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Welcome to CLEO!

Welcome to the CLEO Diversity in Legal Education Blog! On this site we will talk about the reality of a prelaw education, the programs that CLEO sponsors, and the challenges and triumphs you encounter as you diversify the legal field. CLEO staff and colleagues will share practical insights and discuss how to become a competitive law school applicant.

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1. get advice from current CLEO Scholars
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3. share your profound moments

The CLEO Diversity in Legal Education Blog is an open space for us to talk about our experiences, to plan our next steps, and to support one another. The road to law school is rigorous, but as students, advisors, and professionals we can reach our goal.

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CLEO Blog
  CLEO Blog - Admissions Process
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November 2, 2010
  Law School Deans Share Admission Secrets!


Law school Deans of Admissions make "American Idol" judges look like members of your fan club. This Three Part Series on admission success from the perspective of CLEO's Legal Dream Team -three law school Dean's of Admissions- will guide you through this complex process.

Noé Bernal, Assistant Dean for Admissions, Villanova University School of Law: It is important to keep your research organized by either setting up a spreadsheet or making index cards on the information that is important to you. Your notes should include deadlines for applications and financial aid/scholarships, as well as school-specific requirements.

Keep in mind that although the overall admissions process may be similar at most schools, there are school-specific instructions that you should follow. When in doubt, please contact the admissions office to request more information and/or to address any concerns you may have regarding their procedures.


You can find tips for prelaw students online, in your college's prelaw advising office, and by talking to your friends. But all that input can add up to confusion if you don't know how the process works. Let's look at what you need to know in order to do what you need to do!

Special Note: Your CLEO Edge Magazine Winter/Spring 2011 has an informative article from Charlotte Taylor entitled "The Law School Admission Committee What they want (and Don't Want) From Applicants". When you attend CLEO events you will receive a free CLEO Edge Magazine so apply NOW!

The Big Picture of the application process spans months and even years from the time you begin college to finally accepting a seat as a 1L (first year law student). From the beginning you need to choose classes and resources that prepare you for law school. Important outcomes of your choices are:

The professors you choose because they will become your best source for Letters of Recommendation.
The student organizations you join because they will influence your personal statement, a student culture that matches your ideal learning environment, and the type of law you choose to practice.
Managing your finances during your undergraduate years will make the "sticker shock" of law school tuition more bearable.
Your Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) score will guide your likelihood for admission to safe and reach schools.
The culmination of these choices will lead you to a computer where you will begin researching your "best fit" law schools.


The key players in the law school application process include CLEO, the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC), the Office of Admissions at each law school, and your peers. CLEO's Achieving Success in the Application Process (ASAP) Program will help you understand each aspect and organize your efforts.

CLEO's programs including: Juniors Jumpstart the LSAT, CLEO Connection, and Achieving Success in the Application Process are designed to guide students as they prepare for the admission process. You can read the experiences of students that have participated in the ASAP program on this blog site.
The Law School Admission Council (LSAC) is a clearinghouse of prelaw and law school information. Download practice LSAT questions, compare law schools with the searchable school listings, and complete your application with the Credential Assembly Service.


The Right Tools will bring cohesion to your admission process. Each component should highlight a different aspect of your submission. Although some tools may overlap information (i.e. application and resume) be sure not to repeat yourself. Use each tool to clarify or enhance what you want the admission staff to know about you.

The Application is the school specific form each student submits via CAS. Applications are generally biographical, academic, and co-curricular histories of your undergraduate experience. Answer only what the application asks, but answer the questions completely.
The Personal Statement should not be a narrative of your transcript or resume. It should spotlight moments in your life that exhibit or demonstrate your character and fitness for law school.
Letters of Recommendation need to be specific to the accomplishments and skills necessary for success in law school. LOR's should be concise and preferably written by professors that can describe your academic experience. (Note: Submit only the number of LOR's your school requests. Don't try to slip extra letters into your application).
The Addendum should explain incongruities (positive & negative) in your academic or personal experience. An Addendum is a one page single focus memo. Don't try to over analyze issues. These should be concise and explain the issue in a "Just the Facts" format.
The Resume may be optional. Undergraduates are not expected to have profound work experience; therefore, focus on accurately describing skills developed and your longevity with student organizations and jobs. Post Graduates can use the resume to demonstrate professional growth and accolades.


