A lot of factors go into consideration when an admissions committee evaluates a law school application. Many are obvious, such as GPA, LSAT scores, personal statement, letters of recommendation and resume. Many, however, are unaware…
A lot of factors go into consideration when an admissions committee evaluates a law school application. Many are obvious, such as GPA, LSAT scores, personal statement, letters of recommendation and resume.
Many, however, are unaware that there are other aspects of an applicant that don’t necessarily appear on any one document that may grant them a positive nudge when being assessed by law schools. We call these “soft factors,” and if one of them is part of your life experience, you would do well to highlight it in your application to improve your chances.
Highlight military service.Schools love veterans, as they typically have the discipline, maturity, and life experience that many applicants — especially those applying from college — may lack. However, as you’ll see in almost any soft factor, not all veterans are viewed the same.
Any decorations — especially the rarer ones, such as a Service Crosses or a Silver Star — would give you a leg up on other veterans, so you should discuss the circumstances surrounding any decoration in a personal statement or an optional essay. Additionally, commissioned service, or serving as an officer, is viewed more favorably, as it carries with it additional training and leadership experience.
Showcase outstanding co-curricular achievements. If you have had a paper published in a recognized journal in your research field, or have won awards from recognized outside groups for your research, those are fantastic achievements to highlight on your law school application.
Obviously, the more widely accepted and cited your paper is, the more weight it will carry with schools. Similarly, being a recipient of a prestigious scholarship would also work in your favor, the more exclusive the better.
Play up work experience and relevant expertise. Think about how exclusive your position was to determine how much weight it will be given. Scooping ice cream is unlikely to move a needle much, but being a top-tier executive at a Fortune 500 company would be quite appealing to law school. The expertise, knowledge, determination and demonstrated work ethic are exactly what law schools expect from their students and alumni.
Similarly, being even somewhat-widely known in your field, perhaps by coming up with a new treatment as a doctor or a new approach to a common problem, should also be highlighted. Finally, some relevant, extensive work experience in a field relevant to legal field, for example, working as a chemist for a biotech company who is now looking to get into IP law, could also reflect favorably with the admissions committee.
Demonstrate your leadership experience in school. Even in college you’ll have a chance to shine in many capacities, but here too the specifics matter too. The more people relied on your guidance and the more pressure you were under, the better your application will look.
One such example is that of college athletes: Law schools would love to have a captain of a team that went on to win a national title, as that person demonstrated the ability to lead others and not buckle under extreme situations, both of which are invaluable assets in law school. Other NCAA athletes are also viewed favorably, but less so than those who were constantly under the microscope of the school and the fans.
Similarly, being an officer of a fraternity won’t do much for your application, but being on the board of directors of a nationally recognized, prestigious honor society could work in your favor.
Detail how you overcame adversity. Previous blog posts have been dedicated to discussing diversity statements in general, but there are other considerations that come into play when discussing adversities. Simply boasting a diverse or nontraditional background will be given consideration, but the more extreme the adversity you faced is, the more weight it will be given.
This can apply to applicants with extraordinary handicap, like being quadriplegic or blind, or those with unique difficulties in their lives, like fleeing from political or social conflict in one’s homeland.
As you can see, there are overarching themes when considering soft factors and how they might give you an edge in law school admissions. First, the more exclusive the factor is, the better it is for the applicant. Similarly, fame and recognition in one’s field also go a long way when evaluating that person. Finally, highlighting the traits shown be achieving or overcoming that factor is just as important as pointing out the factor itself.
This list isn’t scientific. Each school evaluates candidates in different ways and consequently may give different weight to the same factor. Additionally, remember that these soft factors can only take you so far; It’s highly unlikely that a 150 on the LSAT will get you into a top-six school, no matter which soft skills you demonstrate.