The View From the Admissions Office

Most applicants hurt their chances of admission by thinking like an applicant, instead of like an admissions officer. They try to gloss over weaknesses in their file, or to convince the admissions officer that their internships were somehow more special than everyone else's, that they deserve a chance, that if accepted they will surely succeed. Read the information that follows carefully, so you don't make the same mistakes.

In choosing its students a law school is trying to meet a number of different goals:

  • It is looking for qualified applicants -- simply put, people who are not likely to fail.
  • It is looking for diversity in its student body: people who will add to the quality of the educational experience of all students by offering a viewpoint learned through their unusual, perhaps unique, life experiences.
  • It is attempting to compare students whose experiences may not make them directly comparable (for instance, two students may have the same grades, but one had to work full-time during college while the other was able to devote all his time to studies).
  • It may be attempting to expand the opportunities of groups traditionally disadvantaged in our society.
  • In a few rare instances, it is attempting to return favors to someone with influence at the school.
  • It is seeking students who show the interest, dedication, and character that make good lawyers.
  • It is looking for the best students it can attract, since the median grades and LSAT scores of a school's students are often viewed as an indicator of the quality of the school.
  • And most importantly, it is jockeying for position in the USNews rankings.

A Seller's Market

Many applicants see themselves as the buyer of a law school.  When applications are on the decline, this can make sense.  But when apps are increasing, it makes much more sense to see yourself as the seller.  And the important question is, what are you selling, and what are they buying? 

Four Assets

Law schools are buying four different things, three of which go directly to their USNews ranking:

        • a higher median LSAT
        • a higher median gpa
        • a higher yield rate
        • more diversity

You give them the first two by having numbers higher than their reported medians.  

Reported median LSAT is now based on the highest of all your LSAT scores, unless one score was taken under accommodated conditions and another wasn't. But what a school reports and what it considers need not be the same; see our section on LSAT.

You give them the third by applying through a binding early decision program. You give them the fourth by supplying something they want and don't have -- and can't get from someone with higher numbers than yours.  That "something" can be ethnic, demographic, occupational, or financial (see "Maximizing the Rewards).  Once in a great while, it can be a personality, as seen in an essay or a recommendation.  But a good general rule is, if you don't know which of the four things above you're selling, you won't get bought.

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