Number of previous sexual partners. Weight. Salary. Length of…well, you get the idea. There are several very private numbers in one’s life, but none so private as – you guessed it – your LSAT score.
Even if you did extremely well on the LSAT, you probably don’t go around telling your friends your LSAT score (and if you do, your friends probably don’t like you very much). However, once you submit your law school applications, your LSAT score takes on a life of its own. Law school admissions is a fairly nebulous process, and most schools just make a vague reference to an “Admissions Committee,” so it can be hard to know exactly how many people are laying eyes on your applications and who they are. However, some schools are more explicit about exactly who will be reading each application.
Here’s a smattering:
First, the Dean of Admissions reviews each law school application. Files that make it past her are sent to three faculty members, who independently read and score each application.
Columbia: “Every single application is read by at least two members of the Selection Committee, all of whom are Admissions Officers.”
Michigan: “[T]he review is usually exclusively administrative, and every file is typically read by two admissions officers. Sometimes, though, we’ll want additional reads to get new points of view, either by other admissions officers or by our faculty committee.”
Chicago: “Each file is reviewed by at least two members of the Admissions Committee which is made up of both admissions officers and faculty.”
Completed applications are first reviewed by the Dean of Admissions, who admits some candidates and denies some candidates. Candidates remaining in the “maybe” pile are sent to an Admissions Committee, composed of both faculty and students.
This, of course, is very, very far from a complete list. However, the point that should stand out is that the fate of your application is, at some schools, decided by a single person. Unless you’re a risk-taker, you’ll probably want your application to be as universally appealing as possible. This doesn’t mean that you should hide anything about yourself – if you were heavily involved with a certain political group or an activist for a controversial cause, that’s an important facet of your life. But if you’re discussing a potentially divisive topic, make sure the way you talk about it won’t ruffle any feathers.
Furthermore, different schools begin by reviewing different parts of each application. Yale’s Dean of Admissions is on record as saying that (in at least one year) she began with the Letters of Recommendation; other schools might start with the Personal Statement. Therefore, each part of your law school application needs to be well-crafted and stand out. You never know which part of the application will be a reader’s first impression of you, and that single person might hold your fate in his or her hands.