Wednesday, October 13, 2010
BY GERALD M. BRADSHAW
Bradshaw College Consulting
Dear Mr. Bradshaw -- I am applying to several top law schools this fall. I hope to gain admission to Harvard, as I have prepared well and have a 3.95 grade-point average.
I took the LSAT for the first time early in my junior year and scored 165-180. I took private tutoring with Kaplan in the spring this year and raised my score to 174-180.
Besides Harvard, I am applying to law schools at Yale, Columbia, the University of Pennsylvania, Notre Dame and Indiana University.
My question to you, an alumnus, is how difficult is it to get admitted to a top law school? What does it take beyond an outstanding academic record and high test scores?
I am working on my personal essay and would appreciate any advice before I send it in. Thank you ahead of time. -- Ann from Indiana University
Dear Ann -- It is very difficult to gain admission to a top law school in the best of times. With the economy the way it is, it is even more difficult.
Law schools are receiving a record number of applications. This is probably attributed to law schools being seen as a safe haven in which to wait for the economy to improve.
I would say taking Kaplan was the most important strategic decision you made up to this point. Grades and extracurricular activities are important, but LSAT scores pull more weight than any other part of the application. Students who aren't sure what is rated highest by law schools should take note and invest time and money where it does the most good.
Harvard Law School is large, accepting more than 700 students to fill its 550 openings. By comparison, Harvard Business School has 900 students in its first-year class.
The sizes of these schools surprise many students. They cherry-pick a large number of America's top graduates in order to fill their classrooms. The good news is, your grades and test scores put you in the running. The question becomes, what else are they looking for in an applicant that will set you apart?
I can't overemphasize the need to be different -- to have distinguished yourself in some important way beyond academia. Gaining admission straight out of college is hard without having some form of work or military experience backing you up. So, when you are writing your essay, all you'll have to rely on is being a scholar. In that regard, let's compare.
Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts, a LaLumiere graduate who grew up in Michigan City, got onto Harvard Law School straight out of college, but he took his degree in three years at Harvard College, graduating with an A.B. summa cum laude in history, so had established himself as a brilliant scholar.
The list of scholar admits in the Harvard Law School Class of 2013 is impressive. It includes one Rhodes, three Truman and 10 Fulbright scholars. Admits with some work experience, however, include 24 Teach for America alumni and three former Peace Corps volunteers.
The class also represents the most experienced student body in recent history, with more than 70 percent taking time off before attending Harvard Law School. This includes more than 60 students who worked on political campaigns, 70 congressional staffers and interns, and more than 150 former paralegals, legal assistants and legal interns.
That should give you some idea of the competition. So, before you apply, I advise taking time to think about what it takes to get admitted to a top law school. You might decide a few years in the real world are needed before committing yourself.
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