Preparing the Application
Your application is the school’s first impression of you, so take care in preparing it. Neatness counts. Follow directions carefully, and include all requested information as completely as possible. To avoid making corrections on an application, you may want to copy the forms and fill out the copies first. If you check them over carefully yourself or with the pre-law advisor, you’ll be less likely to make mistakes when you complete the original.
The Personal Statement
Most schools require a one-or two-page personal statement. This should be viewed as an opportunity to present yourself in a way not reflected in your transcript or resume. It is a substitute in many ways for the personal interview, so let your personality emerge from the page. Do not restate the obvious or rehash material the admissions committee will already have before them. Tell the schools what you can offer them that no one else can. Accentuate experiences, traits, abilities and passions that set you apart. Be specific. Develop a narrative that will be engaging and worth the committee’s time to read. Don’t be too cute or unconventional. The personal statement is also your chance to explain anything on your record that may appear negative. In all cases, BE SURE YOUR GRAMMAR, PUNCTUATION, AND SPELLING ARE CORRECT.
Filing the Application
File your application in a timely manner. You should plan to have your applications completed and sent well in advance of the application deadlines. We recommend that you apply online as soon as possible. This will maximize your chances of acceptance, especially to schools with rolling admissions. As admissions committees begin to fill the available positions in a class, your odds of acceptance decrease with each new admittance before your application arrives.
Filing an Addendum
An addendum accompanies the application provides an opportunity to address anything on your record that may appear to be negative. You are responsible for making certain your letters of recommendation are sent in a timely fashion. Some applicants discover, even though they have filed their applications early, their files are delayed in the review process because the required letters of recommendation have not been received. This can seriously diminish their chances of acceptance, especially if they are already borderline. Be certain to include a "Law School Application Matching Form" from the back of the LSAT/CAS Registration and Information Book with each application. Law schools use it to obtain your CAS report from Law Services.
An updated resume is now an essential component of the application process. This document compliments the application and personal statement with applicant information regarding extracurricular activities and work-related experience. Like other application materials, your resume needs to be free of any grammar, punctuation and spelling mistakes. For assistance in writing a good resume, access LAS Career Services.
Letters of Recommendation
Most law schools require two or three letters of recommendation with your application, and even those that don’t will consider them with your application. Choosing your references is consequential in that it does affect your admission chances. Some schools prefer or require faculty recommendations, and do not consider a file until the faculty letters arrive. A strong faculty letter demonstrates an awareness of the student’s academic potential, and is not just a citation of a particular grade a student earned in a particular class. The wise applicant will make every effort to get to know their professors. A good mentor-student relationship can enrich your undergraduate education immeasurably and sustain your intellectual life far beyond your college and law school years. A student who pursues special projects and demonstrates true intellectual curiosity and initiative is certainly the kind of student any good law school covets. A great letter of recommendation is simply a happy by-product of a student’s hard work. The importance of faculty letters is not so significant for applicants who have been out of school for several years. Letters from employers, co-workers, or others in a position to evaluate your ability or character are appropriate. If you have maintained contact with one or more of your professors, you may of course provide a letter from him or her. If the school requires a faculty letter, you should try to comply even if you have been out of school for some time. You can include letters that amplify your time out of school. Students who are planning to apply to law school within a year or two after graduation from college may want to have letters from professors placed in their files before they graduate. Try to choose references who can be specific and who can write you the strongest possible letters. You can tactfully ask a reference if they feel they know you and/or your work well enough to write you a strong letter. If a reference seems reluctant to write a letter, find someone else. A lukewarm or negative letter will obviously damage your chances of acceptance. If a reference is willing, be sure they are able to write you a good letter. Someone who is able to compare you with other students who have attended a law school to which you are applying can be particularly persuasive. Dealing with facts relevant to law school is appreciated by the law schools, as is honesty. A letter that recognizes a candidate’s weaknesses, but is nonetheless laudatory can be of great help to an admissions committee. You can insure stronger letters by choosing your references with care; then provide them with writing samples, a resume, and your personal statement. All will help them to know you better as a student and as a person. The rule of thumb in selecting a reference is to look for the quality of letter rather than the prestige of the author. You may be acquainted with a senator or a judge who is willing to write you a letter even though he/she does not know you well. Such letters are generally a waste of the writer’s and the admission committee’s time since they tend to be so general as to be meaningless. It is preferable to get a letter from someone unrelated to the legal profession who can tell the committee more about you than they can glean from your application or personal statement. The majority of letters of recommendation are now being coordinated by the letter of recommendation (LOR) service through LSAC. PLAN AHEAD when asking for letters of recommendation. Give your references adequate time to prepare your letters. You should ask your references a few weeks before you give them the forms if they are willing to write you a letter. Then make sure you give them at least three weeks to complete and mail the letters after you have given them the material. Asking a reference on Monday to "write a letter and send it by Friday" demonstrates a wanton disregard for his or her other duties and responsibilities. Certainly it does not provoke your writer to speak well of your maturity and responsibility, or to applaud your organizational skills. The result may be a less positive letter than you might otherwise have received.
LSAC on-line account holders have the ability to have LORs sent to law schools based on each school’s requirements or preferences, and to direct letters intended for specific schools. You may submit up to four general letters to be sent to every school to which you apply. For general letters, all you need to do is identify your recommenders, print out your prefilled Letter of Recommendation Forms, and give the forms to the appropriate recommenders. Your recommender must sign the letter, insert it in his or her own envelope along with your Letter of Recommendation Form, and send it directly to LSAC. If you do not wish to provide recommender information, you will still be able to print out paper LOR forms that include your preprinted name and address. The recommender will need to complete the form. However, this could add processing time to your letter once it reaches LSAC, as your recommender’s information will not be a part of the bar code that appears on the form. This bar code expedites processing. If, for some reason, you are unable to establish an online account with LSAC, you may call 215-968-1001 to obtain paper Letter of Recommendation Forms. All letters accompanied by paper forms will be treated as general letters.
Online account holders may also arrange for targeted letters to be directed to specific law schools. If you choose to target specific letters to specific schools, you MUST use the LOR online screens to provide a brief description of the intended use or content of each letter and to specify the school to which the letter should be sent. The description will appear on the prefilled LOR form that must be printed out and given to each recommender. Recommenders must sign each letter, insert it in an envelope along with your Letter of Recommendation Form, and send it directly to LSAC. All letters received without an accompanying form or with the recommender’s signature will be returned to the recommender. You may ask one reference to provide letters for all of your applications. Most professors and employers understand that you will apply to multiple schools, and will write one letter to which they will make emendations as necessary. In a computer age, this is an imposition only if you do not give your reference plenty of advance notice and time. Several law schools require a certification form from your undergraduate colleges(s). For most, the dean’s letter simply provides your rank and indicates any academic or disciplinary proceedings. It should not serve as a substitute required by the law school for institutional aid.