Law School Admissions FAQ
This is also available as a Coda Doc here.
Table of Contents
- LSAT (14)
- Chances of Admission (5)
- Personal Statement (10)
- Diversity Statement (3)
- Recommendations (3)
- Addenda and Why X Essays (3)
- Application Process (4)
- Financial Aid and Cost (5)
- Waitlist (2)
- Choosing a Law School, Rankings, Seat Deposits (7)
- Reapplying (3)
- General (5)
I just took the LSAT. Should I cancel my score?
We generally advise that you don't cancel unless you are sure that you bombed. Why? Three reasons:
- You may have done better than you thought.
- Many people pay a penalty for nerves on test day. A three or four point drop-off from your practice test average is common, and if you're determined to cancel every score that doesn't feel as good as your best PT, you may end up canceling all of your scores.
- Law schools only have to use your highest LSAT score for reporting purposes, so even if you do better on your next test, your first score won't compromise your chances of admission. On the other hand, if you do worse on your next test, your first score will raise your chances.
That said, even though schools use your highest score for their disclosures, they will look at your entire LSAT history for contextual information about your academic ability. A very low score (relative to your own best score) may make them doubt that the higher score is an accurate representation of your ability, and will, at the very least, require an explanation. This is why we urge you to cancel if you're sure that you bombed.
But what counts as bombing? Of course you can't know how you did, but if you feel like you scored more than seven points below your practice test average, you should consider canceling.
Do schools know if I'm registered for a new LSAT?
If you're registered for a future LSAT when you apply, yes.
If, at the time you apply, you have a current score and have registered for a future test, the admissions office can see this in the CAS report. That is when the candidate should call and clarify whether he wants the school to wait to make a decision or proceed with the current score.
If the candidate decides to register for a future LSAT AFTER he has already submitted an application, the admissions committee wouldn’t find out this information unless they go into the candidate’s electronic file to look at their CAS. Sometimes candidates get nervous about how the act of registering might be interpreted by an admissions reader.
Should I retake the LSAT?
If you think you might improve your score, then you probably should.
In general, there’s more upside to, say, a 3-point increase than there is downside to a 3-point decrease. For example, say you have a 172 but think you can score a 175. If you retake and slip, a 169 won’t look good in the context of your 172, but it won’t be nearly as bad as a 175 would be good, since schools only have to report the highest score. That means that if you feel there’s a 50-50 chance or better of increasing your score, it’s usually rational to retake.
You should also consider how many times you've taken the LSAT, but the benefit of a higher score is usually greater than the cost of an extra take. See also Does it look bad to take the LSAT multiple times?
Still, this is a personal decision. You have to consider the prospect of applying with your current score, think about where you're likely to get in, and weigh whether the possibility of increasing your chances is worth the pain of studying as hard as possible. It definitely does not make sense to retake the test if you can’t commit to studying hard.
Should I take the GRE instead of the LSAT?
Probably not, but if you're much better at the GRE, maybe.
One the one hand ✋:
- If you already have an LSAT score, your GRE score is basically irrelevant. LSAC will report your LSAT score; schools must include your LSAT score in their calculations for ABA disclosures.
- Even schools that accept applicants with the GRE are doing so cautiously.
- Many law schools still don’t accept a GRE.
On the other hand 🖖:
- Schools don’t have to report GRE scores to the ABA or USNWR, so they may be inclined to take a diverse applicant with a GRE score over a diverse applicant with a below-median LSAT score.
- Mathematical applicants may be better at the GRE than they are at the LSAT.
What is the limit on LSAT takes?
- 3 takes per year
- 5 takes in 5 years
- 7 takes in a lifetime
Effective September 2019, via LSAC:
LSAC is updating their test-taking limit policy later this summer, and it will go into effect with the September 2019 LSAT administration.
Starting with the September 2019 test administration, test takers will be permitted to take the LSAT:
- Three times in a single testing year (the testing year goes from June 1 to May 31).
- Five times within the current and five past testing years (the period in which LSAC reports scores to law schools).
- A total of seven times over a lifetime.
This policy is forward-looking, not retroactive. Tests taken prior to September 2019 will not count against these numerical limits.
In addition, test takers will not be permitted to retake the LSAT if they have already scored a 180 (perfect score) within the current and five past testing years, the period in which LSAC reports scores to law schools. This aspect of the policy will be applied retroactively.
There will be an appeals process for test takers who have special circumstances and want to request an exception to this policy.
The retake policy for LSAT Writing (the essay section) is identical to the policy outlined above. Note that law schools will only get a candidate's last three LSAT essays. A candidate cannot choose which essay will get sent to a law school.
Cancels, Absences, and Withdrawals
- If you CANCEL your test score, it DOES count as a test attempt. Schools will see you canceled the score.
- If you are ABSENT for your test, it DOES NOT count as a test attempt. Schools will see you were absent at the test.
- If you WITHDRAW from your test, it DOES NOT count as a test attempt. Schools will NOT see you have withdrawn from test.
Are schools notified when I retake the LSAT?
Schools will probably see your new score, but you should notify them anyway.
When you apply to a school, LSAC will transmit both your electronic application—the part you fill out—and your Credential Assembly (CAS) Report, which includes your LSAT scores. If you retake the LSAT, LSAC will push a new CAS report to the database that stores information about applicants.
Admissions offices run frequent reports on that database. Most will run a report on the day that new LSAT scores are released, so they'll probably see your retake. Nevertheless, we recommend that you notify admissions offices of your new score to make sure they see it and to demonstrate your continued interest.
Does it look bad to take the LSAT multiple times?
Possibly, but a better score matters most.
