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How To Approach Optional Recommendations and Essays

When it comes to optional recommendations and essays, many applicants may ask themselves: How much is too much?

Anna Ivey, of Anna Ivey Consulting, recently answered this exact question and offered insight into how much applicants should provide in optional application materials.


If a law school only asks for two recommendations, applicants should only submit two recommendations.

“If they require two, send only two unless you have strong reasons for submitting more,” Ivey writes. “Most top law schools prefer academic recommendations, and so the two you send should ideally come from people who have taught you in college or in graduate school, unless the instructions expressly say otherwise.”

Experts stress the importance of having a strong academic letter of recommendation.

“A detailed letter from a professor outlining the rigor of the class(es) you took, how you excelled in them, describing your abilities as a student, is the best tool for law schools who are trying to ascertain whether you will make it through a rigorous law school curriculum,” Ann Levine, founder and chief law school admission consultant at Law School Expert, writes for National Jurist. “A strong academic letter can show you are more than just a strong GPA – that you actually care about what you study and contribute meaningfully.”


When it comes to optional essays, Ivey says, applicants should only submit them if they meet two conditions: “(1) you have something interesting to say on the subject (content) and (2) you can write about it very well in roughly one double-spaced page (execution). Some schools let you submit two-page optionals, but one-page limits are common.”

And when it comes to the diversity statement, be sure to explain why your unique background will matter.

“You also have to be able to say something meaningful about that particular element of your background, and how it has shaped you in a substantial way. It’s not enough to identify that you have that background; you have to explain why and how it matters. Always answer the implicit ‘so what?’ part of the question,” Ivey writes.

Sources: Anna Ivey Consulting, National Jurist