The most common refrain we hear this time of year is from applicants asking “what should I be doing now?” We’re glad you asked!
1. If you are taking the October LSAT then right now is all-LSAT-and-nothing-but-the-LSAT-time! We’re less than three weeks from the LSAT, which means that you will want to really focus on your LSAT prep above all else. At this point, we suggest that you set aside those personal statements and essays to focus exclusively on LSAT prep. The only exception is…
2. Get your letters of recommendation NOW, whether you are taking the October LSAT or not. If you are applying this fall and you still don’t have your letters of recommendation locked up, do this immediately! Right now! Don’t even finish reading this paragraph. Just go talk to your recommenders this very second. Expect it to take at least 4-8 weeks for the recommender to write the letter, send it in, and for the LSAC to process it.
3. Explore the admissions websites and blogs of schools that interest you. Many law schools host VERY helpful blogs and even tweet updates about their admissions process. (For example, the Dean of Admissions at Yale Law School recently wrote some blog entries about what she likes/doesn’t like in personal statements here http://blogs.law.yale.edu/blogs/admissions/archive/tags/P.S.+Boot+Camp/default.aspx .) It is important to understand that while there are qualities that every law school likes to see, each law school is also a bit unique in what it values. Some schools may value work experience, others are more community service oriented, and still others may prefer to see international experience. These admissions websites, blogs, and Twitter accounts can give a LOT of insight into what the school–and the admissions dean–is interested in hearing, as well as what’s “been there, done that” for them.
4. If you are finished with the LSAT (yay!), then it’s time to work on your personal statement and your supplemental essays. Log into your CAS account and open the applications of the schools that interest you. (It’s okay, the schools won’t see your application until you click “submit”, so you can open the application as many times as you want.) Look at the prompts each school gives for personal statements and look at the supplemental essays they want you to submit. Make a list of all the supplemental essays you will need.
Brainstorm about your personal statement. What do you have to offer a law school? What are your career aspirations? What meaningful experiences have you had? If you’re having trouble getting started, attend one of our Personal Statement Workshops; you can view them all and register at http://illinois.edu/calendar/list/2508
5. When you have written a draft, set up a personal statement review appointment. The challenge for applicants is that you haven’t done this before, and you don’t know what the rest of the applicant pool’s essays look like. As Pre-Law Advisors, we’ve read hundreds (maybe thousands?) of essays, and we can tell you exactly how this essay compares to the pool. We can also help troubleshoot, brainstorm ideas, offer suggestions for better structure and flow of the essay, and comment on the tone of the essay. (Note that we do not edit the essay or provide proofreading services. Mechanics and grammar are at the discretion of the student.)
To set up a personal statement appointment, call 333-9669. Then, email your personal statement to the advisor two business days before the appointment so that we can review it and give it some thought prior to appointment time. You can also email your resume for review at the same time.
6. Order your transcripts. Remember that you must provide a transcript from each undergraduate institution you attended, even if you just took a summer class at a community college. It can take some time to coordinate with all of the Registrars at other colleges; do yourself a favor and start now. You can find more information about that process here http://www.lsac.org/jd/apply/cas-requesting-transcripts.asp
We are hosting a workshop on Applying to Law School on Monday, September 24 at 4:00 in 161 Noyes to discuss specific details about the application process, working with the LSAC, and strategizing about your application plan. Check it out at http://illinois.edu/calendar/list/2508. See you there!