Although the LSAT is a crucial component of any law school application, there comes a time when you have done everything you can to increase your score. Regardless of whether you are happy with your score, there are several additional requirements that you must satisfy to successfully gain admission to law school. In this blog post, we at Stratus walk you through those other law school application components.
When many people think about law school applications, essays likely come to mind. Besides your prep for the LSAT, this is probably where you will spend the most time. Your essays help the admissions committee see who you are beyond your stats. Therefore, it is important to put your best foot forward!
When writing your essays, keep the following tips in mind:
- Be sure to include all the obvious but important components.
- Thoroughly check for spelling and grammatical errors.
- Abide by the page and word limitations.
- Check that you have answered all components of the essay question.
Outside of these requirements, it is not always clear how to best respond to an essay prompt. Here are some ideas to help you:
- Brainstorm accomplishments to highlight. Typically, essay prompts are open-ended questions that only give you a general direction, so you should start by brainstorming to help you focus your essay. List your proudest accomplishments, regardless of when they occurred and what area they concern. Then think about which ones you would feel most comfortable discussing further. Moreover, consider how they relate to why you want to go to law school.
- Identify accomplishments related to your law school goals. You will likely have a series of accomplishments to share related to why you want to go to law school. If you do not, look over your accomplishments again and really think about any potential link to law school. If you continue to have trouble, just write out the reasons you are interested in attending law school and compare that list to your accomplishments to find links.
- Decide how to organize your information. Once you have identified clear links between your accomplishments and your legal aspirations, you still might have difficulty deciding how to best organize your information. Part of this will depend on your list of accomplishments and what the essay prompt says. One approach is to write about your accomplishments and reasons for attending law school in chronological order. Even if you do not have the same number of accomplishments for each period of your life, this is still a good strategy because you can just write shorter passages for certain points and still produce a well-written piece.If your accomplishments relate to each other and fit into a few groups—say, three accomplishments into four separate groups—you can organize your essay this way. If you take this approach, be sure to include a few sentences at the beginning and end that tie together these categories.Alternatively, if you have a few overarching reasons for attending law school, you could organize your essay around those reasons. If you take this approach, just make sure that you do not spread your content too thin to the point that you have trouble providing real context for your accomplishments.
- Look to law schools for guidance and details. If possible, you should attend admissions sessions specifically concerning the application for each school. Often, schools will provide general guidance regarding what they are looking for. If you cannot attend a session, then look online for similar information. Sometimes a school will publish podcasts or blog posts that share advice on how to best tackle its essay prompts.It never hurts to provide some information about what specifically interests you about the school. Maybe it has some well-known professors or offers classes you want to take. Or the school might have some clubs, practice organizations, or clinics that interest you. Including these details can help strengthen your essay.
- Share details beyond your resume. A final point to keep in mind about the main essay is that you should go beyond your resume. Do not just list off some accomplishments or positions you have had; rather, discuss what they meant to you and share specific anecdotes about how you grew from them and how they fueled your interest in the law.
Outside of the main essay, a common essay in law school applications is one that focuses on how you can contribute to the diversity of the campus. One of the many reasons these institutions value diversity is that people from different backgrounds provide perspectives that would not always be accounted for if they were not there. So, having a diverse campus enhances the educational experience for all students as well as the rest of the law school community. It also hopefully results in more just university policies.
You should tackle this essay by describing how your background brings diversity and how it will increase the diversity of the campus. There are several ways to approach this. If you are statistically a minority, you could share your perspectives as a member of an underrepresented group. Alternatively, you likely have had experiences that have shaped your views. To the degree that you feel comfortable, you can discuss these examples and how they will contribute to your law school education. In addition, if you have worked as an advocate for diversity, you can discuss these efforts and tie them to what you would do in law school.
Sometimes there may be an issue in your application that you feel merits further discussion. For example, if you have low grades due to extenuating circumstances, such as medical issues or a family crisis, you can provide an addendum.
