Applying to Law School

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Now that August is quickly approaching, this is a perfect time to send out a blog post about applying to law school. If you are reading this blog know that you will be applying to law school, then Congratulations! Welcome to the journey on the road to becoming a law student. If you are contemplating law school, then hopefully I don’t scare you away. This will be a longer blog post because there is so much that goes into applying to law school. Hopefully, you all find this blog helpful.

This blog is especially different because I am not the only one writing. I personally had a terrible LSAT score and wanted the best of the best to share a success story with the LSAT for my readers. A good friend of mine will talk all about the LSAT. You can find her on Twitter “@BlackElleWoods1” and you can read her material https://themelaninellewood.wixsite.com/mysite

THE LSAT

How I got a 169 LSAT score…

My senior year of college, I was getting ready to prepare for what at that time was arguably the hardest test of my life, the dreaded LSAT. Growing up I did fairly well on standardized tests, but in reality I was a horrible student. I made it 14 plus years in school and didn’t know how to properly study. The LSAT wasn’t a test I could just show up for. I knew it would take long, tireless and stressful days of studying. I usually did well in school and put forth enough effort to get an A in classes or on tests, but the LSAT WAS DIFFERENT…this test challenged my natural intelligence that couldn’t be improved, despite my effort. This test isn’t really about what you know. It’s about how well you can solve problems and puzzles.

My first practice test score was 143. I was devastated and knew that I had my work cut out for me. I knew I had to make a sacrifice. Like many students, I was involved in a lot and had to really focus on time management. I first created a 12 week study schedule. I printed out all the Logic Games, Logical Reasoning questions, and Reading Comp passages that I could find for free online. I found my Kaplan unlocked book at a local thrift store and also bought The Logic Games bible on amazon. I also bought a silent timer so I didn’t have to use my phone just in case it became a distraction. I studied for 4 hours each day. 2 hours at a time during each session (I’m not one of those students who can study continuously for hours. I needed breaks. Lol I definitely recommend taking them)

I tackled LR and RC passages during the first 45 minutes-hour of the study session because of the length and endurance each question required. My suggestion is to not try to do those types of questions when you are tired and save them for peak mental hours. (if you have time find a good book to read on your own because it builds your reading stamina- this helped me a lot). When taking practice tests, make sure you take them under testing conditions (background noise, timed). There are 50 prep tests, breaking 10 of them up would yield 40 5 section tests. I only took 30-35. I took as many as possible.

The first item on my study schedule was taking a pre-test/practice test. I took a practice test every Friday. It helped me recognize my strengths and weaknesses and that following week I could put emphasis on them. By the last three weeks leading up to the tests I was taking tests twice a week instead of once a week. I found that the best times to take tests were in the mornings. And the best times for me to study were between classes.

I wasn’t fortunate enough to take a prep class so some study prep I did was self-study, group study, LSAT help YouTube videos. Eventually I settled into a rhythm and found that I actually began to enjoy the LSAT. By test day, I was flying. My last practice test score was 165.

I stopped doing any and everything related 3 days before the test. The day before the test I completely relaxed. I had a spa day and got a mani/pedi. My parents booked a hotel room for me so I didn’t have to go back to my dorm. This may not be necessary but my point is to relax completely! The morning of the LSAT, I only went over a few LG problems. Just to get in the mindset. Get to the testing center early. Don’t let other people’s stress levels become contagious. This is YOUR test. At the testing center, I heard some pretty ridiculous conversations from other test takers regarding the test. During the test itself, I took extreme pride in the knowledge of my efforts to prepare for the test, and knew that regardless of my score, I did the best that I could. The LSAT is a forgiving test, despite what many try to tell you about it. For a few of the questions on the test, I didn’t choose the answer because I knew what the right answer was; I made my selection because I recognized common flaws in the other four answer choices. I knew that my preparation style had paid off.

A few weeks later, during fall break in October I received an email from LSAC with my September LSAT score. It was finally grey day! I saw the 169 as I skimmed it and was in total shock. I had confidence that I did well, but never that well. If you would’ve asked me what my plans were a year ago from that day, my answer wouldn’t have been law school. My LSAT fee was waived & when I registered for the September test I also registered for the December test just in case I did not do well. I was accepted into many top law schools and now am attending my dream school! To anyone reading this post I hope you take away from this the confidence and encouragement that you need during your season of preparation. The LSAT is a learnable test that can be fun. For my part, I will keep the self-confidence and discipline that the LSAT experience strengthened, and apply that not only to law school, but to life!

