How Do Law Schools Make Admission Decisions?
Before a law school can make an admission decision, it must receive your
- Credential Assembly Service (CAS) Law School Report (or LSAT Law School Report if the school doesn't require CAS)
- letters of recommendation
- application fee
- any additional requirements unique to that particular school
Your undergraduate grade-point average (UGPA) and LSAT score are most predictive for success in law school and are fundamental for admission decisions.
Your LSAT score is an integral part of your law school application for most law schools. Scores are based on the number of questions answered correctly (the raw score). There is no deduction for incorrect answers, nor are individual questions on the various test sections weighted differently.
Raw scores are converted to an LSAT scale that ranges from 120 to 180, with 120 being the lowest and 180 the highest possible score.
Most law schools look closely at your college grades and course selection. UGPA is often a strong indicator of how well you'll perform in law school. Law schools also view difficult or advanced undergraduate courses more favorably.
Many schools also consider your undergraduate performance trend. They may discount a slow start in your undergraduate career if you performed exceptionally well in later years. Similarly, a strong start followed by a mediocre finish could be an indication of less potential to succeed in law school.
When you complete your applications, be sure to comment on any irregular grade trends in your academic record.
Letters of Recommendation
The most effective letters of recommendation are written by professors or work supervisors who know you well enough to describe your academic, personal, or professional achievements honestly and objectively. Letters that compare you to your academic peers are often the most useful. Most schools do not consider general, unreservedly praiseworthy letters helpful.
English Proficiency Exam for International Students
If English isn't your native language, most law schools will ask that you take a standardized test, such as the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).
As you consider schools, make sure you identify which schools require this test. Each school has its own standards for minimum required scores.
LSAC accepts score reports for either TOEFL or IELTS exams.
Law schools want to recruit people who are qualified for reasons beyond grades and scores. The essay or personal statement is your opportunity to tell the committee what sets you apart from others.
An essay on actual experiences and past accomplishments has more value to the committee than speculation about future accomplishments. Any noteworthy personal experience or accomplishment may be an appropriate subject, but be sure to do more than just state it. Describe your experience briefly but concretely, and explain why it had value to you.
Law schools want diverse, interesting classes that represent a variety of backgrounds. A candidate who applies to law school several years after his or her undergraduate education, and who has succeeded in a nonacademic environment, may be seen by a law school as more motivated than one who continues his or her education without a break.
Conditional Admission Programs
If you're concerned about your numerical qualifiers, you may want to consider applying for a law school conditional admission program. These programs provide an excellent way to get a feel for the rigors and demands of law school. After successfully completing a school’s program, you may be offered admission to the school. Admission to conditional programs is at the sole discretion of the school offering the program.
Attend a Law School Forum
Forums give you the chance to meet face-to-face with representatives from nearly all of the ABA-approved law schools. Attend a forum to learn more about the application process, ask questions, and research schools on a more personal level.