Tips on How to Make Your Application As Competitive as Possible

When assembling your application materials, it is important to keep in mind what each part of your application needs to accomplish. Your personal statement, for example, should not simply summarize your transcript and resume. Your GPA and LSAT scores should demonstrate your academic potential; given this objective, extracurricular activities are not "substitutable" for problematic GPAs and LSAT scores, no matter how important those extracurricular activities may be in revealing other significant aspects (e.g., civic commitment, interest in public service, etc.) of your undergraduate career. To make your application as competitive as possible, ensure that each element of your application addresses that which admissions committees will be looking for in that particular element.

Competitive applications demonstrate:

  1. Your academic accomplishments and potential. Your academic strengths can be documented through LSAT scores, GPAs, strong letters of reference from faculty members who know your work, academic awards, and academic publications.
  2. Your personal qualities and how those will contribute to a dynamic law school community. Your personal interests, experiences, and unique qualities can be discussed in your personal statement, in your resume listing of jobs/extracurricular activities/service, and in letters of reference.
  3. Attention to law school particulars which make you a good "fit" for the law schools to which you are applying. Your personal statement can highlight why the law school to which you are applying is a good choice for you, given the law school's mission, strengths, etc.

Personal Statements

While no single list of tips can address all of your questions, the following guidelines should help you draft, edit, and revise your personal statement:

  • Read carefully and follow closely the application guidelines for the personal statement. Law school requirements differ in terms of length, format, and questions to be addressed. Take the time to follow all directions.
  • Remember the objective that the personal statement is supposed to achieve. In addition to following the directions given in the law school application materials, make your personal statement truly personal; no one else should be able to write what you have written. You (and only you) should be recognizable through your words, were you to show your personal statement to close friends, family members, and/or professors.
  • Don't try to summarize your entire life; instead, speak of representative experiences, accomplishments, challenges, insights, and/or defining moments.
  • Address problematic components of your application. For instance, if your GPA is lower than that of other applicants, if possible, provide your readers with a way to interpret your GPA in a way that is favorable to your cause. If you worked, had family responsibilties, suffered a chronic illness, or experienced other difficulties during school, you could alert your readers to those factors.
  • Be truthful.
  • Proofread and edit your statement.
Your pre-law advisor can provide you with handouts on writing your personal statement. In addition, you might find it helpful to consult the following sources:

Letters of Reference

You should select writers who truly know you, your abilities, and your strengths. Academic references are important in documenting your scholarly abilities. However, letters from employers and supervisors can be excellent choices in speaking to your integrity, time-management skills, social and communication skills, perseverance, and other areas of strength.

Avoiding the Most Common Mistakes in Applying to Law School

As you make your way through the application process, you may find it beneficial to consult the University of Illinois, Pre-Law and Law School Admissions Information Page's "Avoiding Mistakes in the Application Process". This page offers a 12-step guide to help you avoid the most common law school application mistakes. Because some mistakes are difficult to correct late in your undergraduate career, I suggest you read this page now, even if you are still in your freshman or sophomore year.