Happy Studying!

-the Black Elle Woods

PERSONAL STATEMENT

The next thing that is very important is the personal statement. This is where you stand out by telling your story that is personal to you. It is important to keep in mind that you don’t have to tell them what you think they “want” to hear, but tell them who you are, what you stand for, what motivates you, and who/what inspires you.

I personally wrote about what made me interested in the law, and my desire to go to law school. That essentially described my passions, ambitions, the community I sought to help and why I was a great fit for the school. I also talked about my study abroad experience and how it strengthened my desire to become an attorney. Many people say don’t write about study abroad. I decided to write about my experience because it was unique. I was a Sociology major with a concentration in Criminal Justice and Criminology and a minor in Legal Studies. I plan to go into Criminal Defense work and my study abroad program was comparing the Criminal Justice System in the United States to the Czech Republic. This increased my desire to become an attorney and I thought it was an important story to tell.

I would advise to have a theme throughout your essay. Have something that you always refer back to and that is repeated throughout the essay. My mentor wrote hers on problem-solving. She would always would relate her essay back to how she loves to problem solve and everything that she had gone through in life lead her back to her love for problem solving. I wrote mine on a roller coaster. I talked about the twist and turns, ups and downs and thrills I experienced on my roller coaster ride that I used to describe my experience in undergrad. I think this essay should be as positive as possible focused on your accomplishments and also try to stay away from legal jargon.

Make sure that there are NO typos or grammatical errors. Make sure that you have multiple people read over it. I had 7-10 people look over my essays. They ALL caught different things. You never know what someone will catch. Have a good amount of people read it over. I had people in the career center, writing center, and others reading over my essays. After they read it over and you do edits, have someone close to you read over it. MAKE SURE that it is still 100% YOU and not just an edited version of you. Don’t forget to tell YOUR STORY even after the edits.

I would advise that this not exceed 2 pages. 

DIVERSITY STATEMENT

Hopefully you all have heard about this, but if not, then I will tell you how I interpret it. This is something fairly new to the law school application process. A personal statement allows you to talk about your accomplishments and put yourself in a positive light. I see the diversity statement as showing how you are diverse. This doesn’t just mean race, although it can be if you chose to. This allows you to expand on the situations that may have not been so pretty, but have changed your life in ways you never imagined. Maybe it helped your desire to go to law school. You can get as personal as you like, but I have seen it as telling one story. This allows the admissions committee to see what struggles you have faced and how you overcame those obstacles though perseverance.

Tell ONE story to paint the picture. Talk about your experience and allow yourself to be open about what happened. It could show how you learn to handle adversity. Talk about how going through that experience only contributed to one of many reasons why you want to go to law school and why you would be a great person to have in the classroom environment.

Unlike the personal statement, this is not required. Some schools will have a spot for the diversity statement, while others you may have to submit it as an addendum.

I would advise that this not exceed 2 pages. 

HOW MANY LAW SCHOOLS TO APPLY TO:

I was told many different things about this one. I believe there are two ways to approach this. One way is to apply to as many schools as you can. The other way is to only apply to a few you have a greater likelihood of getting into. There are three types of schools when applying.

  1. Reach Schools: Reach schools are those that are a little more out of reach. A reach school is where you don’t fall within the schools average LSAT score and GPA. This is a situation where you hypnotically have a 3.0 GPA and a 155 LSAT score. An example of a reach school in this case would be if the average applicant accepted had a 3.4 GPA and 162 LSAT score.
  2. Match Schools: Match schools are those that are a perfect match. You fall exactly within the average of what the school says is the median LSAT score and GPA. This is a situation where you hypnotically have a 3.0 GPA and a 155 LSAT score. An example of a match school in this case would be, if the average applicant accepted had a 3.0 GPA and 155 LSAT score.
  3. Safety Schools: Safety schools are those that you are above the schools average GPA and LSAT score. This is a situation where you hypnotically have a 3.0 GPA and a 155 LSAT score. An example of a safety school in this case would be, if the average applicant accepted had a 2.75 GPA and 145 LSAT score.

When I applied, I applied to a variation of all three. I would advise others to do this to because you never know what law school will say “Congratulations, you have be admitted to [Insert Law School].” Remember that each school may have an application fee. Contact the school and see if they will waive the fee. I had schools waive my application fee when I sent an email or made a phone call.

