I. About the LSAT
The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is a multiple choice standardized test developed and administered by the Law School Admissions Services. It is designed to indicate a candidate's potential for success in the first year of law school. The LSAT is offered four times a year: June, October, December and February.
The June test is given on a Monday afternoon. All others are administered on a Saturday morning. (For observers of Saturday Sabbath, alternative test dates are available. In addition, those who may need special equipment may make specific arrangements in advance).
The test consists of four scored 35 minute sections, involving three question types:
There is also one experimental section (unscored, but test takers have no way of knowing which section is experimental) and a 30 minute writing section. The writing section is currently unscored, but admissions committees may look at your writing sample as part of your application!
Scoring scale ranges from 120 to 180. The national average is 151-152.
NOTE : LSAC (Law School Admissions Council) provides funds, through its Fee Waiver Program, to support law school access for all candidates regardless of their ability to pay for the LSAT and associated services.
Fee waivers are intended only for the most needy candidates (and this implies need in excess of that required for routine financial assistance). In other words, only those with extreme need should apply.
Fee Waiver covers: two LSATs, LSDAS with four reports and letter of recommendation service, and one copy of the Official LSAT SuperPrep book.
If you think you may be a candidate for such a fee waiver, please contact me for an application form.
When to take the LSAT:
Students who plan to apply to law school in their senior year (for admission to the fall class after their spring graduation) should plan to take the LSAT in June after their junior year . There are several advantages to this date.
Since spring semester has ended, students can focus solely on the LSAT rather than juggling LSAT preparation with their normal class schedule. You will have your LSAT score by the end of July so you will be able to begin the process of selecting law schools.
You are also putting yourself in a better position to be considered for scholarship money if you take your test early and get your applications done early. Scholarship money becomes scarce the longer you wait.
You will also have the opportunity to take the test a second time should you feel that you did not perform at your best the first time around (though you should plan to take the test only once -- many schools average multiple scores together instead of taking the highest score, so you will need to score substantially better on the second test to make any difference, and you always run the risk of lowering your score).
Check with the individual law schools to which you want to apply if you are considering taking the test a second time.
Some students will still prefer to take the test during the school year, due to summer work or travel schedules, or other possible diversions.
However, if you plan a fall admission to law school you should plan on taking the LSAT no later than October of the year prior to your anticipated entry into law school.
You must prepare for the LSAT. Do not walk in and take the test without preparation. There are many options for preparation.
At the very least, every student who plans on taking the LSAT should become very familiar with the types of questions asked on the exam.
Law Services (LSAC) offers various "Prep Tests" (disclosed tests you can use for practice) and other preparation materials (you may order from the LSAT/LSDAS website).
In addition, there are formal commercial test-prep courses (such as Kaplan). Many students can (and do) successfully prepare for the LSAT on their own (using practice materials) but the important thing to remember is that an investment in TIME is essential.
Be honest with yourself. Can you make yourself study on your own without the structure of a formal course? You must be disciplined enough to spend a certain number of hours each week studying and practicing for the LSAT.
Study time will vary from person to person, but one law school admissions officer advised at least 4 hours a week for two months for preparation. You must be devoted. Take note of the skills that will be tested by the LSAT.
Take courses that will help you with reading comprehension, courses that will help you develop your analytical and logical reasoning skills, and your writing skills. Ask your professors at Witt about the courses they believe will help you develop these skills.
If you are scheduled to take the LSAT and you feel unprepared for any reason (family or personal problems, illness, unable to prepare as much as you intended, etc) DO NOT TAKE THE TEST.
You can get a partial refund of the test fee and it is better to reschedule than to go ahead and take the test knowing that you will not be at your best.
Regular registration for the LSAT are due approximately one month before the test date. Deadlines may vary for those requesting special arrangements. Late registration is permitted only as space is available.
You may register online at http://www.lsac.org. If you anticipate applying to law school within a year, you may register for the LSDAS (see more information below) at the same time. Current LSAT fee = $132.00.
You may apply for a fee waiver through Law Services. Fee waivers are intended for only the most needy candidates and this implies need in excess of that required for routine financial assistance. Only those with extreme need should apply.
Law Services reports scores for five years. Therefore, scores for all LSAT exams taken in the five years prior to your application to law school will be reported to the law schools you designate.
Multiple scores will be averaged by Law Services in its report to law schools (so you would need to score substantially better on a retake to make it worth the time and money -- indeed, taking the test a second time should be carefully considered -- you run the risk of lowering your score).
