When applying to law school, I had absolutely no clue what I was doing. I knew nothing, and pretty much winged the whole thing. I had some advice from my advisor, but he ended up leaving more than a few things out and steered me wrong with a few pieces of advice. With help of friends who also had no idea what they were doing, I submitted my applications and was accepted into my top choice law school after 15 days. Here’s everything I did and what I wish I knew when applying for law school.
From June to early February, the law school application process consumed my life, in different ways. To prevent getting overwhelmed, I did one thing at a time. I wanted to get it over as quickly as possible and was adamant about getting in my applications the first day I could to increase my chances of getting into my top choice school. My timeline was as follows:
- June: Register for the LSAT and LSAT prep course
- July: Ask for letters of recommendation and start LSAT prep course
- August: Study for the LSAT through the course and take practice tests, register for LSAC’s Credential Assembly Service, send transcripts to the LSAC
- September: Take the LSAT, write personal statement, follow-up on LORs, finalize school list, begin applications and supplementary essays
- October: Get LSAT score back and submit applications. Get into law school!
- November/December: complete the FAFSA and apply for financial aid
- January/February: receive financial aid packages and decide on a school
Because I knew I wanted to apply to law schools in early October, I knew I had to take the September LSAT. I would recommend taking it in the winter or spring before the fall you want to apply, but graduating early and applying to law school was a decision I only made in April/May of last year.
I kept watching the LSAC to see when I could register for the test. The day registration opened, I immediately signed up. I wanted to make sure I got a seat at a testing location convenient for me. Because I didn’t have a car or anyone to bring me or pick me up, and call phones are not permitted in the testing center, I needed to take the test somewhere I could get to technology free. I also made sure to have a friend register for the same location as me so we could commute back to campus phone-free together.
In July, I asked for letters of recommendation. I ended up getting three, all of which I submitted to each school. Because my top choice school was the school I attended for undergrad, I was made sure one of my letters was from a professor whose class I did extremely well in. My email to her went something like:
- Dear Dr. ________, I hope that you’re having a great summer! I am currently in the process of applying to law schools and was wondering if you would be willing to write me a letter of recommendation. This past spring, I took your ________ course and greatly enjoyed your teaching style and real life application of material. By writing on my behalf, I think you could provide a strong letter of recommendation. Thank you for your consideration, _______.
July was also the month my LSAT prep course started. I ended up taking a live-online Powerscore class which ran up until the Wednesday before test day. I did absolutely no studying before the course, which was beneficial. However, while the course did make me feel more confident going in, and undoubtedly prepared me more than I could have prepared myself, in hindsight, I would definitely do a few things differently.
First, I would not have registered for the course that brought me up to the test. I would have been better off having a few weeks after completion of the course to finish up practice problems, take full timed practice tests, and go back and practice what I was struggling with. While I did this a lot during the course, studying consumed my life and had me stressed out to the point of crying multiple times a day, every day. While I studied a lot, I considered waiting to take the October test just to have more time to apply what I had learned in the class. However, because that would not allow me to submit my applications until November, which in my mind was way too late, I went ahead with the September test.
A few pros of the Powerscore classes is that they teach you how to take the LSAT, force you to practice, and provide you with full timed test and automatic score reports after you take them. In the reports, you get your score and a breakdown by section and question type, so you know what your strengths and weaknesses are. I also personally liked how the live online class held me accountable and forced me to watch the videos. Every Tuesday and Thursday, from 12:30-3:30, I would be in class. I did miss a couple once I went back to school, but was able to watch the class recordings after and fast-forward the parts I didn’t need.
However, I don’t think the class was effective all the way through. My scores started to plateau at the half-way point, and never went up after that, despite hours and weeks of studying. The score I got on my full-timed test at the halfway point is the exact same score I got on the real test. Another issue I have with the class, and LSAT as a whole, I guess, is that you’re naturally going to be better and worse at certain question types. If the kinds you’re good at are heavy on the actual test, great. If not, you’re screwed, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
On the day of the test, I put my ID, watch, admission ticket, pencils, eraser and water into a clear ziplock bag and headed to the testing center, without my phone. It felt weird. It was important to bring a watch, and to keep time on a watch while taking practice tests, because that is the only way to keep time as there are no clocks in the testing room. At the beginning of each section, I turned the minute hand back to 12 so I could easily see how many of the 35 minutes had passed. I also made sure not to bring in any prohibited items. Getting home was a bit of an adventure without a phone. My friend and I ended up approaching a random college student and asked him to call an Uber for us. We had him Venmo request us the cost right there, and paid it once we got back to campus and our phones.