When law schools report their median LSAT scores to the ABA—and when U.S. News & World Report looks at those medians for ranking purposes—they only use your top score. Although numerous LSAT takes and cancellations (say, four or more) might raise an eyebrow, the benefit of getting a higher score usually outweighs the downside of adding another LSAT take to your file.
Does it help to retake LSAT after you apply?
Waitlisted applicants who improve their LSAT scores are more likely to receive an offer, especially if they go from a below-median to an above-median score. (Schools will see your improved score—possibly before you do—but you should still write them a new LOCI when your higher score arrives.)
Admitted applicants who improve their LSAT scores can use them to request a scholarship reconsideration, even if their first requests for a reconsideration were denied.
In extremely rare situations, an applicant who was denied earlier in the cycle can appeal that decision and petition a law school for reconsideration of the application with a new and improved LSAT result. These applicants would write letters to the Admissions Committee explaining why they feel reconsideration is merited.
If I’m retaking the LSAT, should I apply now or wait?
First, note that schools can see if you've registered for a future LSAT. Some will automatically hold your application for the new score. Others will consider your application without regard to the new registration. Most will respect your request either to hold your application for the new score or to consider your application now, without waiting for the new score.
The real question, though, is whether you want schools to consider your application now or if you want them to wait.
If you don't think your pending LSAT score will be an improvement, and if you can no longer cancel the score, then you should, of course, apply as soon as possible. You'll want schools to consider your application without waiting for the new score.
If you think there's a good chance your score will improve, then you should apply to your target and safety schools as soon as possible but wait for your new score before applying to your reach schools (unless those schools automatically hold your application for the new score).
Why? Because your target and safety schools are unlikely to reject you before they see your new score and may accept you beforehand. Your reach schools, on the other hand, are unlikely to accept you before they see your new score and may reject you beforehand.
You might also call the school and ask whether you should hold your application or send it now. Admissions officers are nice. Here’s what one student found in the 2018–2019 cycle:
Schools that told me to apply now with a hold are Berkeley, Columbia, Penn, Georgetown and Stanford. Schools that told me to wait until December are NYU, Virginia, Duke, Northwestern, Cornell, UCLA, Hastings, Michigan and Irvine.
Should I apply before my LSAT score comes out?
Your application won’t go complete until you have a valid LSAT score (which includes the multiple-choice section and LSAT Writing), so for most applicants, it makes sense to wait, see the score, and calibrate your school list accordingly.
That said, earlier applications may get priority in the review process after they go complete, so if you know you'll apply to a certain school no matter what, it could make sense to submit before your LSAT score comes out.
What matters more—applying early, or boosting your LSAT score?
Boosting your LSAT score.
Improving your LSAT score by a single point increases your chances more than applying a month earlier. See What Affects Your Chances of Getting Into Law School?
Is the November / December / January / February LSAT too late?
Getting the best score matters most, though if you can't take the LSAT until late in the cycle, you might think about delaying until next cycle.
Does the LSAT writing sample matter?
Some admissions officers read it as a rule; some hardly ever do. Treat it as if it does. It matters more if you speak English as a second language.
What’s the deal with LSAT withdrawals, absences, and cancels?
Schools won't see if you withdraw before the test, but they'll see if you cancel after or on the day of.
You can withdraw your registration until 11:59 p.m. on the night before your test. This withdrawal will not show up on your law school report. I.e., schools will never know you changed your mind.
If you fail to show up for your test, LSAC will record an absence. One absence won’t raise any eyebrows in an admissions office; they know that things happen.
If you take the test and bomb, you can cancel your score through LSAC. You can cancel until 11:59 p.m. on the sixth day after your test. This will show up on your law school report. See also Will it look bad if I cancel my LSAT score?
Will it look bad if I cancel my LSAT score?
One or even two cancels won't raise any eyebrows. If you have multiple cancels or multiple takes, an admissions officer might wonder what's going on. That doesn't mean she'll be inclined to dismiss you, but she may want an explanation.
Chances of Admission
Who gets a URM "boost"?
African Americans, Puerto Ricans, Mexican-Americans, American Indians, Alaska Natives, and possibly others.
Note that we're not editorializing here—we're just trying to describe what we see. We're big believers in diversity at 7Sage, and we're very encouraged by law schools' efforts to make their entering classes less homogenous.
- African American
- Puerto Rican
- American Indian or Alaska Native
- Black but not American citizen
Helps differentiate you, but may not give you a boost:
- Other Hispanic/Latino (American citizen)
- Middle Eastern
- Socioeconomic status (SES), including first in family to attend college
- Physical disability or illness
Here’s one way to think about it—though probably not how admissions officers themselves think of it:
- The “definite boost” factors effectively put you in a better GPA/LSAT score band.
- The other factors help differentiate you from other people in your GPA/LSAT score band.
Do law schools look at graduate school GPA or just your undergraduate GPA?
Law schools look at graduate school performance, but your undergraduate performance matters more.
Graduate school GPAs are soft factors. Law schools don't report graduate GPAs to the ABA when submitting data for accreditation, and graduate GPAs don't affect a school's US News ranking, so even though admissions teams will consider an applicant's graduate performance and the rigor of the applicant's graduate program, they may not give those factors much weight.
However, certain circumstances may cause an admissions team to scrutinize an applicant's graduate work more closely:
- If an applicant is applying to a T14 or other high-volume school. When schools receive a large volume of applications, especially ones with credentials that fall above a school’s median LSAT and GPA, schools have a higher level of selectivity because there are far more qualified candidates than there are seats. As a result, these schools are likely to look closely at all transcripts to see whether performance is consistent throughout the course of an applicant’s education, and dips in graduate performance can be a determining factor in admissions decisions.
- If an undergraduate degree was conferred 7-10+ years ago. When an applicant’s undergraduate education is further out, schools will often look to graduate school performance as an indicator that 1) they remain a strong student or 2) their performance improved upon entering grad school. The need to look at an applicant’s “most recent performance” is especially true when there is substantial time between the undergraduate and graduate enrollments.
