What Do Law Schools Look For in an Applicant?

For most students, applying to law schools is a stressful process that is only made worse by not knowing exactly what an admissions committee is looking for. As law schools vary greatly in what they value in an applicant, it can be hard to pinpoint things that are guaranteed to make your application more competitive, but there are some general aspects that you can work on that are universally important to all law schools.

In this article, we will be discussing the most important parts of your application and what exactly law schools look for in them. We will also be giving you the rundown on other factors that law schools may pay attention to on your application, and some tips to help you boost the competitiveness of your application.

The Most Important Aspects of Your Application

Below, we list some of the most important aspects of your application. You can expect law schools across the nation to look at these factors and take them into account when making a decision about whether or not you will be accepted into the school.

Your LSAT Score

One of the most-discussed and hardest-earned aspects of your law school application is the LSAT score. Law schools will be looking for a strong LSAT score that is at or above their median score. The higher your score is above the median, the more competitive your application is.

A law school may also look at how many times you have taken the LSAT and whether or not your previous LSAT scores are much higher or much lower than your current score. It is true that the school will only count your highest score as part of the application, but the admissions committee may have a few questions if you have taken the LSAT several times and having greatly varying score (in situations like this, we recommend adding an addendum to explain any circumstances that may have affected your score).

If your LSAT score is lower than the school’s median, you may be able to gain some points for yourself by having a higher GPA, which is referred to as being a splitter.

Your Undergraduate GPA

Another essential part of your law school application, law schools will look at your undergraduate GPA as a way to measure how well you can complete coursework and perform academically. Having a high undergraduate GPA is a good way to indicate to schools that you have what it takes to succeed in the rigorous coursework that is law school.

That being said, you don’t have to have a perfect 4.0 GPA to make yourself more competitive. As long as your transcript shows a diverse range of classes and you give your best attempt, many schools won’t give a second thought to a grade of a B or even a C here and there.

However, if your GPA is much lower than the school’s median, you should aim to have a high LSAT score to balance out your grades. You may also want to consider including an addendum in your application to explain any circumstances behind your lower grades (like sickness or a death in the family that caused your grades to drop one semester).

Your Personal Statement

The personal statement included in your application is a prime way for the law school to get to know you. The admissions committee will look closely at this because not only does it offer a glimpse into who you are as a person, but because it is a way for you to demonstrate your abilities in reading and writing—essential skills for succeeding in law school.

You should be sure that your personal statement is crafted professionally and completely free of errors. It should answer the prompt (typically, telling why you want to attend the law school and giving some background on your life) clearly and succinctly, and shouldn’t lend itself to too much creativity or exaggerations.

If you need help writing your personal statement, you can look on your intended law school’s admissions website for examples. You may also want to check out this article on crafting a competitive personal statement.

Extracurricular Activities

Any extracurricular activity that you participated in while in undergraduate school will be looked at by the law school admissions committee. A commonly believed myth about this is that admissions only care about the number of activities you are involved in, when in fact it is the type and quality of activity that counts more.

Admissions committees look closely at any extracurricular activities for evidence that you have leadership experience, experience working in teams, or show a strong sense of self-motivation. This may take the form of leading clubs, starting school-wide initiatives, or organizing charity events.

Additionally, your extracurricular activities don’t necessarily have to be related to law school, but they should give a glimpse into your interests and what drives you as a person.

Letters of Recommendation

Some schools put more weight on letters of recommendation than others, but it is nevertheless an important part of your application. The admissions committee will be looking closely at the letters to evaluate how professors or other important figures in your life judge your ability to succeed in law school.

It is important to ask people who really know you or your work and have close relationships with you to write your letters. Professors, teachers, and community members who know you and can write an honest, positive letter of recommendation are much preferred over asking someone who may just have name recognition, like the dean of your school.

On top of that, personalized letters that speak to your individual skills and abilities to succeed in law school are more valued over generic letters of recommendation.

Other Factors Law Schools Pay Attention To

college student with a laptop

These factors may not be the first things that the admissions committee looks at, but they are equally as important when it comes to determining your competitiveness among other applicants.

Motivation for Attending Law School

We touched on this a little bit when discussing your personal statement, but your motivation for attending law school is indeed looked at as part of your application. The admissions committee is interested in why you want to obtain a law degree, and most of them will also be curious as to why you want to attend their school.

