Law School Application: Core Components Breakdown
Law School Application: Core Components Breakdown: Are you new to the law school application process? Unsure of what the application includes and what’s expected of you? Here is a 10-step breakdown of its core components to get you started!
Law School Application: Core Components Breakdown
To start, you should know that most law school applications have the same core components. However, every school is different and may have additional requirements beyond what is listed here. Be sure to read each school’s application instructions carefully.
1. Application Forms
The law school application form is a multi-page document that asks you to fill out biographical information about yourself. This includes your name, date of birth, education, and past work experience. However, it will also ask you questions about your criminal and academic background. (See #2, Character and Fitness Addendum.)
Almost all applications are now online and can be found on the school’s webpage or by going directly to www.LSAC.org. (If you want to fill out a paper law school application, it’s very unlikely that you’ll find one.) If you have not yet made an LSAC account, you should start this process by creating one. The LSAC website hosts all of the law school applications for schools across the country. This makes it very easy to apply from one centralized location. LSAC also administers the LSAT, so you’ll need an account to register for the test.
2. Character and fitness addendum
Each law school application has a section in their e-app asking questions about “character and fitness.” These questions will ask candidates to disclose any past misconduct that falls into two general categories: academic and criminal. If you answered, “yes” to any of the questions listed in the character and fitness portion of the application, you will need to submit an addendum explaining the circumstances of the reported incident.
For more information, check out our post specifically addressing what exactly a character and fitness addendum is and how best to write yours.
3. LSAT Score
The Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) is a mostly mandatory entrance exam for law school applicants. While a few schools in the U.S. now accept the GRE, it is not universally accepted and most schools you apply to will want to see an LSAT score. You will need to register for a test online through LSAC.org. In your account, you can also instruct which schools will receive your score when it becomes available. It typically takes three weeks for LSAC to release scores after a test date.
Note that schools can see when you signed up for an exam and then canceled your score or were absent for a test. They can also see all of your scores from the last five years, even if they are only considering your highest or average score for admissions purposes.
You will need official copies of your transcripts from every institution you attended and received credit towards your degree. This includes summer schools, study abroad programs, and community colleges. Even if you just took a class pass/fail at your local college for summer, that transcript will need to be included.
If you completed graduate work, those transcripts will also be required for review. If you are a non-traditional student and graduated years prior, make sure to contact your school and allow extra time for your transcript processing. Depending on the year you graduated, your school may not have been using an electronic record keeping system. If so, it may take additional time to locate and scan in paper records.
5. Personal Statement
The personal statement is an opportunity for you to introduce yourself to the Admissions Committee through an essay demonstrating your background, experiences, adversity, accomplishments, and aspirations. Keep in mind that many schools do not conduct interviews so the personal statement is often your only opportunity to present yourself to them. For some schools, this is also the only document that you have complete autonomy over. Unlike your LSAT and transcripts that are already set in stone, get creative with your personal statement and take as much time as you need to complete it.
For additional guidance, be sure to check out the Do’s and Don’ts for Writing a Personal Statement.
Not all schools require a resume but almost all will accept one. As mentioned above, applicants have a small window of opportunity to introduce themselves to the Admissions Committee in their application documents. Along with your personal statement, your resume is a chance to illustrate who you are and the things that you’ve accomplished. Always submit a resume if given the opportunity to do so. Keep in mind that you should not rehash your resume in your personal statement. Use each document as a unique opportunity to demonstrate who you are and why you are a great candidate for law school.
7. Letters of recommendation
Ideally, your letters of recommendation will be both professional and academic. However, if you’ve just graduated from school and have little to no work experience, it’s perfectly fine if you submit multiple academic letters. These should come from professors, if possible, as opposed to teaching assistants or advisors. If you’ve graduated 10+ years ago and have a lot of work experience but little contact with your former professors, then it’s perfectly fine to submit multiple professional letters of recommendation. Try to make sure at least one comes from someone in a supervising or managerial position.
Letters will need to be submitted by the author directly to www.LSAC.org to be added to your application. Be sure to give your recommenders plenty of time to write a strong recommendation for you.
8. Optional Essays
Some schools may ask for one or more additional essays. They generally focus on topics such as the diversity that you will bring to the school, past work experiences, challenges you’ve faced, or contributions you’ve made to the community. If you have the chance to write additional essays, do so! They are great opportunities to bolster your application and help it stand out.
While not submitting an essay may not hurt your application, you stand to benefit greatly by sending in additional essays.
9. Writing Sample From LSAT
Know that each writing sample you complete after finishing an LSAT test will also be included in your application. Reviewers will often read through your writing sample just to make sure that basic writing skills are there. They also want to make sure that you didn’t just skip it altogether. Law schools understand that this essay comes after a long and strenuous LSAT test. However, make sure to still take it seriously. Admissions offices still read and evaluate them!
10. CAS Report
The CAS report stands for Credential Assembly Service. CAS is an LSAC service that bundles many of your law school application documents such as your transcripts, letters of recommendation and LSAT score and sends the package to schools on your behalf. It allows you to only upload those documents one time and send them to as many schools as you need. Keep in mind that LSAC, and not law schools, administer this service. The current fee for this service is $195. More information can be found on the LSAC website.
Along with the CAS service, is a CAS Report. This is not something that you will need to compile or submit. but You should know will be included as part of your application by LSAC.
The CAS Report includes many things. It offers a recalculated comprehensive GPA of your submitted transcripts. It translates international grades to a 4.0 system used throughout the United States, but also takes into account withdrawals, pass/fail courses, and grades you may have received at a community college or any intuition other than your degree-granting school. (Note that when you transfer schools your GPA does not transfer with you. This algorithm will recalculate the GPA with those original courses added in.) See a full rundown on how LSAC recalculates your GPA.
In addition to a recalculated GPA, statistics will be provided on how you as an applicant compare to your peers at your undergraduate school. The Report will provide the average LSAT score for students graduating with you that took the test, and the average GPA of those who shared your major. (This is often helpful to contextualize applicants with science majors whose classes may notoriously be graded harshly.)
While the CAS Report is nothing to worry since you have no control over it, you should know what it is and that it’s part of the review process for your application.
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