Organizing the application components the way law schools want to review them will save you time and anxiety. You are going to be expected to follow directions precisely and without exception or embellishment as a law student.

Sharpen your precision in your application process to impress Deans of Admission!



    Posted By: matthewniziol @ 11/02/2010 05:59 PM     Admissions Process     Comments (0)  

October 12, 2010
  Secrets of a Strong Letter of Recommendation and Evaluation!
Your Letters of Recommendation (LOR), and now, your common Evaluation show your progress in an academic world by people whose opinions are respected. Admissions Committees will evaluate you and your judgment based on the people you choose to represent you. What are your Letters of Recommendation and evaluations saying about you?

A strong LOR describes your academic successes and development over a period of time by professionals who understand "learning" in college and post-graduate schools. Your evaluation rates your: Intellectual Skills, Personal Qualities, Integrity and Honesty, Communication, Task Management, and Working with Others. If you remember that law school is a school first and foremost, then you can appreciate the value of professors' LOR & Evaluation.

LET'S START WITH THE BASICS: Know What Your Law School Requires?

  1. V.I.P letter writers are only good if they actually know you. A generic V.I.P. letter looks shallow next to a letter that describes your academic success or commitment to a social issue. Law schools will not want to accept an under-qualified applicant no matter who writes a reference letter.

  2. Choose 3 Letters of Recommendation writers to describe different aspects of your experience. The only theme you want to repeat is academic success and valuable skills.

  3. Give your LOR writers: time, information, and complete resources. A hastily written LOR without personal anecdotes and with contradictions to your personal statement or resume is worse than ineffectual - it can sink your application.

  4. Never accept a generic LOR! Meet your LOR writer more than once. Bring your resume, your personal statement, and explain why you are choosing law school. The better a LOR writer knows your goals the more profound the LOR.



Your LSAT score, college transcript, and undergraduate major demonstrate your preparedness for law school. Your LORs need to show that you can be successful in law school by accepting, managing, and adapting to new knowledge and ways to thinking in a classroom setting.

Who knows that better than your professors and supervisors?

CURRENT STUDENTS:

Faculty and Teaching Assistants (T.A.) should be your primary source for your LOR and Evaluation. Seek out a professor who can explain how you have been successful in difficult classes in comparison to other students. Highlight the strengths you can offer a law school: Academic and co-curricular success.

  1. The three years of law school are progressively more challenging. Ask your professors and T.A.s to write about your experience in specific classes and as you developed in your major.

  2. It is easier to write a LOR you are expecting rather than when a student shows up during finals week. Tell your professor that you are considering law school at the beginning of the semester, so that s/he can watch you throughout the class.

    Note: If you are choosing to work between college and law school, request LORs now and send them to be held by the Credential Assembly Service/CAS (formally LSDAS).


POST GRADUATE STUDENT & WORKING PROFESSIONALS:

Professional supervisors can be good sources for LORs when you connect your work experience to your academic or professional goals. A professional LOR needs to match the successful law school skills with the language and duties of your position. You may need to help supervisors translate work experience into skills for legal study. Highlight the strengths you can offer a law school: Post-collegiate "real-world" experiences, maturity, and professional skills.

  1. Attention to detail and ability to research, organize, and integrate new and complex information into previously learned information.

  2. Problem solving using clear methods to achieve a clear result.

  3. Communicating complex details in a concise written and oral presentation

    Note: As a working professional, you need to demonstrate that you can handle the challenges in law school. Find the chapter of Older Wiser Law Students (OWLS) at your local law school. These students were in your shoes not long ago.


Keep in mind that your choice of LOR writers should emphasize your entire experience (Academic, Co-Curricular leadership, and professional/community service experiences). Choose the people who will "stand-up" and can proudly recommend you to study law.

Recap: Give your LOR writer all the documents they need up front. Give them a copy of your personal statement, resume, a letter addressed to the CAS, and your signed LOR Form. Make the process as simple and efficient for them as possible. Then follow up...




