You’ve decided to dedicate your life to defending the innocent and righting injustices. You want to be a lawyer.
It’s a journey that will be full of positive personal connections and rewarding moments. But how do you get started? There’s no getting around it. At some point, you’ll have to sit in a room and face the LSAT. It’s a difficult test for most, but it separates the best potential lawyers from the pretenders.
But even before you make your first try at a good score you should already be prepping for law school and the submission process. You want to pick a school you actually have a chance of getting into, but what if they don’t pick you?
Here are a few highlights on what Law Schools value most in their candidates and what wows them into dropping an acceptance letter in the mail.
LSAT Scores in the Spotlight
The Law School Admissions Test or LSAT is the stuff of nightmares, but each year thousands of people put in a lot of study hours and earn solid scores on this challenging exam. This test is the biggest factor in getting you in or keeping you out of your top choice in law schools. It can take half a day to complete but its effects can reach across the next four decades of your career.
Should you take the test more than once? Here are a few determining factors:
Retaking the test won’t hurt you in the eyes of admissions officers. You can take it up to three times in one testing cycle running from June 1st to May 31st. Admissions offices will be able to see your score for every attempt, but only the highest score will carry weight.
If you feel you weren’t prepared or just had a bad day it’s definitely worth it to retake the test.
If your score puts you in the upper 20% of applicants for your target school it’s probably not worth the trouble to sign up for another test.
Focus on other factors. If your score is perfectly fine US News &World Report suggests you may get more value out of putting time into improving other areas of your application. Put in extra hours on your writing samples or work on securing recommendation letters.
Consider a delay in applying. US News also suggests thinking long and hard about how the date of the next LSAT test offering affects your submission deadlines. If you will miss your submission deadline while waiting to take the test again it may be a bigger deal than you think. You may have reason to get your submission out this year. It may make more sense to push your submission back a year. Some schools allow you to update your LSAT score after you’ve applied, but it’s important to confirm their policies.
Making the Grade Or GPA
There are no shortcuts when it comes to your academic background. The grades you earn at your higher learning facility of choice will be the second biggest factor in your admittance or rejection. The good news is that a rough start to your academic career isn’t always a dealbreaker. Admissions officers can consider if you’ve shown a steady progression from those early freshman missteps.
The Undergraduate Grade Point Average (UGPA) is used by admission officers to be able to compare marks for different students across different colleges. They assign point values to your letter grades (A = 4.0, A-=3.8, B+3.5, etc.) and then divide your score by the course credit hours. You can try to boost your score by taking easier classes but be warned, admissions officers usually look at your course selections.
This score combined with your LSAT can be entered into a Law School Admissions Calculator (LSAC) to find out how you might fare against other applicants. This is a handy tool to try when you’re deciding where to apply and it’s pretty accurate for most schools because it uses admissions data from years back to offer predictions on your chances of success.
The bottom line. Your grades are a big part of getting into your dream school and they also determine your chances at scholarships and other financial aid.
Excellent Writing and Reading Comprehension Skills
Oh good, skills that will serve you well even if you don’t go on to be a legal hotshot. Being able to express yourself and being able to gauge another person’s intent are foundational skills that will serve you well in a legal career.
Reading what others have had to say on diverse topics will help build that inner voice that guides your writing. You’ll also build exceptional comprehension skills by reading as much as you can. That quality of being able to pull meaning out of a subject you might not be well-versed in can be strengthened. Reading between the lines is another valuable skill in testing and in real-life challenges you’ll face. Context is key!
You’ll need to take advantage of your college’s writing labs and take courses that build communication skills. You’ll only get better at writing by doing it. Your subjects don’t have to be legal topics. Writing science reports, poetry, and movie reviews will all help you develop the flexibility to write about you’re yourself and your interests. Varied topics will help you build strong word choice abilities.
You’ll be able to sell yourself in your personal statements and essays included in any submission. Your writing can be a strong “call to action” and that call to action is to get a law school to send you an acceptance letter.
Diverse Activities and Study
You may think that more is better, but when it comes to activities and extracurriculars, focused longevity can also impress admissions specialists. They want to see unique clubs, service groups, and public service projects that are ongoing over your college career.
A unique major could also give you an advantage, in ways you might not expect. Not every candidate has to have a social sciences or humanities background. UC Davis points out that law schools are actively seeking candidates with STEM majors (science, technology, engineering, math).
These disciplines can help lawyers move into different areas of law like intellectual property and other sectors where a technological headstart is a benefit.
Show your Law School You Want to be There
You can sit at home and write about yourself all day, but you might want to show a little initiative and visit that campus you’re hoping to call home.
New England Law | Boston recommends being engaged with the law school well before you apply. Admissions officers will be able to see how many times you’ve visited the school, how many times you’ve requested information, and what questions you’ve asked. They may even recognize your name when they see it on an application.
A school should feel like it’s your first choice even if it’s not. This interest can give you a slight edge over other candidates when qualifications are otherwise dead even.