- If the graduate degree performance is substantially weaker than undergraduate performance. Though the undergrad GPA is the one reported for ABA accreditation and US News rankings, law schools want to ensure that your strength as a student remains strong. A substantial drop in GPA will give admissions officers pause, and any grades at or below a C in grad school may warrant an addendum to provide context.
- If there are Character & Fitness incidents in grad school. Any instances of academic probation, disqualification, dishonesty, or violation of the honor code during graduate school are going to be scrutinized closely. It’s best to provide thorough statements of explanation if these circumstances apply.
Does it matter which school you went to for undergrad?
A little, but not as much as your raw GPA.
Think of your undergraduate institution as a soft factor. At the end of the day, a 4.0 is still a 4.0; a 3.0 is still 3.0. Law schools bake the number into their GPA medians; they don’t bake in any contextual information. Still, they may consider the rigor of your college.
- Admissions officers can see the distribution of GPAs from LSAT-takers who went to your school—a measure of grade inflation—and the distribution of LSAT scores: a proxy for intellectual competitiveness.
- They know if it’s hard to get an A.
- They know if you go to school with high-achieving people.
- Admissions officers are also going to be looking at your major and at your transcript.
- They may be more impressed by an electrical engineer with a 4.0 from the University of Idaho than by a poet with a 4.0 from Yale.
Thus, your college is a soft factor. Like other soft factors, it can be a tie-breaker if you're up against an applicant with similar numbers.
How important are recommendations?
Recommendations are VERY important, but they probably can’t make up for a below-median LSAT score or GPA.
✏️Why they’re important:
Recommendations are the only written material, other than your LSAT writing sample, that can’t be doctored. They are also the only opportunity for someone to speak explicitly about your curiosity, social virtues, and intellectual horsepower. It just doesn’t fly when you say, “I’m good at analyzing stuff. Trust me.” It does fly when your professors say the same thing. Asha Rangappa, former admissions dean at Yale, talks about how recommendations from professors in particular can burnish your academic credibility (Reference This - Yale Law School).
The vast majority of recommendations are “meh,” neither specific enough to boost your chances nor bad enough to damn you. The cardinal rule of choosing a recommender is that relationship trumps rank. A recommendation from, say, a congresswoman won’t change anyone’s mind unless it’s enthusiastic, vivid, and specific, and even then, it won’t place you in a constellation of intellectual achievement. A recommendation from a professor, on the other hand, can help show that you’re an intellectual star.
✏️Why recommendations can’t make up for a below-median LSAT score or GPA:
A law school admissions committee sets a target median LSAT/GPA for the entering class each admissions cycle. This is largely to keep the faculty happy and maintain the law school’s ranking in US News & World Report. A given candidate’s file will be dropped into a “bucket” with hundreds of other candidates who have a very similar LSAT score and GPA pairing. Throughout the admissions cycle, when the Admissions Committee needs to adjust the admitted class median LSAT or GPA based on the behavior of the applicant pool, they will go to a particular bucket of LSAT/GPA files and determine which ones are the most desirable. Thus, a candidate with a 165/3.6 is not really competing against a 170/3.8; she is trying to catch the committee’s eye over another 165/3.6.
It is at this point that all the LORs, essays, and resumes will flesh out a candidate beyond the raw numbers. Committee members (faculty, deans, maybe student readers) may literally sit down and go through individual files, asking the admissions officer, “So what is the story with this one? What is her deal?” Letters of recommendation can help answer that question and distinguish an applicant from everyone else in her bucket.
📌Further reading: How to Pick Your Recommenders
What are "softs," and how much do they matter?
Softs are everything but your LSAT score and GPA. They matter a lot.
Softs are unquantifiable factors like experience and accomplishments that usually show up on a résumé. Sometimes the term also refers to essays. They matter a lot, though less than LSAT scores and GPAs.
✏️ more: Good softs are hard to define, but like other matters that sound mildly obscene, we know them when we see them. They may constitute distinction in law-adjacent activities such as Model UN, or they may set the applicant apart in other ways. They tend to matter most when they are integral to the applicant's presentation of himself, and not merely ornamental. For example, one of our students was an investment banker for years before he decided to earn a JD so that he could help regulate the finance industry.
The lack of good soft factors doesn't seem to damn an application, but the presence of them can elevate it. We have seen many students with exceptional softs and slightly below average numbers (relative to T14 medians) get into top law schools.
📌 Further reading: What Affects Your Chances of Getting Into Law School?
What is an LSAT median, and why does it matter?
The LSAT score that falls in the middle of an incoming class's distribution of LSAT scores—NOT the average LSAT score.
🔥 In brief:
- An LSAT median is the LSAT score that falls in the middle of an incoming class's distribution of LSAT scores. Half the scores are above the median and half the scores are below it.
- If your top LSAT score is below the median, you'll probably need to make up for it with an above-median GPA. If your top score is above the median, you have a good chance of getting in.
- A median is not an average, so being close to a school's median doesn't necessarily matter.* You either hit the median or you don't. One point makes a difference.
✏️ More: A median is not an average. It’s the number that falls in the middle of a data set. For example, say there are three applicants to a law school with the following LSAT scores:
The average is 166. The median is 175.
If you scored a 166, you might think you had a good chance at the school in question. If you scored a 174, you might think you were almost there. But neither a 166 nor a 174 hits the median, and so your application would likely need something else, like an above-median GPA—to be competitive.
*Note that we can only see the LSAT and GPA medians from the school's last disclosure. Each year, the admissions committee sets new target medians, and those target medians are the ones that will really impact your chances. If, for example, you want to go to Notre Dame, you might notice that their last LSAT median was a 165. You can assume that the target median for the incoming class will be around a 165, but it's possible that the target median will be a point higher or lower.
