Today’s tips come from Eileen Conner, who helps law school candidates write excellent admissions essays in her work as founder of Pen and Chisel.
If you’re taking the December LSAT, you’ve probably been spending most of your application time developing a strong study regime. Great! But even though the LSAT is a critical part of your argument for admission, it’s also a good idea to keep an eye on the other parts of your application.
What else should you do between now and the exam to make sure you’ll be ready to submit your applications as soon as you receive your scores?
Your personal statement, diversity statement, and other supplemental essays are the next big tasks you’ll need to tackle to complete a stellar application. But should you split your time between LSAT study and writing, or should you wait until after the LSAT to get started?
Until the exam is over, it will almost certainly be more critical to practice Logic Games than to write application essays. But that doesn’t mean you should completely ignore your essays until the December LSAT is behind you! Prioritize your LSAT studies, but make time to do some initial planning and brainstorming, to write out a basic rough draft, or to ask a friend or advisor for advice.
Why Think About Application Essays Now?
You don’ t have to finish a complete set of perfect, polished application essays before the December LSAT — but it’s a good idea to make at least a little progress. Taking the first steps now means that if you run into any stumbling blocks post-test, you’ll have some leeway in which to recover. You’ll have at least some work done, even if it isn’t exactly what you want it to be. It’s always easier to make some progress once you have a start — and even the simplest of brainstorms and the sloppiest of rough drafts are still a start.
It’s perfectly possible to wait until after the LSAT to begin your essay writing process if you prefer — but getting a head start now can give you a leg up later. Besides, if you need a break from test prep, you might as well use some of that time off to do something useful!
Starting the Writing Process
First, list the essays you’ll need to write for your applications. If you don’t know how much work you have to do, it’ll be difficult to plan your time well — so find out exactly what is required. Once you know what you need to write, you’ll be able to estimate the time you need to do a good job much more accurately.
Next, get started on your most important essay — the personal statement — through brainstorming. I recommend that you set a timer for five minutes and quickly list all your different experiences that best show you can become a great lawyer.
Even this short amount of time can really help you start thinking about what you want to tell the admissions committee in your essay — and it certainly doesn’t take much time away from your LSAT study schedule!
When you find more time to work on your essays, you can repeat the brainstorming process for each piece you need to write or start a basic draft of your personal statement. In either case, you’ll be making progress toward a set of finished essays. And even though you’ll set aside this work to go back to your LSAT study, you’ll have it ready to pick up and complete in the weeks between taking the exam and getting your score.
Finally, because you’ll want to have everything ready to go when it’s time to submit your applications, it’s a good idea to make sure your academic records are complete. If you haven’t yet sent your transcripts to LSAC’s Credential Assembly Service, now is the time to do so! If you have, check to make sure they’ve been received.
In addition, consider your letters of recommendation. By now, many of your chosen recommenders will have already submitted their completed letters — but if any recommenders have not yet submitted their letters, it’s time to pick up the phone or write a quick email to politely inquire about their progress and remind them of your due dates.
These tasks are small in and of themselves, but they can have a big impact on your application. Take a few minutes to ensure that your credentials are complete, and you’ll be able to check that task off your to-do list for good.
By getting a head start on the other parts of your applications, you can be ready to submit your law school applications as soon as possible after you receive your December LSAT scores.
Eileen Conner is the founder of Pen and Chisel LLC, where she helps law school applicants craft convincing personal statements, diversity statements, and supplemental 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.