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Frequently Asked Questions

Questions about law schools applications often do not have a single “correct” answer. Indeed, on many of these questions, you would find various responses, perspectives, and emphases, from different books, websites, schools, or advisors.

Keep in mind that each student’s particular circumstances are unique, and that schools frequently vary in the approaches that they take to evaluating candidates. The best way to use this material is as a starting point while also consulting additional resources.

Majors and Coursework
What should I major in?

There is no such thing as a “pre-law major,” and no list of majors that are “approved” by law schools. What law schools want to see is that you did well in your courses and that you challenged yourself. You should major in a field that genuinely commands your interest.

As one law school admissions official put it:

“You should choose the major that speaks to you. If you are really interested in pursuing anthropology, it would be silly to be a poli sci major simply because you know that poli sci majors are one of the most common majors in law school. Do what it is that speaks to you and do well in it. Any major can prepare you for law school — it’s more important that what you’re doing is challenging yourself within the major and without. Don’t confine yourself to courses in your major — we look to the whole curriculum to see how adept you are at stretching yourself to other disciplines.” University of Michigan Assistant Dean for Admissions.

Does it help double major?

Accumulating extra majors and minors for the sole purpose of buttressing your law school application is not a good strategy. The best game plan is to excel in a major that genuinely interests you.

It is true that law schools like to see that you have succeeded in a rigorous academic program. An additional major or minor could be impressive if it calls on very different kinds of skills than your first major (as in combining majors in French and Physics). However, it would not make sense to pursue such a course of study unless you had a real affinity for both subjects. Challenging yourself is not the same thing as taking on an entire major for the sole reason that it will “look good” on your resume. Indeed, such a strategy could backfire if you are unable to demonstrate your true academic ability.

Approach your undergraduate studies with what you might call a more organic, or “bottom-up” strategy. Keep an open mind in exploring your interests. Take courses in which you have an authentic curiosity. Such an approach will teach you more about your own interests, an invaluable aspect of beginning to develop your professional career.

Some students might figure that they might as well double major since they have to take a certain number of courses anyway. However if you double major without a compelling reason for doing so, you may miss the opportunity to try out a wide variety of topics, which could lead to discovering previously unrealized interests.

What courses should I take to prepare myself for law school?

There are no required courses for law school. Law schools do not expect you to gain a legal education while you are in college. They operate from the assumption that it is their job to provide you with a legal education. Even college courses that are law-related will not be a substitute for the courses that you would have to take in law school anyway.

While law schools do not expect you to have specific courses under your belt, they do expect you to have certain skills, including abstract thinking, critical analysis, persuasive argumentation, research, and writing: Preparing for Law School. The ability to express yourself clearly and persuasively in oral and written communication is prized in the legal arena; consider courses that will enhance these skills.

Rolling Admissions
What is meant by "rolling admissions?"

Almost all law schools use a “rolling admissions” approach to processing applications, meaning that after a given date, often in early September, they review individual applications as soon as they are fully submitted.

Is there an advantage to applying on the early side?

Many law schools have stated explicitly that there is an advantage to applying earlier in the application cycle, both in terms of admission and financial aid. While some schools deny that the timing makes a significant difference, it is wise to get your application submitted early.

To put yourself in the best position, a good rule of thumb is to get your applications in by late October, or by Thanksgiving at the outside.     

Here is what one law school dean of admissions said on the subject:

“You must apply early. Even though we don’t have an early decision program, the early bird does catch the worm here. And by early I’m talking about October, mid-November at the latest. 

A lot of people make the mistake of filling out their applications over the Christmas holidays. But I start reading applications in late October, and I start making offers at that time. Because we have a finite number of offers to make, not only are there fewer spots available later in the process, the competition for those spots increases.” U.C. Berkeley Boalt Law School Dean of Admissions.

LSAT
When should I take the LSAT?

For students planning to apply in the fall of their senior year, a common time to take the LSAT is in the June slot following their junior year. This timing has several advantages. Knowing your LSAT score is helpful in deciding where to apply. Although you should go into the LSAT with the intention of taking it only one time, the June date allows you to retake the exam in October if things do not go as planned. Taking the test in June also facilitates having a complete file as early as possible. If you are applying in the fall of your senior year and you do not take the test in June after your junior year, then you would want to take it in October.

Registering early for your LSAT date maximizes the chances that you will be able to take the test in your preferred location.

How should I prepare for the LSAT?

For better or worse, fair or unfair, the LSAT in fact plays a major role in law school admissions. Although the test is referred to as an “aptitude” test, it is widely recognized that preparing for the test may improve your score substantially.

The approach to preparing that works best will vary with individuals according to such variables as: work habits, learning styles, and the amount of time that you are able to devote to studying. Many people find commercial preparation courses very helpful. They may be especially useful for people who prefer the structure that a systematic course provides. Others find that they are able to prepare adequately through materials that can be obtained outside of a formal commercial course. 

