What To Know As An International Law School Applicant
When it comes to applying at American law schools, international applicants can sometimes feel they are at a disadvantage.
Luckily, Daniel Waldman, contributor at US News and admissions counselor at Stratus Admissions Counseling, recently offered some tips in U.S. News on how international applicants can better prepare for the law school application process.
When it comes to the LSAT, Waldman says, it’s not really so much about comprehending the reading as it is mastering the logic.
“Given that the reading comprehension sections of the LSAT are notoriously hard to study for, I chose to focus on the logic sections,” Waldman writes in U.S. News. “Not only do they outnumber the reading comprehension sections, but the language barrier is much easier to overcome when reviewing a short paragraph rather than a long passage.”
While reading comprehension is an aspect of the LSAT, Waldman says, international applicants can actually hinder their performance by spending too much time on the section.
“Trying to memorize every line is a common mistake among those studying for the LSAT, but one that those relatively new to English pay a much higher price for,” Waldman writes. “Instead, briefly read the passage once to understand the topic, then skim over the questions to see which parts you should focus on in the passage.”
Making language your advantage
Many international applicants who have language barriers may be hesitant that they will struggle in certain areas of the law school application, such as the personal essay – especially given how critical of a component the essay is to the application.
“While this may be true, the issues here can be mitigated by having another person look over the essays and point out any mistakes or other problems,” Waldman writes.
Rather than worry, Waldman suggests that international applicants use their backgrounds to their advantage.
“In your journey to the United States, surely you gathered some unique experiences not shared by those who grew up in this country, or you were raised in an environment that has a different perspective on the U.S. and current events,” he writes. “Law schools highly value diversity, and it is these qualities you would do well to discuss in your personal or diversity statements, as they would set you apart from the pack.”
According to Accepted, an admissions consultancy, applicants should focus on three key areas to highlight diversity in their personal statement: IDentity, I Dids or deeds, and Ideas.
Identity pertains to who you are, but it can go even deeper than that.
“This is the most commonly thought-of form of diversity,” according to Accepted. “It certainly includes ethnicity or being a member of an underrepresented minority, but it is much more than that. It could be gender, sexual orientation, religious commitment, non-traditional education background, a particularly strong political commitment, etc.”
“I Dids or deeds” relates to what kind of accomplishments you have under your belt.
“Overcoming challenges. Leadership experiences. Community service. Military service, especially leadership. And much, much more.”
Ideas are how your approach or perspective stands out from the crowd.
“Specific philosophy or perspective? Problem solver? And again there are many more ways that your ideas or perspective can bring diversity to a class and community.,” adds Accepted.
When it comes to GPA, things can get tricky for international applicants.
Often times, international applicants assume that their GPA is calculated using a standard conversion—a common misconception, according to Waldman.
“I work with many applicants from other countries, and most assume that their GPA is calculated by simple conversion – so for example, someone graded on a 0-100 scale would simply divide their GPA by 25 to get their American GPA – or that a B in their home country is taken at its face value and viewed just like a B from an American institution,” he writes.
However, Waldman says, the LSAC has a system that converts grades in a fair way.
“While the Law School Admissions Council doesn’t publicly state how it converts grades from other countries, it does account for harsher grading systems,” Waldman writes. “In Israel, for example, an 85% GPA would have a student graduating with honors, and LSAC recognizes it would be unfair to turn an honors student into a B student. However, don’t count on LSAC to do your job for you; make sure to include an addendum explaining the different grading systems and urge schools to view your transcript in that context.”