Your application should tell the story of who you are, including the background and experiences—both personal and educational—that make you stand out from other applicants. The people in the admission office who are reading applications want to know what you will bring to the classroom, what disadvantages you have overcome, and what experiences have shaped your perspective. These strategies are generally useful regardless of your racial or ethnic background, but they become increasingly important as affirmative action comes under heavy scrutiny. Through your application, you should seek to set yourself apart. To do that you must provide all relevant information about what you can bring to the law school experience.
What is involved in applying to law school?
Take the test—but not until you’re ready. It’s important to take the test as early as possible before law school application deadlines. (These deadlines may vary, so you should contact individual schools that interest you to find out what their application deadlines are. Plan to take the LSAT in either June or September/October, ideally.) Allow yourself plenty of time to take practice tests under timed conditions. Think in terms of months, not weeks.
What is the best prelaw major?
There is no particular major, course of study, or kind of bachelor’s degree required for admission to law school. In general, you should use your undergraduate education as an opportunity to explore and work on your intellectual development. It’s not necessary to take law-related courses as an undergraduate. Virtually all law schools consider a variety of majors and look closely at an applicant’s overall background before making an admission decision. What matters most is that you do well in challenging courses that require you to synthesize information and to write. Keep in mind that the kind of skills you must develop for law school include effective oral and written communication, analytical reasoning, and problem-solving skills. Your undergraduate education should include courses in which those skills are taught or are required.
What undergraduate grade point average (UGPA) is required for admission?
As with LSAT scores, no single answer applies for all law schools. There is a wide range of UGPAs among applicants accepted to ABA-approved law schools. In general, you should strive for a strong undergraduate GPA from a progressively challenging courseload. Your overall UGPA is as important to law schools as the kinds of courses in which you enrolled. Many law schools also examine your performance trend throughout undergraduate school. That means they may discount a slow start in a student’s undergraduate career if he or she performs exceptionally well in the later school years. Similarly, admission committees may see an undergraduate’s strong start followed by a mediocre finish as an indication of less potential to do well in law school. You may have an opportunity to comment in your personal statement about any performance decline or any dramatic turnaround in your performance, as well as any events in your personal life that may have affected your grades. However, be sure to follow precisely the individual application instructions.
When should I apply to law school? (Is it okay to wait until the deadline to apply?)
There are several reasons to complete your law school applications and take the LSAT as early as possible. First, you will have more time to fill in any gaps in your application file. Second, you might have more time to evaluate the schools that have accepted you—or to apply to other schools that you had not previously considered. Third, you will reduce the chance that a problem or error in paperwork might delay the review of your application. Admission offices are usually flooded with paperwork at the application deadline. Early applications can mean early decisions for some.
Also, a delayed application means a delayed decision. The period for applying for and receiving financial aid shortens. You also have less time to search for housing. You won’t have the option to file additional applications at other law schools until the next admission cycle. Rather than limit your options in all these areas, it makes good sense to file your application as early as possible. What is considered early differs from school to school, so inquire at each school where you intend to apply.
How should I decide where to apply?
Begin by gathering as much information about a variety of law schools as possible. Be sure that along with general information you inquire about the experience of minority students on the campuses you are considering. We emphasize gathering information about a variety of schools because it is imperative that you not limit your selection of schools initially.
Gather information from Law School Forums, held each fall in various cities nationwide; graduate and professional school days on law school campuses; publications including the LSAC Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools; your undergraduate prelaw advisor; and the law schools themselves.
As you evaluate the schools, you should pay particular attention to locale, school reputation, school atmosphere (particularly the on-campus environment that is reported by students of your minority background), and cost.
Once you collect all your information, you should apply to at least one school in each of the following categories: your dream schools, or ones you would love to attend but whose LSAT scores and GPAs are somewhat higher than your own; your realistic schools, or ones where your application will be in the mainstream of the minority applicant population; and your safe schools, or ones that are most likely to admit you.
It’s never too early to find out about the schools that may interest you, but don’t decide which ones to apply to until you assess yourself as an applicant and thoroughly research various law schools. Because law school admission is a highly selective process, it is imperative that you think about how interesting you will seem to law schools. Try to develop a realistic sense of how attractive you are to the schools to which you apply. This step will help you yield the best results from your law school selections.
Some law schools may offer admission to students with low numerical qualifications AFTER successful completion of a course that is usually offered in the summer before first-year classes begin, but admission is not guaranteed. The individual law school can provide more information about these conditional admission programs.
How do I register with LSAC?
As a law school applicant, you will need to register with the Law School Admission Council before you take the LSAT and apply to individual law schools. The easiest way to register (and get more information about the application process) is to create an LSAC.org account.
What should I know about writing a personal statement?
Each candidate to law school has something of interest to present. The essay or personal statement, a required part of all law school applications, is your opportunity to tell the admission committee about yourself. Be brief, be factual, be comprehensive, and be organized. You are a storyteller here. You want a living person—you—to emerge. This is your chance to become vivid and alive to the reader, to demonstrate your ability to write and present a prose sample in a professional manner. Any noteworthy personal experience may be an appropriate subject for your essay. You must do more than simply state it; describe your experience briefly but concretely, and tell why it had value to you, whether it is a job, your family, a significant accomplishment, or your upbringing. If you have overcome a serious obstacle in your life to get where you are today, by all means let the admission committee know about it.
Where can I go for help once I am in law school?
Once you are in law school, you will encounter a difficult but manageable academic program. Most law schools offer academic assistance to students who encounter difficulties while in law school. Very often minority student groups will advise, assist, and support newcomers. Most minority students perform successfully in law school; they are also able to make effective use of their law degrees, whether practicing law or following other career avenues.