    Posted By: matthewniziol @ 10/12/2010 04:02 PM     Admissions Process     Comments (0)  

May 4, 2010
  Final Cut: Choreographing Your Application
Law school Deans of Admissions make the "American Idol" judges look like members of your personal fan club. Getting to the final cut, means putting together your best admissions application. If you will commit to working hard and dreaming big CLEO is ready to help you choreograph your audition with the Achieving Success in the Application Process (ASAP) program. Start by asking yourself how well you fit into the culture of the law schools you are choosing.

Academic Goals: Always remember that law school are at their heart a school.

  1. Will your academic strengths and goals be nourished and met at the school you choose?

  2. Can your learning style be applied (with modification) to the classes in the school you?

  3. Is there room for academic growth and reward at the school you choose?


Personal Style: Law School is tough enough without battling a mismatch in your personal style and the style (personality) of the school?

  1. Can you succeed in the pace of the school?

  2. Does the school environment make you feel comfortable?

Social & Spiritual Community: Community may keep you sane at Law School.

  1. Can you find a community that you identify with?

  2. Can you find a community that will support your personal history while encouraging you to grow as a person?

  3. Can you be happy at this school?


Next focus on The Big Picture of your undergraduate experience. The application process began the day you chose to be a prelaw student and culminates when you accept a seat as a 1L (first year law student). Evaluate the classes and resources that are preparing you for law school.


  1. The professors you chose will become your best sources for Letters of Recommendation.

  2. The student organizations you joined will influence your choice of the law school whose student culture best matches your ideal environment.

  3. How well you managed your finances during your undergraduate years will make the "sticker shock" of law school tuition more bearable.

  4. And, your Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) score will guide your ranking of "possible" and "reach" schools


The culmination of these choices will lead you to a computer where you will begin researching your best fit law schools.

The key players in the law school application process include CLEO, the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC), the Office of Admissions at each law school, and your peers. CLEO's ASAP Program will help you understand each aspect and organize your efforts. You can read the experiences of students that have participated in the 2009 ASAP program on this blog site.

Keep reading and you will find the wisdom of CLEO's Legal Dream Team - three law school Dean's of Admissions - guiding you through this complex process.

The process of completing your law school admission is exciting. Law school admissions staffs are looking for students that will enhance the classroom experience and who will contribute to the legal community. They are looking for you. Your job then is to present a clear and coherent narrative of your personal history and your promise for the future.

Michael States, Assistant Dean of Admissions, University of North Carolina School of Law, Chapel Hill: There is no one thing after the G.P.A/LSAT score combination that draws an admissions committee's attention. A common mistake that applicants make is that they think they have to focus on one or two particular things in their application. Your task is to present as clear a picture as possible of who you are as an applicant. That means that your resume, personal statement, letters of recommendation, etc., are equally important parts of your application. You want to present yourself as a complete person with several things to offer to a school. That's what draws a committee's attention.


Organizing the process will save you time and anxiety. As a law student you will be exercising these skills every day. You will be expected to follow the directions on each application without exception or embellishment.

Noé Bernal, Assistant Dean for Admissions, Villanova University School of Law: It is important to keep your research organized by either setting up a spreadsheet or making index cards on the information that is important to you. Your notes should include deadlines for applications and financial aid/scholarships, as well as school-specific requirements. Keep in mind that although the overall admissions process may be similar at most schools, there are school-specific instructions that you should follow. When in doubt, please contact the admissions office to request more information and/or to address any concerns you may have regarding their procedures.


The personal statement is a perennial stress inducer for law school applicants. Although some law schools will give you a topic, most law schools will expect you to present an original personal statement. Personal statements are not a time for you to explain discrepancies in your grade point average, or academic and personal transgressions. If necessary you can give necessary details on these topics in an addendum. Your personal statement should be an opportunity for you to converse with the reader and illuminate your application in a way not achieved by your resume and transcript using anecdotes, examples, and from time to time even whimsy.

Dean States: There is no preferred format. There are hundreds of people who will be reading your personal statement and they all prefer different things. Your goal is to answer the question(s) asked of you, in the way that you are asked to in the instructions.


Letters of Recommendation are a second component of the application package over which you have varying control. Remember that law schools are in fact schools. Therefore, your best recommendation writers are professors that can write clearly about your academic success. A professor that can write systematically about your academic progress, involvement in class, improvement after each grade, and your commitment to education is best. The farther your writers are from that classroom experience the less effective they become. Keep in mind; this is not a name-dropping contest.

