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Gregory J. Shaffer, Esq.
Coordinator of Pre-Law Advising
prelawadvisor@umd.edu
(301) 405-2793
Hornbake Library, Rm 0110

Frequently Asked Questions

General Information

  1. What undergraduate courses are required for admission to law school?
    2. What major should a student pursue when planning to attend law school?
    3. Does the University of Maryland offer an undergraduate degree in "pre-law"?
    4. What is the minimum GPA required for law school admission?
    5. Are internships and co-curricular activities required for admission to law school?
    6. To how many law schools should I apply?
    7. How do I research law schools? How do I know which law school will be a good fit for me?
    8. If I already have an undergraduate degree, should I take some pre-law classes, prior to entering law school, to make myself more competitive?

 

General Information

  1. What are the components of the law school application?
  2. What should be the topic of the personal statement?
  3. How many pages should the personal statement be?
  4. Who should write my letters of recommendation?
  5. What are addendums to the application?
  6. If I had an arrest or a charge that has been officially expunged from my record, should I answer "yes" or "no" when asked in the application?

 

LSAT/LSDAS

  1. What is the LSAT?
  2. When is the LSAT offered?
  3. When should I take the LSAT?
  4. How do I prepare for the LSAT? When do I start preparing for the LSAT?
  5. How do law schools view multiple LSAT scores?
  6. What is CAS? Do I have to register for CAS?
  7. Where do I send my undergraduate/graduate transcripts?
  8. Where should my letters of recommendation be sent?
  9. How long is my CAS active?
  10. How long are LSAT scores acceptable?
  11. How does LSAC calculate my GPA?

 

 


General Information

 

1. What undergraduate courses are required for admission to law school?
There are no required courses for admission to law school. You are encouraged to select courses that will develop your reading, writing, critical thinking, and analytical reasoning skills. Most undergraduate courses will develop one or more of these skills.

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2. What major should a student pursue when planning to attend law school?
There are no preferred majors for law school. You are encouraged to pursue a major that best suits your academic interests. Admittedly, there are some majors that are traditionally recognized as being "pre-law," including Government and Politics, History, Criminology and Criminal Justice, English, Sociology, and Communications. However, students who pursue such majors as Business, Engineering, Computer Science, Economics, Art History and others also have decided to go to law school. The key is to select a curriculum in which you are interested. Typically, when a student majors in a subject that reflects his/her interests, that student will perform well in that subject, which in turn, will give the student a competitive grade point average for purposes of law school admission.

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3. Does the University of Maryland offer an undergraduate degree in "pre-law"?
There is no undergraduate degree program in "pre-law." You must select a program from the list of majors offered at the University of Maryland. Because the field of law is vast, most colleges and universities no longer offer an undergraduate degree in "pre-law," as such a degree has been found to give the student little advantage when entering law school. Once again, you are encouraged to choose a major that reflects your interests, while taking care that you are developing your reading, writing, critical thinking, and analytical reasoning skills.

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4. What is the minimum GPA required for law school admission?
There is no minimum GPA required for law school admission. The accepted GPA is dependent upon the academic performances of the incoming first-year class at specific law schools. Generally, GPAs of 3.4 and above are considered competitive for admission to law school. Please note that the admissions decision is based on a wide variety of factors, with the GPA and LSAT generally considered the two most important.

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5. Are internships and co-curricular activities required for admission to law school?
Law schools are most interested in students who are well-balanced academically, professionally, and socially. Although internships and co-curricular activities are not mandatory, they are highly encouraged. When participating in an internship or co-curricular activities, you should select opportunities that suit your interests and allow you to develop essential skills - i.e. time management, creativity, initiative, working with people. These opportunities do not necessarily have to be law-related. Students who participate in law-related internship benefit, in that such activities give them the chance to confirm whether or not they are truly interested in law. Moreover, students who are involved in law-related organizations benefit from being apart of a community of people with interests similar to your own. However, you should take advantage of any available opportunities to get involved. The key is quality and not quantity. You should participate only in those activities in which they are actively interested. You should not join organizations for the purpose of "looking good" for law schools.

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6. To how many law schools should I apply?
Most students apply to 5 to 10 law schools. Keep in mind, the average application fee is $60. Hence, applying to a lot of schools can be quite expensive.

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7. How do I research law schools? How do I know which law school will be a good fit for me?
In researching law schools, it is very important to look beyond a school's reputation. Just because a school is ranked highly, does not necessarily mean that it will be the right school for you. A good reputation is important, but it is not the most important factor for consideration.

The first step in researching law schools is to develop your criteria list - what you are looking for the law schools to offer you. You should consider factors such as cost, location, class size, diversity, career placement, clinical programs, concentrations, study abroad, and bar passage rates. You should use your list as the basis for your evaluation of the law schools. Remember, selecting a law school is a subjective experience. What will be important to you will not necessarily be what is important to other applicants.