📌 Further reading:
- What is an LSAT median, and why does it matter? (A longer version of this explanation, with graphs).
- What Affects Your Chances of Getting Into Law School?
- Law School Admissions Predictor
Should I tailor my essay for each school?
Only if you can do it sincerely.
Most people write one master version of their personal statement which they selectively tailor to the schools on their list. Tailoring your essay to a given school can increase your odds, but only if your tailored paragraph is well-researched and convincing. You won't fool anyone with an "INSERT SCHOOL HERE" line.
If you have a personal connection to a school, tell them.
If you don't have a personal connection and you don't want to or can't tailor your essay, you don't have to. Admissions officers know that most people are applying to multiple schools, and they admit many students who don't customize their essays. Of course…
If a school's PS prompt asks why you're applying, you need to say so.
How personal is too personal? When is it tmi—or just boring?
Most subjects are on the table so long as you write about them tactfully.
Most of the time, when people ask if a topic is too personal, they’re asking the wrong question. The first question should be: is this the best essay I can write? Does it say something important about who I am, showcase a lesson that will help me succeed in law school or beyond, make an implicit argument that I'll contribute something to the class, or illuminate my motivation?
If so, you can probably find a way to speak about the issue tactfully. I would leave out bodily functions, sex, and profanity. It is possible to write about mental illness—see this personal statement about depression—but you have to do so very carefully.
At what point does my story become a sob story? Will it seem like I’m whining/playing the poor card/pitying myself?
If you write in a matter-of-fact tone, no one will think you're whining.
You are absolutely entitled to write about the most challenging circumstances that you have ever encountered.
Write about bad things in a matter-of-fact way. If the point of your essay is, “Take pity on me,” you’ll have to start over. If the point is, “I overcame severe obstacles,” you’re on solid footing.
One more caveat: in real life, things don’t always end positively. In a personal statement, they probably should.
I dealt with something very difficult. Should I put it in my personal statement?
If you want to explain how a struggle to overcome something helped define you, write a personal statement.
If you want to explain how extenuating circumstances caused you to perform poorly in school or on a test, you should write an addendum.
See also How to Write a Non-Required Addendum.
Do I need to write about adversity / overcoming a challenge?
No. Seriously, no. It’s just that most people find it easier to write a good essay about something they found difficult.
A personal statement is a story about how you ended up where you are, and conflict usually makes stories better. But the conflict needn’t be external. You could write about a difficult decision, or even a tension of ideas.
Do I have to explain why I want to be a lawyer?
You should probably explain why you want to be a lawyer in the following circumstances:
- If you're switching careers
- If you're coming from an atypical liberal arts major (e.g. music) and have no extracurricular activities that indicate your legal interest
- If the personal statement prompt tells you to (obviously)
Read each application's instructions carefully. Some schools leave the essay wide open; others ask you to explain your professional goals or motivations. The majority suggest mostly personal topics, but mention your professional motivation as one possibility.
If a school asks why you want to study law, your task is to tell a story about your motivation. Show the committee the whole arc of your decision. What set you on this path, and how did you arrive at this moment?
Most students write something that’s both personal and professional, telling a story that either culminates in their decision to study law or arrives at an epiphany which will help them succeed as a lawyer. Pivoting to law at the end of the essay is a reliable way to add a sense of closure and purpose.
Do I have to say why I want to go to a given law school?
Not unless they ask.
You don’t have to explain why you want to go to a given school unless the school asks, but it’s never a bad idea to show some school-specific love at the end of your essay, provided that you sound informed and genuine.
Don’t bother mentioning a school’s ranking or reputation. Dig deeper—and do your homework. If you say you want to work with a certain professor, for example, then make sure that professor is really on the faculty (and not, say, passingly related to a center).
If a school gives you the option of writing a “why X” essay, write the essay, and keep your personal statement personal.
Do I have to write a different personal statement for each law school?
Most people write one master version of their personal statement and tailor it as needed.
You can usually write one statement and tweak it for different schools. That said, you have to read the directions. If your essay doesn’t answer the question, you’ll have to change it or write a new one.
How long should my essay be?
Read the directions.
Read the directions. (Have you noticed a pattern in these answers?) Essays of two or three double-spaced pages, or about 600-850 words, tend to hit the sweet spot.
How do I make my essay stand out?
Revising it a lot.
The hard way—by writing a fantastic conventional essay. No gimmicks.
What is the difference between a personal statement and a diversity statement?
A DS is basically a PS about your identity.
Your diversity statement can be shorter than your personal statement, and you don’t have to end your diversity statement with a lesson, epiphany, or statement of why you want to go to law school. In other words, you don’t need a punchline.
That said, the best diversity statements are personal statements which focus on your identity. You want to tell a story about how your diversity factors shaped you. You might talk about how they gave you a unique perspective, inculcated certain values, or gave you skills that will help you succeed in the law. As with a personal statement, you also want to show the adcom that you’re a good writer.
Do not phone in your diversity statement. If you’re going to write one, it should be as thoughtful and compelling as your personal statement.
In some cases, I’ve recommended that my clients throw out their personal statements and use an expanded version of their diversity statements as their main essay. If your diversity statement comes more easily than your personal statement, that may be a sign that it’s more sincere and natural, and that you should use it as a personal statement.
Should I write a diversity statement?
If and only if you can write a good one.
What counts as a valid diversity factor for a diversity statement?
It depends on the diversity statement prompt.
Green Light: Write Away
- You are a minority.
- You grew up without a lot of money (even if you’re doing fine now).
- You don’t have a lot of money now (even if you grew up comfortably).
- You are LGBTQ.