As you develop your search, you will need to identify what it is you want from your legal education. Then you can compare your needs to the schools' profile, culture, and curriculum. As you visit Law School Forums and fairs you can ask the admissions personnel: "What aspect of your Law School (programs, personnel, students, faculty, facilities, diversity, location, etc...) do you value most?"

Tracy Simmons, Assistant Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, Chapman University School of Law: (I value) diversity of opinion and the ability to become involved in the entire law school. We have a great building to study in and the weather cannot be beat and some of the nicest students you will find out there, but I think that our students benefit from being taught by professors from a variety of political and ideological backgrounds and disciplines in the law.


As you more clearly define your needs from a law school you will be able to better evaluate the offers that each school makes. Follow a clear process for pursuing and dismissing potential law schools.

Dean Simmons: Start with your own personal checklist/ranking of what you deem important. Are you looking for a small school, or a school with particular program or certificate emphases, or a school that has a specific type of academic support program, or a school close to home or far away from home?

After that, what are you being offered? What are the terms of the scholarships AFTER your first year? (Renewal terms) What are your opportunities to keep your debt down beyond merit scholarships - work study, Perkins funding, outside/donor scholarships, teaching assistantships, research assistantships, stipends, etc.

Lastly, if you can visit the campus. You want to get a sense of what the campus environment is like and how comfortable you will be. If you cannot physically get there, participate in online chats, virtual tours, ask to speak to current students and alumni, specially asking to speak to people who share similar interests or are from your home town or those that have moved to a location you may want to practice in, etc.


The last piece of advice on selecting a law school is keeping an open mind. You will be choosing a school, community, and colleagues with which to share the next three years. Do not let yourself be rushed into this decision.

Dean Bernal: Applying to law school can be stressful and time-consuming; however, there are some things you can do to prevent from being overwhelmed. A good place to start is by looking at the U.S. map and realistically narrowing down which states/regions of the country you would consider for law school.

If, for example, you know that you want to stay close to home, then you can best utilize your time by only researching schools in your region. The caveat here, however, is that by doing this, you may actually miss out on some great opportunities by not considering schools where you might actually be a really good fit.


P.S. Being unique is a positive, but if you think you can embellish your application with videos and photos reminiscent of the movie "Legally Blonde", then you need to know this.

Each year at Prelaw Advising conferences admissions counselors host a workshop called "You're Not Going to Believe This...Again and Again and Again!!!!" recounting the crazy things applicants have sent to Admissions Offices. These workshops "deal with things to tell students NOT to do when they ask, "How can I make my application stand out from others? Can I send them my baby tooth and tell them that I have wanted to come to their law school since I was born?""

A panel of experienced law school admissions officers discusses the bizarre, tacky, unbelievable communications and items they have received from applicants...Don't let them talk about you!



    Posted By: matthewniziol @ 05/04/2010 03:53 PM     Admissions Process     Comments (0)  

  Secrets of a Strong Recommendation Letter
Each and every part of the Law School Admission application has a specific function and form. It is your responsibility to put them together into a clear picture of your readiness for law school.

Your Letters of Recommendation (LOR) describe your progress in an academic world by people whose opinions are respected. Admissions Committees will evaluate you and your judgment based on the people you choose to represent you. What are your Letters of Recommendation saying about you?

A strong LOR evaluates your academic successes and development over a period of time by professionals who understand "learning" in college and post-graduate schools. If you always remember that law school is a school first and foremost, then you can appreciate the value of professors' LOR.

LET'S START WITH THE BASICS:

  1. V.I.P letter writers are only good if they actually know you. A generic V.I.P. letter looks shallow next to a letter that describes your academic success or commitment to a social issue. Law schools will not accept an under-qualified applicant no matter who writes a reference letter.

  2. Choose 3 Letters of Recommendation writers to describe different aspects of your experience. The only theme you want to repeat is academic success and valuable skills.

  3. Give your LOR writers: time, information, and complete resources. A hastily written LOR without personal anecdotes and with contradictions to your personal statement or resume is worse than ineffectual - it can sink your application.