If issues like these are involved, you should keep your addendum brief and straightforward. In complicated situations, it is easy to provide too many details, and that can sometimes do more harm than good. Therefore, it is best to just provide a brief, neutral explanation. If the admissions committee wants to ask you more about it in an interview, they will.
Letters of Recommendation
Letters of recommendation are the only chance that the admissions committee has to hear about you from someone that is not you. Consequently, you should do everything you can to get strong letters of recommendation submitted. Consider these tips:
- Ask early. Make sure to ask your recommenders early. It is a good idea to ask them four to six weeks before applications are due, but there is nothing wrong with asking earlier. If you are going to apply in early fall, why not ask in early summer?
- Provide relevant details and a deadline. When you ask, make sure to be humble and appreciative. Write a brief email explaining how you enjoyed having them as a professor (or working for them if it is an employer reference) and that you feel you produced some of your best work for them, so you feel they could write a strong letter. Offer to provide any additional information that might be helpful to them. Some will ask you to answer a questionnaire, others will ask to see your application essay, while some professors will just ask you to briefly explain why you want to go to law school. If your recommender does not ask for any of this, do not fret; some are just ready to write a letter. It really varies for each person. Finally, indicate when you would like the letter to be submitted, and see if the deadline is an issue for your recommender.
- Follow up. Make sure to be proactive but not annoying. If you reach out to someone to write a letter and they do not answer after a week, follow up. If they do not answer again, move on to someone else. If you give your recommender six weeks to write a letter, follow up in three weeks and then again one week before to see if there is any information that they need from you. However, do not nag them.
After providing your grades, test score, and essays, it might feel like the school has more than enough information to arrive at a decision. However, law schools holistically look at all components. So, even if you have provided information related to your resume previously, you should still submit a professional and comprehensive resume. Here are a few guidelines:
- First, check if there is a page limit on the resume. If the school does not impose a limit, it is best to assume it should be one page.
- From there, check for spelling issues and inconsistent formatting. Ensure that descriptions of your past positions are not written in present tense.
- Try to provide two to three bullet points for your most recent positions.
- Also be prepared to answer questions about anything you provide on your resume, be it a language you can speak or a project you worked on.
Many applicants gloss over the extra questions, but you should take them as seriously as the rest of your application. Most importantly, you should answer every question truthfully. If you lie about a past character and fitness issue or having registered for another LSAT session, the admissions committee will likely find out, and you could face grave consequences.
You should also fully answer every question, even if it is repetitive of other sections. For example, many schools ask for details on past jobs or school activities, even though most people provide those on their resumes. If this is the case for you, you should still provide a complete answer. You do not know what area of your application the admissions committee will focus on; if it is this section, you do not want it to be blank or incomplete.
Your grades are an important part of your application. If you have graduated and your GPA is set in stone, do not worry. Just as the application provides opportunities for you to represent yourself beyond your LSAT score, the same applies in terms of your GPA.
However, if you are still an undergrad student, safeguard your GPA by doing the following:
- Aim high. If your GPA is strong, do everything you can to keep it at its current level. If your GPA is lower than you would like, look for ways to increase it as much as possible.
- Study hard. Most of the time, your grades will depend on your study habits. So, if you are getting good grades, do not let up on your studying. If you are not doing as well as you would like, try changing your study habits.
- Choose your classes wisely. The classes you take can also impact your GPA. You should never take easy classes just for the sake of getting higher grades. However, if you are considering adding an extra major but you worry that it might overwhelm you, maybe hold off on adding it. If you are looking to improve your GPA and you feel you can handle taking some extra credits, consider taking more and excelling at them to gain a stronger GPA.
The LSAT does not define your law school application. Therefore, if you did not perform as strongly as you would have liked on the LSAT, the rest of your application provides a great opportunity for you to make up for it. At the same time, if you knocked it out of the park with your LSAT, you should not get lazy on the rest of the application, as it could cost you.