How to Format Your Admissions Documents
After shedding blood, sweat, and tears, you have written your essays, résumé, and addenda. The files are all titled things like “PS_REAL_FINAL_VERSION.docx” and “law_school_resume_ACTUAL_2.pdf” and you probably never want to look at them again.
Unfortunately, though, it’s now time to do the worst part. Fonts, spacing, margins, headers...cue the scary music. But don’t sweat it—with this handy formatting guide, you’ll be off to the races in no time.
Why Formatting Matters
We know it can be tempting to skip formatting. After all, you’re applying to law school, not design school. Doesn’t the content matter more?
Though your application’s substance is the most important part of what’s in it, presentation matters too. If language is the body of your application, think about formatting as the clothes. The outfit you wear sends an impression—same goes for your application. Just like you wouldn’t show up to a law school interview wearing a hat with a propeller on it, you shouldn’t submit a résumé written in Comic Sans.
To find out how important formatting really is, we surveyed a selection of 7Sage’s former admissions officers and asked them if, while reading files, they’d ever thought twice about an applicant because of bad formatting choices. The answer was, unanimously, yes.
Why? AOs shared that, to them, bad formatting can sometimes convey a lack of judgment. Conversely, they told us that a well-formatted document reflects professionalism, thoroughness, and attention to detail—key qualities in a successful law student and future lawyer.
Your law school application is one place where people will judge the book by its cover. But this doesn’t mean you should dip your résumé in perfume or print it on pink paper like Elle Woods in Legally Blonde. Instead, read on for tried-and-true formatting tips that will help your applications stand out...for the right reasons.
Across-the-Board Formatting Tips
- Times New Roman, though unglamorous, is a must.
- Stick to a 12-point font across all of your documents. 11-point is usually acceptable as well, but check the requirements of each school on your list to make sure no one asks for 12.
- 11-point font is the minimum. Never make any text on your application smaller than 11-point font under any circumstances. Not 10.5, not 9, and certainly not 8 (we’ve seen too many people try this!).
- Make your font, and your font size, consistent across all of your documents—yes, even your résumé. This means that if your personal statement is written in a 12-point font, you should also put your Why X essay in a 12-point font, even if you have to edit it back down to under a page in length. You want to convey that you pay attention to the details. Inconsistent formatting will make it look like you cut corners.
- Stick to one-inch margins on all sides, including (and especially) on the résumé. Tip: one-inch margins are standard on most word processors, so if you’re concerned your margins are not the right size, try copying and pasting your text into a new document.
- You should double-space pretty much everything except your résumé, which you should single-space.
- If your résumé looks a little cramped single-spaced, consider 1.15-spacing. A little-known spacing trick, 1.15-spacing looks way better than single-spacing, but doesn’t take up much more space.
Uploading to LSAC
- Before you upload a file to LSAC, convert it to .pdf. Though LSAC accepts .doc uploads, these tend to cause formatting errors down the line. Relatedly, if one attachment in your PDF preview looks a little weird—like the font has been compressed or skewed—it’s probably because you uploaded that document as a .doc instead of a .pdf.
- Before you convert a .doc to .pdf, make sure the file does not contain any comments or tracked changes. These markups can show up in the final application.
- Some schools may ask you to include an essay or addendum in a short-answer field on the application itself, rather than as a file upload. Be aware that the formatting may be tricky here, and the form may not allow you to insert things like line breaks.
- With all this in mind, here is the most important tip of all: be sure to review a PDF preview of each application before submitting it to make sure the formatting is to your liking.
How to Format Your Law School Résumé
Résumés are, hands down, the hardest document to format. Even applicants whose essay formatting is impeccable often send us résumés that make our eyes hurt to read.
1. Cramming too much in. A résumé that has the information jam-packed onto the page is unpleasant to read. And when something is unpleasant to read, people usually don’t struggle through it—they tend to just skip it. This is especially true when your reader has hundreds of other résumés to get through that don’t require a microscope.
2. Trying to look too fancy. If you’re using one of those colorful online résumé templates, toss it. Your résumé should not contain any of the following:
- A photograph of you. No matter how professional the headshot, an unsolicited photograph is pretty much always inappropriate in an admissions context.
