Ask a Law School Admissions Expert: Andrea Kilpatrick
Note – this is a reprinted interview we conducted with our partner, Varsity Tutors.
Andrea: The time dedicated to completing an application varies by student. For most applicants, we suggest beginning the process a couple of months ahead of their personal deadline to allow recommenders time to complete letters. The time a student must spend on an application depends on the specific law school. Some applications are longer than others and require more time. 60-80 hours is not unreasonable.
VT: What is the single most important thing applicants should focus on with this application?
Andrea: Applicants must determine how the sum total of their experiences and achievements can be crafted into a coherent and persuasive story that will move an admissions committee to accept.
VT: What are the biggest mistakes one can make on a Law School application?
Andrea: Telling an admissions committee why they should accept you as opposed to showing it. Admissions committees don’t need an applicant to do their jobs for them, but they do need an applicant to include all the experiences, stories, and data for them to do an appropriate analysis. Sometimes, applicants fail to include important information because they don’t feel it is relevant from a legal perspective. No one has been a lawyer before going to law school, so admissions committees are looking for evidence of potential success in unusual places.
VT: What do Law School admissions officers look for most in an applicant’s essays/personal statements?
Andrea: All law school essays must demonstrate exemplary persuasive writing skills. The content of the personal statement can and should vary by applicant.
VT: Is there anything on a student’s application that would automatically disqualify them from being considered for the program?
Andrea: Aside from lying, there are no disqualifying factors. Differences in grades or LSAT scores might dictate the tier of law school to which an applicant can apply, but there are no required majors or prerequisites. Even a legal record can be explained on a law school application.
VT: What about the Law School admissions process differs the most from undergraduate admissions?
Andrea: Law schools generally have a rolling admissions process. Applications are reviewed in the order they are received. Applying early improves an applicant’s chances. Therefore it is up to the candidate to complete an outstanding application in the quickest time possible.
VT: What kinds of things (experience, grades, etc.) might a student lack that would lead you to advise them not to apply?
Andrea: The decision to apply is a very personal one. If an applicant’s goal is to be admitted to an accredited law school, there aren’t many reasons not to apply outside of personal or financial ones. However, if a student aspires to attend a top tier law school, we may suggest that the applicant retake the LSAT, or consider additional experiences before applying if necessary.
VT: Is there anything you might see on a student’s application that would quickly put them ahead in the running?
Andrea: Every application is different. Good grades, good test scores, and attending a prestigious undergraduate institution help, but they are no guarantee. Admissions committees are looking for a well-rounded applicant and only a strong overall application indicates that.
VT: What advice do you have regarding LSAT test prep?
Andrea: If you can afford it, sign up for professional test prep. If not, practice on your own using previous tests – lots of previous tests. You can learn to perform better on the LSAT through practice.
VT: What do law school admissions officers look for in recommendation letters?
Andrea: Admissions officers want to see that the recommender knows the applicant well. Getting a letter from a very prestigious recommender who doesn’t know you well will not help an application. A recommender has to be able to speak to the candidate’s skills and character. The specific content of a recommendation letter depends on the candidate. We want to be sure the letter emphasizes those areas of strength that may not have been touched on elsewhere in the application.