Whatever else you do to prepare, you will want to make sure that your preparation includes taking complete LSAT exams under timed conditions. Taking practice exams is crucial because the LSAT not only tests whether you can get the right answers, it also tests your speed and stamina. 

A good place to start is by obtaining LSAT materials, including old exams, made available by the LSAC. Additional preparation materials are available in many bookstores and online. You might want to start by doing some preliminary preparation on your own and taking some practice exams. That may give you an idea of whether you prefer to prepare on your own or with the assistance of a commercial course.

Take preparing for the LSAT seriously. The score on this single exam makes much more of a difference to your chances of admission than, for example, the difference between an “A” and a “B” in a particular college course.

Preparation for the exam is vital because sitting for the LSAT on the test day is stressful. You likely will be in an unfamiliar setting with lots of other people who are equally nervous. The stress can make it more difficult to answer questions than it would be in the comfort of your home or wherever you may have been preparing. Taking lots of practice tests under timed conditions can help you to deal better with the stress and will give you a better feel for how to pace yourself.

I am great at Reading Comprehension and Logical Reasoning but struggling with Analytical Reasoning (aka Logic Games)--what can I do?

You are not alone. Many people find the logic games to be the most daunting part of the LSAT. This is another area where practice can make a difference. Success in the logic games typically depends on honing a general approach, including a system of shorthand notation, that works for you. You can develop this with trial and error.

The logic games tend to fall into certain general categories or game types. You may find it helpful to study each game type as a separate kind of challenge. If you develop a specific approach for each game type and teach yourself to recognize the game types quickly, you can make the logic games section more manageable. If you continue to find the logic games a major stumbling block, this may be a reason to consider getting commercial assistance in the form of a course or tutor.

Should I retake the LSAT?

There is a common misimpression that all law schools today only consider the highest LSAT score. It is true that law schools only report the highest score to the American Bar Association for certain statistical purposes. But this does not affect how law school admissions committees evaluate LSAT scores. Each law school receives all of a student’s scores and is free to evaluate them as they please.

In practice, law schools differ in the approaches that they take to multiple LSAT scores. Some schools simply do take the highest score, and others average multiple scores. Many law schools report that they look at all of the LSAT scores and determine the relative weight to be given to the difference scores on a case-by-case basis.

The variety of approaches complicates any attempt to give one-size-fits-all answers to questions about whether to retake the LSAT. You may want to check with individual schools to be sure of how they deal with multiple scores.

In deciding whether to retake the test, consider whether you have specific reasons to expect that you will get a higher score if you take it again. For instance, had you scored higher on practice tests than you did on test day? Were there unusual circumstances (i.e., unlikely to be repeated) that prevented you from doing your best on the exam? Did you have insufficient time to prepare, and will you be able to invest substantial additional time in preparing for the test the next time around?

If you have good, specific reasons to believe that you can score significantly higher, then it may be a good idea to take the test again. If you do not have such reasons, however, it may not be advisable to retake the test simply on the grounds that you wish you had scored higher. Getting a marginally higher score the second time that you take the test is not likely to make much of a difference to your chances of admission, and some people actually get a lower score on repeat examinations.

Note that some schools will take all scores into account unless given a strong reason to consider only the highest score. When applying to such schools, you may want to include an addendum with your application that briefly explains why the highest score is the best reflection of your ability (e.g. that you were ill the first time that you took the test).

Any tips for test day?

Many find that they find it eases the anxiety a bit to check out the test location ahead of time.

Bring clothing that is comfortable and can accommodate a range of temperatures. Also bring earplugs in case the site is noisy. Avoid discussing the test questions during the break; it can’t help and may cause unnecessary stress.

Recommendations
Whom should I ask?

Schools vary with respect to the number of recommendations that they require. Some applications do not require recommendations at all, while many ask for two recommendations.

If the school asks for two recommendations, it would be ideal to have two strong academic recommendations. In deciding whom to approach for recommendations, the main thing that you want to focus on is what the individual will be able to say about you. The best case is someone who knows you well and can be specific in discussing your qualifications for law school.

The schools are evaluating you, not the professional stature of your teachers. This means that it is preferable to have a detailed recommendation from a less prominent professor who knows you well than from a world-famous professor who does not know you well.

Should I submit more than the required number of recommendations?

Check each school’s policy on this. Many schools are happy to accept one additional recommendation, but may discourage more than that.

More is not inherently better. A key consideration is whether the additional recommender would be able to comment on something beyond what the other recommenders said. For example, your internship supervisor might be able to comment on your work ethic and teamwork in a way that your academic recommenders could not.

How should I ask for a recommendation?

Recommendations have more credibility when they are kept confidential. It is best to waive your right to see them.