- You are a political refugee.
- You or your parents immigrated to this country.
- You are older than the average student (“non-traditional”).
- You have a physical or learning disability.
- You grew up in a foster home.
- You are the first person in your family to go to college.
- You are a single parent.
- You grew up in an extremely insular community (e.g. ultra-orthodox Jewish, Amish, Wiccan, etc.).
- You grew up in unusual circumstances (e.g., you were a traveling acrobat).
- You were homeschooled.
- You are a military brat and moved often as a child.
- You were or are burdened with an unusual responsibility (e.g., you are the primary caretaker of a disabled sibling. But if you are writing to explain an aberration in your grades or a low GPA, this essay should be an addendum, not a diversity statement.).
- You worked your way through college.
- You grew up on a farm or ranch.
- You grew up in an extremely small town.
Yellow Light: Proceed with Caution (Examples)
- You backpacked through Europe.
- You have a computer science background.
- You had adventures in startup land.
- You did a research fellowship abroad.
- You majored in something other than the humanities.
Red Light: Don’t Write It (Examples)
- You're a really good listener.
- You spent a semester abroad.
- Your friend is gay.
- Your great-grandparent is a quarter Native American.
- You worked in college…as a lifeguard or camp counselor.
- You suffered trauma from your parents’ divorce. (This might be a good reasons to write an addendum, not a diversity statement.)
Are my recommendations too old?
If your recommendations are only a year old, you're fine.
Year-old recommendations are okay. If they're older than a year, you might ask your recommender to update his or her recommendations. It's not a big ask.
How do I ask for a recommendation?
Ask them via email if they'll recommend and, if so, whether they'd be willing to have a short conversation about your application.
The answer depends on your relationship to your recommender, but a short, polite email is always welcome. You can just say, e.g., I hope you're doing well, I've decided to apply for law school and I was wondering if you would be willing to write me a letter of recommendation. It's a good idea to ask if you can take her out to coffee or have a fifteen-minute talk on the phone so that you can (1) explain your motivation for applying and (2) gauge her willingness to write you a fantastic letter, but you might forego that if you worry that she won't be receptive to it. I also like to add a sentence like, "If you don't feel you have the time to write me an enthusiastic recommendation, don't worry about it. I'd be happy to ask someone else."
Whom should I ask for a recommendtion?
Professors or supervisors who know you well.
Addenda and Why X Essays
Should I write a "Why X" essay to every school?
Only if you can do it sincerely.
If a school offers a "why X," you should definitely write it (unless, as with Michigan, they offer a menu of supplemental essays, only one of which is a "why X." You should write at least one of Michigan's optional essays, but you don't necessarily have to pick the "why X.").
If a school doesn't offer a "why X," but you have genuine and compelling reasons for preferring that school, we recommend adding a "why X" paragraph to the end of your PS unless you have enough material for a separate essay. See also Should I tailor my essay for each school?
If a school doesn't ask why you want to go there in the PS prompt, and if you only like them because of their rank, it's probably not worth it to throw in a "Why X" essay or paragraph. It's usually pretty obvious when an applicant Googles a school and repeats their own talking points back to them, and doing so is unlikely to advance your case.
Note that in 2018–2019, many applicants wrote unsolicited "Why X" essays to UVA, and it did seem to help.
Should I write a GPA addendum?
If your grades dropped steeply for one or two semesters, probably.
A GPA addendum can help an admissions officer understand the circumstances under which your grades suffered.
A lot of people believe that an extra essay might help and couldn’t hurt. An unnecessary essay, however, wastes the adcom’s time and reflects poorly on your judgment. Only submit a non-required addendum if you can answer yes to two questions:
- Does the essay tell the admissions committee something that they would not know otherwise?
- Does the essay seem more like an explanation than an excuse?
The addendum should be extremely concise.
See also When to Write a Non-Required Addendum.
Should I write an LSAT addendum?
If you have more than two cancels or absences, a score gap of six points or larger, or more than four LSAT takes, probably.
Your addendum should be extremely concise. If you're writing more than a paragraph, you're probably writing too much.
See also When to Write a Non-Required Addendum.
How do I look at or fill out an application on LSAC?
Visit LSAC.org and click a bunch of things.
First, sign up for a free account with LSAC.
- Choose “Future JD student” from the “Create New Account” dropdown menu at the top.
Next, add schools to your list.
- Click “Applying to Law Schools” in the menu that runs across the top.
- Click “Search for Schools” near the top of the screen, under the heading “ACTIONS AND INFORMATION.”
- Click “Add Member Schools.”
- Check off schools. (Use Command F [Mac] or Control F [PC] to find the schools quickly).
- Click “Save Selection to School List,” near the top of the window.
Finally, look at the applications.
- You can navigate to your school list from LSAC’s home page by clicking “Applying To Law Schools” the menu across the top and “View Your School List” near the top of the screen, under the heading “ACTIONS AND INFORMATION.
- Click a school.
- Click “Start/Continue Application.”
- Click the current term, and click “Apply.”
- Click “OK” when the dialog box nags you.
- Click “Application,” which is under the headings “Applications”/”Step One - Complete applications forms.”
- To look at the instructions for the personal statement, click “Personal Statement” in the “Attachments” section.
- Take a deep breath. Do some yoga or something.
How do I find my LSAC academic summary / LSAC GPA / LSAC cumulative GPA?
- Log into https://www.lsac.org/
- Click “Credentials & CAS” on the menu that runs across the top.
- Click “View Transcript Status” at the top of the page, under the header “ACTIONS AND INFORMATION.”
- Click “Academic Summary Report” in the box on the right-hand side labeled “MY STATUS.”
- Scroll to the bottom of your Academic Summary, where you’ll find a section labeled “SUMMARY.” Read your Cumulative GPA.
