Experts discuss how to apply to law school

A panel of the deans of admission of several top New York City law schools visited Baruch College to hold an information session with students. Representatives from Fordham University’s School of Law, Touro Law Center, Pace University’s School of Law, Cardozo School of Law and others outlined the law school admissions process, stressing the importance of a strong personal statement to distinguish similar applicants or compensate for a subpar Law School Admission Test (LSAT) score. Aside from the LSAT and personal statement, the meticulous law school application requires a competitive GPA, letters of recommendation, extracurricular activities and work experience.

The majority of the discussion, which was held on Oct. 22, detailed the makeup of a strong law school application. No single aspect of an application decides whether or not a student is admitted; rather, the majority of admissions offices practice a holistic review. Students tend to compare their LSAT scores with the median scores of admitted students from the previous year.

Stephen Brown, assistant dean of enrollment at the Fordham University School of Law, spoke animatedly against this habit. “Median! Half! Half above, half below!” he asserted. In other words, there is still a great chance that an applicant with a moderate LSAT score is granted admission to law school, provided that the rest of the application is solid. For those with a modest LSAT score, the panel encouraged applicants to pay special attention to the personal statement. While admissions officers appreciate a balance between confidence and humility, the panelists described being turned off by applicants who wrote gloatingly of themselves. This attitude is detrimental to the healthy communities that the admissions officials aim to build at their schools.

Deans also value an application that is neatly presented, accurate and prompt. Once a student is admitted to a law school, their application is saved and submitted to the City of New York when they apply for a license to practice law. The application undergoes an additional review and any discrepancies are scrutinized.

The panel emphasized professionalism beyond the written application. The way applicants dress, behave and interact with others will ultimately reflect upon them once they attend the school.

One rumor quickly discredited by the panel was the false notion that students who apply immediately after completing their undergraduate degree are better off than applicants who have taken time off. Instead, the deans applauded the benefits that some students receive from work experience during the time they spend away from school. There are many distinct categories of law. Thus, work experience gained in a field other than law is equally valuable.

Also discussed were some optional measures that applicants may choose to take in order to increase their chances of admission. Recently, many law schools adapted software that allows applicants to record themselves while conducting an asynchronous interview before attaching it to the application.

This extra step is not required, and so students who devote extra time to adding this component to their application send an enthusiastic message to the admissions officers.

To sum up what the dean of admissions at his school is looking for in an applicant, George Justice, Assistant Dean for Admissions at Touro Law Center, uses the word “engagement.”

Justice explains, “What have you done up to this point in your life? Were you fully engaged? Shouldn’t that be a good indicator as to whether you’d be a fully engaged law student and a better law student? … The numbers never fully define or shouldn’t fully define anyone.”

In other words, engagement becomes apparent throughout all aspects of the application, and that ultimately project a candidate’s credibility to the dean of admissions.

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