Next, you should attend any local or regional law school fairs. Fairs give you the opportunity to meet with law school representatives and to ask any questions you specifically have about their programs. LSAC sponsors fair several times throughout the year. To find out the dates and location, go to LSAC's website at http://ww.lsac.org.


Finally, you should visit the schools in which you are most interested. You should request to sit in on a first-year class, speak with current students, and tour the campus. You want to make sure that, if accepted, that you can see yourself at that school for three years.

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8. If I already have an undergraduate degree, should I take some pre-law classes, prior to entering law school, to make myself more competitive?
There are no specific pre-law classes that are required for law school admission. Nor, are there any pre-law classes that will give you a competitive edge for purposes of applying to law school. Hence, if you already have an undergraduate degree, it is not necessary for you to take additional undergraduate classes.

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Application Overview

 

1. What are the components of the law school application?
The law school application consists of the application form (available from the school via mail or on the website); personal statement; resume; school-specific letters of recommendation, and any addendums of explanation.

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2. What should be the topic of the personal statement?
You first should read the law schools' instructions for writing the personal statement. You must follow these instructions carefully. Typically, the instructions for the personal statement are very general and do not require any specific topic of discussion.

Generally, in writing the personal statement, students should be answering the following question: Why law? What is motivating my interest to pursue a career in law? Often times, students address the wrong question in their personal statement - i.e. Why I am qualified to pursue a career in law? The purpose of the personal statement is to give the law school admissions committee information that they cannot find anywhere else in your application. The committee can look at your transcripts and resume to determine your qualifications. Hence, use the personal statement as an opportunity to give the committee insight into who you are and why you are applying. In answering the "Why law?" question, you can refer to a specific event or person who influenced your decision to pursue law. Also, the personal statement can be written in the narrative form.

Note: The personal statement should be a positive testament of your commitment to the study of law. It is not the opportunity to discuss low GPAs, LSAT scores, academic misconduct, or any other disciplinary issues. These issues should be discussed in an addendum to the law school application.

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3. How many pages should the personal statement be?
Typically, personal statements are two-pages, double-spaced. Students must read the application instructions for the personal statement, as there may be a specified page limit. The personal statement should be as concise as possible.

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4. Who should write my letters of recommendation?
The strongest letters of recommendation are from those individuals who have had the opportunity to monitor your academic progression over a period of time. Typically, these individuals are professors, academic advisors, department chairpersons, and deans. What is important is not who the person is - i.e. whether or not he/she is an attorney - but how well the person knows you.

Most law schools required at minimum two letters of recommendation. At least one recommendation should be an academic reference. The other letter should be another academic reference, but it could also be a professional reference, or a community/volunteer reference. Generally, personal references –i.e. from a relative or close friend - are not strong references, unless the person has some connection to the schools to which you are applying. Non-academic letters of recommendation should discuss such topics as your ability to work with others, your ability to work with little or no supervision, your ability to take constructive criticism, your initiative and creativity, and your ability to work under pressure.

In order to help your recommenders write the letters, you should prepare a packet of information which includes your transcript, your resume, and any work you have submitted to them. You should also submit to them a draft of your personal statement if possible.

It is recommended that you give your recommenders at least a month to complete the letters. You should ask your recommenders to write you a letter during the summer of your junior year. Doing so will allow them enough time to prepare the letter. If sending the letter directly to the law school, remember to give the recommender the recommendation form provided in the law school application. If using the Credential Assembly Service (CAS) to process the recommendation, you must give the recommender the form provided in the registration book or online. If this form does not accompany the letter, CAS will not process the letter.

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5. What are addendums to the application?
Addendums to the application are any material you submit for purposes of explanation, clarification, or support. You should use addendums to discuss such issues as a poor GPA/LSAT and any academic misconduct or disciplinary concern. Addendums should also be used to discuss any concerns regarding a police record, including past arrests, charges, indictments, suspensions, probations, and parole. Addendums, unlike the personal statement, should not be written in narrative form.

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6. If I had an arrest or a charge that has been officially expunged from my record, should I answer "yes" or "no" when asked in the application?
It is better to answer the question honestly, even if the charge or arrest has been expunged. You should explain the circumstances surrounding the incident and discuss what you have learned from the experience.

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LSAT/LSDAS

 

1. What is the LSAT?
The LSAT is the Law School Admission Test. It is a standardized test required by nearly all ABA-approved law schools. The test consists of five sections, four of which are scored. The sections include one reading comprehension section, one analytical reasoning section, and two logical reasoning sections. The unscored section is generally used to pretest new test questions. There is also a writing sample, which is not scored but is sent to all the law schools to which the student applies. Visit http://www.lsac.org for further information about both the LSAT and CAS.