How do I order transcripts / send transcripts to LSAC?
You have to request that your registrar's office send your transcripts to CAS. This page explains: https://www.lsac.org/jd/applying-to-law-school/cas/requesting-transcripts/?view=1. I think that link only works if you're already logged into LSAC.
In order to ask your registrar to send your transcripts to CAS, you'll need a transcript request form. Here's how you get one:
How to Access Your Transcript Request Forms
To generate your Transcript Request Forms, follow these steps:
- Log in to your LSAC.org account.
- On your homepage, click the Add or Submit Institutions link found beneath the Credential Assembly Service (CAS) heading.
- For any institutions that are already listed, click Edit to complete your information.
- Add any additional institutions that you have attended.
- Once you have entered all of your institution information, scroll down to the bottom of the My Institutions Attended page and click Continue.
- Review your information to ensure that it is accurate. Then hit Confirm.
- Visit the Transcripts page of your account. A Transcript Request Form link will be listed below each institution. Click these links to access your forms. (It may take a few minutes for the forms to generate in your account.)
The transcript request form is an actual paper form that you'll have to mail or deliver to your registrar's office when you order transcripts. However, you don't have to request the form form your registrar's office directly if your school uses one of the following:
- National Student Clearinghouse
- Credentials Solutions
You can just ask your registrar if they participate in any of those services, or you can go on e.g. the National Student Clearinghouse website and see if your school comes up. If so, you can use that service to send your transcripts directly to LSAC.
Do I need to send my transcripts to each law school?
Nope—just send them to LSAC.
Once you send your transcripts to LSAC, LSAC will automatically send them to every school you apply to. See also How do I order transcripts / send transcripts to LSAC?
Financial Aid and Cost
How much does it cost to apply?
$45 plus a school's application fee.
Schools charge varying application fees, typically ranging from $0 to $100. LSAC charges $45 for each law school report. Thus, every time you apply to a school, you have to pay—in addition to the application fee—$45 to LSAC for the privilege of them passing your report (LSAT scores, academic summary, CAS packet).
You should be prompted to pay after you submit your application. See also How do I request a fee waiver?
What does it mean if I receive a fee waiver that I didn't ask for?
It's kinda good, but it doesn't mean you'll get in.
Fee waivers are a good sign, but you shouldn't read too much into them. If you've signed up for the LSAC Candidate Referral Service, schools send out fee waivers based on your credential assembly report—your LSAT score and, if you’ve sent in a transcript, your GPA—in order to drum up more applications. They almost certainly use automatic thresholds: e.g., BC Law might send out a fee waiver to everyone with an LSAT score between 164 and 167.
How do I request a fee waiver?
Email a school and ask.
After a school's application goes live on LSAC, you can email something like this to the admissions office:
My name is X and I’m excited to apply to your JD program. However, as a self-financed applicant, I’m concerned about the costs of the admissions process. Does Y Law School offer merit-based fee waivers? My LSAT score is P and my GPA is Q.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
How can I be considered for a merit scholarship?
Some schools offer named scholarships in the application. They’ll ask if you want to apply for them. They often have criteria. E.g., Berkeley offers a scholarship for visually-impaired people; NYU offers scholarships for people interested in public service. You can see these named scholarships on a school's application and apply to them as you fill out the app. They often require a supplemental essay.
Other than that, applicants will be automatically considered for merit aid. See Financial Aid and Scholarships for Law School (2019).
When should I start negotiating law school scholarship offers?
March or after a school's first deposit deadline.
- 7Sage students have successfully negotiated for more financial aid in March.
- Many admissions officers believe you should wait until a school's first deposit deadline.
- Final answer: if you have great offers by March, go for it. Otherwise, wait until the first deposit deadline.
After you've been admitted to a law school, you can begin negotiating for more scholarship money when you have at least one other offer of merit aid—preferably an offer from a peer school. That said, you might want to hold fire if you have a reasonable chance of getting another offer of merit aid in the near future. You'll want to begin the negotiating process with the strongest hand you can draw.
Because admissions officers are reading files as fast as they can through February, we recommend that you don't begin negotiating for more merit aid until March 1 in any case. Admissions officers don't know what the fall class will look like until after the first deposit deadline, so they may not be willing to deviate from their planned scholarship strategy before that.
As the first deposit deadline approaches, admissions officers may be willing to offer more aid to secure your deposit. After the first deposit deadline, admissions officers may have more scholarship money to offer, because some students admitted with offers of merit aid will have failed to deposit.
When should I send a letter of continuing interest (LOCI)?
Send a short immediately, a longer note a few days before the first deposit deadline, and another note every three weeks or so.
If the target school has specific instructions on how to submit LOCIs, follow the school’s instructions.
If the target school provides no such guidance, it may be better to send a LOCI shortly before a school’s deposit deadline (DD).
Deposits will start rolling in long before the deadline, and the outlines of the class will likely come into focus as the deadline approaches. At the same time, admissions officers may be previewing their waitlist to see who they might admit if necessary. Depending on the size of the waitlist, which will differ from school to school and from year to year, someone in the admissions office is probably keeping track of the waitlist and taking note of (1) strong files, (2) files from highly interested applicants, and (3) notable files based on admissions officers’ interactions throughout the cycle. This is where points of contact and LOCIs are distinguishing.
In the lead-up to the DD, some schools may reach out to admitted students to get a sense of how many deposits to expect. If deposits are still down after the DD, some schools may chase down admitted students to see if they forgot or could be persuaded to deposit with enhanced admissions offers. Some schools will not follow up and go directly to the waitlist. If a school has received more deposits than expected and they are concerned about bringing in too large a class, they may do neither.