  4. Never accept a generic LOR! Meet your LOR writer more than once. Bring your resume, your personal statement, and explain why you are choosing law school. The better a LOR writer knows your goals the more profound the LOR.



Your LSAT score, college transcript, and undergraduate major demonstrate your preparedness for law school. Your LORs need to show that you can be successful in law school by accepting, managing, and adapting to new knowledge and ways to thinking in a classroom setting. Who knows that better than your professors and supervisors?

CURRENT STUDENTS:

Faculty and Teaching Assistants should be your primary source for LORs. Seek out a professor who can explain how you have been successful in difficult classes in comparison to other students. Highlight the strengths you can offer a law school: Academic and co-curricular success

  1. The three years of law school are progressively more challenging. Ask your professors and TAs to write about your experience in specific classes and as you develop in your major.

  2. It is easier to write a LOR you are expecting rather than when a student shows up during finals week. Tell your professor that you are considering law school at the beginning of the semester, so that s/he can watch you throughout the class.

    Note: If you are choosing to work between college and law school, request LORs now and send them to be held by the Credential Assembly Service(formally LSDAS).


POST GRADUATE STUDENT & WORKING PROFESSIONALS:

Professional supervisors can be good sources for LORs when you connect your work experience to your academic or professional goals. A professional LOR needs to match the successful law school skills with the language and duties of your position. You may need to help supervisors translate work experience into skills for legal study. Highlight the strengths you can offer a law school: Post-collegiate "real-world" experiences, maturity, and professional skills.

  1. Attention to detail and ability to research, organize, and integrate new and complex information into previously learned information.

  2. Problem solving using clear methods to achieve a clear result.

  3. Communicating complex details in a concise written and oral presentation

    Note: As a working professional, you need to demonstrate that you can handle the challenges in law school. Find the chapter of Older Wiser Law Students (OWLS) at your local law school. These students were in your shoes not long ago.


Keep in mind that your choice of LOR writers should emphasize your entire experience (Academic, Co-Curricular leadership, and professional/community service experiences). Choose the people who will "stand-up" and can proudly recommend you to study law.

Recap: Give your LOR writer all the documents they need up front. Give them a copy of your personal statement, resume, a letter addressed to the Credential Assembly Service, and your signed LOR Form. Make the process as simple and efficient for them as possible. Then follow up...




    Posted By: matthewniziol @ 05/04/2010 03:51 PM     Admissions Process     Comments (0)  

  It's a conversation, really! Writing Your Personal Statement
It's a conversation, really! A personal statement is the most intimate sharing of your thoughts, experiences, educational goals, dreams, challenges, and success with a real person whose job it is to bring great students to his or her law school. Once you accept that premise, writing a personal statement is like talking to a friend or mentor.

The topic of your personal statement will be unique but its structure must be clear and concise. Your personal statement is a conversation not a wandering middle of the night jam session. You need to speak seriously about your life and why that law school will be the better for admitting you.

Michael States, Assistant Dean of Admissions, University of North Carolina School of Law, Chapel Hill: There is no preferred format. There are hundreds of people who will be reading your personal statement and they all prefer different things. Your goal is to answer the question(s) asked of you, in the way that you are asked to in the instructions.


When you are done writing, a reader should be able to make a clear outline of your points and arguments. Your prose should flow seamlessly together without skipping erratically from topic to topic. You need to tell one story no matter how complicated - your story!

And keep in mind, that your personal statement should illuminate your application in a way not achieved by your resume and transcript. Use anecdotes, examples, and from time to time you can even interject a bit of humor.

The first thing you can do to prepare the structure of your personal statement is to understand your own history. Law school applicants like to begin writing with the first paragraph. You will have a more profound and encompassing statement if you first Brainstorm the best aspects of you history. Never begin writing without first doing a little research.

Most students will be able to divide their college years into three categories: Academics, Co-Curricular Organizations, and Personal Accomplishments. Use these categories as column headings on a T-chart and then add as many bullet items describing your accomplishments and challenges in each area. Fill an entire page and do not be nervous about bragging or adding too many items. Trim the bullets that you do not need later. When you are done, ask a friend or family member to add bullets to your lists from their memory, and to read your list for items that surprise them. These bullets will be the basis for your personal statement. Look for commonalities in all three columns.

