Law School Admission Factors
What are law school admissions committees looking for?
The two primary objective factors in the law school admission decision are:
- grade point average and
- Law School Admission Test (LSAT) score
Other secondary subjective factors that may be considered are a personal statement, letters of recommendation, extracurricular activities, work experience, and the rigor of academic curriculum.
To get a better idea of what specific schools may be looking for, check out "How to Get In: Law School" from U.S. News.
Many law school admissions offices ask the following threshold questions:
- Does this candidate have the ability to succeed academically at our law school?
- What qualities, skills and/or experience does this applicant possess that we consider important to the study/practice of law?
- How does this candidate compare to others?
Why is the LSAT important?
Many law schools view the LSAT as a good indicator of future performance (i.e. the better you do on the LSAT, the better you will do in law school). Law schools send end-of-first-year grades to the LSAC, and they are correlated to LSAT scores. Data indicate that there is a relationship between higher scores and better performance as a 1L/first year law student.
This is important because undergraduate studies are often quite different from what you will be doing in law school. The amount of material you study, the type of material you study and how you study it will differ, so admissions offices rely on the LSAT to tell them something about your readiness for law school.
The LSAT also provides a common yardstick by which law schools can compare different students from different schools with different majors. It is also relied upon by many schools to help determine amounts of scholarship aid awarded to particular candidates.
Is the personal statement important?
Yes. You should treat it as your interview with the admissions committee. Most law schools don’t require an actual interview (University of Missouri-Kansas City is unique in that it does). Try to write a compelling opening paragraph, something that could help your statement stand out from the crowd. This is important given how many applications the committee reads. Make sure your statement is error-free. Students should have the pre-law advisor review their personal statements.
Are letters of recommendation required?
The majority of law schools require at least one letter of recommendation, and may ask for up to three. The strongest letters of recommendation come from faculty who are familiar with a candidate’s intellectual abilities, leadership potential and other skills relevant to a law school admissions committee. Avoid seeking out a recommender who has a fancy title but who does not know you well enough to speak to your relevant attributes; letters from Congressman, judges and ministers may not carry as much weight if they are vague, lackluster and/or short, and can have a negative impact on the committee.
A student does not need to prepare a file of recommendation letters until shortly before applying to law school. However, it is helpful to begin building rapport with instructors or faculty advisors early in your undergraduate career.