Applying to Law School
Additional Admission Decision Factors
Law schools consider more than academic records and Law School Admission Test (LSAT) scores when evaluating applicants. Some of the most important factors are discussed below.
The most effective letters of recommendation are those from professors who have known you well enough to write with candor, detail, and objectivity about your academic and personal achievements and potential. Letters that compare you to your academic peers are often considered the most useful. Work supervisors also can write in support of your application. Most schools do not consider general, unreservedly praiseworthy letters helpful. Some schools do not require letters at all and may not read letters of recommendation if they receive them.
In addition to or instead of letters of recommendation, many law schools are now also using an online tool that allows evaluators to rate a candidate's individual attributes in six categories: intellectual skill, personal qualities, integrity and honesty, communication, task management, and working with others.
Law schools want diverse, interesting classes, representative of a variety of backgrounds. A candidate who applies to law school several years after completing his or her undergraduate education, and who has demonstrated an ability to succeed in a nonacademic environment, is sometimes more motivated than one who continues his or her education without a break. In fact, only about one third of law students enter directly from college.
Each candidate to law school has something of interest to present. Maybe you've had some experience, some training, or some dream that sets you apart from others. Law schools want to recruit men and women who are qualified for reasons beyond grades and scores. The essay or personal statement in your application is the place to tell the committee about yourself.
In general, your evaluation of actual experiences and past accomplishments has more value to the committee than speculation about future accomplishments. Also, if you have overcome a serious obstacle in your life to get where you are today, by all means let the admission committee know about it. Any noteworthy personal experience or accomplishment may be an appropriate subject for your essay; however, be sure to do more than just state it. Describe your experience briefly but concretely, and why it had value to you, whether it is a job, your family, a significant accomplishment, or your upbringing. You are simultaneously trying to add information and create structure. Be brief, be factual, be comprehensive, and be organized.
You are a storyteller here. You want a living person—you—to emerge. The statement is your opportunity to become vivid and alive to the reader, and it is an opportunity to demonstrate your ability to write and present a prose sample in a professional manner.
Prior success or failure in other graduate or professional school work, including other law schools, may also be a factor in the admission committee's decision. In any case, you are required to report such work to any law school to which you apply.
Racial and ethnic diversity is essential to the study of law, and greatly benefits the law class, the law school, and the legal profession. All law schools actively seek students who are members of underrepresented groups and strongly encourage minority applicants.
Many students from other countries are enrolled at US law schools, most frequently in graduate programs (usually called LLM programs) that are designed to meet the needs of people who already hold a recognized law degree from another country but want to learn about the legal system of the United States.
Procedures and requirements for international applicants vary from school to school. You should contact the individual schools that interest you to learn about each school's particular requirements. The LSAT is an integral part of the law school admission process in the United States, Canada, and a growing number of other countries. Most schools will ask applicants for whom English is not their native language to take a standardized test such as the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL®) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS™). Each school sets its own standard for required minimal scores on the tests.
Many law schools require applicants educated outside the United States, its territories, or Canada to use either LSAC's LLM Credential Assembly Service (LLM CAS) or another evaluation service to authenticate and evaluate the applicant's grades and degrees for US admission committees. (Candidates should check with individual law schools before registering for a service, as some law schools require the applicant's use of a specific service.) LSAC's LLM CAS collects, authenticates, evaluates, and distributes all transcripts and TOEFL scores as appropriate for each law school to which the applicant applies. The applicant is responsible for the cost of this service.
International students must also demonstrate the ability to pay for schooling in this country in order to apply for a student visa (F-1 form). You may be asked to complete a certification of finances form from the law school; if the school is satisfied that the student can pay, it will issue a form (I-20) to submit to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) as part of your application for a student visa. Because of the time required to process entry visas, international applicants are encouraged to apply for admission as early in the process as possible.
International students may be eligible for institutional grants and loans, but are ineligible for federal loans, and (in most schools) are required to have a US cosigner for private loans. Contact the financial aid office at the schools to which you are applying for more details.
In general, interviews are not a part of the law school admission process. You are encouraged to visit law schools to gather information, and often an appointment with admission personnel will be a part of the visit. The purpose of your conversation with the admission staff usually will be informational rather than evaluative and will not become a part of your admission file. An occasional school will grant an interview, and some may even request it, but, in general, you should not count on an interview as a means to state your case for admission; this is best done in the personal statement.
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