Copies of your writing samples for all those tests will be included, up to a maximum of three samples. Some law schools will not accept a score earned more than three years prior to an application, so you may have to take the exam again if your score is more than three years old).
Check with the law schools to which you plan to apply to see if they will accept scores more than three years old.
The Law School Data Assembly Service (LSDAS) assembles data from candidate transcripts and LSAT scores. The LSDAS places grades from undergraduate institutions (with varying grade point systems) on the same scale in order to allow law schools to evaluate all students on a more or less equivalent basis.
The Service combines information from all transcripts you send, so credits that may not be computed in your current undergraduate GPA will be calculated in the LSDAS report of your GPA.
LSAT scores earned in the past five years will be reported. At the request of a law school the LSDAS analysis may also include an index score derived from the candidate's GPA, the LSAT score(s) and the undergraduate school.
Almost all ABA accredited law schools require candidates to register with LSDAS. Candidates receive one law school report with their LSDAS subscription.
If you plan on applying to more than one law school, you need to estimate the number of law schools to which you plan to apply and pay for that number of reports when you register with LSDAS. You do not need to tell LSDAS where you expect to apply.
When you do apply to a law school, that law school will contact LSDAS to obtain a copy of your report directly.
This process eliminates the problem of law schools receiving your report and establishing a file on you even if you decide later not to apply there.
To applpy to more schools than you originally indicated to LSDAS you must submit an "Additional LSDAS Law School Report Order Form" from LSDAS.
An LSDAS subscription lasts for one year, so you should plan to subscribe only for the year in which you plan to apply for law school. Allow LSDAS enough time to process your transcripts before your applications arrive at the law schools.
For most, this means subscribing and sending in your transcripts approximately one year prior to the time you hope to start law school.
If you are a senior and you are counting on your senior year grades to improve your GPA you may choose to send a transcript to LSDAS after your fall grades are recorded.
If this is the case, you should also send an official transcript with those grades directly to the law schools so that they will be aware of your progress without waiting for the updated LSDAS report (please note that a few law schools will not accept updated LSDAS reports -- always check with the law schools to which you plan to apply).
There is no formal pre-law curriculum at Wittenberg. Law schools accept students from all majors and backgrounds. You should work towards the strongest possible college record you can achieve.
Your undergraduate GPA and your score on the LSAT are the two most important factors determining the likelihood of acceptance into the law school of your choice.
You should use your undergraduate years at Witt to practice and develop the skills you will need to do well in law school. You will need strong writing skills. You must demonstrate ability in communication and reasoning.
Lawyers must analyze complex and often conflicting cases and statutes which demand logical and analytical thinking, and the ability to express their reasoning with clarity and precision.
Admissions officers recommend a curriculum that stresses reading comprehension, writing, research skills, public speaking, an understanding of history, and logical and analytical reasoning.
Courses in American history, economics, political theory and logic may be particularly helpful. Take challenging courses and exercise the self-discipline to do well in those courses.
Do not neglect extra-curricular activities that will help separate you from other applicants with similar numbers.
Any responsible leadership role you have taken helps to show admissions committees that you have varied talents beyond the academic realm. Study abroad experiences, honors, work experiences, internships, etc, all enhance your application.
What should I major in at Witt?
It really does not matter what you decide to major in, as long as you do well! You do not need to major in Political Science or History. However, if you're looking to get a feel for law-related classes, here are a few (course recommendations).
Law school admissions officers suggest that you major in a subject you really enjoy, so you will be more likely to do well in your coursework.
Remember that you are preparing yourself for law school by learning the kinds of skills that are required by the law: analytical reasoning, logic, reading comprehension and writing.
In other words, you are learning particular skills, not particular course content, in order to prepare for law school.
You also do not need to try to double major or complete a minor course of study unless you want to and can do well and can tell law school admissions committees why you decided on a particular combination of major and minor (or double major).
Your application is the law school's first impression of you, so you should take great care (and time) in preparing it. Follow directions carefully and include all requested information as completely as possible.
Many law schools now allow you to apply on-line. Be sure to file your application in a timely manner. You should plan to have your applications completed and sent out well in advance of the application deadline.
Early submission will generally maximize your chances of acceptance, especially to schools with rolling admissions.
Admissions committees will begin to fill the available positions in a class as soon as they begin to receive applications). Remember also that you are responsible for making certain that your application is complete.
Deciding where to apply
You should consider many factors: geographic region, setting (urban or rural?), size, selectivity, status, cost, financial aid possibilities, special programs (combined degree, night school?), clinical programs, etc.
A good place to begin research is The Official Guide to U.S. Law Schools. You can then do more in-depth research on law school websites.
