Applying to law school requires a lot of work. You can put in all this effort only to have a problem arise and threaten all the progress you have made in developing your application. But regardless of the situation, there are ways to overcome such issues. In this blog post, we at Stratus walk you through some strategies.
Problems with Letters of Recommendation
One of the most common issues with law school applications is related to letters of recommendation. This makes sense, as this one is largely out of your hands. Even if you ask someone reliable to be a recommender well in advance, they could still let you down.
For example, the recommender could reach out right before the letter is due and tell you that they can no longer write it. Alternatively, the recommender could outright stop responding to your inquiries about the letter. In either situation, it is generally best to cut your losses and move on to a new recommender. The person you asked might be dealing with circumstances that are preventing them from writing your letter. And if they are not responding, they are likely just too busy to write the letter.
If you have another recommender in mind, reach out to them. If you feel you only have a limited number of people who could write you a letter, expand your thinking. For example, if your first choice of recommender was a professor with whom you had a close relationship, and that person cannot write the letter, reach out to professors of some other undergrad classes in which you excelled. Some of those professors might remember you better than you think.
As you reach out to new recommenders, keep the following tips in mind:
- Specify a deadline, but be flexible if possible. Although you might be in a time crunch, try to be a little flexible on timing. You should generally give recommenders at least two to four weeks. If you would like the letter completed sooner, you could mention that time is of the essence but you completely understand if they need two to four weeks.
- Be gracious. As with any recommender, make sure you are humble and gracious. No matter how stressed you are, do not put pressure on them.
Many law school applicants take the LSAT the summer before they apply. For these applicants, a common issue is that they have a target score that they do not meet by the time they take the test. For example, you might start studying in May to take the August LSAT and have a goal score of 165 but are only scoring 160 on practice tests a few weeks before the LSAT test date. If you find yourself in this situation, consider the following options:
- Delay your test date. One option here is to push back your LSAT test date. Unless you are applying for early decision, you can probably afford to submit your application as late as December. If you feel your LSAT scores are improving but just not fast enough, a month or two more of studying could make all the difference. Even if your test score is not improving, delaying a month or two to take a class, get a tutor, or study more could make all of the difference.
- Cancel your first score if it does not meet your goal. Alternatively, if this is your first time taking the LSAT, you could take the test and see how you do, and then cancel your score if it is not what you had hoped. This can prove beneficial because sometimes practice test scores improve under real test conditions. Even if your score does not improve, taking the exam in a real testing environment could give you crucial practice for the next time you take it.
- Delay your application. Furthermore, you could consider delaying your application until next year. It can be difficult to find enough time to study sufficiently in a few months to get the LSAT score you need, but if you give yourself about a year and even multiple attempts to take the LSAT, you should be in a much better position to get the score you want.
Another problem that can occur with LSAT scores is that you could be scoring well on the practice tests but do much worse on test day. Here are three ways to approach this issue:
- Take your chances and apply. First, depending on your GPA and how much lower your LSAT score was versus your expectations, you can keep moving ahead and take your chances by applying anyway. Your stats might still allow you to get into some of your target schools. And even if you do not get in, you could always reapply in the next cycle.
- Retake the LSAT in a few months. You could also retake the LSAT in a month or two. By taking the LSAT, you have gained the experience of testing under real conditions, which itself could help you the next time you take it. Additionally, with a real score in hand, you could use the next month or two to zero in on your weakest areas.
- Delay your application and retake the LSAT after several months. Similarly, you could apply in the next cycle and then retake the LSAT in six months to a year. This extra time will allow you to capitalize on your experience of taking the LSAT and could help you do much better.
In terms of GPA, some students who transfer during their undergrad studies have a lower LSAC (Law School Admission Council) GPA because of how the LSAC calculates certain credits. Others have lower GPAs for a variety of reasons. If you have concerns about your GPA, here are some actions to consider:
- Improve your LSAT score. First, you should capitalize on your LSAT score. You can afford to be a bit below the median GPA for a school if your LSAT score is a bit above the median. So, do whatever you need to do to increase your LSAT score, even if it changes your application timeline.
- Explain your GPA. Alternatively, you could write an addendum explaining the issues in your GPA. If you pursue this option, keep it neutral and brief; just explain why your GPA may appear abnormal.
Although it is unfortunate that these issues occur in the application process, they are not insurmountable. As long as you carefully consider your options and pursue them in a calm and collected manner, these problems will not necessarily derail you!