The Application Process
Time schedule for applying:
Spring of junior year
Register for the summer LSAT.
Summer before senior year
- Send for catalogues (postcards are OK for this). Or read school's online descriptions of their programs.
- Take LSAT exam (If necessary, this can wait until October of senior year, but if you choose that option, remember to register prior to the first week of fall semester.)
- Register with LSDAS (This can be done when you sign up for the LSAT). This now includes an order form for the Official Guide to U.S. Law Schools. The Official Guide is now available online for free via http://www.lsac.org. Most students register electronically.
October or November, senior year
- Send in applications to schools of your choice (based on perusal of Official Guide and its admission prediction grids).
- Have LSDAS reports sent to schools of choice.
- Request professors to send letters of recommendation.
December, senior year
- Make sure that every law school has received your complete application (including LSDAS and professors' letters.) No one else will do it for you.
The first thing to do is to send a postcard or electronic inquiry to the schools you have selected asking for their bulletin and an application. Most law schools do not have these materials available until September, so this gives you ample opportunity to make the initial decision. Upon receiving the bulletin and applications from each school, check whether the schools to which you are applying require any of the Law School Admission Services reports: LSAT and/or LSDAS, explained below. Almost all schools require both. One can also apply now electronically via LSAC.org.
The Law School Admission Test (LSAT), a half-day multiple choice objective test, is given in October, December, February, and June and costs over $123 as of 2007. Applications for the test are found in the Law School Admission Bulletin, a pamphlet which also contains data assembly service application form, complete sample LSAT, and general instructions. These are available in The Career Services Center (near Perkins Center Parking Garage) and in the Political Science Department (347 Smith Hall). Registration for the examination must be postmarked 4 weeks in advance of the test date. If you miss the deadline, there is as of 2007 a $62 late registration fee. Most students now register online. Almost all law schools require the LSDAS service, so unless you are quite certain that the schools to which you are applying do not require it, you should register for the LSDAS service with your LSAT registration. LSDAS in 2007 costs $113.
How well you do on the LSAT actually depends a great deal on how you do on standardized tests in general. If you are one of those people who does not excel in a timed, contrived situation, the LSAT may give you some trouble. General rules of thumb to follow, in addition to the usual maternal advice "get a good night's sleep the night before and don't worry too much about it," are:
- Familiarize yourself as much as possible with the test before you actually take it. For the year 2007-8, the LSAC has released two full previous LSAT exams which can be downloaded for free on http://www.lsac.org. Extra sample LSATs can be ordered when you register via LSAC.org. Practice should raise your score a few points. The prep courses mainly provide lots of practice.
- Relax. True, the LSAT often comprises a large part of your admission qualifications to law school, but unfortunately, your score does not improve proportionately with the amount of worry you put into the test.
- Try to gauge your time effectively, so that you will complete as much of the test as possible without panicking.
- Guess. The LSAT is scored by the number of correct answers, so that there is no penalty for guessing.
This website may also prove useful for preparation. "http://www.lsatexampracticetests.com"
There are commercial, very expensive (and in the view of many people, ridiculously overpriced) LSAT prep courses available.. There are also a number of self-training preparation books available in bookstores, which are probably a much better investment than the commercial courses.
UD students often find the Logic puzzles section of the LSAT exam more challenging than the other sections. For additional help on preparing for this section students may wish to consult the following:
The Powerscore Logic Games Bible (and also their Logical Reasoning Bible). Also some folks advise purchasing of a Penny Press or Dell Logic Games magazine on the newsstand, and simply working through their puzzles to attain a mastery of this sort of question.
It is a good idea to take the LSAT in the summer between your junior and senior years in college. This gives you plenty of time to get the results back so that you can develop a clear picture of where to apply, and also lets you know whether you should take the test again in the October or December sessions. Retake the LSAT if you have some definite reason to expect your score to rise (you didn't feel well during the first try, etc.). Each law school has its own way of looking at multiple LSAT scores: virtually all now will consider the highest, but will be more confident in the choice to do so if you can give them a good reason to distrust the first score. There is always a risk that one's score will go down on a second try. Most law schools seem to think that your score should improve from the first to the second testing because of increased familiarity with the test material and format so getting the same score may hurt you. Consider very carefully the retaking of the LSAT.
The Law School Data Assembly Service (LSDAS) is basically a materials-coordinating service for law schools. A complete LSDAS report includes: your LSAT score(s), a transcript summary (how many A's you have received, how many B's, etc., as well as your cumulative grade point average), biographical data and a copy of your transcript from the University of Delaware.
If you register for the LSDAS make sure you give one of the "Transcript Request Forms" to the University of Delaware Registrar and to registrars of other colleges you attended. Undergraduate transcripts are summarized only once in each processing year. After you receive a copy of your LSDAS Report you should send notarized copies of later grade reports containing additional grades (e.g. December grades) directly to the law schools that request them. Note: When completing the Transcript Request and Matching Form and other materials for LSDAS be sure to spell your name exactly the same way in all communications. LSDAS tends to treat Alice B. Smith, Alice Barton Smith and A. B. Smith as three different people.
Applications to law schools are very similar to the application you completed when you applied to colleges. One of the big differences, however, is that when a law school application gives you an instruction, they mean it. Colleges will put up with mistakes in following directions; law schools won't. If there is a deadline date and you miss it, they will return your application to you unopened; if they ask for 4 recommendations and you send them only 3, your application will never be acted upon because it will be considered incomplete. Follow the instructions to the letter.
Law schools have only two ways to look at you as a person instead of just another set of statistics: your personal essay and recommendations. You are sometimes asked to write in your essay about why you want to become a lawyer and what characteristics you believe would make you a good lawyer. Some schools however, ask you to write about anything of interest to you. The essay should be prepared with great care as it will be judged for clarity of expression and general writing ability as well as for its content. Be honest; try to evaluate yourself objectively but don't go overboard bragging or criticizing yourself. Easier said than done, so just try to write a good clear essay that you feel emphasizes some aspects of you. It is a good idea to have an English professor read this over to find any writing errors.
Recommendations may count quite heavily or they may not count at all in the admission process; one never knows for sure how they will be viewed. It's better to be safe than sorry so try to get positive, detailed recommendations from the types of people the law schools request. If they request recommendations from the Dean or from professors, for instance, make sure that this is what you give them. If they simply say "recommendations" without other instructions, they mean recommendations from professors who have had you in class. Because the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 gives students access to previously confidential material, all students are asked to indicate in writing whether they waive their right of access to letters of recommendation. Law schools will tend to distrust letters to which access has not been waived. It is acceptable to have the same two or three professors send letters to all the schools to which you apply. LSDAS will electronically send these letters if you prefer to have them do it.
Approximately half of the law schools in the U.S. require a Dean's letter of recommendation in addition to individual letters of recommendation from professors. At the University of Delaware, such dean's letters are sent by the Office of Student Life (in Hullihen Hall).