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Top 10 Law School Application Mistakes

by Paula A. Charland

(former Director of Admissions, Syracuse University College of Law and Director of MBA Recruitment, Syracuse University School of Management)

10. Taking the LSAT “cold”

  • scores remain on record for years
  • many schools average multiple attempts on LSAT
  • the top contenders are prepping for weeks beforehand
  • one cannot study for test, but one can (should) prepare for it!
  • there are accessible, low-cost alternatives to expensive prep courses…no excuses

9. Waiting for the last minute to request letters of recommendation

  • professors will receive multiple requests in late fall
  • good letters can make a difference in a close case!
  • given a reasonable time frame, and some “coaching”, most faculty will do a good job
  • letters that are rushed are often worthless in the process

8. Not being organized/missing deadlines

  • keep copies of everything you send to a law school
  • pay attention to application deadlines and policies (they vary!)
  • early applications generally receive more favorable consideration
  • merit money is awarded early; don’t miss out!

7. Applying to too few law schools

  • Everybody needs a safety school!
  • those who apply only to the Ivies may be disappointed
  • apply to a range of “safety”, “good chance”, and “dream” schools

6. Applying too late for admission and/or financial aid

  • late applications may not receive full consideration at rolling admissions schools
  • taking the February LSAT for fall admission is very risky
  • we’re not kidding about those financial aid deadlines!
  • too late = no award package from the institution

5. The imperfect personal statement

  • typos are far too common; have someone proof for you!
  • the tone of the statement should be positive; don’t write with anger or other inappropriate emotion
  • no tell-all confessionals (e.g. family stuff, relationships, etc.)
  • stay away from cuteness

4. Extreme creativity

  • avoid outrageousness (not the kind of attention you want!)
  • gift-wrapping applications at holiday time
  • no videos (unless asked for one)
  • 8×10 glossies are silly

3. Desperation moves

  • avoid any appearance of an unbalanced psyche
  • letter to the dean (will be forwarded to the admissions director, anyway)
  • demanding a meeting with the admissions director
  • flying across the country to demand a personal interview
  • viewing the admissions process as a “life or death” situation

2. Sloppiness

  • aim for professionalism in all your contacts with admissions offices
  • proof any subsequent written communications just as you would your personal statement *don’t send the in application pieces (something will get lost)
  • if you are notified that something is missing, respond promptly!

1. Dishonesty

  • disclose all information that is requested
  • in most cases, academic probations and/or warnings must be disclosed
  • if you don’t understand a question, call and ask the admissions office for an interpretation
  • don’t embellish on your accomplishments
  • don’t omit information that would be relevant to the admissions decision