Thursday, February 19

Getting Into Law School: How to Impress Admissions (Session 1)

How to Impress Admissions

Admissions committees ("ACs") may look at over 1,000 applications each year. Each of the different pieces of the application resembles pieces of a puzzle that help them get a better understanding of the individual. ACs prefer a candidate that is a both good fit for their school and one that is at a point in life where he or she is able to dedicate three years to rigorous law classes. It's advised to have an application reviewed by others so that ACs aren’t left with questions about this individual.

Components of Most Applications:

1. Application. This lets ACs see other schools the student has applied to and what type of law he or she is interested in. It is also easy to tell whether a student applied to law schools in Boston or 50 schools nationally.

2. LSDAS Report. The LSDAS report includes LSAT scores, LSAT writing sample, transcripts, and sometimes letters of recommendations depending on the school. Together, these components give ACs a clearer perspective of the student's academic and professional abilities. Performance in classes that challenged the student’s writing, reading, and critical thinking skills will be examined more carefully than others. The report illustrates trends in GPA by semester and explanations in irregularities usually belong in the Addendum section of the application.

3. LSAT writing sample. This will be disseminated to schools after taking the exam and will be an important sample of your writing ability, articulation and professionalism. ACs like to see you take the questions seriously and you answer what the question asks.

4. Recommendation letters. These may be included in your LSDAS report or submitted separately depending on the school. Select individuals who are able to write strong, positive recommendations about your abilities as an employee or student. When approaching potential writers, ask if they are able/willing to write you a strong letter of recommendation. If not, just move on.

Select individuals based on their relationship with you, not their prestige.
For example, if you’ve had a class with a noteworthy professor but you have worked more closely with the TA, admissions committees would prefer to hear from the TA since they will be better at articulating your writing ability.

Collaborate with the person writing the recommendation.
It’s suggested you show this individual other parts of your application so there aren’t any surprises when your entire application package is reviewed. This also gives you a chance to preview what that person will ultimately say about you before it is submitted. It’s more useful for admissions committees to hear from a writer that can articulate specific examples of your performance rather than a writer who uses pedantic adjectives or buzzwords.

5. Personal Statement. This is a key part of the application that gives ACs a good sense of who you are as an individual and differentiates yourself from other candidates. Make sure this document is proofread carefully. Some personal statement questions are broad; some are more specific. Always read the instructions carefully and answer the question that is being asked.

Margins and font size, like most papers, are important to the reader. Don't spend a lot of time with this. Either you can't fit it in 2 pages, or you're trying to stretch it to two pages. Don't be too creative.

It’s all about you. Don't talk about how great the law school is. They already know about the law school. Tell them something else about you that they can't find in other parts of the application. Keep your writing honest, and in your own voice. Does it sound like you wrote it? They will compare it to other samples of writing they receive.

6. Resume. It is not always required, but check with the law school. Your resume should highlight extracurricular activity (have you held a leadership position, what types of things interest you), community service involvement, Pre-Law Society, and other things you have tried outside the classroom. ACs like to see that the student has tried out the law in some way, shape, or form.

7. Addendums. This part of the application is for explaining irregularities in the application, disciplinary action, and another place to demonstrate your writing ability. Students frequently discuss dips in GPA, a significant jump in an LSAT score or other egregious circumstances.

Be sure to keep it short and to a paragraph. Law schools require students to declare disciplinary action in this section. Writing should not be conceited or arrogant. For example, if a student was caught with alcohol in the dorm, they apologize and move on. Alcohol violations are taken more lightly than other situations. If you have been caught cheating, it is a difficult situation to overlook. A student's character and integrity will be questioned in the application and in their career.

It's detrimental to ones application, degree, or career to submit false or misleading information in an application. Disclose any discrepancies that may adversely affect your application, as these will be verified. Your record might be clean, however, your history may not be. Check your transcripts, check with OSCCR even if you're sure there isn't any information on you. It's better to be safe than sorry.

About 30 students attended this afternoon. From a show of hands, about 8 have decided to go to law school and about 6 taking will be taking some time off.


1. How do ACs view taking time off between undergraduate and law school?
It's good to get experience. Get involved in the community with something that touches on a legal issue or volunteer at a law firm. In general, taking time off is a good thing. They look to see that you are mature adult and spending your time wisely. Some schools may prefer to see students volunteer for 40 hours rather than work for 4 months.

2. When is good to get people to write recommendations?
When it's fresh in their mind. Ask them before you graduate. Keep them updated on what you've been up to so they aren’t surprised to hear from you when you contact them.

3. What is important to emphasize in a resume for law schools?
Talk to a prelaw advisor and career services to help with your resume or personal statement. Law schools like seeing awards in college, not so much in high school since the recognition isn’t recent. ACs like hearing about remarkable hobbies. Are you a champion ice skater? How do you spend your personal time? “Poker” is not something to mention in a law school application. It raises serious questions over a student’s ethics. Since lawyers are in a self-regulated profession, they may wonder if a student would wager money from a client or firm. Do not put “poker” in your law school application. Similarly, don’t put “travel” or “music” on the resume. Both are extremely ambiguous. You occasionally leave town? You have an iPod? Make sure to highlight accomplishments, not general activities.

4. What do students overlook on campus tours? What questions would you recommend they ask or places/people to speak with while visiting?
Look at the careers services office. How helpful are they at answering your questions? How many contacts do they have? How many staff members do they have? What type of firms do they have relationships with? Look at the median starting salary of graduates. Don’t be shy. Most law schools are proud of employers their graduates get jobs with and should have a list.
What is the school’s proximity to the city and main business district as a remote location may inhibit employment opportunities (travel, costs). Also, visit a school more than once.
Talk to the student ambassadors. Most admissions offices don’t screen emails sent to these students and have their contact information listed on the admissions website. They are asked to answer prospective students questions candidly.

5. Minorities
Find out what are the different minorities at the school (LGBT, race). If you are in a minority group, it’s important to ask how that group is represented or welcomed in the school and community.

6. Daytime vs. Nighttime program?
The major advantage of full time program is you have more time to study and get good grades.

7. How do law schools view taking the LSAT multiple times?
The LSDAS shows all scores and the average of all tests. The trend is that more schools take the highest, though some still take the average of the scores. This can vary by law school by year. .

8. Is it bad to apply to many law schools?
Schools notice it but it won't break your application. In this economy, it's not unheard of to apply to many.

9. Prep classes
If you're able to enroll and take one, do so. The LSAT is the most important component in your application. Make sure you commit time to it and that other things in your life don’t detract from your preparation. Difference in scores can mean differences in availability to scholarships or millions of dollars in salary earned in a lifetime.


Carrie Taubman JD, Associate Director of Admissions at Northeastern University School of Law.
(617) 373-2395
101 Knowles Center

Attorney V-Tsien Fan, Pre-Law Advisor. Attorney Fan received his J.D. from Indiana University-Bloomington, where he also served as a pre-law advisor. Attorney Fan served as an assistant district attorney in Philadelphia between 2004-2007. He received his undergraduate degree in microbiology from the University of Maryland, College Park and has worked in the biotechnology field. Currently he is a doctoral student in the College of Criminal Justice PhD. Program.
(617) 373-3327
409 Churchill Hall

Susan Loffredo, Associate Director at Career Services.

View the post from the second event here.

Jim Parker