WHAT SHOULD YOU LOOK AT WHEN APPLYING:

There are many factors to look at when applying to law school.

  1. Ranking: This is important for resources and reputation. Most people want to go to a school that it high in ranking. There are 4 tiers. T1, T2, T3, T4. I will not get into which one is important because it all depends on you. Go to the school where you can excel in the particular law you have an interest in. I go to a T3/T4 school and I still love it. I see the pros and cons to both.
  2. Financial: This is looking at tuition, cost of living and how much scholarship money you receive. You want to leave law school with the least amount of debt as possible.
  3. Location: This is important because ideally you want to go to law school where you can see yourself practicing law (if you decide you want to practice). Look for schools in the area of where you can see yourself living for a long time.
  4. Potential Alumni Network: This is important because of networking. I see it as important because if you decide that you don’t want to stay within the state you went to law school, then it gives you another opportunity to put your foot in the door another way when you start looking for jobs. Alumni are very important in this profession and could help you find a job or they will be the one to interview you.
  5. What Just Feels Right: Lastly, you know when you know. Go to the school where your heart is telling you to go.

Although this is a short list of many things to consider, I find these most important when deciding where to consider applying to law school. This is not an exhaustive list.

TIMELINE ON APPLYING

I will explain my timeline that I took when applying. I will caution that this timeline is focused on going straight from undergrad to law school because that is what I did. If you do not feel as if you want to go straight from undergrad, then don’t. Go get work experience and real life experiences. People advise not to go straight from undergrad to law school. It is not abnormal to go at a later time. I did what was best for me and I do not regret it. I have seen and heard success stories on both. Decide when the right time is for you and go from there.

First and Second-year in Undergrad:

This is where you can join a pre-law club and could start thinking about going to law school. Start building a relationship with your professors so that you have potential letter of recommendations from them in a couple of years.

Third-Year in Undergrad:

This is where you could start to thinking about studying for the LSAT or preparing for the LSAT if you would like. You could also start looking at what law schools you have an interest in applying to.

Senior-Year in Undergrad:

There are many times to take the LSAT. These months include: June, September, October, or December. People most commonly take it in December.

Start asking the people who you want to recommend you as early as possible, start studying for the LSAT, and start thinking about writing your essay(s). I turned in everything by mid-January of my senior year. 

LETTER OF RECOMMENDATIONS

Get a letter of recommendation from the people WHO KNOW YOU. I cannot stress this enough. It is great if you get a letter of recommendation from a Judge, an attorney, the Dean of your school, but they must be able to say something about you. They need to be able to speak about who you are as person, how you are as a student, or how you are in the work environment. This can only come from someone who has seen you in class, work or has had personal interactions with you over time.

RESUME

Law school resumes WHEN APPLYING are different than normal ones. I was told that for purposes of applying you may have a resume longer than 1 page, but no longer than 2. Having just one page is still fine, but I had 2.

The categories I used were “Education”, “Pre-Law Coursework”, “Legal Organizations”, “Extracurricular Activities”, “Scholarships/Awards”, “Leadership Positions”, and “Work Experience”. I used all these to help show that I have had a long interest in this field. This can vary. I had the career center on campus look over it many times before I submitted it. I put them in this order because of what I wanted the committee to see first that stood out.

I would advise that this not exceed 2 pages. 

CHARACTER AND FITNESS

This is an essay that only applies when it applies. This essay applies when you have to explain a criminal record if you have one. I would advise to keep this short, sweet, and to the point. Describe what happened and explain how you learned from this situation. I would disclose anything that could be on record. I had something minor from when I was 14. Although this was sealed, they said to disclose everything.

I would advise that this not exceed 1 page.

ADDENDUM

Lastly, this is an essay when you want to explain that is not described above. This is commonly used to describe a low LSAT score or GPA. Be careful if you plan to use these. You do not want them to think that you are making an excuse. Make it informative that is short, sweet and to the point.

I would advise that this not exceed 1 page.

In conclusion, there are many ways how to approach applying to law school. This is just one of many ways available. I highly encourage talking to others that have been to law school, and research other blogs. You never know what might help you on your journey. It could also be that you like how I approached the personal statement but disagree on the timeline I used. Use as many resources as you can. I am always willing to send my essays to people and willing to offer my insight. I know this was long, but hopefully very helpful/informative.

Good luck on your journey. 🙂

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