Be professional in the way that you approach your potential recommenders. Give them  plenty of lead time. This shows that you are respectful of their time and makes it more likely that you will get a thoughtful and carefully written recommendation.

In a perfect world, you would know your recommenders well enough to remove any doubt that they would write highly complimentary recommendations. In reality, however, you may not be certain about it. To state the obvious, you do not want a recommendation from someone who is not going to write about you in a positive light. Give your potential recommenders an “out.” Instead of asking flatly whether they will write you a recommendation, you can inquire along the lines of whether they would feel comfortable writing a recommendation or would be able to write you a positive one. Leave room for potential recommenders to say that they do not feel they know you well enough to write you a strong recommendation.

Make things easy for recommenders. Not everyone is highly familiar with the LSAC. Provide the recommenders with everything they need to make the submission as easy as possible. 

Offer to furnish recommenders with additional information that might facilitate their writing of the recommendation, such as by providing your resume, transcript, or a paper you wrote in their course, or by meeting with them to discuss your interest in law school.

Personal Statement
Any tips for writing personal statements?

Some people get so caught up in finding the “perfect” topic that they overlook the importance of high-quality writing. Execution matters. This is a chance to demonstrate that you have the ability to produce clear, concise, compelling writing, which is valued highly in the legal profession.

Leave yourself plenty of time to write the statement, at least one month. Excellent writing does not come out in a first draft. It requires at least a few drafts and extensive polishing.

It is best to get feedback from several different people. Remember, though, that it is a matter of professional integrity that the work be your own. The kind of feedback you want is more general in nature, along the lines of which themes are working or which parts could be more clear.

Pay attention to detail. “Typos are extremely detrimental to your application. Proofread, proofread, proofread.” Harvard Law School Assistant Dean for Admissions.

Following is additional advice from people centrally involved in law school admissions: 

“That statement should be considered in the light of ‘what would I tell the admissions committee about me if I had the opportunity to present my case.’ Not a regurgitation of what is already on the resume you've supplied with your application, or what is already in that application! Here is your golden opportunity to tell the admissions committee about yourself...who you are, perhaps what brought you to the decision to attend law school...something to bring you to life and have you stand out as someone we want to admit. Remember, human beings are reading your application - catch our attention. Michelle Rahman, University of Richmond Associate Dean for Admissions

“The best personal statements show the applicant’s genuine interest in law school with well articulated reasoning. If there was an experience that has motivated a student to consider law school, this is the place to convey that experience! The Admissions Committee is interested in learning about the student, so if the motivating experience was painful they may share that with us, but if it was an academic experience or volunteer experience, that experience is persuasive as well.” University of Kansas School of Law Director of Admissions.

“The most critical attributes of an effective personal statement are that it be very well written--concise, easy to read, engaging—and that it clearly explain something important about who you are.”

“There is no magic formula to determine what to write. Your personal statement should be just that: personal. It is your opportunity to tell a law school why they should admit you over six or seven or ten other people who all want that seat in the class. You should take the chance to highlight your strengths. What makes you different from the rest of the pool? What do you hope to achieve with a legal education? How are you going to make this school glad that they admitted you? What will you add to the legal profession?” Boston University School of Law Director of Admissions.

“You want to make sure your personal statement gives us something we cannot find elsewhere in your application. We do not conduct interviews, so use the personal statement as a substitute. Tell me something about yourself that you would want me to know if you had 10 minutes with me. University of Virginia School of Law Senior Assistant Dean for Admissions.

“I always advise students to treat the personal statement as if they were being offered a half-hour interview. You aren’t going to be able to cover everything, so pick something about yourself that you would want the interviewer to remember and that isn’t obvious from some other part of your application.” Cornell University Law School, Dean of Admissions.

“The personal statement is the applicant’s opportunity to distinguish himself from hundreds of other applicants who have the same numbers, and the same major, and come from a similar school. The personal statement is an applicant’s opportunity to describe the distance they’ve come in their lives.

Most everyone is a very different person now than they were in high school and along that journey they develop a voice that they will be bringing into the classroom. I want to learn about the journey that developed that voice, and to the decision to apply to law school. We are looking for intellectually curious people, and we are looking for people with a diverse array of experiences. So, the ideal personal statement would bring all of that out.” U.C. Berkeley Boalt Law School Dean of Admissions.

What are common mistakes to avoid?

This is not the place to try out an alternative or experimental format, such as poetry or writing about yourself in the third person.

Do not focus so much on someone who influenced you that you forget to talk enough about yourself.

Do not use the personal statement as an opportunity to recapitulate your resume in narrative form. 

Do not rely excessively on quotations.

Stay away from pat or cliched claims, such as stating that law is for you because you enjoy arguing.

Do not use the personal statement to explain away potentially negative portions of your application, such as a semester when you got lower grades than usual. You can address these kinds of points in an addendum.

