The Right Way
Your Plan of Action
Sit and make a plan
Write down all the things you know you need to do, with a deadline. Yes, that's right, a deadline. The purpose of the plan is to keep you on track. It keeps you motivated, knowing what you have completed and what your next step must be.
- Your plan will develop with time. Keep adding to it. Tick off what is done.
- Make sensible deadlines, but do not be afraid to push yourself- some late nights won't hurt you.
- Stick to your deadlines.
Minorities tend to Apply Late!!
My research and LSAC data shows that non-asian minorities, especially Blacks tend to apply later in the admission-year cycle than Whites and Asians. This decreases your chances of being accepted. Minorities tend to be the ones who send in applications just in time to beat the law school's deadline. A plan helps you to do just that PLAN ahead.
When should you aim for?
The idea is to send in your applications and supporting materials, including financial aid information WAY before the school deadline. Your application should be complete (application, recommendations, LSDAS report, personal statement, other essays, financial aid information) and avalable to be reviewed before the end of November.
Aim to submit your application the week applications become available.
So to have the best chance of acceptance, you would need to have all materials ready to go out in early September for some schools.
Sending in your application late, can send the wrong signal to law schools. Some interpret late applications to mean the student is not serious about the school, some take late applications as a sign of a student's inability to organize and prioritize well. When all is said and done, the earlier you apply the better your chances of being accepted.
Earlier in the admissions cycle, your application will be compared to a smaller applicant pool. Also, admissions employees are 'fresh' and not tired of reading applications. Also, earlier in the admissions cycle, schools tend to be more flexible about financial aid.
Prepare for the LSAT
The LSAT can change the way you think about law school. The statistics from numerous studies show that the LSAT may be biased against minorities. See Data Page
What does this mean for you?
-First of all, You are not a Trend.- most minorities do not do as well as other races who do the LSAT. You are not most minorities, you are YOU (insert name here).
-Prepare, Prepare, Prepare- Buy the books, do the practice tests found on LSAC.org, take a prep course.
-Prep course- They are expensive, but most courses like Kaplan and Princeton Review offer financial aid. Find out and apply.
-Research prep courses- talk to alums, lawyers, admissions departments. Also, be honest. How do you study best? How far are you willing to travel? How much time do you have? Use the answers to these questions to help you determine which course is best for you.
-Take as many tests as you can under test conditions. Make sure you become really conmfortable with the timing, with the rules, etc. This not a test that you should walk in on without practice!
You can register for the LSAT and get other important information regarding the test (test dates, fees etc) at http://www.lsac.org
When you register for the LSAT, you should specify that you are a minority student. You can use LSAC's Candidate Referral Service to release certain information to Law Schools or Organizations so that they could contact you.
Most students get of fee waivers, application packets and general information about law schools through allowing their information and preferences to be released to law schools.
Tips When Registering for the LSAT
Find a site that is geographically convenient bearing in mind the time the test starts, time to find parking etc.
2. Register early- The earlier you register, the better your chances of getting your 1st choice.
3. Talk to other students who have taken tests in the various sites. Find out what test conditions are like there. For example, the UC Berkeley site has each student sitting in a small chair with a very small pallet table. This may not be optimum for a student who likes to spread out materials. This should be kept in mind when you are doing practice tests so you practice under exam conditions.
Do Your Research
Make an excel spreadsheet (or something you can update easily) with all the schools you want to go to.
Let this list be as long as possible without being ridiculous. I started with a list of about thirty schools.
Next, start to eliminate schools. This is when you decide what is important to you. The aim is not to apply to a school you know for whatever reason, you really do not want to go to.
You can eliminate based on financial aid prospects, geography, specialty etc. For example, you spent some time in NYC and hated every moment of it. You know you would be unhappy if you had to live there. You would not apply to NYU.
One great resource should be your school
Find a prelaw advisor and take advantage of all the services yoru school has to offer. Some schools hold seminars, conferences, panel discussions. These events can help you get a clearer idea of which schools you shoud target, and which area of law is suited to you.
Your alumni network
Contact all the alums or people in general, that you know went to law school. Find out which schools they applied to, and why they chose those schools. Find alums whose interests coincide with yours. Find out about the culture of each school, faculty/student interactions.
You have to keep in mind that no one will probably say that the law school they attended was awful and that you should not apply there. You should try to get as many different perspectives as possible. The internet is one place where people can be anonymous and honest.