- Graphics, logos, or decorative elements. Though I love some good old-fashioned clip-art, there’s a time and a place—and this isn’t it. The fact is, aesthetics are subjective. Even if a stylistic element looks good to you, it may not to an admissions officer. Plus, having a highly decorated résumé might make it look like you’re trying to overcompensate for lousy content.
- Colors—remember, you’re not Elle Woods from Legally Blonde, whose résumé was pink. Stick to black text on a white page.
- That line that goes across the page. You know the one I’m talking about—it appears after you type a few hyphens:
The truth is, nine times out of ten, this line looks silly, not professional. It’s awkward and often longer or shorter than your text block.
Beyond that, the weight might be off, or it might be gray when your text is black. It’s hard to get the spacing to look right, and most of the time, all that effort lands you with an overrated underline mark you could have just as well done without. A well-organized résumé should breathe on the page—you shouldn’t need artificial visual breaks to help you switch between sections.
Read below for the details on how to format every aspect of your résumé. Or, if you don't have time, download our handy résumé template.
At the start of your résumé, there should be a header block. This is different than the header for the other documents you’ll be submitting. It should be written as center-aligned body text and should look something like this:
First Name, Last Name
Address, cell phone number, email address, LSAC # (include the L!)
After the header, include a section describing your educational history. You’ll want to include the following info:
Some duplication with the main résumé in the “Activities” section is okay. You should list all of the clubs/organizations/etc. that you were a part of. Don’t include details here beyond dates—you’ll create entries for these further down. If you want, you can add line breaks between honors and activities, or you can make them a comma-separated list. Or, if you had very few activities or honors, you may choose to skip the “Activities” and "Honors" sections under education altogether. Likewise, the "Senior Thesis" and "Study Abroad" fields are optional.
Résumés should be made up of entries containing bullet points. You should include one entry per employer or organization. Here’s an example of what an entry should look like:
Employer Name, City, State Abbreviation
Your Role/Title (# hrs/week – optional) Month year–Month year
- Your first bullet point for each entry should give an overall sense of the job––what your duties were and what type of place you worked for. For example, “Assisted with day-to-day office administration for a business that sold lava lamps”
- Each bullet should start with a verb and provide a description of your duties, skills developed or used, and accomplishments. Split up bullets by general topic/theme
- You should have no more than four bullet points to an entry, even the entry for your current job or your coolest internship. Each bullet point should be no longer than two or three lines—even if the content is great, it’s hard to read that much dense text in one sitting
- For the purposes of a résumé, you should not put periods at the ends of bullet points
If you had multiple jobs within the same organization, you should list them in reverse chronological order within the same entry. List each job title as a subheading beneath the employer name. Here’s an example:
Employer Name, City, State Abbreviation
Your Role/Title (35 hours/week) August 2020–November 2021
- Bulleted descriptions of duties, skills developed or used, and accomplishments
- Give context. If you were promoted or given a raise more quickly than usual, you can say so. For instance, “Received $2,000 raise after only three months, compared to company average of a year”
Your Prior Title (20 hours/week) June 2018–August 2020
- Format like this if you have had multiple jobs or titles with the same employer
- This should be reverse chronological, meaning the most recent role goes at the top
- In this situation, you may use up to four bullet points per role rather than per entry
Margins and Spacing
Unlike your essays, your résumé should be single-spaced. Don’t mess with the margins in the document—use standard one-inch margins, probably your word processor’s default. I repeat: do not change the margins!
A law school résumé can typically be up to two pages in length. Even with one-inch margins, this should give you plenty of space. That being said, a few schools prefer a one-page résumé, so always double-check with the admissions office if you’re unsure.
If you’re over two pages and can’t get it shorter, you’re probably including too much detail. Remember, quality over quantity. If you were in a ton of activities in college, this might mean you have to omit entries for some of them.
You should include date ranges for each entry on your résumé. The date range should be listed across the page from your job title. Do not put the dates across from the name of your employer. Putting dates across from titles allows you to list multiple roles within the same company.