Academic Accomplishments: These are the successes and challenges you faced in classes or in your degree program. Law school is another form of higher education and admission counselors need to know that you are an active learner and that you have success in the classroom.

List items like:
  • Classes in which you earned high grades or were actively engaged
  • Scholarships or awards you received related to your classes
  • Internships related to your major or classes
  • Special assignments (i.e. thesis, public speaking events, group projects)


  • Co-Curricular Organizations: These are the activities that, by your choice, supported your education and integrated your classes with the larger context of society. These are not the one-time events that disappear from memory after a few hours.

    These events are the ones that you committed to over numerous semesters, on and off campus, and in which you developed and demonstrated your leadership skills. Law school is tough and admission counselors need to know that you can balance your personal life, social life, and your classes without sacrificing quality or forgetting that your education is the priority.

    List items like:
  • Student Clubs or sports teams that support your major and developed collaboration skills
  • Internships and volunteer projects that required significant commitment and supported either your major or a special area of interest (i.e. Habitat for Humanity serving your interest in poverty and social justice causes)
  • Study Abroad
  • National organizations like CLEO, Hispanic National Bar Foundation or The National Black Prelaw Conference, and events like the College Scholars Program, ASAP, Sophomore Summer Institute, and the many resources available to prelaw students.


  • Personal Accomplishments & Challenges: These are the moments in your life that defined your personality, your work ethic, and your interaction with society. These events can be cause for celebrations or catastrophes. Many students like to speak about "surviving" very difficult times in their lives. They spend 800 words describing the terrible incident and only 200 words explaining how they interact differently with the world because of the incident. You need to turn that ratio around.

    Whether you are thinking of a wonderful semester of study abroad or a tragic car accident, do not focus on the event. Explain how the event changed you and how you apply that experience in your education and your life goals.

    List items like:
  • Growing up and contributing to a single parent household
  • Overcoming learning and physical disabilities
  • Cultural and life altering experiences


  • As you write about your personal statement, use personal stories to prove your points or examples of your success and goals. Never write about a goal or personal challenge without being able to clearly explain the steps to complete your goal or your reflections on the challenge.

    Use the structure of What, So What, and Now What.
    Each of your paragraphs or each component of your story can be broken down as follows:

    What: This is the details section.
  • What did I do?
  • When, where, and how did it take place?
  • Who was involved and why was I part of the event?


  • So What: This is the why is it important to the writer or the reader section.
  • How did I change because of the event?
  • Are my assumptions about people, organizations, and processes different?
  • Am I better off now than before, and how?
  • Is any individual, society, school, locality different because of my participation and if so how?


  • Now What: This is the "putting my new experience to work" section.
  • How will I react to similar situations in the future?
  • What choices will I make or decision making process will I use now, because of my experiences?
  • How did this affect my interest in law school and practicing law?


  • A few attributes or areas of concern you might consider writing about include: your Educational Plan, Commitment & Dedication to a cause, and Contribution to your "community". You can write 2-3 paragraphs on each (any) topic that will go into your essay. Then, you can trim those paragraphs to meet your word limit.

    Tips for Success! Incorporate these suggestions into your writing and you will have a statement that an admissions counselor will find easy to read.

    1. Don't Waste Words!: Don't waste words telling the reader what you will later show them. Don't organize your statement while writing your first paragraph. Do the Brainstorming first. If you write a "mini-preview paragraph" to start the process, DELETE it when you are done. It is better to get to the point!

    2. Too Many Topics: A personal statement that is "chuck-full" of memories and stories is difficult to read and will appear cluttered. Choose a theme for your statement and only use examples that support or illuminate that theme.

    3. Focusing on Someone Else: A personal statement that explains your reaction to a life altering event, family experiences, or mentors in your life is ok. BUT, do not forget that this is your personal statement. When the reader is done you want them to remember you not the other people in your life.

    4. Grammar, Spelling, Typos "oh my!": These are the basic building blocks of good writing; and law students write constantly. Show the reader that you understand grammar rules and they do not need to teach you remedial writing. NO GRAMMAR or SPELLING MISTAKES! And, PROOFREAD OUT LOUD to make sure you wrote what you meant to write.

