A large number of Political Science majors go on to law school. The national standardized admission exam is the L.S.A.T. (Law School Admissions Test). Students should at least obtain a practice book with practice examinations (as with the G.R.E.). The Department recommends that you consider taking an L.S.A.T. preparation course. It will likely assist you to maximize your test score.
The Department Chair and other members of the Department on the University's Pre-Law Committee have publications and information on the L.S.A.T. and various law schools across the country. You will find that the programs and curriculum of law schools vary much less than those of graduate programs in Political Science. It is the case, however, that a variety of factors should influence your choice of where to apply (and where to accept). The official law school rankings should only be part of the picture.
Making Sense of the LSAT, LSDAS, and LSAC
The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is used as a predictor for how well an applicant will do in his or her first year of law school. It tests critical thinking, logical analysis skills, the ability to read and interpret prose, and the ability to work under time pressure. The LSAT consists of six sections. There are five 35-minute sections of multiple choice questions that answer three skills: logical reasoning, analytical reasoning, and reading comprehension. These sections are then followed by a 35-minute section for a writing sample. Of the first five sections, four are scored: two sections of logical reasoning and one each of reading comprehension and analytical reasoning. The unscored 35-minute section is used to test possible questions for future tests. The writing sample is also unscored.
The LSAT is scored on a scale of 120 to 180. 12.5% of test takers score 162 or above, 12.5% score 142 or below, and 75.0% score in the middle between a 142 and a 162. If you are looking to be admitted to a top twenty-five school, you more than likely will need to score above a 162. Each law school has its own goals for the LSAT, and while some schools weigh it more heavily than others, all schools take it seriously. You should only take the LSAT if you are absolutely ready and serious about taking the exam.
The LSAT is offered four times per year: in June, September or October, December, and February. If you are planning on attending law school in the fall, it is best to take the June test at least 15 months prior to your desired law school admission. If the June test will not work and you are planning on attending in the fall, take the exam no later than October. Registration for the LSAT is due approximately one month before the test date.
The Law School Data Assembly Service (LSDAS) is a service of the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC). It compiles data from candidates’ transcripts from all colleges attended and any LSAT scores into a “Master Law School Report.” Almost all ABA-accredited law schools require that you register with LSDAS. Once you are registered, you are responsible for having your transcripts sent to LSDAS. You should apply to LSDAS as soon as you are certain that you will apply to law school. For free information regarding LSAC, visit www.lsac.org.
STEPS AND TIMETABLES FOR APPLYING TO LAW SCHOOL
Now that you have decided you want to go to law school, there are some application procedures you need to know. This brochure lists the steps most undergraduates take in order to ensure that their law school applications will be completed in time for admission the fall after they graduate. 11ere are two timetables provided, one for those who are prepared by the second semester of the junior year and one for those who prefer to wait for the first semester of the senior year. A brief description of each step in the process follows the timetables.
Prepare and register for the LSAT. An LSAT score is required for admission to almost all American Bar Association (ABA) accredited law schools; this score computed with your GPA will strongly determine whether you are accepted. The, test fee is $74. Preparing for the LSAT might include taking a LSAT preparation class. See the binder titled “Graduate Admissions Exams—Test Preparation and Assistance” in the Career Center.
Subscribe to the LSDAS. The LSDAS is the service that will hold your LSAT score and send it out to the law schools upon your request; it also summarizes transcripts in a standardized form many law schools require. LSDAS claims that it is a means “to simplify the law school admission process.” While this is disputable, nearly all ABA-approved law schools require that you subscribe to this service. A yearly subscription costs $75 and LSDAS does not handle letters of recommendation—the third item, along with your LSAT score and your transcript, basic to most applications. Thus, it does not provide a complete application service.
Take LSAT. The LSAT exam is usually given at a university site. The exam consists of five 35-minute multiple choice sections and one 30-minute writing sample. For more details on the LSAT, see the LSAT / LSDAS Registration and Information Book.
