Ms. JD’s Pre-Law Prep Guide: Applying to Law School: What You’ll Need and How You Should Prepare (Part I)
Editor's Note: Each week, at Ms. JD and Levo League, Ms. JD Board Member Courtney Gabbara and Bridget Sheehan will take you step-by-step through the law school application process.
Alright, time to get down to the nitty gritty of the law school application! We know up until this point, we have been guiding you on the decision of whether or not to go to law school. Recognizing that you have made this big decision, now it is time to go over your application and evaluate how much emphasis is placed on each aspect. Since this is a whole new world for you, use our tips as a starting point. We still encourage you to research each school you are applying to, so you know that you’ve satisfied their individual requirements.
LSAT & GPA
Given that these are just two little numbers, it can seem odd that law schools place so much weight on them! Here’s what you need to know: The LSAT is considered a predictor of law school success, which is why schools rely on it so much. It tests the prospective law student on logical reasoning, reading comprehension, and analytical skills, which are all used in law school. A predictor, yes, but a perfect predictor? Not always. When preparing for the LSAT, be sure to look into different LSAT prep providers. Sometimes, these programs tend to be pricey, so plan ahead (more to come soon on how to best prepare for the LSAT).
Typically, admissions committees look at your LSAT score and GPA side by side. Why? Because these are the only two universal indicators schools have to compare you to every other Jane, Joe, and Jackie. The fun and unique thing about law school is that students who are applying come from all walks of life, so to ensure that each student isn’t judged solely on a subjective basis, they use the GPA and LSAT scores as predictors of academic success. A high GPA and a high LSAT indicates that you will do well in law school.
Are you concerned about those blips on your transcript? If you’re in that boat, rest assured that admissions committees tend to be well trained to look for specific patterns so they’re generally not analyzing your transcript on a semester by semester basis. Nevertheless, key considerations include: the academic rigor of your major, the types of classes you took, and if there are any grade trends (i.e. a weak semester, a switch in major, and/or continuous improvement throughout your education).
Letters of Recommendation
It is interesting to hear the differences in opinion about the weight given to letters of recommendation (“LOR”). Whatever you have heard, forget it! LORs are just as important as any other part of your application. Why? Because it gives admissions committees the chance to hear from a third party about what makes you tick and what you bring to the table as a possible future admit. So who should be writing these LORs? Easy--anyone who knows you, minus family!
Students come to us all the time and ask if a LOR from ‘Senator Fill in the Blank’ would make them stand out. You know what the first question is that we ask back? ‘What can they tell us about you?’ At the end of the day, you have to remember that your entire application may be the only ‘face time’ you have with the admissions committee--your one opportunity to make an impression. Why would you waste that opportunity with a big name and no substance? We suggest looking at people who really know you. This means professors who may be able to speak to your natural enthusiasm or curiosity in their course, an employer or colleague you have done an assignment for that you knocked out of the park, or even a clergy member or director of a volunteer program you have come to invest your time and energy into. It is our hope that these people can really speak to your character and tell the admissions committee what an asset you would be to their school.
The resume can be an extremely important piece in your application. If throughout your application, you are emphasizing that you are a hard worker, driven, love to help people, etc., admissions committees want to see you ‘put your money where your mouth is’ and show them through your experience. (Note: for those trying to go straight from undergrad to law school, your resume shouldn’t include anything from high school, unless it is extremely relevant). Many prospective students think it is essential to have a legal internship on their resume when they apply (we don’t necessarily disagree); however, law schools want diversity when building an entering class and therefore not every resume should look the same.
Essentially, schools are looking for experiences that tell us about you, your interests, and what moves or motivates you. When highlighting those experiences, be sure to create a clean, easy to read one page (and in some cases two page) resume with bullets that start with action verbs, using numbers to emphasize or highlight your level of responsibility. Organize everything into sections with each correlating experience falling under it in reverse chronological order. Voila! You now have a strong resume! (PS. There’s lots of great resume advice on Levo League’s site! Start with this article.)
Now you can get started on your application! Next week, we’ll consider two of the tougher parts of the application process: the personal statement and addendums!
Bridget Sheehan and Courtney Gabbara are both Assistant Directors of Admission at Michigan State University College of Law and recent graduates of the Law College. Having met in law school through Moot Court, both women have found a long lasting friendship based on their future career interests, laughter, and love of nachos. Bridget graduated from Saint Xavier University with a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice and has actively pursued her interests in family and criminal law. She is originally from Chicago, Illinois and enjoys college football, specifically Notre Dame (Go Irish!), reading, and country music. Courtney earned her Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Michigan State University and has been a Ms. JD Board Member since April of 2011. Her hobbies include scrapbooking, running Warrior Dash, and cooking.