8 Random Thoughts on the Law School Application Process

As a pre-law advisor in the Career Center, these are some points that I feel need emphasizing to AU students and alumni regarding applying to and attending law school:

  1. When applying to law school, it is often a benefit to apply early in the process (if prepared), even when you are not planning on applying early decision, which is binding, as many law schools do have certain markers that they try to hit during the application period and the bulk of applicants are not applying until January or later.  For example, a representative at one northeast law school informed me that only 18-20% of their applicants apply by their earlier deadlines (generally around mid-November), yet they try to have around 30% of the class decided upon by the end of the calendar year, and those decisions are generally made from that earliest applicant pool.  Still, those applying to law school should not rush their applications.  This is especially true with the LSAT; don’t take the LSAT unprepared.
  2. Also, applying early doesn’t automatically mean that you will hear a decision early.  In the rolling admissions process that most law schools utilize, first completed generally means first reviewed, but it doesn’t necessarily mean first decided on.  If you apply early on in the application process, but don’t find out as soon as some of your friends who apply later find out, it generally means that their applications were either more of a clear “yes” or a clear “no” and the admissions committee is waiting to see more applications before making a decision on your application.
  3. In general, law schools don’t rank the candidates on their waitlists.  Therefore, it is very important for applicants who have been waitlisted to follow-up with that law school on a regular basis (every month or so) to reiterate their interests.  Law schools want to feel confident that if they go to their waitlists that those applicants are going to accept their offers.  Often students apply to law school before their fall or spring grades come in.  Those applicants who have been waitlisted definitely would want to provide law schools with their latest transcripts (especially if their GPA has gone up).  Some schools’ admissions committees might even ask waitlisted applicants for an additional letter of recommendation that might provide some insight that was not provided by the applicant’s other reference letters.
  4. If you’re thinking about law school but aren’t really sure, sit in on a law school class to try to get a feel for what it will be like.  You might contact the Washington College of Law and see if you can sit on one of their first-year courses in torts, contracts, or civil procedures.
  5. If applicants do take the LSAT more than once, it is the higher LSAT score of the accepted applicant that will be reported and ultimately impact the ranking of the law school.  However, although many schools do emphasize that they really only look at the highest LSAT score, this is not the same with all schools.  Admissions committees do see the scores from all the applicant’s LSATs, and several admissions counselors have basically told me that “they will look at all the scores from the applicant along with the applicant’s other application materials and then try to form the best picture of that applicant from those materials.”
  6. Many law schools do not conduct evaluative interviews with applicants.  Several, however, will set up interviews for the applicant with alumni or with current law school students.  However, these “interviews” are often informational in nature, meant to give the applicant a better feel for the school, and will not necessarily impact the admissions decision.  One reason for this is that admissions committees generally want to make a very “objective” decision regarding applicants, a decision based on what is in the applicant’s application materials, as opposed to subjective decisions (i.e., they do not want to be swayed by personal interactions with or quick impressions of the applicant).
  7. Taking time off between one’s undergraduate education and law school is not necessary but is becoming more the norm and, if approached in a purposeful manner, taking time off and gaining valuable work experience can help the individual decide whether law school, or another path, is right for them.  Over half of law school applicants now do take time off between undergrad and law school.  The amount of time will range between schools and between full-time and part-time programs, however in a lot of cases, 2-3 years between undergrad and law school is typical.  Again, if one does take time off to “rejuvenate”, or to explore career fields, or to feel on a more stable financial footing before taking on 3-4 years of a legal education, you still want to have a game plan regarding when to pursue a legal education (or another field of graduate education) as the longer one is away from school, often it is harder to take that step to come back to academia.
  8. Although the Washington College of Law only requires one letter of recommendation and asks for no more than two, most law schools require two letters from references (and many will say no more than four).  Also, admissions committees are generally going to favor academic references over professional references, as your faculty are generally better able to speak about the applicant’s chances to succeed in a higher academic environment and can often speak very specifically to the applicant’s research, writing, and critical thinking skills.  I’ve been told by several individuals that a balance of two academic references and one professional reference often provides the law school committee with a more complete and clearer look at the applicant’s strengths as they relate to law school.

Again, these are just a few of the insights I thought important to share with students and alumni considering applying to law school.  If you are interested in talking with a pre-law advisor in the Career Center about your interest in law school or about the application process, please contact the Career Center’s front desk at 202.885.1804, or go online to the Career Center’s website, to schedule an appointment.

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