Since the start of the recent recession, a greater number of students across the country are considering law school as their next step after undergrad. To add to that, law school takes only three years, which is appealing compared to longer medical and PhD programs. Finally, becoming students and practitioners of the law allows us to fulfill our Islamic duties by speaking out against injustice and protecting the rights of the oppressed and victimized in our society.
Admission to law schools is competitive, however. Here are the most important factors in gaining admission to the law school of your choice, in order of importance.
1. LSAT (Law School Admissions Test)
The first and most important thing to realize about law school admissions: it's all a numbers game. If you have a really high LSAT and GPA score, you will get into the top schools; conversely, if your LSAT and GPA are poor, in all likelihood you won't get into the best schools, despite an outstanding recommendation or personal statement. To that end, if you have the financial means, it is well worth it to invest in an LSAT prep course to help you prepare for the test. The LSAT itself is very study-able test, and the techniques and structure that a prep course offers help many students improve their scores significantly. The best LSAT test prep companies are TestMasters and Powerscore, both of which offer classes in different cities across the country. For those who have the self-discipline to study on their own, the Powerscore Bibles are considered the best self-study books on the market.
In order to have a solid chance at admission into your preferred law school, you should aim for an LSAT score that is at least at the 50th percentile mark for the previous year's incoming class at that school. Check each law school's website to find this information.
Another point to keep in mind is when to take the LSAT. Most students take the LSAT late in their junior year, early in their senior year, or both. Since the vast majority of law schools look at only the highest of a student's LSAT scores, it's a good idea to take the LSAT at least once during junior year, and if you're unsatisfied with your score, spend your summer studying and them retake it early on in senior year. However, not all schools take the higher of a student's LSAT scores – some will average your scores, so it's best to check with the specific school you're interested in before making a decision.
2. Grade Point Average
Your grade point average is almost just as important as your LSAT score. Law schools are not particularly concerned with what you've studied in college; what they'd like to know is how well you've done. To this end, double majoring or taking 22 credits a semester is not likely to impress law schools if you don't do well; it's much better to take fewer credits, study something you enjoy, and do well in it. Along the same lines, it's better to major in one subject and do well in it rather than to double-major and receive mediocre grades.
When assessing your GPA, law schools may consider other factors, such as the difficulty of the college or university you attended and whether your GPA shows an upward trend. Finally, keep in mind that a poor grade or poor semester here or there does not necessarily spell the end of your law school dreams. Such a grade or semester can always be explained in an "addendum" to your law school applications.
Just as with LSAT, you should aim for a GPA that is at least at the 50th percentile mark for the previous year's incoming class at your preferred school. A good rule of thumb to keep in mind is that if your GPA is slightly higher than the school's average, your LSAT can be a bit lower; similarly, if your LSAT is higher than average for that school, you can afford to have a GPA that's a bit lower. Please keep in mind that these two factors – GPA and LSAT – are by far the most important criteria that the admissions committee will use to judge you, so it's smart to invest most of your time focusing on these two aspects of your application.
3. Personal Statement
Although personal statements are relatively unimportant in admissions, writing a strong and well-written personal statement will help you stand out from other applicants with similar GPAs and LSAT scores.
This is your chance to tell your story and humanize yourself to the admissions committee. Remember: the admissions committee is not necessarily looking to admit well-rounded individual students, they are looking to admit a well rounded class of students. So, write about what you're passionate about, what makes you unique or different, and most importantly, how your background and experiences will contribute to creating a vibrant classroom discussion. If you feel passionately about your experiences as a Muslim in America, feel free to write about that.
4. Letters of Recommendation
Letters of recommendation are also generally insignificant for admissions purposes; in fact, some schools do not require them. However, a stellar letter of recommendation or two from a college professor or employer – one who knows you personally and can passionately make a case for your admission – can really help you stand out in a crowd of applicants with similar LSAT and GPA numbers.
There you have it. Now that you know what you need to focus on to prepare a successful law school application, it's time to get cracking!
The author welcomes additional questions from students about any aspect of the application process and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.