You should make sure to establish your thoughts clearly on why exactly you want to attend law school, as this will help you write about them more concisely and convey your motivations sincerely to the admissions committee.

Your Personal Background

Another aspect that may be included in your personal statement, your personal background is important to law schools. The admissions committee makes an effort to look at candidates who have demonstrated personal growth and have a self-awareness about their lives and their role in the world.

This may seem a little overwhelming at first, but it is important to honestly and truthfully convey your story to the admissions committee. When choosing a topic for your personal statement, it is a good idea to select something that demonstrates your ability to overcome adversity or setbacks, as this is a good indicator of your success in law school.

Obvious Interest in the School

Besides just writing about how interested you are in a certain school, it is important to directly demonstrate your interest. Admissions committees do pay attention to which applicants go out of their way to show the school that they are interested, or draw from their personal experiences with the law school as an explanation of why they want to attend.

Showing your interests can take many different forms, such as visiting the campus, speaking to an admissions counselor, talking to and making connections with current students, and attending any events that the law school holds for the public. You can write about these experiences in your essays on why you want to attend the school and use them to get a good understanding of the student culture at your intended law school.

Diversity and Uniqueness

It’s no secret that law schools want to make their incoming classes as diverse and unique as can be, and this doesn’t always refer to diversity in terms of ethnicity or cultural background. While those factors may be looked at in your application, the admissions committee also takes note of diverse experiences, activities, and hobbies.

For instance, maybe you farmed chickens throughout high school and included some of the lessons you learned from it in your essays. Or maybe you were a professional yo-yoer in college and included that on your application.

Admissions committees are also interested in unique undergraduate majors, like STEM majors, languages, or the liberal arts. Remember, you don’t need to major in pre-law to go to law school!

Any unique hobby, interest, or skill that you have can and should be included in your application, as this makes you stand out from the crowd and can bring more competitiveness to your application.

Tips to Make Yourself a Competitive Law School Candidate

Taking note of our tips below can help you turn yourself into a competitive law school candidate and give the admissions committee an application that they will remember.

Prepare an Application Timeline

The best thing you can do before getting too deep into the law school application process is to make yourself an application timeline. This timeline will take into account your personal goals and application deadlines, helping you to organize yourself and meet all of the requirements you need to apply.

The most competitive law school candidates are highly organized and have a good idea of which milestones need to be met in their application cycle. Starting early on your own application timeline will work to get you ahead and keep you less stressed.

Study Hard

There’s nothing better you can do for yourself and your law school application than to study hard and put a lot of work into your undergraduate classes. Doing this will help you to keep your undergraduate GPA higher, making you a competitive candidate.

You will also need to study hard for your LSAT test and should start studying at least 3 to 5 months ahead of taking it to ensure you get the highest score possible. It is also a good idea to leave enough time for a retake in case you don’t get your desired score on the first try.

Get Involved On and Off Campus

As we discussed above, getting involved in extracurricular activities and hobbies, both related and unrelated to law school, can help make your application more competitive.

Admissions committees will look at your resume to see whether or not you have leadership experience or are otherwise active in your school and community, as this is a good sign you will also be active and engaged in law school.

Get involved both on and off-campus in activities that interest you, but be sure that you don’t overload your schedule to the point where your grades are affected – it is more important to have a strong GPA and LSAT score than it is to be involved in a dozen activities.

Go the Extra Mile

When preparing your applications to law school, it helps to go the extra mile in everything you do. This means double and triple-checking applications and going out of your way to visit the law school campus and speak with current students or admissions counselors. You should maintain a sense of professionalism in everything you do, and work to build up your networking and interpersonal skills.

The admissions committee will appreciate your enthusiasm for the law school, and this can help make you memorable as an applicant and your application more competitive.

Crafting Your Law School Application

Applying to law school is far from easy, and it can be made more stressful by not knowing exactly what the admissions committee will be looking for in your application. Fortunately, with the help of our article, you now have a better understanding of which aspects of your application you should be putting the most effort into.

As long as you make sure to keep your grades up, study hard and score well on your LSAT, and craft a personal statement that truly reflects your background and personal motivations, you will be sure to impress the admissions committee and make your application stand out among the rest.