• FSU Pre-Law Advising

Frequently Asked Questions

What do I need in order to become an ideal law school candidate?

Your GPA (Grade Point Average) and LSAT (Law School Admission Test) scores are essential for making a positive first impression. While your application will be assessed holistically, these numerical portions of your application are primary determinants of your viability as a candidate.

It is advisable that you supplement your application with activities and experiences that convey your aptitudes in these core skills, values, knowledge and experiences recommended by the American Bar Association (ABA):

  • Problem-solving
  • Critical Reading
  • Writing and Editing
  • Oral Communication and Listening
  • Research
  • Organization and Management
  • Public Service and Promotion of Justice
  • Relationship-building and Collaboration
  • Background Knowledge
  • Exposure to the Law

Visit the Career Center prior to submitting your applications! Career Advisors are waiting to help you transform your résumé and personal statement into documents that effectively market your skills.

Are there any “deal-breakers” during the application process?

Criminal activity or a poor academic record may pose problems for you, especially if they are not disclosed early and honestly. The following resources are especially useful for addressing any deal-breakers:

If you believe you have extenuating circumstances that require an explanation or clarification, law schools may give you the opportunity to briefly explain via an Academic Addendum (brief, supplemental documentation used to explain a portion of your application). Admission committees and related legal professionals expect ethical behavior from applicants and employees; therefore, you should clearly communicate any information that might call your character into question.

Please email prelaw@fsu.edu if you have any questions or want to speak with a Pre-Law advisor regarding preparing an addendum.

Do law schools truly consider application addenda?

Addenda (addendum is the singular noun form) are law school application attachments used to briefly explain questionable content or inconsistencies disclosed in the application. Criminal activity or a drastic change in GPA from one semester to another are examples of why a student may consider including an addendum in their application.

Law schools definitely review application addenda. While the addenda can certainly help address questionable items in an application, applicants should not rely on an addendum to cancel out the effect of a low GPA or LSAT score.

What makes an application addendum compelling?

Honesty, brevity, and accountability are key components. Show integrity by disclosing the full story of your situation, explain your behavior concisely, and accept responsibility for how your conduct impacted you and others. You may want to speak to what you have learned from these experiences and what changes have occurred that will support your ability to be successful in law school and beyond. Follow the formatting guidelines provided by each school to which you are applying.

Do schools run background checks on applicants?

Prior to gaining licensure to practice as a lawyer, you must take and pass the bar examination (content varies by state). While law schools may or may not choose to conduct background checks on applicants, the bar exam officials definitely will. If you failed to disclose any criminal activity or falsified aspects of your law school application, then you will likely be denied licensure regardless of your academic competencies. Charts 2 and 5 of the Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admission Requirements provide information about character, fitness, and other country/state-specific requirements.

Are some parts of my application more important than others?

GPA and LSAT scores carry the most weight in law school admissions decisions. Law schools find these two components to be reliable predictors for your success as a law student. Your writing ability – showcased through your personal statement – is another important factor. Additionally, choose your letter of recommendation writers wisely. Professors and/or supervisors with whom you have some rapport, have seen your best performance, and can speak to your potential for success in law school are safe choices to ask for reference letters.

Do law schools actually read personal statements?

Yes, law schools utilize the personal statement not only to learn more about you, but also to evaluate the quality of your written communication skills. Admissions committees also use it to gauge how well you follow instructions (e.g., how well you answer any prompts, not going over specified page limits, etc.). As LSAC explains, the personal statement is your opportunity to state your case for admission.

How do I write a compelling personal statement?

The FSU Career Center has several services available to help you create a strong personal statement. Drop-in at the FSU Career Center and meet with a Career Advisor to have your statement critiqued, explore print resources available through the FSU Career Center Library, and review the Career Center guide on “Writing a Personal Statement.” You may also consider having other individuals review your document for content and format, such as professors, industry professionals, and FSU Reading and Writing Center staff.

How do law schools consider an applicant’s résumé?

Your résumé should highlight experiences (both paid and unpaid) that contributed to the development of transferable skills needed for success in the legal field, such as the ABA core skills suggested for law school and legal professions. While a high GPA and LSAT score are your top priorities, ensure that your application documents clearly convey your skills.

Be sure to review the Career Center’s Résumé Writing Guide.

What kinds of extracurricular experiences will make me competitive? Should I get involved in a large quantity of experiences or a few quality ones?

