Law school applications can be stressful and time-consuming, but they don’t have to be.
Michelle Kim Hall, a contributor at U.S. News & World Report and director of law counseling at Stratus Law School Admissions Consulting, recently wrote a four week guide to help law applicants prioritize their applications.
“Most law schools review applications on a rolling basis,” Kim Hall says. “Aim to submit your applications while admissions committees have plenty of spots to fill.”
While law school applications differ in their supplemental components, most applications have universal requirements. The Law School Admission Council’s Credential Assembly Services (CAS) manages law applications. Kim Hall recommends applicants to prioritize registering for CAS and submitting all required transcripts.
“You’ll need to allow LSAC time to process your applications, though, so prioritize this step to avoid delays,” she says.
The next step, Kim Hall says, is to brainstorm potential personal statement topics. This is a crucial process because identifying what experiences you want to talk about influences what accomplishments your recommender will cover in letters of recommendation.
For starters, you’ll need to reach out to three or four recommenders who can illustrate the achievements you’ve mentioned in your personal statements. Kim Hall recommends giving recommenders “ideally a month” to draft your letters and updating your resume with the latest experience.
“Note that some law schools ask for estimates of how much time you spent on each activity per week,” Kim Hall says. “This information helps admissions committees assess the depth of your commitment and how well you managed extracurricular and professional responsibilities alongside your coursework.”
Once you’ve brainstormed and reached out for letters of recommendations, it’s time to get started on the actual applications. Kim Hall recommends downloading applications, creating a list of additional materials needed along with formatting requirements, and dividing the list of schools in thirds. The best way to approach multiple applications is to prioritize by top choice.
“Apply first to schools you are most enthusiastic about and work your way down the list,” Kim Hall says.
Another strategy, according to Kim Hall, is to “bundle schools with similar application and formatting components. For instance, the University of Chicago Law School and University of California – Berkeley Law School both allow personal statements of four pages.
“By tackling the most straightforward applications first, you will expedite your submission process,” Kim Hall says.
Applicants should note that personal statements take a large portion of time. “Do not overlook the importance of revising your essays either – allow yourself several days to draft and then revise,” Kim Hall says.
A number of schools maintain stricter formatting requirements. For example, Harvard Law School asks for a limit of two pages for personal statements.
Cutting essays may be tricky, but Kim Hall says “rather than cut entire paragraphs, comb through your essay and streamline language. To tighten up the text, look for widows – one or two words that appear on a new line at the end of a paragraph – and cut words earlier in a paragraph.”
The next step after writing the personal statement is tackling the optional responses. Kim Hall says these prompts are opportunities to “distinguish yourself from other applicants.” Be sure to answer these prompts in ways that you haven’t in other areas of your application.
The optional prompts allow room for creativity. Pepperdine’s application asks applicants the following question: “You are going on a one-year road trip and you can bring along with you anyone who has ever lived. Who do you take and why?”
These types of questions are open to creativity, yet Kim Hall recommends that applicants take them seriously.
“These responses will be evaluated alongside the rest of your application materials and should help convey why you are suited to the study of law,” she says.
The final week of the application should be spent completing all remaining and supplemental applications. This means tying up loose ends and making sure your recommendation letters, transcripts, and other materials are on file with CAS.
“Even if you have already applied to some schools, admissions committees won’t consider your application complete until they have received the minimum number of recommendations and until your transcript is processed into your law school report,” Kim Hall says.
In addition, Kim Hall says applicants can take this time to explore specialized programs at specific law schools. Programs such as the Georgetown’s global Law Scholars Program offer accepted students specialized curriculums.
“Save these supplemental materials for last once you have perfected your primary application,” Kim Hall says. “After all, you cannot be selected for a specialized program or scholarship unless you have been accepted to the law school.”