Hunkering Down on Law School Applications

So, while we keep you posted on the 2010 Oct LSAT sitting (we suspect there may not be much for the next week-ish), we must turn our attention to those pesky law school applications which have been hiding in the rather magnanimous shadow of the LSAT. For those of you applying to Ontario Law Schools, the deadline is right around the corner, on Nov 1st, 2010. While you may be biting your nails in anxious fever about your score, don’t chew to the bone, because you need those fingers for typing!

Lets look at a couple things for applications.

Reference Letters: If you haven’t already talk to your references, get on it right away. They need time to come up with a letter, and showing up two days before the deadline is not going to result in a good reference. You need two reference letters – one must be academic. Set up an appointment with your references right away, and bring 1) your resume 2) autobiographical sketch 3) personal statement and 4) an academic paper as a demonstration of your writing (especially for your academic reference, but possibly for your personal reference) to your appointment.

When you talk with them, remind them that they need to bring up information that law school admission officers can’t gather from the other aspects of your application. For example, a prof saying “s/he got an A in my class” – the admission officer can figure that out from your transcript, making your letter kind of mute. They need to comment not only on your previous experience in that class, but also your potential future ability to surviving law school.

Order your Transcript: Thats another mistake student make – leaving ordering their transcript to the last minute. In some cases, students can wait up to six weeks for the transcript to be delivered to the law school application service. Log onto OLSAS now, and place a request for your transcripts. You wouldn’t want your application to be looked at half-way through December because the schools were waiting for your marks. Don’t forget- schools require transcripts from foreign universities, any schooling you did on exchange, if you transfered universities even in the country or the province. Factor in the delay from mailing and gathering your transcripts.

Personal Statement: The personal statement is probably the most important soft factor in your application – and leaving it to the last minute can be seriously detrimental. Admissions officers complain about such basic problems – not just spelling and grammar, but issue of sending the wrong school a personal statement (for example, sending UBC a personal statement that says “I really want to go to U of T”. Every law school requires its own personal statement, and they all deserve their own attention. Copy and paste of one school’s personal statement into another’s with a few minor changes can result in some unintentional errors.

Besides errors, personal statements require some serious thought – it is the only chance to distinguish yourself from the other applicants, and be more than a number. Many of the personal statements contain no criteria, and can be a bit daunting. Admission officers always say, “approach the personal statement as if someone said ‘tell me about yourself’.” They also suggest to write the statement in full, and then spend several days revising it, coming back to it and editing it, and then sending it to other people to give you advice and suggestions.

Many universities offer a personal statement review service, but appointments fill up fast, so talk to them asap.

Autobiographical Sketch: I thought the autobiographical sketch would be a sinch – like a resume you just enter in the info and thats it. Not so fast. Every activity you enter in needs to have a description, a date and a verifier. And, to make it worse, the description for the activity is limited to very few characters (imagine 1/3 of twitter characters) so you need several entries to describe your activity even in the most basic sense. If you make a mistake, you have to delete all the entries and start over. I strongly suggest you get started on the sketch, even if to get an idea of how it works.

Money, Money, Money!: The night before the applications are due, you are sitting there clicking frantically to get them submitted, and the $725 charge pops up as you submit – and that just for the 6 law schools (not if you are applying to extra programs within these law schools such as dual degrees, etc.) plus a $10 transcript fee. You’ve got two weeks left to get your money collected, so get on it now so you are not surprised when the bill comes in. Consider it an investment.

How are your applications going? Got any questions?


Surviving Studenthood


2 responses

  1. I just had to comment to let you know that I’m massively thankful for this article. It helped me hugely in getting onto my graduate diploma in law this year. One thing that I would say is super important is the money part. I almost didn’t take heed of this point, and it caused some pretty significant problems. Fortunately I was able to get it sorted.

    Again thank you, and I’ll be referring anyone I know that’s interested in applying to law here!

    1. Hi Emma!

      Thank you for your comment – feel free to keep us posted on your progress as a graduate student. Congrats on your recent academic success, and good luck on your continued journey through student hood!

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