If an interested candidate sends a LOCI shortly before the DD, admissions would likely consider her to be more likely to yield a deposit than a LOCI sent back in January and then silence afterward. A LOCI sent a week after the DD will also bring attention to her file as the school prepares waitlist admission letters. However, if the school only needs to make a handful of admission offers off the waitlist, they may have a list of offers prepared by the time the later LOCI arrives.
Trying to predict an admissions office’s actions or motivations is an impossible task since strategies change all the time. Trying to time your LOCI becomes less of an issue if you maintain a good line of communication with the admissions office before the DD.
📌See also: ⭐️What to Do After You Get Waitlisted
What should I do if I'm waitlisted?
Send a letter of continuing interest and visit if you can.
Choosing a Law School, Rankings, Seat Deposits
Does attending a T-14 school really matter that much?
It depends on what you're looking for.
Graduating from a highly ranked school usually makes it easier to do the following:
- Get a job in Big Law—especially the first time around
- Get a federal clerkship
- Pursue legal academia
But graduating from a T-14 school does not guarantee a job, and graduating from a school of lower ranking doesn't mean you can't get a job in Big Law. Your class rank, network, and interviewing skills also matter a lot.
If you're contemplating a specific school, you should take a look at the latest ABA-disclosed employment outcomes.
How does the US News determine their rankings?
- 40% schools reputation
- 25% LSAT and GPA medians
- 20% Employment
- 15% Other
What questions should I ask a law school admissions officer?
Questions about the school and its programming.
Speaking to an admissions officer is an opportunity to connect with someone who can influence the outcome of your application or merit award. When you visit an office of admissions, you can make a strong impression by asking some questions about the school and its programming:
- How large are the 1L sections and how are students divided?
- How large is the average legal writing section?
- Can you tell me about the opportunities to get practical training during the semesters? (Clinics? Field clinics? How many do you have?)
- What percentage of 2L students participate in practical training opportunities? How competitive is it get those opportunities?
- What sort of resources are available to expose students to different practice areas?
- How many journals do you have and how many 1L students grade on and write on?
- If I’m interested in Public Interest law, what sort of summer stipends are available?
- What sort of assistance does the school 1L students to find legal opportunities during their 1L summer?
- If I am interested in working in a firm in XXX city, what resources does the school provide to help me do that?
- Tell me about the firms that recruit during On-Campus Recruiting? How many firms come from city A, city B, city C?
- How many international students have been in the most recent incoming class and what countries are most represented?
- What sort of study abroad opportunities are available and when do most students go?
- Does the school have a mentor program that matches new students with current students or faculty members in certain practice fields?
- What sort of programming does the school provide to inform students about employment opportunities other than Big Law?
- Are there opportunities to take courses outside of the law school in the greater university system? Business school? Graduate school? Comparative law studies?
- Can you connect me to an alumnus who practices in the field I'm interested in?
These questions will help you decide which programs might be a good fit for you so that you don't have to decide by rankings alone.
Here are some questions you should NOT to pose to an admissions officer:
- Why should I go to your school?
- What are the chances of being admitted/getting a scholarship?
- What are my chances of getting admitted off the waitlist?
These questions are likely to annoy an admissions officer because they cannot be answered on the spot.
What should I ask current law students or alumni about their law school?
- Why did you choose this law school?
- What was the best thing about your law school experience?
- What was the worst thing about your law school experience?
- What do you wish you had known before going to law school?
- What about law school was most helpful in your career trajectory?
- What helped you excel the most in law school?
- What was most surprising about your law school experience?
- What was your best learning experience in law school?
- What were the most useful skills you developed in law school?
- What was the biggest obstacle you faced and conquered in law school?
- What was your biggest regret in law school?
- What advice would you give to someone who wants to break into [name a field] of Law?
- What did you do to develop a network while at law school?
What are seat deposits? Are seat deposits binding?
A non-refundable deposit to hold your place in a law school class.
- A seat deposit is a non-refundable payment signifying your acceptance of a school’s offer of admission and intent to attend.
- But seat deposits are not binding, and you don’t have to attend if you pay one.\*
- Seat deposits can range from $250 to $1000 depending on the school, and are applied towards your first semester’s tuition.
*Make sure you read what the school says, of course. They have the final word!
According to LSAC, member law schools (and that’s all of them) must “allow applicants to freely accept a new offer from a law school even though a scholarship has been accepted, a deposit has been paid, or a commitment has been made to another school.” Thus, even if you have paid a deposit and signed something about your intent to apply, you can call a school, ask for some flexibility, and cite the LSAC guidelines if necessary.
If you feel like you cannot pick a school by the deposit deadline, you can reach out with a phone call to the admissions office and ask for an extension.
A law school may have one or two seat deposits, so be sure to know the deadline for each.
If a school has two seat deposit deadlines, the first is usually sometime in April and the second in June.
If a school has only one seat deposit deadline, it is usually in June.
Some schools do not require a seat deposit at all and will require a commitment in writing instead.
Can I deposit at more than one law school? Will law schools know?
You can make your first seat deposit at as many schools as you want.
Schools understand that candidates may and will put down multiple seat deposits. A candidate may deposit at more than one school because he is in the process of finalizing a merit scholarship award, because his decision to attend law school is contingent on something exogenous (like a spouse’s job opportunities), or because he simply hasn’t decided yet.
In the past, law schools begin to receive Commitment Overlap Reports from LSAC in mid-May, meaning that they learned which candidates deposited at which other schools. As of 2020, LSAC will not be releasing the names of candidates who have deposited at multiple schools.
Although schools sometimes ask students to only put down one deposit, candidates can and should do what they need to do. Note that LSAC’s best practices (https://www.lsac.org/about/lsac-policies/statement-good-admission-and-financial-aid-practices) states a member law school will "Allow applicants to freely accept a new offer from a law school even though a scholarship has been accepted, a deposit has been paid, or a commitment has been made to another school."