Unless the school asks you to do otherwise, indicate dates with both the month and the year, but don’t specify the day. For example: May 2020–June 2021, not May 3 2020–June 14 2021.
Always use an en dash (–) to connote a date range—not an em dash (—) or a hyphen (-).
If possible, always spell out the whole month name rather than abbreviating to something like “Jan” or “Feb.” It looks better and there’s usually space. If you must abbreviate for some reason, make sure to consistently abbreviate all month names in the document, even short ones like June (Jun) and July (Jul).
- Click just before the date that needs to be re-aligned. At this point, the date should be left-aligned and next to the rest of the text.
Click on this arrow until it is facing left. It may take a few clicks, but you want it to look like this:
Now, place your cursor before your date and hit “tab” once. It should automatically align to the right:
Repeat this procedure for each date on your résumé.
Listing hours per week is optional. Some schools request it and many don’t. If you are asked to list hours per week, you should include them in parentheses next to the role. You may include a range of hours per week if the amount varied. For instance:
Frisbee Land, New York, NY
We suggest that you create two versions of your résumé: one that lists hours per week (for schools that ask), and one that doesn’t (for every other school).
🆘 Need help fine-tuning the content of your résumé? Check out our full résumé lesson.
How to Format Your Law School Admissions Essays
An essay should be written in full sentences with paragraphs. You should indent the first line of every paragraph by half an inch. Don’t put extra spaces between paragraphs.
Every document you submit with your applications should have a header. For prose documents like essays and addenda, this header should appear in the “header” field of the document you’re working in. For the résumé, your header should appear as body text—see the résumé section for more.
The header should consist of your name, your LSAC number, and the document label in that order. By “document label” I mean things like “Personal Statement” or “Diversity Statement” or “GPA Addendum.”
Always use title case, and always make sure you are labeling your document in the language the application uses—e.g., an application may ask you to label your Character and Fitness addendum as “C&F Question 5.6–Addendum.” This is not the space to give your essay a title, by the way. Never do that.
Click into the “header” field of your document, and then type your name. Then hit “tab.” Then type in your LSAC number (including the L). Hit tab again. Then type the document label, e.g., “Personal Statement.” Then select the whole thing and change the font to Times New Roman, 12-point (or 11-point, if that’s what you’ve decided to use—just make sure it’s the same size as the rest of the document). Here’s how it will look, more or less:
If your document is longer than one page, as your personal statement probably will be, you should include page numbers. The page numbers should be at the end of the header and should appear on each page of your essay on the upper right-hand corner.
At first, your page numbers may disrupt your header, or appear off-center.
If this happens to you, the first thing you should do is delete your existing header text. Then, double-click inside of the box with the page number.
Then, re-type your header info into this box before the page number, hitting the tab key between your name, LSAC number, and the document label. As you type, it’ll look something like this.
Once again, you’ll need to change the font to old reliable Times New Roman. After that, you’re good to go! Here’s an example of how this will look in action. Note that Microsoft Word will make the header gray and your word processor may not—regardless, this is no big deal.
A few more things to keep in mind:
- An essay only needs page numbers if it’s longer than one page.
- You should double-space all of your essays unless the application specifically asks you to do otherwise. Though it may remind you of a college midterm, double-spaced text is much easier to read—and ease of reading is a priority.
- Make sure you put an L in front of your LSAC number.
- It's "résumé," not "resume."
- If you’re copying and pasting your header from one document to another to save time formatting, always double-check to make sure your document is labeled correctly.
How to Format Your Law School Addenda
If a school asks you to include an addendum as an attachment, you should format it the same way you format your essays: indent the first line of each paragraph, use a header, double-space it.
Unless a school asks you to do so, don’t try to combine multiple separate addenda on one page. For example, do not combine your GPA addendum with your character and fitness addendum.
Formatting, though intimidating in concept, is really just a way to ensure that you make the best first impression you can with your application. There’s a lot that isn’t within your control about the admissions process, and it can sometimes feel mysterious and oblique. But formatting is something you can tackle.
All this being said, if you made a formatting error and you’ve already submitted your application, don’t let it keep you up at night. This is just one part of a large, complex puzzle. Your application has a lot more going for it than just its font.
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