Once you have picked your schools, the next step is actually working on the application for each institution. You can do this even if the current year’s applications are not yet available, because almost all applications will ask for the same things, year after year:
- The basic application form itself (mostly comprised of biographical information)
- A personal statement
- Letters of recommendation
- LSAT score(s)
- LSAC Law School Report
- A résumé
- Additional optional essay(s) and addenda (if applicable)
Let’s talk about each component a little more in depth:
- The application: This is found on the LSAC website, and is completed by you. It asks all the typical application questions: Biographical, academic, extracurricular, and conduct information. This can be completed online directly into the LSAC website (through your LSAC.org account), and saved. You will be able to complete a lot of this information even if the most recent apps aren’t ready, just by completing your profile on your LSAC.org account.
- The personal statement: This is an essay required by almost all law schools. It is written by the applicant and then uploaded onto the LSAC website. While it can talk about why you want to go to law school, it doesn’t necessarily have to do so. Sometimes, schools have specific topics they’d like you to address, and will list those in the application instructions. If a school wants to hear about a particular topic, make sure your essay addresses it.
- The letter(s) of recommendation: Most schools ask for 2-3 letters, although some may just want one (or none), and some may give you the option to submit as many as you want. You will request these from your college professors, work colleagues, or employers. These recommenders, after writing the letters, send them directly to LSAC, along with a cover sheet available on the LSAC website. These are then processed by LSAC’s Credential Assembly Service (CAS) and are added to your file. It can take LSAC up to 2 weeks to process these letters, so start early!
- Transcript(s): You request these from all undergraduate and graduate institutions you have attended. The institution submits them directly to LSAC, along with a cover sheet available on the LSAC website. These are then processed by the CAS and are added to your file. It can take LSAC up to two weeks to process transcripts.
- LSAT score(s): You do not have to submit these scores to LSAC. LSAC, as the administrator of the test, already has these scores on file, and automatically links them to your file.
- Law School Report: This is a report compiled by LSAC which includes your LSAT scores, LSAT writing samples, academic summary (essentially all of your undergraduate grades, converted to a 4.0 system), copies of all transcripts (undergraduate, graduate, professional), and copies of your recommendation letters. This is automatically put together by LSAC, and sent to each school you apply to.
- Résumé: You write it and upload it to the LSAC website.
- Additional optional essay(s) and addenda (if applicable): These are essays a school requests in addition to the personal statement, or explanations needed due to issues in your academic career, personal life, professional life, or military career. You write these based on the requirements of each school, and upload them to the LSAC website.
To work on your applications, start by signing up for an LSAC.org account. With an LSAC.org account you can, in addition to registering for law school forums and the LSAT, use LSAC’s Credential Assembly Service (CAS) and apply online to law schools.
Schools make their applications available through LSAC starting in September and October. Although many schools give you the option of printing off a paper application and mailing it in, most prefer or require that you submit your applications electronically through LSAC.
You are responsible for completing the following elements of your application: The main application form, the personal statement, the résumé, and any additional essays and/or addenda. These elements are likely to match LSAT preparation as far as intensity of labor and consumption of time are concerned, so make sure that you budget enough time for them. A personal statement, for example, can take two months from brainstorm to completion; you will have to devote a great deal of time to brainstorming, choosing topics, outlining points, writing multiple drafts, and polishing final versions for each of these writing samples, and completing various drafts of your résumé.
The other parts of your application—transcripts, letters of recommendation, Law School Report—will be submitted or completed by others. Transcripts and letters of recommendation are submitted by the institutions you attended and the individuals writing your letters. The Law School Report is compiled by LSAC.
Once each of these elements has been completed and/or requested, they must be uploaded or submitted to LSAC. Only once all of the elements are processed can your completed applications be sent to law schools.
Submitting Documents to LSAC
The submission of documents is the most important part of the process—after all, without all the proper paperwork and information on file, you can’t apply!
LSAC and the CAS act like an information clearinghouse in the law school application process. LSAC compiles all the different elements of your application, puts them together in one cohesive file, and submits them to each of your schools once your file is complete.
Here’s what you need to do and what happens with each element of your apps:
- The personal statement, résumé, additional essays and addenda must all be written in a word processor and then uploaded by you to each application via your LSAC.org account.
- Transcripts are requested by you from every undergraduate and graduate institution you have attended. However, they must be sent directly from the institution to LSAC; you cannot send them in yourself (so make sure that you’re not sent the transcripts). Sometimes, transcripts may take a month or more from the original request to the time they are sent out, and they can take up to two weeks to process once CAS has received them from your undergraduate and graduate institutions. Make sure to give yourself plenty of time.
- Recommendation letters will likely be the most time-consuming of all application components (aside from LSAT preparation). It can take weeks or months for a recommender to complete a letter, from your initial meeting with them to the writing of the final draft. The only “firm” timeline component is the length of time CAS will take to process and post a recommendation letter once they receive it. As per the LSAC website, “[it] takes approximately two weeks to process a transcript or letter of recommendation from the time it is received.” However, this can vary depending on the time of year and when in the admissions cycle the documents are being submitted, so make sure you give yourself plenty of time for the LORs to be written, submitted, and processed.
- The Law School Report is compiled by LSAC once you’ve submitted all of your documents and taken the LSAT.
Sending Your Application to Law Schools
Once all of the elements of your application have been completed, submitted, and processed, it is time to send your applications to law schools. You can also do this through LSAC; LSAC will electronically submit your documents to each of your schools. Everything is handled through your LSAC.org account: Payment for your Law School Reports and application fees, submission of documents, and processing of information.
Keep in mind that most law schools work on what is known as rolling admissions—this means that applications are considered as they “roll in,” rather than all at once after the application deadline. What does this mean for you? That by submitting your applications in at the start of the application cycle (which runs from September to about March or April), you will be competing with much fewer applicants for a much greater number of seats. Although this will not significantly increase your chances of admission, it will still give you a slight edge—and when vying for a seat at a top law school, every advantage (not matter how slight) is a good advantage.
Back the the LSAT Free Help Area
Check the application of every school to which you’re applying, but in general, you should follow these guidelines.
I prefer a one-line header. Put your name on the left, your LSAC number in the middle, and the words “Personal Statement,” followed by a page number, on the right. It looks like this:
In case you’re not comfortable with Word headers, I’ve made a correctly formatted .docx file with a one-line header. Click here to download the sample text, then substitute your information for the placeholders.
You can also put all the information on the right-hand side, in three lines, like this:
If you use a three-line header on the first page, you may want to use a shorter header—name, page number—on subsequent pages.
The Essay Body
- Don’t give your essay a title.
- Use twelve-point, Times New Roman font.
- Use one-inch margins all around.
- Double-space your essay.
- Left-align or justify your essay.
- Add half-inch indentations to each paragraph.
- Don’t add an extra return between paragraphs.
- Use one space after periods.
I’ve implemented this formatting in the personal statement format sample.
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