Pre-Law Program Application Information
Do’s and Don’ts for Personal Statements
Many law schools require that applicants prepare a personal statement as part of the application process.
While some students believe that the GPA and LSAT scores are the most critical aspects of the application, the aspiring law students should NOT underestimate the importance of the personal statement. It can play a crucial role in determining a favorable admission decision.
WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON ERRORS IN PERSONAL STATEMENTS?
- Failing to determine what the law schools you are applying to want in a personal statement. Some ask you to tell the school why you want to be a lawyer. Others may simply ask you to tell them something about your interests or experiences. A personal statement that might suit one law school may not be appropriate for another. Do not take shortcuts here. Pay close attention to the instructions.
- Careless grammatical errors, misspelled words, run on sentences, misuse of homonyms, etc. (“Peak” for “pique” or “peek” will harm your chance for acceptance). Your goal should be to prepare an error-free statement. Get a third party to read and critique it before you submit it.
- Making the statement too long. Two to three double-spaced pages is generally what the law schools require. 500 words. Two paragraphs is too short.
- Using the statement as a vehicle to attack something like the LSAT’S. There should be no bitter diatribes or negativity. Also, if you write about a person who has inspired you, you should not talk about him/her as much as about your reaction to that person. Avoid providing too much information about personal matters that may make the reader uncomfortable.
- Using gimmicks that you think will sway the admissions committee: Sending a DVD, photos, writing a sonnet, or using iambic pentameter will likely turn off the reader. Attempts at humor may fall flat. Do not try to be cute by writing in an extended metaphor.
- Getting a personal statement from the internet. Do not use a statement that was submitted by someone else. If the admissions committee uncovers evidence of plagiarism, your application will be rejected and the misconduct be reported to LSAC. Remember you aspire to be a member of the legal profession whose members are held to high ethical standards and who are officers of the court.
Your personal statement is unique to you. It should be a vignette, an epiphany – an “aha” moment, or a slice of your life. If you have a passion for some causes or issue, tell the committee. Have you seen or lived an injustice? Your reaction reveals something about you. You are seeking to enter a profession where a certain amount of gravitas is expected.
There are two critical elements:
WHAT you write about and HOW you write it
You can write your way into law school with a thoughtful, well-planned and well-executed personal statement. A bad one can be a deal breaker.
LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION TO SUPPORT YOUR APPLICATION TO LAW SCHOOL
Faculty or outside letters of recommendation are a key part of the law school application process. Most schools require at least two letters. Some will accept up to four. Here are some rules to follow in seeking and obtaining letters that will bolster your application.
1. Make an appointment to meet with the professor. Ask for the letter in person. Go to the professor’s office and pose two questions:
- a.) “Do you have time to write a letter of recommendation for me?”
- b.) “Can you write a strong, positive letter for me?”
If the would-be recommender hesitates to answer or answers “no,” find somebody else.
2. Do not email your request. Professors are bombarded daily by e-mails. They may read yours and may not remember you just from your name or class.
3. Seek out professors from whom you have taken more than one class or who have taught you in a smaller seminar or for whom you have done research. These instructors will likely know you best and can comment on your strengths and skills.
4. When you approach a professor for a letter, bring with you the following:
- a.) Your resume
- b.) Your transcript highlighting the grades you earned in his/her course
- c.) A copy of a paper(s) you wrote in his/her class that garnered a high grade and favorable comments
- d.) A brief statement about why you want to study law.
5. Tell the professor that the letter you are seeking should address the following:
- a.) Your intellectual acumen
- b.) Your writing skills
- c.) Your critical thinking skills
- d.) Your public speaking skills
- e.) Your work ethic
6. A letter addressing all of the above should be at least two pages long.
- Give the professor enough time to prepare the letter. Asking a professor to write with only a few days’ notice is an imposition. Notify him/her at least 30 days prior to the due date. Inform him/her that he/she will be receiving a form from LSAC with instructions for submission.
- Two weeks later, follow-up to make sure the recommender has heard from LSAC and remind him/her of the due date. Missing letters mean that your file is incomplete and not ready for consideration.
1. When is the LSAT offered?
The four-hour exam is given four times a year: February, June, October, and December. Plan to register at least one month before the test date.
2. When should I take the exam?
The Pre-Law Program at Fairfield recommends that students take the exam in June of the Junior year. Seniors who plan to take a year off before attending law school could take the exam then as well.
Most schools have rolling admissions. The earlier you apply the better your chances of getting accepted.
4. Can I take the exam more than once?
Yes, but the Pre-Law Program recommends that students take the LSAT once. Schools will average the scores on multiple exams.
5. Should I take a prep course?
Yes, the LSAT is a demanding test. Advance preparation is essential to success. The Pre-Law Program recommends that students take a several weeks long prep course in advance of the test date. The Program can make arrangements for a live as well as video/online prep program.
6. What is considered a high LSAT score?
7. How important is the LSAT score?
Critically important if you aspire to attend a top tier law school.