Contact schools in which you are interested directly. Law school admissions officers are usually happy to provide information to prospective applicants.
You should plan to meet with recruiters who come to campus and who participate in the fall Law Caravan which comes to Southwest Ohio. In addition, there are large Law Forums held in major cities each fall.
You should gather as much information as possible about several law schools before making a commitment. Following is a list of factors you should consider in making your choice:
You should select a wide range of schools for application. It is a good idea to apply to a few schools you feel certain will admit you.
You should also include a few where you are not likely to be admitted (but would love it if you were!) You may apply to as many schools as you wish or can afford.
Each application required a fee (fee waivers are available in cases of substantiated financial need).
If possible, take the time to visit law schools before you make your final decision. Most schools provide tours, arrange for you to sit in on classes and to talk with professors, students and staff.
Since law schools do not conduct formal interviews, informal visits are a good way to introduce yourself to the school representatives (and make a good impression!) at the same time that you are gathering information about the school.
The Personal Statement:
Most schools require a one or two page personal statement. Be sure to follow the instructions provided in each application. Sometimes schools pose a particular question and sometimes they simply want a "statement of purpose."
Your statement should be viewed as an opportunity to present yourself in a way that is not reflected in your transcript or letters of recommendation.
(In other words, do not write a statement that merely reiterates the information in other parts of your application). In many ways, the statement may be considered a substitute for a personal interview, so let your personality emerge from the printed page.
Give your readers a sense of your own "voice." Tell schools what you can offer them that no one else can. Accentuate the experiences, traits, abilities and passions that set you apart from others. You have to be able to emphasize your strengths.
This is not the time to be overly humble about your accomplishments. You do not want to be pompous but you do want to be confidant. Why would you be an interesting member of this law school class? Why do you want to study law?
Why do you want to go to this specific law school? (Ideally, you should tailor your statement to each school. Show that you have put real thought into your application to this particular school. Show that you have researched each school.
What is it about this school that interests you?) What's the most important thing you want the admissions committee to know about you? Be specific. Develop a narrative that will engage your reader and make them want to meet you.
Do not be silly or too unconventional. You should remain professional. Your personal statement is also your chance to explain anything on your record that may appear negative or cause the admissions committee some concern.
Remember that the statement is also a sample of your writing skills, so it should be clear, concise, well organized and clear of any spelling, grammatical and/or syntax errors.
Writing a good personal statement should take time! Expect to revise this statement over and over. Ask others to read and comment on your statement.
Current Witt seniors have advised that you should start thinking about your personal statement during the summer before you will be applying to law schools.
How do you get started? Writing advisors at the Wittenberg Writing Center suggests that you sit down and try to simply write an autobiographical essay about yourself.
Ask some key questions: what are your goals, interests, why do you want to go to law school, why are you drawn to the law, etc. One writing advisor suggested thinking of all the questions that family members ask you when you go home for break -- and try to answer those questions!
Once you have words down on paper, you can better shape your essay. You will want to try to come up with a catchy introduction (something that sets you apart and "hooks" the reader). You will probably want to read other personal statements (samples).
Please, please, please go to the Wittenberg Writing Center for help with your personal statements. Maureen Fry is the director of the Writing Center.
You may also want Dr. Wright (pre-law advisor) and other professors to read your statement once you have a good rough draft.
Finally, be aware that law school admissions committees are aware of a cottage industry in plagiarized personal statements available on the web, and they are very good at identifying them.
There is no faster way to end your career as a law student than by plagiarizing any part of your application.
Letters of Recommendation:
Choose your recommenders carefully! Some schools specify that they prefer or require faculty recommendations. A strong faculty letter demonstrates an awareness of the student's academic potential.
Your faculty recommender should know you well and should be able to write in some detail about you as a person in addition to your academic performance.
You should approach potential recommenders honestly, asking each one if he/she can write you a strong letter of recommendation. You want to choose recommenders who can write you the strongest possible letters.
If a recommender seems reluctant in any way to write you a letter, you should tactfully thank them for their input and find someone else to write a letter for you! A lukewarm or negative letter will damage your chances of acceptance.
In order to help your recommenders write strong letters you should provide them with up to date information about you -- a transcript, writing sample and your personal statement.
Be sure to plan ahead when asking for letters of recommendation. Give your recommenders plenty of time to write their letters. Asking a recommender for a letter that need to be sent in three or four days might result in a less positive letter than you might otherwise have received!
Finally, be sure you have completed all forms before you hand over material to your recommender. A recommender should be able to write the letter of recommendation, stuff it into a prepared envelope (provided by you) and stick it in the mail.
