The Application Process

Chapter 6
THE APPLICATION PROCESS

The application process for law school involves providing reliable information to admissions committees which they use to help determine which students will be successful in their law school, positive additions to their student body, and good practitioners of the art of law. The process usually consists of completing an application, writing a personal statement, obtaining letters of recommendation, providing a Dean's Letter of Certification, sending your undergraduate transcripts to the Law School Credential Assembly Service (LSCAS), and earning an LSAT score.

You should plan to apply to law school in the fall of your senior year if you intend to go directly to law school, or the fall before whichever year you wish to enter school. While there are a very small number of law schools which begin in other semesters, almost all entering law school students begin during the Fall Semester. A good general rule in choosing the schools to which you would like to apply is to look for about six schools: two schools that are your ideal or "reach" schools, two schools where you believe you are competitive, and two "safety" schools whose admission standards are not so competitive. Virtually every law school makes available its "numbers," which reflect the median grade point average (GPA) and the Law School Admission test (LSAT) score of the previous year's incoming class. A "median" is a term describing the score that is in the center of all of the scores, so the median will indicate to you that half of the class scored above that number, and half of the class scored below. Many schools also make available the range of all students in the entering class from the previous year. This information will be very helpful in determining the schools at which you will be competitive. Your "numbers" are not the only criteria considered by a law school, but they are usually the most important. You must take your grade point average seriously from the very beginning of your college career.

The Law School Admission Test (LSAT), is considered by many schools to be the most important indicator of your ability to succeed in law school. You must rigorously prepare for this test, with the intention of taking it only once. Although there are exceptions, many law schools now accept the highest LSAT score rather than taking the average LSAT score. You should never take the LSAT unless you are prepared for it to be reported to law schools. The test is given four times each year usually early in February, June, September or October, and December. There are many factors to consider in deciding when you wish to take the test. You should allow yourself 6 weeks to 3 months before the test for serious nightly preparation, whether in an individual plan of self-study or in an official preparation course.

The June test is always given on a Monday, and may prove to be the optimal time, as spring semester will have ended a month before the test. Waiting until December or February can be risky, as an unexpected illness or other circumstance may prevent or impair your ability to do well, and there would not be another chance to take the LSAT for that year's application. The February test date is acceptable for some schools but not all, so you must be aware of the deadlines for each school you are considering. Any and every score you earn on the LSAT remains valid, and will be reported to law schools, for five years.

The Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) provides complete and detailed information regarding the policies and procedures relating to the LSAT and the law school application process. You are encouraged to get familiar and review this information as often as necessary on the LSAC website at www.lsac.org.

LSAC also provides materials that explain LSAT test format in detail, and you should read them thoroughly. It also provides sample questions that will assist in your preparation and includes a registration form. LSAC also offers a previously-administered test that you may use to prepare for the test. You will want to register for the test either via the website or mail in the registration form well before the deadline, because your most convenient testing site may fill quickly. You will also need to subscribe to LSCAS, the Law School Credential Assembly Service, for the year during which you will be applying to law school. This is a centralized service that is used by almost all law schools. You will register with LSCAS and supply it with all of your college transcripts. LSCAS uses this information along with your LSAT score to prepare an academic file on you. When you apply to law schools, each school will contact LSCAS for your file. LSAC willl not send your file to law schools until all required materials have been received.

There are significant costs involved in applying to law school. See the LSAC website for detailed information on the current costs of applying for the LSAT, Law School Credential Assembly Service (LCAS), and to law schools. LSAC also offers Fee Waivers to those who qualify.

Treat the entire application process seriously and respectfully. Try to type your applications, or you may want to consider the option of applying online by computer, as it allows for faster processing. Put serious thought, and several re-writes, into preparing your personal statement. Admissions counselors suggest that you think of the personal statement as your best chance to emerge from the application as a real person.

Counselors recommend that when writing your statement, imagine the law school admissions committee literally sitting around the table with your file and information lying on the table before them, and you are allowed to enter the room for five minutes to tell them why you want to attend their law school.

You may include an addendum to your record if you wish. An addendum is in essence, a short memo written to explain a specific situation, such as one particular semester when there was an illness or family crisis. You do not want to use the personal statement to dwell on explaining "bad things" in your record, but you should address them quickly in your statement, or in an addendum, and then focus on presenting a positive image of yourself, an honest expression of your desire to pursue the study of law, and perhaps a summary of how your past experiences have brought you to this point. Different law schools will have different questions or prompts for your personal essay, and it is important that you answer the question you have been asked, and not write a generic statement to submit to every school.

It should go without saying that, on questions concerning your academic or legal record, you must always tell the entire truth. If necessary, write an explanation on a separate sheet that briefly addresses the circumstances and the way they were handled, provide a positive and sincere expression of the effect it may have had, and what you have done since then.

Your extracurricular activities including community service,can be a valuable addition to your application. You do not need to feel that you must be able to list an entire page of participation in every organization you can imagine, but showing how you have chosen to use your time in organizations or volunteer experiences that reflect your commitments and values is important. It can be equally important to mention if your circumstances involved significant family or work obligations.

While letters of recommendation are often required and considered, keep in mind that poor recommendations could be detrimental to your case. You want strong academic recommendations from professors who have personally graded your written work and had you in a participatory class situation. If you had a poor academic record early on, sometimes an enthusiastic, personal letter with specifics about your recent work and performance in a particular class can make an impression. Academic recommendations are more important than employers, unless your experience has been in a closely related field and the writer can speak specifically to abilities applicable to success in law school. Recommendations from politicians or prestigious law professionals are only beneficial if the writer knows you personally and can speak specifically to your abilities.

A Dean's Letter of Certification is required by some law schools before admission is granted. Georgia law schools do not require a certification letter. Hand-deliver or mail the completed and signed Dean’s Certification Authorization & Routing Slip, along with the Dean's Certification portion of your application (if applicable), to the Office of the Registrar in 105 Holmes/Hunter Academic Building, Athens, GA 30602. The form can also be submitted via fax to (706) 583-8162. Click here for more information on processing Dean's Letters.

Other Weblinks of Interest:

LSAC's Getting Started Guide with Checklist for the application process.

Previous Chapter | Table of Contents | Next Chapter