The road to your J.D. or LL.M. can be complex and sometimes confusing. To help keep you on track, here’s a calendar of what law applicants should be doing, and when.
Don’t Forget: Law schools will begin taking applications for fall admissions in September. Because most law schools have a rolling admissions policy, we generally advise applicants to try to apply early in the application cycle. (We stress generally because some applicants might actually benefit from taking additional time to compile an alternate transcript, retake the LSAT, etc.) For details, see what Senior Consultant Heike Spahn has to say about rolling admissions and application timing.
“Many applicants believe that their LSAT score is the determining factor as to whether they will be admitted. But if the rest of your application is weak, a strong LSAT score rarely carries you through.”
– Senior Admissions Consultant Heike Spahn. Heike was formerly Associate Director of Admissions and Dean of Financial Aid at the University of Chicago Law School.
- If you haven’t already taken the LSAT, make plans to do so now. A list of test dates is available at www.lsac.org. Don’t forget that the December test is the last one that many law schools will accept test scores from for next fall.
- When you prepare for the LSAT, make sure you use updated test prep materials. You can download a practice test from the LSAC website that includes the comparative reading question format.
- Are you thinking of squeezing in one more LSAT session this fall, to try to raise your score? Think twice. Contrary to a piece of admissions ‘advice’ that has been making the rounds, the recent change in the ABA’s policy on how schools report multiple LSAT scores does not mean that you can rack up a long string of test scores without affecting your admissions chances. For more reliable guidance on how admissions committees view multiple scores, see “Putting Multiple LSAT Scores in Context.”
- Are you unsure if you need a LSAT prep course? Call us at 1.800.809.0800 to discuss your situation. We’re here to help you!
“Just as law schools look beyond LSAT and GPA numbers when assessing applicants, so should applicants look beyond ranking numbers when considering JD programs.”
– Admissions Consultant Amy Johnson. Amy formerly served as Director of Admission for the Tulane University Law School.
- Finalize your list of target schools. Collect information on their application procedures, including application season opening and closing dates. Collect information on several ‘back-up’ schools, too, in case you’re not accepted by your top-priority schools. Even strong applicants need to be realistic about their admissions chances at the top schools. The top-tier J.D. programs usually admit fewer than 1 in 5 applicants. At the same time, though, remember that the name of the school on your law degree will make a difference to your law career. The more prestigious the school you attend, the more options you’ll have later on. That’s why it’s a good idea to prioritize your target school list and to apply to your top-choice schools early in the application season.
- Plan to apply only to as many schools as you can submit well-prepared applications for. You’ll get better results by applying to 5 stretch schools with applications that reflect 100 per cent of your best effort than you will by applying to 10 schools with applications that each reflect 50 per cent of your best effort. And don’t apply to any school that you wouldn’t be genuinely happy to attend. You’ll be wasting your time and money if you do. Nothing biases a law school admissions committee against a candidate more than a palpable lack of enthusiasm for their school.
- Visit schools. Try to meet with admissions staff and students, and see if you can sit in on a class, if any are offered over the summer. Begin networking with current students, faculty, and alumni from your targeted schools. Think about what it is that appeals to you most about your top-choice schools and how you can work those topics into your applications.
- Start making notes about possible story themes and ‘wow’ factors that will make your application stand out from the rest of the pool. Good ideas and deep introspections cannot be rushed!
- The law school admissions committees will be taking a hard, critical look at your profile. You must do the same thing first. Only by understanding your candidacy from their perspective can you best mitigate your weaknesses, highlight your strengths, frame your fit, and employ the ‘wow’ factors that differentiate you from the many other highly qualified applicants in your demographic.
- Your weaknesses. Sometimes it is best not to bring attention to a weakness. Other times, it must be mitigated. Weaknesses can be mitigated in the personal statement, addendum, or letters of reference.
- Your strengths. You need to become a self-promoter without coming across as arrogant. You also need to prioritize the personal strengths you want to highlight, as you will probably not have space in the application to give adequate detail about all of them.
- Your story themes and ‘wow’ factors. Ask yourself what the most important points you need to make about your background, values, beliefs, experiences, and reasons for pursuing law school are. Have you adequately prioritized these points? If you attempt to convey too many different issues, you risk coming across as disparate, and will not be able to cover any single point in adequate detail. Decide what it is that makes you unique in a way that is going to make an admissions officer want to recruit you to their school.
- Your fit. Why are you a match made in heaven for the specific law school being targeted? Why will you be a better fit and contribute more to the program and community than the other applicants? Does your application convincingly argue that, if admitted, you will gladly attend the program?
- Familiarize yourself with the application process that lies ahead of you by looking over the application materials used by your targeted law schools this year. Start organizing documents and notes that you’ll want to refer to when you begin working on your applications.
- Request copies of your college transcripts for your own reference. Remember that admissions committees won’t be looking at just your overall GPAs. They’ll also look at what classes you took and how you did in each one. Ask yourself whether your transcripts have gaps such as a pattern of drops or withdrawals, or lower-than-average scores in writing-intensive or quantitative courses.
- Contact the people you want to write your letters of recommendation. Tell them why you would value their recommendation and talk to them about the points they would need to make in their letters to best compliment your story. Writing up the points that you want them to discuss is a good starting point. Help your recommenders to focus on the points you need them to make. Remember, a 1- to 2-page, succinct recommendation is almost always better than a 3- or more page, rambling letter
- Consider whether you might benefit from adding an additional, optional letter of recommendation to your file. Would an additional letter help to substantiate a story theme or ‘wow’ factor, highlight your strengths, or, possibly, mitigate a weakness?
Our Law School Admissions Timeline page will be updated on September 1.