Today’s tips come from Eileen Conner, who helps law students create excellent law school admissions essays in her work as founder of Pen and Chisel.
The LSAT is finally over! After several months of serious study, you’ve successfully leaped the first major hurdle in your journey toward a completed law school application. Congratulations!
But the LSAT is not the only obstacle that stands between you and a completed law school application. What should you do next to ensure that you finish a strong, persuasive application by the time your deadlines come knocking?
1. Take a break
You’ve been wedging in hours of intensive LSAT study on top of your usual work and school obligations for weeks on end. That’s a lot of work! Now, immediately after the exam, is the perfect time to step back and give yourself a little time to relax before attacking the next task on your list.
Taking a break is important because it gives you time to recharge. If you don’t give yourself some personal recovery time after such a demanding study regimen, you’ll run the risk of burnout. But if you do take a break, you’ll have plenty of newfound energy under your belt. Then you can use that energy to buckle down and do a great job with the rest of your application.
So take some of the time you’ve been using to study and do something relaxing instead. Whether it’s a day trip to a local beach or hiking trail, a long weekend away with your closest friends, a casual movie night, or simply a week of your regular work or school schedule without any additional application tasks — make sure to give yourself some breathing room before you step up to the plate again.
2. Assemble your credentials
Of course, you don’t want to spend too much time relaxing — you still have work to do! So after you’ve invigorated yourself with a break, get started on the rest of your application.
First, it’s time to send all your different academic credentials to LSAC’s Credential Assembly Service. This service will collect your LSAT score, letters of recommendation, evaluations, and academic credentials, and deliver them to the law schools of your choice. While LSAC will have automatic access to your LSAT score, it’s up to you to ensure that the Credential Assembly Service gets everything else they need to deliver your complete record.
If you haven’t yet asked your professors or professional mentors for law school letters of recommendation, now is the time to do so. Pick up the phone, write a handful of emails, or ask in person — but do ask, and do it soon. Asking early will give your recommenders plenty of time to write and submit their letters of recommendation before your applications are due. Ask today!
If you have already confirmed your recommenders, but haven’t heard back from them for a few weeks, now might be a good time to send an email to check in. Simply send off a short, polite note to ask about their progress and gently remind them of your deadlines.
In addition to letters of recommendation, it’s also time to request your higher education transcripts.
Most major schools will have an online transcript request system available, so you can request transcript delivery quickly and easily. If you attended a less tech-savvy university, you may need to send in a signed request by mail. In either case, you’ll want to request your transcripts soon, so your records will be complete and ready to go by the time you submit your law school applications.
If you’ve attended more than one college or university, or completed a graduate degree along with your undergraduate work, make sure to request transcripts from every institution. You don’t want to accidentally leave your records incomplete!
3. Write your personal statement
The LSAT was the first big project on your plate; the next is the personal statement, along with your secondary application essays.
Make no mistake — your application essays are very important! These essays are one of the few ways you get to communicate directly with the admissions committees at your law schools of choice. You can go into detail about your law ambition and what you hope to achieve in the future — while also showcasing your skills and making it clear that you have what it takes to succeed in law. A great essay that shows you’re an exceptional candidate can move you out of the “maybe” pile and earn you a firm “yes.” Needless to say, it’s important that you write an excellent personal statement.
Arguing for admission to law school in this essay is a huge task. To create the strongest possible argument for admission, you’ll want to start early and give yourself plenty of time for revision.
If you haven’t yet begun to brainstorm for essay topics, now is the time to sit down and list all the experiences from your life that might make great topics. Next, evaluate the results of your brainstorming to pick a personal statement topic that will let you make the most convincing argument for success in law. When you have a story in mind, it’s time to sit down and start drafting your essay.
If you already have a draft in hand — excellent work! You’re ahead of the game. But you still have to take on the hard work of revising and editing before you can declare your personal statement finished.
And then? It’s time to get started on your diversity statement, addendum, and any other secondary essays your chosen law schools expect.
So take a deep breath and get going! Keep tackling your list of tasks, and you’ll soon be making significant progress. Before you know it, your law school application will be complete and ready to submit to the programs of your choice.
Eileen Conner is the founder of Pen and Chisel LLC, where she helps law school applicants craft convincing personal statements, diversity statements, and other application essays. Her on-demand online courses teach students to write and edit top-notch personal statements. For individualized help, she also offers personalized consulting. A graduate of the prestigious University of Michigan MFA program in creative writing, Eileen was formerly the Senior Editor for Law at Revision Editing. Find her at http://penandchisel.com or on Twitter at @penandchisel.