Looking Back: Admissions Lessons Learned from Current Law Students

We asked a large group of law students at a diverse array of schools what one piece of advice they would give current applicants. This is what they said:

"I worked hard on my Personal Statement, like 20 drafts and 2 full rewrites hard, and I tried very hard to write something that would stand out against a backdrop of "Why Law" BS. I also put genuine effort into my "Why UT?" essay, and by genuine effort I mean I got into contact with people that went to UT and talked to them about their experiences with the school. I used what I had learned about their experiences, to both say why I thought I would succeed at UT, but also what I thought I could contribute to UT (I think explicitly stating what you can contribute to a school is important. s/o Dale Carnegie). Finally, I think my visit to the school was a huge boost, but that may have more to do with my specific case (an OOS applicant applying to a school that has a big in-state quota)."

"Ask for letters of recommendation EARLY (so you don't have to stress that you're rushing your recommenders later) and offer to write the first draft! If it's been a month since your recommender agreed, it's more acceptable to bug them once a week until you get the letters. I used poking recommenders as a "break" while LSAT studying (as LSAT studying will take anything as procrastination.) Offering to write the first drafts of the letters saves your recommenders time AND it makes sure anything specific you want discussed is definitely in one of the letters--a win-win! I only had one academic recommender and by writing the first draft I showed that I really wanted him to focus on my performance in the classroom. I think helped make my LORs well-rounded."

"My basic advice, for law school and life, is to set a schedule. Hopefully you did that during the LSAT to study - apps are no different. "Calendar" in my world is shorthand for "be organized" so whether it's a planner, a giant desk calendar, or a bullet journal things need to be kept track of."

"Take the summer to reach out to recommenders and write your first draft of your personal statement. Give a deadline to have those things done. Have a school list finalized by a certain date. If applying is going to be expensive, have dates to spread out your applications around. You don't have to apply September 1, but have your personal apply-by deadline on a calendar. Then when interviews start rolling in put those on the calendar too. Then it will be ASWs and scholarship interviews. Then deposit deadlines. The point is to make sure you don't lost points on stupid errors, like missing a skype interview or a early decision deadline. Deadlines are also motivators. Really, just get a paper calendar."

"Apply early, as soon as possible. If you retake the LSAT or take it in December or something, have your personal statement and such ready to submit. Work hard on your personal statement, make sure it is reflective of you. Get letters of recommendation early, ask way in advance of when you think you need them, give them an absurd amount of time and ask for more than you need. Apply broadly, you never know what will happen! Treat "optional" materials as required, and put effort into them. Be polite, professional, and respectful in all communications with and visits to every school, no matter what. Never think you're "better" than a law school; don't get too overconfident. The legal community is small so you don't want to burn bridges. Take each opportunity and each school seriously, visit if you can and as many as you can. If you get waitlisted, do what they tell you to do: if they suggest monthly updates/communications/LOCIs, treat that as mandatory. Another thing on waitlists, if they ask about your continued interest, be honest and prompt; if you are not interested, say so, and if you are, communicate that as soon as possible. Keep an open mind and always stay true to yourself! Try not to overthink, take a deep breath because it will be okay."

"My advice, to be honest, would be go to the best school you can get into while not having absurd debt. I do think it is silly to "assume median" because you can control how hard you work/practice, but at the same time, the pressure to have to be towards the top sucks, if that makes sense. I am very happy here, but if I could redo it would've gone to a T14. I knew it would be stressful/a lot of work but not quite this bad."

"I guess more generally, keep in mind that your goals may change. I had a full ride at Wash U, and thought I wanted to stay in St. Louis, where I have a ton of ties and connections so getting a job wasn't a huge worry for me. Now my goals have totally changed, I don't to stay here, and my goals are harder to achieve/my grades have to be better than I originally planned. So remember that your goals might change and therefore you should maximize your options from the start."

"Apply broadly and take the time to go visit! I applied to the whole of the top 20, and while I didn't anticipate going to some schools, having those offers in my back pocket made the wait significantly more bearable. Applying to reach schools was totally worth the cash, because despite the fact that I am not at Yale Law, I know that I at least tried. Visiting was super important (I checked out about half that I applied to) because I ended up loving some schools that I didn't expect to, and found other schools less of a match than I had thought they would be."

"Stay positive and don’t sell yourself short. I nearly talked myself out of applying to ANY T14 school on countless occasions because my undergrad GPA is below literally every law school’s 25th. Instead, I worked my tail off to get a good LSAT score and sent in the best application I could. I didn’t think I would get in anywhere, but I figured the application fee was worth knowing I tried. Today, I am beyond blessed to be at NYU, my dream school that I would (not so) jokingly refer to as something that could never happen. Had I listened to that voice that told me it would never happen and held back my application, then it obviously wouldn’t have happened. Also (sorry, gotta add in one more): for the love of God, proofread. I may or may not have emailed NYU a resume update addressed to Northwestern and it haunts me to this day."

"Keep in mind that nothing in the application process is going to be the end of the world. Give it your best effort, but remember this is just one step towards pursuing a legal career. A year after applying you'll be making friends (and laboriously going through old Civil Procedure notes), wondering why you spent so much time worrying about what the admissions staff thought of your resume after you'd already sent it in."

"Apply early."

"I think don't be afraid to be sincere was what helped me out perform my 1 cycle last year."