    5. Why you cryin'?: Don't try to explain a low LSAT score or GPA in your personal statement. You can use an addendum (a one-page memo) attached to your application for discrpancies in your scores or indiscretions that need further explanation.

    6. Humor: A little levity goes a long way, but this is not a stand-up routine. Remember that the reader of your statement may not share your sense of humor or rapier wit. Be careful not to offend with inappropriate humor.

    7. Engage the Reader: The admission committee member reading your statement is also reading hundreds of others. Bring them into your statement by making them think not just read. Through your writing, encourage them to actively reflect on your thoughts. Do not waste their time.

    8. Read Good Personal Statements: Read personal statements from successful students. Get an idea of the type of statements you like by reading others'. You can find lots of personal statement books at your library and local book store. BUT, your personal statement cannot be a copy of someone else's with the names changed. Examples should be a guide not a crutch.

    9. A Fresh Pair of Eyes: Find someone who can read your statement for an unbiased and bluntly honest critique - not your best friend. Ask your Pre Law Advisor or CLEO's Pre Law Advisor, or a neutral law school professor who understands how a personal statement should be written.

    10. The Quandary About Quotes: Don't use someone else's words when your words get the job done. Originality is always better than duplication. Law schools need to know that you can express your own thoughts without relying on old and over used quotes. If you use a quote it needs to support your ideas and not vice versa.

    Finally, when you apply for admission you can count on this "Rule of Thumb":

    The Reader will give as much attention to your personal statement as you gave it as the Writer. Generic essays are easily spotted and ignored. Take time to understand the purpose of the personal statement questions posed by the school and the personality of the school itself.

    The Reader will know that you are serious and worthy of a closer look if s/he thinks you took the time to match your interests with the attributes of the law school.



        Posted By: matthewniziol @ 05/04/2010 03:42 PM     Admissions Process     Comments (0)  

      The Admissions Process: Finding Your Best Law School
    Law school Deans of Admissions make the "American Idol" judges look like members of your personal fan club. The good news is that CLEO is ready to help you audition in the Achieving Success in the Application Process (ASAP) program if you will commit to working hard and dreaming big.

    You can navigate the process and be competitive if you dedicate yourself to the details. Applying to law school requires you to manage lots of documents and people without losing focus on your goal of a legal education.

    The Big Picture of the application process can span months and even years from the time you begin college to finally accepting a seat in a law school as a 1L (first year law student). From the beginning you need to choose classes and resources that prepare you for law school.

      ~ The professors you choose will become your best sources for Letters of Recommendation.

      ~ The student organizations you join will influence your choice of law school whose student culture best matches your ideal environment.

      ~ How well you manage your finances during your undergraduate years will make the "sticker shock" of law school tuition more bearable.

      ~ And, your Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) score will guide your ranking of "possible" and "reach" schools

      The culmination of these choices will lead you to a computer where you will begin researching your best fit law schools.

    The key players in the law school application process include CLEO, the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC), the Office of Admissions at each law school, and your peers. CLEO's ASAP Program will help you understand each aspect and organize your efforts. You can read the experiences of students that have participated in the 2008 ASAP program on this blog site.

    Keep reading and you will find the wisdom of CLEO's Legal Dream Team - three law school Dean's of Admissions - guiding you through this complex process.

    The process of finding the best law school for you is exciting. Law school admissions staffs are looking for students that will enhance the classroom experience and who will contribute to the legal community. They are looking for you. Your job then is to present a clear and coherent narrative of your personal history and your promise for the future.

    Michael States, Assistant Dean of Admissions, University of North Carolina School of Law, Chapel Hill: There is no one thing after the G.P.A/LSAT score combination that draws an admissions committee's attention. A common mistake that applicants make is that they think they have to focus on one or two particular things in their application. Your task is to present as clear a picture as possible of who you are as an applicant. That means that your resume, personal statement, letters of recommendation, etc., are equally important parts of your application. You want to present yourself as a complete person with several things to offer to a school. That's what draws a committee's attention.


    Organizing the process will save you time and anxiety. As a law student you will be exercising these skills every day. You will be expected to follow the directions on each application without exception or embellishment.