Should I individualize my personal statement for the particular school?

Law school admissions officials vary in their perspectives on this question. Try to obtain any information that you can about each school’s view on this. 

One thing to remember is that the focus of the statement should be on you. Thus, if you do touch on why a particular school is a good fit, you want to keep this portion of the essay brief.

Naturally, you want the essay to be true and authentic. If mentioning why you would be an especially qualified candidate for this particular school arises organically out of the themes of your essay, then it will make more sense to include than if the discussion will come across as perfunctory.

Recall that it is important to treat your application as a coherent whole. If you have something compelling to say about why you have an overriding interest in this particular school, consider whether there is another place in the overall application, perhaps an addendum, to get that point across. Read the text of the application questions carefully. The school may have another essay question that more readily lends itself to a discussion of your interest in that particular institution. Do not lose sight of the crucial aim of the personal statement, which is to persuade the school that they should want you as a law student on their campus.

Addendum
When is it appropriate to include an addendum with my law school application?

While it is best to check each school’s policy, many law schools welcome an addendum to the application for a variety of purposes. As Michelle Rahman has stated:

“An addendum can be a useful tool for an applicant to expand on an aspect of his/her application file that he/she feels is not adequately covered elsewhere. An addendum may indicate the circumstances behind a poor academic semester, for example, or highlight diversity factors. An addendum is particularly relevant if the applicant feels the admissions committee may have a question about a particular aspect of the application file; in such instance, or when in doubt, it is to the applicant’s benefit to write an addendum explaining the issue in his/her own words, rather than leaving the admissions committee to fill in the gaps.” University of Richmond Associate Dean for Admissions

The idea of an addendum is not simply to acknowledge a weakness in your application. Rather, it might be appropriate if there is an explanation of which you would like the admissions committee to be aware: 

“In my mind, the key is to explain not only what happened, but also why it happened. If you had a rough start to college, tell us why and what has changed since then. If your grades are great but you struggled with the LSAT, talk us through what the issue is and what you’ve done to try to overcome it.” Harvard Law School Assistant Dean for Admissions

 “If you choose to write an addendum explaining a lower LSAT score or GPA, your addendum needs to say more than ‘My LSAT/GPA is not fully reflective of my potential.’ A great many applicants likely feel this way, and if you don’t really have anything substantive or enlightening to say, you probably shouldn’t submit an addendum. Sometimes things just are what they are.

“When applying to law school, you are asking to join a profession, a profession that holds its members to very high standards. Consequently, you should expect us to really scrutinize your records and accomplishments. As a result, when compiling your application, you should take a moment to consider what, if any, questions a neutral observer might have about your application. Typically, if you think we will have a question about something, we most definitely will (and more than likely a few other things, as well). And, as noted above, as an applicant, it is your responsibility to eliminate as many of these questions and doubts as possible. Addenda are often extremely helpful in this regard.” Washington & Lee Law Director of Admissions.

If you have taken the LSAT more than once, an addendum may be appropriate to explain why the school should weight a significantly higher LSAT score more heavily than the lower one. The school may be interested to hear what accounts for the substantial discrepancy, if one exists.

As with everything on the application, it matters not only what you say but also how you say it. The addendum should be brief and presented in a professional manner. It should not come across as the offering of excuses. The tone should be informative and matter of fact.

Financial Aid
Where can I get more information about financial aid?

The LSAC provides extensive information on financial aid. Financial Aid: An Overview. This is an excellent place to start. You also will want to consult the information made available by the financial aid offices of individual law schools.

Wait List
Should I correspond with a school after I am waitlisted?

Yes. If you remain interested in a school that has waitlisted, it is important to let them know. While you do not want to overdo it, it is appropriate to contact the admissions office at different stages to confirm your continuing interest. 

You should not exaggerate your level of interest. However, if you are certain that you would accept a position from a school if offered, it is appropriate to inform them of this. Schools naturally prefer to offer their positions to students with genuine interest who would enroll if accepted. 

It also is appropriate to contact schools where you have been waitlisted to inquire about things like the expected time frame of decisions on the waitlist and whether sending any additional materials might be helpful. While you will want to check for individual schools’ policies, you should be aware that some schools welcome certain kinds of additional information:

  “Applicants who are waitlisted should examine their applications for gaps or inconsistencies and supplement their applications where appropriate. Examples include additional letters of recommendation, additional free-topic essays, and updated resumes. Candidates should also keep the Committee apprised of their plans as the summer months progress. If applicable, updated academic transcripts, LSAT scores, or any other official documents can be sent either through LSAC or directly to our office. With respect to new letters of recommendation, they should only be sent if you strongly believe that they illuminate substantially different aspects to your candidacy not covered by the previous letters submitted on your behalf.” University of Pennsylvania School of Law Associate Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid