where one can plug-and-chug one’s own LSAT & G.P.A. and voila!: one knows exactly how many applied and how many were accepted with your category of LSAT & G.P.A..
Some schools provide less specific information while yet others provide scanty to no information along these lines. The Official Guide is a fine place to consult for a quick overview of schools.
So to help you into law school, do what you can to make these two numbers as high as possible!
Another note: not all G.P.A.’s are created equal. Admissions Committees will treat a G.P.A. from what they consider a top school & tough program to be more favorable than the identical G.P.A. from a less highly regarded program and course list.
Don’t Despair: Dream a Little!
Well, what if your LSAT & G.P.A. numbers put you in the 1 out of 32 get in category? Give up? Not necessarily…
Before I give more specific advice on how to apply, let me see if I can give a little encouragement here. What are your chances of getting in if you don’t apply. It’s simple: 0.00% So if you dream of going to a school(s), go for it! Life is too short to wonder whether you MIGHT have gotten in if only you had applied.
Granted, one should generally not apply only to dream/reach schools. The general consensus is that one should apply to schools in at least 3 categories: 1) dream schools 2) in your league 3) “safeties” So unless God specifically guides you to apply only to one “dream” school, it is typically more prudent to apply to a number of them spread across these categories.
Make Your Pluses Count!
Unless an admissions committee considers you a quick, top pick or an instant reject, your application will likely fall in the biggest category of applications somewhere in between. That’s where a well-done total package can put you over-the-top.
Personal statements can make a HUGE difference at this stage of the process. Here are some tips to help you towards an outstanding personal statement:
1) Of Onions and Applications…Your Personal Statement should move admissions committees deeply. If they aren’t tearing up, then send some peeled onions…just kidding! But seriously, if it doesn’t come from a poignant corner of your heart–what are the chances that it will truly move the admission committee to consider your application favorably? After all, they’ve seen a TON of applications typically.
2) The personal is NOT a resume. You can include a separate resume but DON’T use your personal statement to regurgitate your victory in the 4th grade bowling tournament. An arid list is NOT what the personal statment is about.
3) PERSONAL is a key word. Don’t be afraid to be personal. Unless the Director of Admissions is your uncle or something, you can’t assume that they know you at all as a person. Admissions committees really like to feel like they’re admitting outstanding PEOPLE–not just a disembodied set of papers.
4) Yet remember, the personal statement is not a substitute for confession of sins…you can be personally “juicy” without turning it into a catalogue of pecadillos.
5) Ask yourself: a) what am I passionate about? b) what noble aspirations are brewing in my soul that would stick out to an admissions committee c) what makes a law school education at XYZ school an integral part of attaining worthwhile goals? d) what would keep you burning the midnight oil when the going gets rough? e) what unique, rare, or special qualities would you bring to the law school committee–and beyond? These questions can help you in thinking your way to a standout personal statement.
6) Don’t be fake, insincere, trite, fraudulent, etc. Just don’t! Even if the seasoned eye of those on the committee don’t pick it up, you’ll feel like a big phony if you actually get in. The committee will have admitted the made-up phantom that you project in your application rather than YOU!
7) Go for it! This is not the time to be timid or a wall-flower. Seize the day! This is an opportunity to shine!
8) Flawless Mechanics…Make sure that your writing is technically flawless. Go through it with a fine-toothed comb until there are NO spelling, grammar, or other I-AM-NOT-WELL-EDUCATED mistakes. If you need help, do whatever you can to get it.
Get recommendations from those who know you well enough to write a personal (rather than generic) recommendation. So if the only contact that you’ve had is that this person graded your ScanTron, multiple-choice final exam, it is not likely that this person is the best candidate for Recommender.
So if it’s not too late, get to know a few of your professors or other potential recommenders. I’m not saying to schmooze only to get on their good side. Nor am I saying to be a pest or a stalker. But I am saying that genuine friendships sure can help!
When asking someone for a recommendation, back off from those who give a lukewarm response. It’s not a good sign if the response is: a) who are you? b) um, if you insist, I’ll have my secretary fill out my form recommendation c) You?! Law school??? *sinister laughter*
Bad recommendations can KILL an application. The more specific, personal and glowing a recommendation can be, the better.
It can help to give a recommender your resume, personal statement(s), and other information–especially if the person doesn’t yet know you well. Letting the recommender “interview” you in the office, over lunch, etc. could also help.
Definitely give plenty of advance notice to your recommenders. Handing a rumpled recommendation form to a recommender 23 hours before it’s due is NOT a prescription for success!
Many law schools don’t have interviews. Some schools only have informational interviews that are not supposed to impact your chances of getting in. A few schools have interviews that could actually impact whether or not you are admitted.
A few tips: a) do your homework; know that particular school and why you’d be a good fit and contributor to this specific school. Schools, like applicants, don’t like to be treated as a generic pick. b) be friendly, calm yet properly eager c) prepare good, specific questions that you truly want to know about the school that are beyond what was readily available to you by other means (school’s own materials, website, etc.) d) don’t boast yet be willing to speak directly and politely to the questions that are thrown at you. e) Enjoy it if possible! If you relax and enjoy it, the interviewer may have a higher chance of doing so too–which could only improve your chances.
The former Dean of Admissions at the University of Chicago Law School once said that many applications are rejected on the basis of the applicant not following the directions. He was astonished at how many people did not completely and correctly fill out the application. Don’t be one of these applicants. Just doing it fully and correctly raises your chances immediately.
Also, I would highly recommend using the Law School Admissions CD, especially if you are applying to a bunch of law schools. I used it the first year that it came out and it cut my work dramatically on the 15 applications I sent out.
If the application fee is a hardship, many schools will waive it if you write a polite, respectful letter that clearly expresses the financial difficulty that the fee would pose to you. Coming up with the application fee money should generally not keep one from applying.
Ask! Ask any competent pre-law advisor or the admissions committee itself for answers to legitimate questions that you may have.
1) Don’t worry about it…anxiety never assured admission into anywhere.
2) Be thankful for where you do get in rather than moping too much about where you don’t get in…who knows, though, maybe you’ll get into everywhere you apply!
3) You are more than the pieces of paper on an application could possibly express. You’re valuable whether or not some person on an admission committe somewhere counts you as one of the chosen few or not.
Best wishes on winning your first trial(s): getting the favorable verdicts of those sweet acceptance letters!