What Law School Admissions Tasks Should You Be Doing?

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Today on the LSAT blog: a guest post by Law School Expert Ann Levine, the former director of admissions for two ABA-approved law schools and the author of The Law School Admission Game: Play Like an Expert and The Law School Decision Game: A Playbook for Prospective Lawyers.

What? The summer is gone? Already?! You had all these grand plans. Despite your internship and your beach vacation and family reunion, you were going to take your LSAT prep course, add in a bit of tutoring, write your law school personal statement, and ask people for letters of recommendation. And now school is starting. Real life has returned. You’re asking yourself, “Geez, how far behind am I?”

After you take a deep breath (you’re going to be OK), read through this checklist of law school admissions tasks I’ve put together. Perform one each week for six weeks, and you’ll have applied to law schools before Thanksgiving. (Check out this article I wrote for US News & World Report for a good baseline.)

The goal is to submit all law school applications by mid-November. If you’ve read The Law School Admission Game, you’re familiar with my dire warnings about the importance of taking advantage of rolling admissions. However, I wrote that book in 2009 — when applications were still in boom time. Now we are in 2012 and it’s bust time.

That’s good for everyone who can’t quite hit the pre-Thanksgiving goal for submitting law school applications. It means that even submitting applications in December and early January is absolutely fine. Better to have a better LSAT score and a better personal statement than to rush things. But please don’t apply to law school in February. Or later. I beg you.

Before I lay out my week-by-week law school admissions task list, let me start here: LSAT prep comes first. You only want this to be the last time you have to face this beast. If you feel pulled in too many directions, remember that this is the beast you have to feed for anything else you do to matter. Put LSAT prep first and don’t apologize for it.

WEEK 1 LAW SCHOOL ADMISSIONS TASK: PERSONAL STATEMENT BRAINSTORMING

Write down every single idea you have. Don’t talk yourself out of any of them. Get them on paper. Set the timer for an hour and don’t stop typing. Flush out a few ideas that get your juices flowing. As you do this, keep in mind that you want to write about you, not about someone else’s influence on you, not about someone you met once, not about a family member’s tragic story. YOU. Write about your experiences and the things that have guided your life and your decisions. Here are some more of my law school personal statement tips.

WEEK 2 LAW SCHOOL ADMISSIONS TASK: REFINE & REVISE

Re-read the law school personal statement ideas you wrote the previous week. Eliminate the silly, caffeine-induced rants where you tried too hard to be funny. Take out any sentences that are too overly dramatic. Look at what you have left. What emphasizes your growth and maturity and focus in a way that wouldn’t otherwise be evident in other areas of your law school application? Go with that idea and start over in a new document and start writing.

Don’t worry about an introduction when you first start writing. Focus on the conclusion. Where do you want the essay to end up? What is your point? How did these experiences lead you to law school? Write the story in your own voice, in a conversational tone. Then refine and revise the essay. Piece of cake. If you get stuck, watch my video on what not to write about in your law school personal statement.

WEEK 3 LAW SCHOOL ADMISSIONS TASK: ASK FOR LETTERS OF REC

Choosing people to write law school letters of recommendation can be daunting, but with school back in session you should have access to your professors. Make sure to ask whether they feel they can write you a strong law school letter of recommendation. If you feel like you are convincing someone, go with your gut, thank them for their time, and leave. Quickly. Here’s some more of my advice on law school letters of recommendation.

WEEK 4 LAW SCHOOL ADMISSIONS TASK: UPDATE YOUR RÉSUMÉ

People think this is the easy part, but it’s not. Your résumé is your opportunity to show how you’ve spent your time since high school (since, not including). Here’s an outline for your law school application résumé.

WEEK 5 LAW SCHOOL ADMISSIONS TASK: SHOP FOR A SCHOOL

After you have your LSAT score, choose your law schools. Create a spreadsheet with each school’s requirements and essay prompts. Also, listen to this podcast about choosing a law school.

WEEK 6 LAW SCHOOL ADMISSIONS TASK: APPLY

All that’s left is the easy part.

This guide may not cover every step of the law school application process, but it should help you jump the major hurdles.

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