"Questions From The Road" is an updated series of frequently asked questions posed by prospective law school applicants to our Admissions Professionals while they travel throughout the country. We thought these might answer some of the questions that come to your mind when applying to law school.
If you have questions of your own, write to us . Maybe we will add them to our list!
Q. What are the best ways to prepare for law school (after completing undergrad school)?
A. Once you have graduated from undergraduate school, you no longer have the leverage of improving your grades. If your overall cumulative Undergrad Grade Point Average (UGPA) does not appear competitive with the UGPA range that law schools publish, but your last grading periods are strong and above average, focus on your strengths. Make the argument that your last grading periods are more reflective of your ability to succeed in an academic setting than your earlier grading periods. Although one miserable semester may play havoc on your overall GPA, you need to advocate for yourself and to inform the law schools where you have improved and why. Individuals who have been out of undergraduate school for a number of years may be able to take a course or two on the Master's level. In this way, you can put yourself back into a classroom setting, discipline yourself to a student's schedule, try to ace those grades (no B nor C grades, please), and be able to get an academic letter of recommendation from your professor.
Q. What are the best ways for an undergraduate student to prepare for law school?
A. Doing the best that you can academically so that you have a strong GPA is critical for helping you get accepted into law school. Take varied courses and seminars to help you improve your reading comprehension, build strong study skills, and strengthen your analysis, critical thinking, and problem solving, while improving your writing and research skills.
Visit with pre-law advisors to understand the latest admission and applicant trends and to have your personal statement critiqued. Give yourself plenty of time to prepare for law school.
Thus, this question asked by an undergraduate student beginning the spring semester of freshman year will garner a much different response than one posed by a senior beginning the spring semester.
Q. How do law schools evaluate undergraduate grade point averages (UGPA)?
A. Law schools will look at your major area of study, the courses you have taken, the grades for those courses, and your overall UGPA. Then the law school will review your UGPA trend, beginning with the first year of your enrollment through your last grading period. For example, if you received a 3.40 UGPA after completing your first year, a 2.69 after your second year, a 3.13 after your third year, followed by a 3.58 at the end of your undergraduate academic career, your trend is a downward trend from freshman year followed by an upward trend. Law schools expect that you will complete your undergraduate education with your strongest grades and, thus, with an upward trend. In addition to your UGPA trend, the law school will look at your cumulative UGPA which includes an average of UGPAs if you have attended more than one undergraduate institution in completing your Bachelor's degree.
Q. Will having a UGPA that is in the range of UGPAs that a law school publishes guarantee an offer of admission or strong possibility of admission?
A. No. Law schools will look at other factors in addition to the UGPA, such as your LSAT, your major area of study, the academic strength of your college/university, among other things. Additionally, law schools will compare your UGPA to the UGPA average of those students in your college/university who have taken the LSAT. Your LSAT score will also be compared to the average LSAT of those students from your college/university.
Q. How are grades viewed if someone attained their first undergraduate degree 10 or more years ago?
A. Although the same weight may not be given to an older UGPA as to a current one, the law schools will still look at your major area of study, the range of courses you have taken (the required courses and the electives), the average LSAT score, and UGPA from your undergraduate school. Your college's academic reputation, as well as its rigorous programs, will be evaluated. Whether your grade trend was an upward one, etc., will certainly be looked at. Any honors achieved, the type of extracurricular activities taken, or if you worked while in undergraduate school and the type of work will also be considered.
Q. How should one discuss poor grades during a particular semester of undergraduate school?
A. Let the law school know what may have been the cause of your poor semester grades. Were you also working? Did you not wisely budget your time among work, school, and your home life responsibilities? Was it due to your not being mature enough to handle the freedom of living away from home? Were you a caregiver or struggling with an illness yourself? Discuss your grades within the context of your life experiences. If your grades improved, let the law school know what led to that success.
Q. My undergraduate GPA was not as strong as my graduate school GPA. Would the law schools consider the higher GPA?
A. As a small percentage of applicants to law school have earned a graduate degree before law school, many law schools do not consider a graduate GPA over an undergraduate GPA. However, this would not prevent you from explaining why you believe that the graduate grades are more reflective of your abilities as an academic.