"First time around I was so scared of doing something wrong on my apps that I ended up creating very forgettable applications and got waitlisted everywhere.

Last year I took what I thought were a few risks in my ps and why Xs that made my application a truer representation of who I am and I think schools responded well to it."

"Visit the schools you intend to apply to. Just because a school is ranked high doesn't mean it's the right place for you, the atmosphere might not be comfortable to who you are. Talk to alumni, current students, even faculty if you get the chance. Keep an open mind too. As someone above said, your plans might change within a year, don't pigeon hole yourself. Also don't go K-JD, take a year or two off, get some real work experience, see the world, grow as a person."

"Do not underestimate the power of telling a consistent, compelling story with the pieces of your application. Everyone has interesting and unique experiences that can tell a story. Discover these by brainstorming your most life-changing moments and trying to see the connections between them. If you need help, ask people who know you well. For example, maybe you have a history of creativity or leadership or helping people in need - make sure this stands out. Make the pattern shine by including the app-appropriate experiences in your resume, personal statement, diversity statement, etc. Of course, in telling your story, make sure you are not repeating yourself. But the consistency, in my opinion, sparkles with authenticity and shows positive aspects of your personality that you will continue to display in and after law school."

"I think my biggest piece of advice, particularly for people that are as invested in the Law school admission process to be looking at Spivey’s blog about it, is to relax. Stress management is a skill that law students aren’t very good at. Stop being neurotic and let the process play out."

""Take as much time off as you can before law school, because you will never have that much free time ever again if you plan on going into BigLaw after law school. Also, don't settle for an LSAT score lower than your average, because I did and I still regret it. I did so under a different set of circumstances since I had completely botched the real thing 2 of 3 takes and the limit on takes didn't change until after I had already been accepted to basically every school and committed to one, and I didn't think they'd look fondly upon me as a reapplicant unless I had a serious score improvement. I'm ultimately happy with where I am and I'm not spending a crazy amount of money to be here, but I do wish that I would have gotten a better score to allow myself to afford to go to one of the schools in my target markets or go to Harvard where I would have maybe had some more geographic flexibility than Cornell. Oh, and ride out waitlists! Money is available off of them!"

"I think the best advice I can give is to go with your heart. Of course, that doesn’t mean to go to an unranked school when you have an offer at Yale. When discussing comparable schools choose the one that will make you happy, no matter the reason behind it. If you want prestige, go for it. If you want a school because it is in warm weather and you hate the cold, go for it. The small differences between schools of near equal rank will not make up for the life that you need to live the next three years. Law school is hard enough without the pressure of hating your choice. Do what will make you happy and your law school experience will be much better because of it."

"If you are still in undergrad, do everything you can to raise your GPA. Even if you are going to take a few years off between undergrad and law school, ask your professors for your recommendations before you graduate/now, so they can still remember you. The letters of rec stay in LSAC's system for several years. This way you can avoid being forgotten and having to awkwardly email them years later. Once you graduate, don't be afraid to take the LSAT multiple times, and don't be disheartened by not scoring at your target the first time. Take a break and keep going at it -- it can take a couple years for some people. Take the LSAT in June, because writing strong application materials takes much longer than expected, especially if you want to write "Why X" essays.

Expect to wait at least 6 months before hearing back from schools. They really can make you wait until the last few days in April.

Don't think that you "deserve" to get in, or that you will get in somewhere just because your stats are strong. Same for scholarships, as well."

"Don't be intimidated to kick off scholarship negotiations. As long as you are polite, schools will not fault you for simply asking. The payoff for negotiating can be huge so don't waste the opportunity to save thousands of dollars just because you're scared. If you're negotiating, you are already in.

Don't let large scholarships/financial freedom from unranked schools blind you into going there, you are giving up 3 years of your life so you need to get the most value out of wherever you are going.

Don't let your rejections determine your self-worth.

Use your 0L time to gain as much knowledge about life in law school as you possibly can. Read books, talk to current students, go to the welcome barbecues. It will really help you calm your nerves when no one has any idea about the case method, outlining, OCI's, etc. and you know exactly what to expect. EDIT: This doesn't mean doing substantive work. Enjoy the time before school. There will be plenty of time for the grind once you are in school."

"Be honest with yourself and your reasons for wanting to attend law school. Self-reflection is a great trait to develop at this point in your life, but it's particularly important to have it for law school. Not only is it helpful for writing a good personal statement and creating a cohesive application, but it'll let you honestly evaluate your reasons for going to law school.

In my experience so far, the people who are happiest with their time here or who are making the most of it are those who came to school with a good idea of what they want to do professionally with a JD and have a good sense of who they are, both weaknesses and strengths. Law school is too stressful and too all-consuming to tackle if you're coming for the wrong reasons, which would include things like "I have nothing better to do, my family will be disappointed if I don't become a lawyer, I like to argue" and etc.

I personally think it's a great experience as long as you know who you are and what you want out of life both personally and professionally. But don't commit to law school until you have a decent idea about yourself. If you're on the fence, take time to work, enjoy your 20s, figure your shit out, etc. Law school isn't going anywhere and your future self will thank you for demonstrating the wisdom to not leap head first into a crucible."

"Trust the process. Waiting is awful, but there’s no use freaking out if other people get accepted or rejected on a certain day. You may get a call tomorrow, and that person will look back and wonder why he or she felt so stressed out."