Worthwhile experiences will give you opportunities to display leadership, research, and service, and other ABA core skills. FSU has hundreds of student organizations that may help you to develop and showcase such skills.

What constitutes a “large quantity” is going to look different for everyone. The real questions you should ask yourself are as follows:

  1. Will adding this experience to my schedule negatively affect my study time and GPA?
  2. If I participate in this experience, how would it translate into transferable skills?
  3. Am I leaving room in my schedule for productive activities that I naturally enjoy/that refresh me?

 

How do schools view post-bachelors work experience and/or graduate education?

Non-degree seeking credit or graduate course work will NOT be considered when evaluating your GPA. The only GPA law schools take into account is your undergraduate cumulative GPA.

Is there any benefit to attending graduate school or working prior to law school?

Work and education beyond a bachelor’s degree may be used for personal edification. Additionally, if there is a legal specialization that interests you, some graduate programs or work experiences may give you knowledge and skills to increase your perceived fit with a specialized law program (e.g., a History M.A. may complement your dream to practice constitutional law). If you already have an abundance of experience, market the core skills and values you have acquired in these positions.

What is the best major for law school?

There is no best major for entry into law school. Law schools do not have prerequisite undergraduate courses or preferences for specific degree programs, so no major will necessarily “make you more attractive” during the law school admissions process.

A competitive GPA and LSAT score are substantial factors when applying for law school. Many Pre-Law students often choose a major that will help them maintain an impressive GPA.

For more information about selecting a major, consider reading the response to “What is the best Pre-Law major?” on the Law School Admissions Council website or the ABA’s “Preparing for Law School” undergraduate education statement.

Additionally, you can use FSU’s Undergraduate Academic Program Guide to help you learn more about the curriculum and requirements for FSU majors. For in-person help choosing your major, drop-in at the FSU Career Center and speak with a Career Advisor.

What classes should I take?

There are no prerequisite courses for admission into law school. Invest in classes that help you maintain a competitive GPA and seek out courses that develop core legal skills whenever possible. Refer to Appendix C: Core Skills Course Match for some skill-building courses.

How important is involvement in Pre-Law activities (i.e. Pre-Law societies, mock trial, moot court, working at a law firm, etc.)?

Experiential learning can help you to develop important transferable skills and gain valuable experience related to your field of interest.

Participating in these experiences can enhance your résumé and give you quality experiences to refer to in a personal statement; however, law schools do not generally consider prior legal experience a determining factor in the application process.

As a result, it is recommended that Pre-Law students engage in intrinsically motivating experiences as opposed to solely engaging in law-related activities. Do not simply join the debate team because “it will look good on paper;” such rationales may lead to exhaustion, resentment, and demotivation if you do not enjoy them.

If Pre-Law societies genuinely interest you, feel free to participate in any of FSU’s Pre-Law Societies. You might also consider getting involved in other on-campus organizations to build transferable skills, such as the Student and Greek Conduct Board, FSU Mock Trial, and Student Government Association Supreme Court Branch or Judicial Branch. For additional suggestions, drop-in to the FSU Career Center and speak with a Career Advisor about your ideas for involvement and schedule a meeting with a Peer Involvement Mentor to identify which campus engagements align with your legal-related interests.

If you want to “try-on” law school in a brief, yet informative setting, consider applying to a Pre-Law Preparation Summer Program offered by law schools across the country. Florida State University offers the Donald J. Weidner Summer for Undergraduates program.

Law internships in the legal field may be challenging to find as true legal internships are generally reserved for students currently enrolled in law school. However, there are legal-related internship opportunities that can be enriching and helpful to your pre-law experience. For example:

Do law schools really read my letters of recommendation?

Certainly! Letters of recommendation can support (or refute if you receive a negative letter) the skills you have displayed throughout your application. Choosing people with whom you have rapport, can speak to your skills and abilities, and will champion your potential for success in law school is essential when identifying recommenders.

Do some letters carry more weight more than others?

Letters from people who can attest to your academic skills are highly relevant to law school admissions committees. A professor with whom you have taken two or more classes, for instance, may be a strong choice as they can vouch for your academic performance. Supervisors, managers, and other people who have overseen your work in non-academic contexts may also make good recommenders. Be intentional in building strong relationships with these individuals throughout your academic journey; you can avoid awkwardness when asking for a letter if you already have an established professional relationship. Refrain from asking family members or friends for recommendation letters regardless of their career or social status.

How do I know if pursuing a career in the legal profession is right for me?

