Pre Law Information for Juniors and Seniors
- This is an important year for anyone planning on attending law school. Since most students submit their law school applications in the fall of their senior year (suggested deadline of December 1), your junior year grades may be the last ones recorded on your application transcript. Therefore, study, study, study this year to maximize your GPA.
- When you decide to apply to Law School, you will need letters of recommendation for your applications— it is imperative that two of these letters come from a faculty member. If no one immediately comes to mind, start talking to your professors today! Send emails, visit office hours— develop a relationship that will allow them to write a thoughtful letter that clearly indicates how well they know you and your classroom performance (see section on LORs below for more information.)
- LSAT time!! The LSAT is now offered in digital format multiple times a year. If you are planning on starting law school in the fall after graduation, the traditional time to take the LSAT is in June or July between your Junior and Senior year. If you need to retake the test, you will still have plenty of time to get your application materials prepared for the admissions cycle. Be sure that whenever you decide to take the test, you are able to prepare adequately. Test prep agencies can be helpful in understanding the components of the tests and providing you with strategies for test taking. But Vanderbilt does not endorse one test prep agency over another. The most important thing you can do to prepare for the LSAT is take practice tests, under timed conditions, over and over again. If Vanderbilt students had all day to take the test, they would all get perfect scores. But you will not have all day, you will have four hours. You need to practice as if you are under the same time constraints. Test prep agencies can facilitate this practice, or you can do it on your own. But you must take at least three practice tests under timed and simulated test-taking conditions before you take the actual test! In addition, be sure and:
- If you are able, visit the classroom where you will be taking the test beforehand. Get a feel for what the room feels like; sit down in different sections of the room. Take a practice test with you and spend at least 30 minutes working through the test (if you are able take a full test under timed conditions in the room!) This will give you a sense of familiarity and confidence when you take the actual exam.
- Get a good night’s sleep the night before the test. Nothing can be gained by staying up late and cramming at this point.
- Eat a good breakfast. You do not want to be distracted by your hunger.
- Wear layered clothing – you never know if it will be freezing or burning up in the test-taking venue. Plan accordingly.
- Arrive with plenty of time to spare. Expect the unexpected.
- Remember your admission ticket and your identification card.
Senior Year— Time to Apply!
If possible, it is best to apply to a variety of law schools, fairly evenly spread through three categories:
- Safety schools (average LSAT is 2-3 points below your score, and average GPA is 0.2 below your GPA)
- Target schools (average LSAT is your score, and average GPA is your GPA)
- Reach schools (average LSAT is 2-3 points above your score, and average GPA is 0.2 above your GPA)
Remember that median numbers are just that, medians. 50% of the entering class scores above and 50% scores below these numbers. Don’t let the numbers completely dissuade you from applying to a school you have always dreamed of attending. But also be realistic with yourself about where you want to attend and where you think you have the best shot of being at the top of your class. Outside of the top three Law Schools, most students should make their application and acceptance decisions based on a multi-variate analysis akin to the information set forth here.
Components of the Application
Personal Statements (click here for more helpful information)
The personal statement is often the most dreaded part of the application process. Some basic tips and guidelines can help you write a personal statement that is memorable, creative, and most importantly, reflective of who you are.
- The purpose of a personal statement is to introduce yourself, explain why you want to go to law school, and why you feel this is the right career path for you.
- Tell the admissions committee who you are as if you were speaking to them in person.
- Select a theme or central idea, and STICK TO IT!
- Use specific examples to back up your statements. For example, saying, “I am a team player” will not be worth much if you do not give an example of a time when you were a team player.
- Pay attention to what the school has asked you to cover in your statement – writing one blanket statement and sending it to every school doesn’t always work! Make it obvious to the school that you take this process seriously.
- Be yourself, and be honest!
- Remember that the statement is not your résumé; rather it is the opportunity to show communication skills and creativity – give information about you that is not included in any other part of the application.
- Work with the writing studio throughout the process.
- See these exemplars for further guidance
Letters of Recommendation (click here for more helpful information)
- Two letters must come from those able to assess your academic performance, e.g. your professors! This means that you need to cultivate relationships with faculty, attend office hours even if you don’t have questions, and get involved outside the classroom.
- A good letter will cover your writing abilities, analytical skills, and intellectual development, both individually and in comparison to your peers.
- We strongly recommend making an appointment to request your letter in person. Bring a nice folder where you provide a résumé, your transcript and a cover-letter addressed to the person writing a letter for you. Remind the professor of the courses where you were their student, your paper or project topics and a paragraph explaining why you are applying to law school. This ensures that they have the information necessary to put together a thoughtful and informative letter.
- If you have a third reference, it should be from someone who knows you outside of academia, e.g. an internship supervisor, work-study manager, etc. Ask them to write about your professionalism and dependability, etc.
Take time when putting together your application materials. Personal statements, résumés, and letters of recommendation can be the deciding factors in your admission to a program.
Official transcripts must be ordered through the Vanderbilt Registrar’s Office—see this page for more information: http://registrar.vanderbilt.edu/transcripts/