If a school asks candidates to sign an agreement to attend, the agreement represents an ethical but probably not an actionable promise. Candidates should try to abide by the agreement and not start their legal careers making empty promises they don't intend to keep. On the other hand, students do break such agreements every year.
How do I learn more about a law school's employment outcomes?
First, consider the legal market in which YOU wish to eventually work and live. Then thoroughly research where the law schools on your list have historically placed their graduates.
- Look at their employment data at http://www.abarequireddisclosures.org/EmploymentOutcomes.aspx. For the past several years, what were the 3 states where the largest numbers of graduates went to work?
- Look at the top firms in your target legal market and see if they have an abundance of partners and associates from the school. (You might research the firm websites and LinkedIn.)
- Speak with the admissions offices and offices of career services about your interests and employment priorities. (See What questions should I ask a law school admissions officer? )
Does reapplying hurt my chances?
No, unless you turned a school down.
Reapplying will only hurt your chances of getting into a school that you turn down. (I.e., they accept you, and you don’t enroll.) It won’t hurt your chances of getting into a school that turns you down.
To understand why, consider that selectivity accounts for 2.5% of USNWR’s rankings. (Not huge, but everything matters). A school is (1) incentivized to rustle up more applications, and (2) not accept people who probably won’t accept.
(1) explains why a school will be very happy to see you reapply if they rejected you, and (2) explains why a school will be reluctant to accept you again if you’ve rejected them before.
Thus, if you’re thinking about applying this cycle just to see what happens even while you plan to mount a full invasion next year, I’d advise you only to apply to schools you know you would go to. That usually means you shouldn’t apply to safeties (because most people wouldn’t go to a safety if they know they’ll get one more bite at the apple next year).
Do I have to rewrite my essays if I reapply?
Admissions officers might pull your previous file, and if your essays are the same, they might assume that your candidacy hasn't changed either. If they didn't admit you the first time, why should they admit you now?
That said, if you put your heart and soul on the page in your first personal statement and can't imagine redoing it, you don't have to throw it out. Revise it if you can. If nothing else, you might change the first paragraph, so that an admissions officer can see at a glance that it's different.
Do I need new recommendations if I reapply?
Probably not, but they might help.
A new recommendation could be a way to differentiate your new application, but if you're applications are only a year old, you don't need to replace them. See Are my recommendations too old?
What activities should I do as an undergrad if I know I'll be applying to law school?
Follow your passion, with an asterisk.
It's okay to do what you love. Most admissions officers don’t care whether you did moot court or improv comedy, so long as you were involved. That said, if you don't have any law-related extra-curriculars on your résumé, you will need to explain why you're interested in law school on your PS. Something in your application needs to explain why you're applying.
How much time does a law school admissions officer actually spend on my file?
Typically five to ten minutes.
Applicants spend weeks, if not months, to prepare their law school applications so all the important information is easy to see, read, and process. During file reading season, admissions officers may need to go through hundreds or thousands of files, so they want to be really efficient with their review. Files are electronic and read on a screen, so the reader scrolls through all the candidate’s materials. A reader may spend one minute or less skimming a resume, and a few minutes on the personal statement. Materials should be formatted and presented in a way that does not strain the eyes. Large text blocks on resumes are hard to process. If an essay is hard to get through because of tight spacing or the writing does not flow, you risk losing the reader’s attention. A typical file with no C&F issues might get five to ten minutes of initial review time.
Can I send a letter of continuing interest (LOCI) before I hear from a law school?
Yes, by February 15.
Admissions offices are traveling for much of the fall and reading application files as fast as they can through February, so no news is not necessarily bad news. Although many admissions offices sort files as they come in and prioritize those with strong numbers, all applications are also date stamped, so you should expect to wait longer if you apply later.
We recommend that you wait at least eight weeks before you get in touch with a school, so if you applied in January, you shouldn't send a LOCI in February.
📌 Further reading: ⭐️What to Do After You Get Waitlisted
How do I withdraw my application from a law school?
If you no longer want your law school application to be considered for admission by an admissions office, you should notify them in writing that you would like to withdraw your application. Your written statement of withdrawal will be added to your existing application file. Notifying the law school as early as possible will allow them to free up a seat in the incoming class, free up scholarship funds to be redistributed to other candidates, or offer a potential seat in the incoming class to another candidate.
Do not withdraw by ghosting an admissions office or ignoring all correspondence. Draft an email with your name and LSAC number in the subject line, and send it to the Office of Admissions.
Thank you for taking the time to consider my law school application. I appreciate your offer of admission [and your generous merit scholarship award]. After [reviewing my financial circumstances and] giving considerable thought to my options, I would like to formally withdraw my application for the Fall 20[XX] class. Thank you for your consideration.
How do I visit a law school?
Read their website and reach out to the admissions office.
First, read the law school's instructions. Attend an information session or take a tour if possible. You can also ask the admissions office to let you audit a class or talk to a current student.
One way or another, you want the admissions office to know that you came. I’d suggest that you email the admissions office to let them know you’re coming. Don’t ask for an appointment—that’s too formal—but as long as they don’t specifically prohibit it, you can ask to see someone in the admissions office to express your enthusiasm in person.
Bring a question, or simply say something like, “I’m David, I flew in from Pittsburgh, and I just wanted to tell you in person that you’re my first choice. I know you’re very busy right now so I don’t want to waste any more of your term; I just wanted to introduce myself in person.” You can give them a résumé to make it easier for them to remember your name and note your visit.
Every time you talk to an admissions officer, you should treat it like an interview. Dress business casual. You don't have to be formal, but you shouldn't be overly familiar.
Finally, bring some questions for them. See What questions should I ask a law school admissions officer?
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