Be careful, however, when considering rankings. Do not think they are not important though.
Join discussion boards and groups online to share your experiences and learn from others as well.
Check out our Recommended Websites page for some great sites.
Letters of Recommendation
Letters of recommendation can be submitted to schools in several ways. Recommenders can send letters directly to the schools or some undergraduate institutions have Letter of Recommendation Services (usually through the Career Development office), where all letters for a student are collected and sent to the schools you are applying to as a packet.
The LSAC also has a convenient Letter of Recommendation Service. Here students submit the names of all their recommenders and each recommender sends the letters of recommendation to LSAC. This is convenient because you can designate certain letters to be specific to certain schools and designate other letters to be General letters of recommendation. Your recommender then just needs to send one General letter and up to four specific letters. LSAC then sends the appropriate letter to the appropriate school. Check the LSAC site for more information and updates on the LOR service.
What do schools require?
Most law schools require two letters of recommendation. There are some that will accept more than two letters up to some maximum. Some schools do not require letters of recommendation. Be sure to check admissions documents and checklists to find out what each school expects of you.
Send more than is required?
Most schools will not penalize you for sending more letters of recommendation than is required, up to their maximum. You should be careful not to send too many letters though, as Admissions Committees can get overwhelmed with the volume of application materials they need to read.
When to send letters
Be sure to send letters so that they arrive at schools in time to meet the deadline you set for your applications to be complete. Letters of recommendation can also be sent later in the application process after your application is complete. For example, if your application has been complete for several months, but you have not heard from a law school, it could mean that they are "on the fence" about your application. Sending in a strong letter of recommendation at this point may give your application just the push it needs to help the admissions committee make a positive decision.
Develop and maintain relationships with recommenders
Letters of recommendation are an important part of your application. Just spending time with a professor talking about your goals and how you plan to achieve them can make a huge difference in how they are able to write about you. Especially if you are out of school, take the time to send your professors an annual update. If you are in a large school, developing relationships with professors may be difficult, but be persistent- go to office hours and set up appointments.
How can you ensure that your letters of recommendation stand out?
You must recognize that all letters of recommendation submitted will be anywhere from good letters to great letters of recommendation. It is important that your recommenders know you well enough to write about your grades, motivation for studying law, critical thinking ability and leadership ability. But to set your recommendation apart, be sure that your recommenders can also attest to your scholarly activities outside of these areas.
Have you made significant contributions to some group on campus or in your community? Have you left a legacy? Have you won awards? Overcome obstacles?
Specifically ask Recommenders if they will be able to write you a strong, positive, solid letter
Find recommenders who are enthusiastic about you and feel strongly about your abilities and potential to succeed in law school. You want a recommendation that highlights your positive assets.
You want a letter that discusses your ability to achieve academically. Law school is academically challenging, and schools want to be sure you can handle it.
If a recommender says they are unable to write you a strong letter, do not waste your time or theirs, find another recommender. Ensure that you get only strong letters.
Write an outline with all the information you want recommenders to put in the letter.
This may seem forward, but the truth is, the outline gives the recommender a clear view of your achievements, awards, grades in their classes etc. This way recommenders know what you want them to write, because it will be right in front of them.
Give recommenders a copy of your Personal Statement, Resume, Transcript
Your personal statement will give recommenders a better understanding of why you are choosing law school and the classes/experiences that have impacted you. This allows recommenders to write about their particular class(es), but also about the unique qualities you possess that will make you an excellent attorney.
This means your personal statement should be complete at this point.
Give recommenders a deadline, but be reasonable
First of all, contact recommenders way in advance of YOUR deadline (not school's deadline). Give each recommender a few weeks to submit your letter. Time your requests to avoid any breaks/conferences/stressful meetings that your recommenders may have. For example, do not send requests just before Thanksgiving Break. Your recommenders may have to travel, meet family, host parties etc, your letter may not be a priority.
Contact recommenders a few days before you expect them to submit yoru letters to be sure they understand what needs to be done and they remember the deadline you gave them.
Keep in contact
with recommenders during the admissions process.
Send Thank You cards after recommendations have been sent. Send emails about schools that have accepted you and be genuine about saying thanks to those who have helped you.
Talk to your recommenders about what you think can make their letters of recommendation stand out. Given your track record, skills, achievements and goals, I am sure these letters will be easy for your recommenders to write!