Cornell University

Admissions Criteria

Most law school admissions committees use a combination of objective and subjective criteria, described below and in the next section, to evaluate applicants.

Objective Criteria

Law School Admission Test (LSAT): Applicants take the LSAT, a half-day standardized test, during one of four test administrations offered annually by the Law School Admission Council. Scores, which range from 120 to 180, are used by law schools as a common measurement of potential for success in law school.

Undergraduate Grade Point Average (GPA): Applicants submit undergraduate transcripts to the Law School Data Assembly Service (CAS), which converts grades to a cumulative grade point average using a set of consistent values. The GPA offers admissions committees another numerical basis for comparing applicants.

Law schools consider the objective criteria, the GPA and LSAT score, the selection criteria that most accurately predict how applicants will perform in their first year. Some schools weight these factors equally in the admissions process, others give either the LSAT or the GPA somewhat greater weight. It is important to remember, however, that most law schools do not make admissions decisions solely on the basis of objective criteria. Subjective criteria, listed below, take on importance once applicants' GPAs and LSAT scores qualify them for closer scrutiny.

Subjective Criteria

Personal Statement: Applicants submit a personal statement as part of the application process for almost all law schools. Admissions committees look for a concise, detailed, well-written statement revealing the applicant's individuality. They want to learn from the statement who the applicant is and what makes her qualified to study at their law schools.

Letters of Recommendation/Evaluation Service: Most law schools require applicants to submit letters of recommendation from professors or employers to gain a different perspective on the applicant’s academic strength, intellectual curiosity, motivation, communication skills, and personal qualities. LSAC’s new online Evaluation Service enables evaluators to rate applicants in six categories–each of which contains several factors, for a total of thirty–reflecting attributes relevant to legal study.

Experience: This factor may encompass a wide range of pursuits–from undergraduate curricular and extracurricular activities, to internships, to full-time work experience, etc.–which demonstrate that the applicant has skills and abilities relevant to the study of law and will contribute to the diversity and strength of the class.

There are, of course, other factors that may be used to evaluate applicants, depending on the policies of individual schools. For example, most law schools have minority recruitment programs to increase minority participation in the legal profession, and some state schools may reserve seats for state residents. Review schools’ websites to learn about their selection criteria, and you may want to contact schools about your specific concerns.