Research law schools and compose an application schedule. One of the best tools for researching law schools is The Official Guide to U.S. Law Schools. A copy is on the shelf at the Career Center. This guide contains detailed descriptions of the schools and includes an LSAT/GPA applicant pool grid for each school. This grid indicates how past applicants at every level of performance have fared:, it is a broad predictor of your chances of getting accepted Since some individual factors, such as major, course selection, and personal preparedness, will also be taken into account, the grid should not be followed exclusively. Therefore, in devising an application strategy, you might consider applying to a mix of schools: some that would be considered your “dream” schools, some that report an average acceptance rate for LSAT and GPA ranges consistent with your scores, and some that report a high acceptance rate for your scores. Finally, your application strategy will also be influenced by tuition costs. Not all law schools make financial assistance, fellowships, and scholarship programs a high priority. If you do apply for financial aid, most programs will require that you submit an income tax return.
Register for LSAT retake (optional). If you do retake the test, the LSDAS reports will show all scores; the average will be included. A retake is suggested only if you feel you can greatly improve your score. Proper preparation the first time will make a retake unnecessary.
Write entrance essay. A well-written personal statement can provide the admissions committee with a “personalized” view of who you are. This does not mean you must necessarily disclose private details about your life. Admissions committees want to know why you have chosen to go to law school, what motivates you, your future goals upon graduation, any unique experiences or hardships you have experienced, and characteristics that would determine your potential for success. Some applications require that you respond to specific questions; others are open-ended. Remember your essay will serve as an example of your writing ability. Review it carefully. It is a good idea to have an academic advisor or member of the Prelaw Advisory Committee offer a critique of your draft. Two helpful resources available on file at the Career Center are “Graduate Admissions Essays-What Works, What Doesn't and Why,” and “How to Write a Winning Personal Statement.”
One further suggestion is to use your personal essay to refer to any special research or analysis of the law that you have done as an undergraduate. It might even be possible to use the Lexis/Nexis machine to locate articles written by professors at the school to which you are applying. Referring to an article could give you an edge over your competition.
Send Transcript request forms. If you subscribe to the LSDAS, you will have to have Illinois Wesleyan, and any undergraduate institution you have attended and from which you are claiming course credit, send your transcripts to LSDAS. Requests for official transcripts should be made at the Registrar's Office. From that point on, you must alert LSDAS of every institution requiring them. If you do not subscribe to LSDAS, you must write to your undergraduate institutions and request--in a signed letter including addresses--that they send a copy of your transcripts to each institution requiring them.
Request letters of recommendation. Schools frequently provide their own forms and request that the recommender send them directly to the admissions committee. If neither forms nor special procedures are required, you may find the credential services offered by the Career Center a convenient option. The Career Center will maintain a confidential file of your recommendations that will be sent to prospective schools upon your written request. See instruction sheet titled “Procedures for Establishing a Credentials” at the Career Center.
Try to choose recommenders who are familiar with your academic work and have a high opinion of it. If the recommender is less familiar with you, a personal interview might help. Always provide recommenders with your resume, a list of pertinent undergraduate courses (and grades), and any personal information that may help them write as specific and accurate a letter as possible. Click here for information on requesting letters of recommendation from faculty.
Attend Law School Forum In Chicago (optional). This event happens every year, usually in October. Representatives from many of the major law schools, as well as regional schools, will be on hand to answer any questions you might have about their programs.
Send Applications. Even if the deadlines are later, it is good to get the applications in early. Keep photocopies.
Application Checklist:________ LSAT Registration
________ Letters of Recommendation
________ LSDAS Subscription
________ Transcripts requested
________ Applications for Admission
________ Income tax return________ Personal essay
Second Semester Junior
First Semester Senior
Pick up the LSAT/LSDAS Information Book at the Career Center. This book provides the addresses for both the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) and the Law School Data Assembly Service (LSDAS). It contains some sample LSAT questions, the date of the Law School Forum, and other general information. The LSAT/LSDAS Information Book is available at the Career Center (556-3071) located on the second floor of the Minor Myers, jr. Welcome Center.