Law School Preparation for Seniors
It's now time to make a decision about going to law school. Keep in mind that you don't have to go right after college. It is quite common for students to take some time off after their undergraduate degree to enter the workforce, pursue additional degrees, or engage in community service before attending law school.
Hopefully by this time in your Cornell career, you will have taken advantage of the pre-law advisors guidance, participated in several activities that give you exposure to the legal profession, and had lots of conversations with practicing attorneys so you can make the best decision for you. Not knowing what to do with your life after college and using law school as a default option to delay making a decision may or may not be in your best interest.
Remember, only you can decide what time is right for you to go to law school, if you decide to go to law school at all. If you do decide to move forward with the law school process, here is what you need to be paying attention to this year:
- Review your LSAT score. Ideally, you will have taken the exam in June so you should know your score by the end of the summer. Your LSAT score is one of many factors that law schools look at when making admission decisions. If your score is lower than what you were hoping for, you don't need to panic! You still have time to take the LSAT again in the fall (preferably the October administration versus the December administration) to hopefully improve on your score.
- Request law school application materials from schools of interest. Many schools will have their updated application materials available by the end of the summer. You should make an effort to request materials as soon as possible so you know what you need to put together for each school, and can budget appropriately for the number of schools you are applying to.
- Check-in with a faculty or staff pre-law advisor at the start of the school year. You need to have your game plan figured out if you are going to have your law school applications in as early as Thanksgiving and ideally by winter break. They can help you strategize your next steps in the application process including reviews of your personal statement (which you should have been thinking about over the summer), suggestions on letters of recommendation (you should have been building relationships with faculty over the past two years), and to have honest conversations about your career plans.
- Familiarize yourself with the LSCAS. The Law School Credential Assembly Service administered through LSAC will be an important tool for your law school applications. Take the time to learn early in the fall how to use it properly.
- Revise your personal statement. Each school you apply to will likely have a slightly different set of expectations for your personal statement. Most will have a limit of about three pages, and you will be expected to tailor your statement to the law school you are applying to for admission. Don't repeat your resume in your personal statement; this is your chance to share with the law school admission committee something about you and why they should admit you. The majority of law schools do not do admission interviews; as such, the personal statement is your chance to show a side of you that is not captured in your LSAT score, GPA, resume, or letters of recommendation.
- Have at least two people who are expert at critiquing personal statements review your document. RJ and the faculty pre-law advisors are great resources for this task. While it may seem like a good idea to have your mom/dad, sibling, significant other, or roommate review your statement, take advantage of the professional resources Cornell provides to help you with this part of the process. You will get honest and constructive feedback that will help you present your best in this important part of the law school application.
- Identify and ask individuals who can write you a positive letter of recommendation to write you a letter for your application. Most schools will ask for two to three letters, and in general, will want to hear from faculty members who have instructed courses you have taken (remember, you are applying to another academic institution). Pay close attention to the law school's guidelines for the number of letters you can submit. Be sure to read Craig Allin's advice on letters of recommendation before you start asking for letters.
- If you are applying for financial aid, make sure you complete any additional materials the law school may be asking for as part of their application process. You will also need to submit your FAFSA if you are hoping for federal aid and be sure to check out your credit score if you anticipate needing loans from private lenders.
- Request copies of your official academic transcript. You will need to work through the Registrar's Office to have your transcript submitted to each law school you are applying to for admission. Make sure your request gets submitted in a timely manner so your completed applicant file is not delayed.
- Submit your applications. Just because a law school may have a March deadline does not mean you should wait until then to submit your materials. A majority of law schools admit students on a rolling basis, and therefore will have very few seats in the class left if you wait until their application deadline. Make sure your personal statement, resume, addendum, application, etc. are as polished as possible before submitting it. A good goal to set is to have your applications in as early as Thanksgiving and definitely by the start of winter break.
- Follow-up with recommenders to make sure their letters have been submitted to LSCAS. You don't want to have LSCAS release incomplete materials to law schools, and many will not review the file until it's complete.
- Wait patiently. Depending on the law school, you may hear as early as December or perhaps in late spring for an admission decision. Some schools may request additional information to clarify information in your application before rendering a decision. As you hear about admission decisions, please email Abbe Stensland.
- Depending on your situation, you may be able to submit supplemental materials to law schools later in the admission process. You should consult with a faculty or staff pre-law advisor to assess your case and to determine what information is appropriate to update with the law schools, especially if you get on a wait list for admission.
- Assess your options. If you have done the work you needed to throughout your time at Cornell--excelled academically, engaged in co-curricular activities that enhance your skills and career development, prepared for the LSAT, developed a solid law school application--then you have improved your chances of gaining admission to law school. When the admission offers come in, you will need to decide which schools will offer you the best experience that meets your needs and interests. In some cases, the financial burden of attending law school may play a significant role in your decision-making process; after all, law school is not an inexpensive investment of time or money.
- Once you have made a decision, make your seat deposit for the law school of your choice and inform the other schools you've been admitted to or wait listed for of your decision. Please make sure Abbe Stensland knows the final admission status of each law school you applied to and which school you will be attending in the fall. Congratulations on getting into law school and good luck!