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2. When is the LSAT offered?
The LSAT is offered four times each year - June, October, December, and February.

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3. When should I take the LSAT?
You should take the LSAT at least one year before they intend to enter law school. Hence, for most students, the optimal time to take the LSAT is either the June proceeding the junior year or the October during the senior year. These testing dates will allow the student enough time to apply to law school in the fall semester of the senior year.

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4. How do I prepare for the LSAT? When do I start preparing for the LSAT?
Preparing for the LSAT begins with selecting courses that develop your reading, writing, critical thinking, and analytical reasoning skills. The LSAT is designed to test your abilities in these areas. Many students decide to prepare with self study, by buying LSAT preparation material. In addition, commercial prep courses and private tutors are available to help students prepare for the LSAT. Information regarding these courses and tutors is available in the Law and Health Professions Advising Office. You should research these services to ensure that they will adequately meet your needs.

Preparation for the LSAT generally takes three to six months, depending upon the needs of the particular student. Some students require more time to prepare. You should take into account past preparation for and performance on standardized exams to determine the amount of time you will need to prepare for the LSAT.

The key to the LSAT is practice. In preparing for the LSAT, students should first take a sample LSAT exam, in order to assess your strengths and weaknesses. Equipped with this information, you then are in a better position to determine just how much and what type of preparation you will need. You also should take several practice exams throughout your preparation for the LSAT, so that you can measure your improvement over time. Knowing your range of performance on the practice LSAT is particularly helpful when analyzing your actual LSAT score and deciding whether or not you should take the LSAT again.

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5. How do law schools view multiple LSAT scores?
Most law schools will consider the highest LSAT score you have received. Due to the cost of the exam as well as the time needed to prepare, students should aim to take the LSAT only once. However, taking the LSAT more than once has become common and is certainly acceptable when retesting will likely result in an improved score.

When deciding whether or not to retake the LSAT, students should consider seriously whether or not their performance will improve. To help determine this, students should take into account several factors: the extent of their preparations for the first LSAT, how closely their official LSAT score matched practice scores and their cumulative GPA, and the prospects for further study and practice to lead to improvement on a subsequent LSAT.

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6. What is CAS? Do I have to register for CAS?
The Credential Assembly Service (CAS) prepares and provides a report to all the law schools to which students apply. It provides a centralized means of compiling and assessing undergraduate academic records. Information contained in the report includes copies of all undergraduate and graduate transcripts, LSAT scores, writing sample copies, and copies of letters of recommendation processed by LSAC. Nearly all ABA-approved law schools require students to register for CAS. There is an additional fee for CAS registration and each CAS report that is sent to requesting law schools.

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7. Where do I send my undergraduate/graduate transcripts?
You must send a transcript of all undergraduate and graduate work to CAS. If students have attended colleges or universities other than UMCP (including summer classes), they will need to obtain transcripts directly from those institutions, even if the classes appear on the UMCP transcript.

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8. Where should my letters of recommendation be sent?
CAS offers a recommendation service. Use of the service is optional unless a law school to which the student applies requires participation. You should check the letter of recommendation requirements for each law school to which you apply. Copies of these letters will be sent to CAS-participating law schools to which you apply. There is a specific recommendation form that must accompany each letter of recommendation. The recommendation form is available in the current LSAT/CAS Registration book or on LSAC's website, http://www.lsac.org

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9. How long is my subscription to CAS active?
A subscription to CAS is good for 5 years, from the date of subscription.

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10. How long are LSAT scores acceptable?
Most law schools require that students have taken the LSAT within three years of their application. Some allow for the LSAT score to be at maximum five years old. You should contact the specific law schools to determine whether or not your LSAT score will be accepted.

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11. How does LSAC calculate my GPA?
Grades are converted to a 4.0 scale, in order to standardize the reviewing process for law schools. The Grade Conversion Table used by CAS is provided in the current LSAT/CAS Registration and Information Book.

Note: Repeated Courses
All grades earned for a repeated class will be included in the GPA calculation for CAS, even if the lower grade has not been calculated in your GPA at the University of Maryland. If both grades for the repeated course appear on your transcript, it will be calculated in your GPA for purposes of CAS.

 

Grades excluded from the GPA include Withdraws, Incompletes, Remedial Courses (if they are clearly designated as such on the transcript), Those awarded after the first undergraduate degree has been conferred, Pass/Fail, and No Credit. AP or CLEP courses will be included only if your transcript shows that you received a grade and credits for them. At Maryland, you will receive credit but no grades for AP and CLEP courses. In this instance, these classes will not be calculated in your GPA - they will appear as unconverted credit hours on the CAS Report.

 

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