Checking Your Progress on the Road to Law School
As you know, getting into a top law school involves much more than excellent grades and LSAT scores. But, because everyone’s road to law school takes a different shape and is not preset like a pre-med curriculum might be, checking your progress and development along the way involves some serious self-reflection. Thus, you should try to use the following basic rubric to evaluate your candidacy at the culmination of each semester during college:
1. Has your education been well balanced up through this point?
If there are discernible gaps in your education thus far, you need to think about how to balance out your curriculum. You should have a good balance of quantitative courses, reading and writing intensive courses, smaller seminar-style courses, and courses from a variety of different departments.
2. Are most of your classes in a department or area that is considered to be much more difficult than most others?
Be careful to make sure that you aren’t suffering too much GPA-wise, but avoid the perception that you are cherry-picking easy classes to pad your GPA in preparation for applying to law school. You need to be perceived as someone who is willing to challenge yourself and take calculated risks.
If you really want to learn a particular subject outside of your academic concentration but know that you will not be achieve high marks in that class, consider taking it pass/fail or auditing it in order to protect your GPA. Law school admissions offices generally know that economics, math, hard sciences, and engineering are traditionally more difficult vehicles through which to obtain a high GPA. Although they will take this into account, there is still a subconscious effect of a lower GPA and a concern about protecting their median GPA range for admitted students. Balance, breadth, and some depth are the guidelines for your course selection.
3. What are your academic achievements?
During your road to law school, you will want to have accrued substantial research and writing accomplishments such as a capstone project or honors thesis. Ideally, you will start to build this type of experience early on so that you can cultivate a relationship with your professor or academic mentor.
Improve your candidacy. Talk to a law school admissions expert!
4. How have you incorporated your academic interests into your work outside of the classroom?
If you are truly passionate about a subject, it would be odd if you did not pursue at least some extra-curricular activities related to that subject. Synergy between your classroom and extra-curricular work will not only help you learn better, but also make the narrative of your application more compelling.
- For instance, if you take classes about third world development and describe that as your academic interest, you would be hard pressed to convince an admissions office that you are genuine without a study abroad or volunteer trip, some participation in clubs or organizations related to development, or other similar credentials.
5. What are the blemishes on your academic record?
In some cases, you might have to deal with the unfortunate reality of some kind of disciplinary record or trouble with the law. This is a sensitive subject to deal with in your application, but making amends or covering weakness in some fashion earlier on can go a long way to making that law school addendum much easier to write by turning a negative into a positive.
Asking yourself questions like these and evaluating your transcript and CV as they are in the process of taking shape will give you a leg up on the competition. After all, law schools are looking for students who exhibit strong analytical skills, organizational skills, and maturity. Taking the time to reflect and analyze your own candidacy will pay dividends in very clearly showcasing these very traits in a way that simply cannot be replicated if you wait until application season.