This blog originally appeared on New England Law | Boston's website.
Even though each law school is a little different, they’re all looking for similar things in applications. Ultimately, they want to know if you have what it takes to succeed in law school and, eventually, pass the bar exam and practice law. Law schools use the criteria below to make that call.
1. Strong academic record and LSAT score
There’s really no way around it—your LSAT score, GPA, and the rigor of your undergraduate course work are basically the most important things law schools are looking for. Also keep in mind that your LSAT score and GPA can make a huge difference in the scholarships and grants you’ll be eligible for.
If your LSAT score or undergraduate GPA aren't quite as strong as you’d like them to be, you may want to include an addendum with your law school application to explain why. Don’t make excuses, but if you made mistakes, own up to them. Try to demonstrate your hard work and commitment to succeeding in law school in other ways, like strong grades in your senior year or a demanding job. You should also include what you did/are doing to turn your grades around if you’re still in college.
Related: 5 Tips for a Better LSAT Score
2. Extracurricular involvement
Law schools want to admit motivated, energetic students who get involved and try to improve the campus—and world—around them. The admission committee will be looking at your undergraduate extracurricular activities to get a sense of how involved you might be on their campus too. Make sure you highlight any leadership positions, long-term commitments, and results you achieved through your extracurricular activities.
3. Excellent writing and reading abilities
In law school, you will be reading and writing a lot. Those skills need to be on full display in your law school applications. This means your personal statement and long-form answers need to be clear and thoughtful. Your overall application should be accurate and free of grammatical errors, and you should follow all directions to the letter.
4. Personal growth
Think about lessons you learned, obstacles you overcame, or challenges you pursued in recent years. It can be from during your time as a college student or a working professional. The personal statement or other long-answer questions are great places to tell a story that demonstrates growth.
For example, if you needed to work to help pay your college tuition, that might have cut into your study time (and maybe even your GPA). But it also shows how dedicated you are to achieving your goals—and that’s exactly what law school admission folks want to see.
5. Strong recommendations from people who actually know you
Choose recommendation writers who can genuinely speak to your strengths and character. This means asking people who actually know you, whether it's an undergrad professor, employer, or mentor. Whatever you do, don't ask a "VIP" like your state's senator, college dean, or that celebrity professor to write you a recommendation unless they know you personally.
Don't be afraid to give your recommendation writers some guidance too. For example, you might ask a professor to highlight how you worked hard to improve your grade in her class or how you're a consistently strong writer.
6. Something special…
What sets you apart? It could be an unconventional hobby, an unexpected achievement, or even a unique background. Everyone has their something—whatever it is for you, include it in your law school application. It can help us remember you in a competitive field of applicants.
7. Demonstrated interest in the law school itself
Just like undergraduate institutions, law schools track your interest in their school, whether you requested information, came in for a visit, or just emailed the admission office with questions. This gives admission staff a meaningful sense of how interested you are in attending the institution—and that's relevant because law schools want to admit the students who truly want to be there.
Bonus: What law school admission reps aren’t looking for
Think you need to be pre-law to go to law school? Think again! It’s totally fine if you weren’t technically in a pre-law track as an undergrad. In fact, an “unexpected” undergrad major (think Art History, Microbiology, or Japanese Studies) might make your law school application even stronger, since you’ll stand out among applicants and bring a unique academic perspective.