    Noé Bernal, Assistant Dean for Admissions, Villanova University School of Law: It is important to keep your research organized by either setting up a spreadsheet or making index cards on the information that is important to you. Your notes should include deadlines for applications and financial aid/scholarships, as well as school-specific requirements. Keep in mind that although the overall admissions process may be similar at most schools, there are school-specific instructions that you should follow. When in doubt, please contact the admissions office to request more information and/or to address any concerns you may have regarding their procedures.


    The personal statement is a perennial stress inducer for law school applicants. Although some law schools will give you a topic, most law schools will expect you to present an original personal statement. Personal statements are not a time for you to explain discrepancies in your grade point average, or academic and personal transgressions. If necessary you can give necessary details on these topics in an addendum. Your personal statement should be an opportunity for you to converse with the reader and illuminate your application in a way not achieved by your resume and transcript using anecdotes, examples, and from time to time even whimsy.

    Dean States: There is no preferred format. There are hundreds of people who will be reading your personal statement and they all prefer different things. Your goal is to answer the question(s) asked of you, in the way that you are asked to in the instructions.


    Letters of Recommendation are a second component of the application package over which you have varying control. Remember that law schools are in fact schools. Therefore, your best recommendation writers are professors that can write clearly about your academic success. A professor that can write systematically about your academic progress, involvement in class, improvement after each grade, and your commitment to education is best. The farther your writers are from that classroom experience the less effective they become. Keep in mind; this is not a name-dropping contest.

    As you develop your search, you will need to identify what it is you want from your legal education. Then you can compare your needs to the schools' profile, culture, and curriculum. As you visit Law School Forums and fairs you can ask the admissions personnel: "What aspect of your Law School (programs, personnel, students, faculty, facilities, diversity, location, etc...) do you value most?"

    Tracy Simmons, Assistant Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, Chapman University School of Law: (I value) diversity of opinion and the ability to become involved in the entire law school. We have a great building to study in and the weather cannot be beat and some of the nicest students you will find out there, but I think that our students benefit from being taught by professors from a variety of political and ideological backgrounds and disciplines in the law.


    As you more clearly define your needs from a law school you will be able to better evaluate the offers that each school makes. Follow a clear process for pursuing and dismissing potential law schools.

    Dean Simmons: Start with your own personal checklist/ranking of what you deem important. Are you looking for a small school, or a school with particular program or certificate emphases, or a school that has a specific type of academic support program, or a school close to home or far away from home?

    After that, what are you being offered? What are the terms of the scholarships AFTER your first year? (Renewal terms) What are your opportunities to keep your debt down beyond merit scholarships - work study, Perkins funding, outside/donor scholarships, teaching assistantships, research assistantships, stipends, etc.

    Lastly, if you can visit the campus. You want to get a sense of what the campus environment is like and how comfortable you will be. If you cannot physically get there, participate in online chats, virtual tours, ask to speak to current students and alumni, specially asking to speak to people who share similar interests or are from your home town or those that have moved to a location you may want to practice in, etc.


    The last piece of advice on selecting a law school is keeping an open mind. You will be choosing a school, community, and colleagues with which to share the next three years. Do not let yourself be rushed into this decision.

    Dean Bernal: Applying to law school can be stressful and time-consuming; however, there are some things you can do to prevent from being overwhelmed. A good place to start is by looking at the U.S. map and realistically narrowing down which states/regions of the country you would consider for law school.

    If, for example, you know that you want to stay close to home, then you can best utilize your time by only researching schools in your region. The caveat here, however, is that by doing this, you may actually miss out on some great opportunities by not considering schools where you might actually be a really good fit.


    P.S. Being unique is a positive, but if you think you can embellish your application with videos and photos reminiscent of the movie "Legally Blonde", then you need to know this.

    Each year at Prelaw Advising conferences admissions counselors host a workshop called "You're Not Going to Believe This...Again and Again and Again!!!!" recounting the crazy things applicants have sent to Admissions Offices. These workshops "deal with things to tell students NOT to do when they ask, "How can I make my application stand out from others? Can I send them my baby tooth and tell them that I have wanted to come to their law school since I was born?""

    A panel of experienced law school admissions officers discusses the bizarre, tacky, unbelievable communications and items they have received from applicants...Don't let them talk about you!




        Posted By: matthewniziol @ 05/04/2010 03:38 PM     Admissions Process     Comments (0)  

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