Around August/September, I also had to submit transcripts to the LSAC through the Credential Assembly Service (CAS). You do have to pay $195 for this and it sends a report of your GPA and LSAC score to every school you apply to. Sending my transcript from GW was no problem as they do it all the time electronically. However, part of me graduating early meant that I had 7 credits from a state school I attended part-time in high school who had to mail a paper copy of my transcript to the LSAC, and another state school I attended over the summer who also had to mail a paper copy because apparently it’s still the early 2000s in RI. I definitely did not get this done in August/September like I should have because I didn’t know I had to and ended up stressed out that the horse and buggy wouldn’t get my paper transcripts delivered on time, UGH! Eventually, it arrived, and the CAS combined my 3 GPAs from the 3 schools I had attended and formed a cumulative GPA for me.
Two days after taking the LSAT, I started drafting my personal statement, three times, before editing the final one 5 more times. The goal of the personal statement is to make the school get to know you as a person. Even though it had absolutely noting to do with law school, I wrote my personal statement about horses because riding is something I love. I let them know where I was from, how horses have always been part of my life, threw in a few jokes and anecdotes to show my crazy, and tried to make it as enjoyable to read and story like as possible. I feel like admissions committees see millions of personal statements about legal internships, the law, all that boring stuff, and knew that in order to stand out, I had to be myself. Of course, I had to throw in something about the law at the end, and ended up doing so by connecting traits I’ve collected through riding to trait’s I’ll need as a lawyer. For example, being assertive, not giving up, and how this is going to help me be a good lawyer. As long as you’re true to yourself and can express your personality through your personal statement, and don’t talk about how much money you want to make some day, you really can’t go wrong, haha!
When it comes to finalizing a school list, everyone is different. Some people apply to two schools, some to twelve and some apply somewhere in between. I personally applied to every school in and around DC because that is the area I wanted to stay in. Some people also apply to similarly ranked schools in order to negotiate scholarships. For example, GW is #22, so applying to more top 20 schools might help, but also might not. I did not do this because for me, thee money, time and stress of applying to random schools just didn’t seem worth it.
After my personal statement was complete, I followed up on my LORs, made sure my transcripts were in, began to fill out my applications and write my school specific statements. Most were around 100-250 words, and even though optional, I made sure to do all of the ones that applied to me to express interest. Here, I was less focused on expressing my personality and more focused on showing the school what a good fit I was for them. To figure out what to write about, I asked myself what I thought the school was looking for, and how I could articulate that in an honest way.
After everything was done and my LSAT score was back, I finally submitted my applications and finally felt like I could breathe again. After getting email confirmation from the school that your application has been submitted, I recommend forgetting about it. I made the mistake of checking my status on the portal two weeks after submitting my GW application and seeing that a decision had been made, and that I would be notified of it within the next three days. I didn’t sleep at all that night, knowing that my future had been decided, but I didn’t know what it was. I even turned my email notifications off in case I had been rejected, so I could find out my fate when I was ready. At 11:00am, I decided I should check my email. At the top of my inbox was an email welcoming me to GW Law. I immediately Face-timed my mom to tell her I was in before crying hysterically, and not in a good way; I had an actual meltdown on the sidewalk. After having 15 days of stress-free oblivion, I now knew what would be heading my way in the fall. I couldn’t be more excited, but in that moment was extremely apprehensive yet relieved.
But it didn’t end there! It was time to apply for financial aid, which meant filling out the FAFSA, and submitting it to each school I was interested in. Every school’s requirements are different, but for GW, there were a few extra forms I had to fill out before I received my package. All that’s left now is submitting my seat deposit and starting school in August!