March - June (junior year) - Prepare for LSAT
April-May (junior year) - register for LSAT (registration deadline = one month before exam)
June (junior year) - Take LSAT
July (junior year) - receive LSAT score
Aug-Sep (senior year) - subscribe to LSDAS
Aug-Sep (senior year) - send official transcripts to LSDAS (use transcript request forms in LSAT registration booklet)
Aug-Sep (senior year) - request catalogs, applications and financial aid information from law schools
Sep (senior year) - check LSDAS report for accuracy
Sep (senior year) - talk to potential recommenders about letters of recommendation
Sep-Oct (senior year) - work on personal statement
Sep- Nov (senior year) - meet with law school admissions representatives at Caravans and Forums
Oct-Nov (senior year) - fill out applications
Oct-Nov (senior year) - send applications
Nov-Dec (senior year) - check with schools to be sure application file is complete
Jan (senior year) - fill out financial aid applications
Dec-May (senior year) - visit law schools to aid in decision process
Jan-May (senior year) - hear from law schools about admission
April-June (senior year) - be sure to pay seat deposit on time
The cost of a three year law school education could run over 80,000. Tuition alone can range from a few thousand dollars to more than 25,000 a year.
When calculating the total cost of attending law school, you also have to include the cost of housing, food, books, travel and personal expenses.
During the first year of law school, full-time students are discouraged from obtaining any but the most limited part-time employment. Approximately 75% of law school students rely on education loans as their primary source of financial aid.
Money for law school is available in the form of scholarships, grants, work-study and loans, but most students finance their education through loans, either from the government or private sources.
The amount of aid you receive and the form it takes is largely determined by the law schools, and they should be your primary source of information.
Some law schools offer their own scholarship programs, but the amount available varied greatly from school to school. Some offer their best candidates full scholarships based on merit. Others give financial aid primarily on the basis of need.
Loans from governmental and private sources at low and moderate interest rates are available to qualified students. Some of these loans consider the applicant's financial need in determining eligibility; others have limitations based on the law school budget.
Many states offer guaranteed student loans. To determine your eligibility for these loans you should consult lending institutions in your area. Private loans are also increasingly available.
Typically, the lowest interest rates are associated with federal loans that require demonstrated need; private bank loans are typically available at higher rates. Be aware that federal loans may not cover all of your costs.
Be sure to begin the financial aid process early (start collecting forms and information in December). You cannot wait until after you receive admissions offers to begin the planning process.
You should file your financial aid application as soon as possible after January 1 (applications cannot be filed before January 1). It is important to have a good credit history when applying for student loans.
To apply for federal aid:
1) Obtain and fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You may obtain this form from the Witt Financial Aid office.
2) Prepare your federal income tax returns as early as possible after the first of the year. Some schools will want to see a copy of your tax return.
3) The law schools to which you apply will determine your eligibility for federal financial aid. The amount offered by each law school will vary.
4) Once you determine the law school that you will attend you may begin the federal loan application process.
To apply for institutional aid:
1) Contact the financial aid offices of the law schools to which you are applying. Some schools may require you to submit information in addition to the FAFSA (such as an institutional application).
2) You should arrange for financial aid transcripts to be sent from your undergraduate institution to any law school to which you apply.
3) Complete loan applications.
How your application fares depends on how your record compares to other applicants to your law schools. There are over 175 ABA accredited law schools, but not everyone who wants to go to law school is accepted.
There are, however, strategies for borderline students to improve their chances of acceptance. Becoming a resident of a state can put a candidate in a different pool of applicants for state-supported law schools.
Taking a year or two off for service or to work allows you to include your final semester grades in your application and gives you a broader range of experiences that may appeal to admissions committees.
If your GPA is lower than you would like, taking several years off can help your chances. The more distance you put between you and your undergraduate GPA, the lesser its negative impact on your application.
If your GPA is low but your LSAT is high, you may want to consider this option. Letters of recommendation from professors who attest that your ability is not reflected in your overall GIf your LSAT is poor but your GPA is high you may be able to convincingly argue that your standardized test performance is unreliable.
Assuming your SAT scores were also low, you may compare your predicted undergraduate performance based on those SATs to your actual performance.
Showing that your SATs were a poor predictor of your college success may help convince law school admissions committees to discount your poor LSAT performance.
Night law school may be an option for some students.
PA may also help.
Thanks to MAPLA (Midwest Association of Pre-Law Advisors) and especially to Ava Preacher, Assistant Dean and Pre-Law Advisor, University of Notre Dame, for much of the information above.