Q. Many law schools ask for academic letters of recommendation, but I have been out of school for many years. What do I do?
A. Law schools understand that the longer a student is removed from his/her undergraduate experience after graduation, the greater the chance that the student has lost contact with former professors. Individuals who have been out of school for many years will not be required to produce an academic letter. However, a recommender who has knowledge of an applicant's ability to think logically, to problem solve, and to communicate well in speaking and writing will also serve to provide a law school admission committee with a reasoned evaluation of the applicant.
Q. What is the importance of visiting schools when they basically teach similar courses?
A. Law schools, as with applicants, have different strengths, viewpoints, and cultures. Although first-year courses are basically the same, the environment in which they are taught, who teaches them, and who makes up the student body may be quite different. If you are going to visit a law school that is out of town, schedule to visit on a weekend to see the kinds of opportunities that lie in the local area outside of the school. Ask to sit in on a first-year law class, as the first-year students are developing their legal foundation.
Q. I keep hearing about "lawyering skills." What are they?
A. Some individuals think that lawyering skills are learned only in law school or while working in a law firm. Actually, those who show evidence during the application process that they have lawyering skills are usually the ones with competitive applications. Lawyering skills include, among other things, good reasoning and analytical skills, the ability to write clearly and concisely and communicate well orally. Being prepared in college, including thoroughness in your assignments and good study skills, along with a good vocabulary and the ability to remember details, are good starts to developing lawyering skills. Law school will help to hone, narrow, and focus these skills.
Q. I'm concerned about applying because I usually do not do well on standardized tests.
A. Individuals who make this statement usually have repeated it so many times that they have made it into a mantra, and, often times, their fears and concerns grow. As the LSAT is a threshold requirement for getting into law school, one will have to overcome the fear that is standing between the person and the ability to begin a legal education and career. However, there are concrete steps that you can take for addressing your fears.
Familiarize yourself with the LSAT and the various sections of the test. Take an LSAT prep course to develop your understanding of the test. You will hear what the people you will be competing against are hearing and learn what they are learning. The course will simulate test situations which prepare you for the actual LSAT and provide you with structured preparation and potential study buddies.
REMEMBER: Set aside the time to prepare for the test. You need a minimum of two months to prepare for the LSAT - every day. These eight weeks are a microcosm of the first semester of law school (fourteen weeks). You need to see what you can realistically do in the time that you have allotted to prepare, amidst your other life responsibilities.
Q. Do I need to take an LSAT prep course?
A. The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is supposed to be a predictor of your first-year law school performance and is a threshold requirement for getting into law school. Taking an LSAT prep course will provide you with the strength training you will need to compete with others. Law schools will not only look at your individual score but will compare your LSAT score in several ways: with the scores of others who took the test when you did (your percentile reflects where you fall in comparison to others); with the average LSAT scores of individuals from your undergraduate school; with the range of scores of the last entering class to that law school; and with the scores of the current applicant pool.
Q. I cannot afford to pay for an LSAT prep course.
A. Some courses can run up to $1500 or more, but LSAC offers a fee waiver program for those prospective applicants who are facing a financial barrier to taking the LSAT. Unfortunately the fee waiver program does not apply to taking courses, but it does entitle the applicant to a free study book in addition to waiving the fees associated with taking the LSAT and using the LSAC system. For more information, see Fee Waivers for the LSAT and Credential Assembly Service (CAS).
If you cannot afford a prep course, then get your hands on previously published LSAT exams from the Law School Admission Council (LSAC), as you want to go to the source. In particular, you want to practice with questions that contain a detailed explanation of each of the answer choices "so that you can begin to think like those who have developed the exam questions." Although there are new questions each year, the type of questions remains the same.
Q. If I have been arrested, would that keep me from being admitted to law school?
A. You should report unlawful conduct in your application to law school, even if you think that it is minor. This could include speeding or other traffic infractions, underage offenses, alcohol consumption or drug charges, disorderly conduct, or physical assault. Please review our policy on Character and Fitness »