As with any career decision, self-reflection and research are vital. Engaging in activities that help you explore your values, interests, and skills – in addition to gaining reliable information from quality resources – is extremely important when evaluating good career fit. If you would like some assistance as you determine whether to commit to law school, drop-in and speak with a Career Center Career Advisor, refer to the Choosing a Major or Occupation guide, or visit LSAC’s website. Visiting the Bureau of Labor and Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook might also be helpful as you think about career trends, salary expectations, and geographical considerations.

Other ways to learn more about law school include:

  1. Attending one of the many Pre-Law summer programs that law schools offer – including the Donald J. Weidner Summer for Undergraduates program
  2. Participating in an FSUshadow experience to observe a legal professional’s daily routine
  3. Attending FSU’s Law School Fair held every Fall semester
  4. Utilizing ProfessioNole to conduct an information interview with an FSU alumnus practicing law
  5. Schedule a tour of the FSU College of Law

 

When should I apply to law school?

Most law schools open their applications in early Fall (between August and September).  Some schools accept applications on a rolling basis (they review applications throughout the year); however, be sure to review the specific application deadlines of your preferred schools and apply early if possible! Scholarship, fellowship, and assistantship opportunities are often awarded early on in the admissions process. Consider using the Pre-Law Timeline to guide you through the milestones you might complete each semester.

When should I take the LSAT?

The LSAT is offered four times throughout the year:

  • June
  • September or October
  • December
  • February

Since most schools open their applications in the Fall to admit students for the following Fall, taking the LSAT in June permits you to re-take the LSAT in September/October or December if necessary. Students seeking admission in the Fall should aim to take the LSAT no later than the December prior to their desired admission year to ensure scores are reported by application deadlines. For a list of LSAT dates, visit the LSAC dates and deadlines page.

 

Please be advised that it is rare for a person’s new LSAT score(s) to improve by multiple points even with excellent study habits (e.g., you will seldom increase your score to 172 when you previously scored 160). If something influenced a major change in your LSAT score and you think it deserves explanation, then speak to this situation in your addendum.

LSAT scores last 5 years (some law schools prefer scores less than 3 years old). Furthermore, you may only take the LSAT 3 times within a 2-year period, so plan accordingly if you intend to re-take the exam.

How should I study for the LSAT?

There are several methods available to help you prepare for the LSAT. As the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) advises, very few people achieve their full potential on the LSAT without preparation. It is critical that you consider your learning style and select a preparation experience that best fits your needs. Options to consider may include:

  • Self-Study: online quiz/exam resources, study books (for purchase or rental), flashcards
  • Formal Preparation Courses (online or in-person
  • Private Tutors

Thoroughly research the test preparation resources you discover. Read reviews about the organizations and their products before making a purchase, and have a budget in mind as you browse. Books can range from free to over $50.00 while preparation courses/tutors can cost $800.00 – $1,500.00.

LSAT scores last 5 years (some law schools prefer scores less than 3 years old). Furthermore, you may only take the LSAT 3 times within a 2-year period, so plan accordingly if you intend to re-take the exam.

The Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) – the organization which administers the LSAT and facilitates the majority of law school applications – has some recommendations about how to prepare for the exam. FSU’s Academic Center for Excellence (ACE) offers LSAT preparation workshops and other tools to help with academic success

What are some specializations within the field of law?

The following list displays some sample law specializations:

  • Business Law
  • Civil Rights Law
  • Constitutional Law
  • Criminal Law
  • Environmental Law
  • Family & Juvenile Law
  • Health Law
  • Immigration Law
  • Intellectual Property Law
  • International Law
  • Labor/Employment Law
  • Public Interest Law
  • Real Estate/Land Use Law
  • Sports Law
  • Tax Law

 

Oftentimes, students do not specialize in a branch of law by taking a series of courses during law school. Rather, what a student researches and writes about before, during, and after completing a law program culminates in a specialized body of knowledge. Selecting an undergraduate major which genuinely interests you may provide some the specialized knowledge that you seek.

What can I do with a J.D. besides become a lawyer?

Many paths besides being a lawyer or a judge are available to you with a J.D. The skill sets you will acquire and hone during your training will fit well in various positions. Consider visiting O*Net or the Bureau of Labor and Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook to see what careers require similar skills.

Note that with any higher education decision, it is wise to conduct a cost-benefit analysis before committing to a degree path.  Your time, energy, goals, finances, and values are all important factors to consider beforehand.

Legacy Sort
9
Legacy Priority
1