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What Top Law Schools Look for in an Applicant

by Hannah Smith In the past, there has been a misconception around law school that admissions offices evaluate applicants only based off of their LSAT score and undergraduate GPA. Rather, schools have adopted a holistic approach to the application process. This means that while your hard numbers are certainly important, what you have done outside of the classroom also factors into admissions decisions. The trend in recent years is that more and more applicants take a few years to work in between graduating from college and applying to law school. By not applying directly out of undergrad, students then have the chance to gain work experience, find their passions, and build up their candidacy for law school. As you’re thinking about applying to JD programs, consider these four major components that top law schools look for in an applicant: 1. LSAT Your LSAT score is the way law schools predict how well you will perform in your first year of law school. A strong score is the first step towards acceptance into top law schools. Harvard, Yale and Stanford have the highest median LSAT scores of top law schools. If you can get above a 175 on your LSAT, you’re in an extremely strong place going into applications. Above a 170 with a strong GPA will also give you a good shot at top law schools. That being said, your LSAT score is not the end-all-be-all of law school admissions. There are ways to combat a lower-than-expected score. 2. Undergraduate Performance Your undergraduate GPA goes hand-in-hand with your LSAT score. A strong GPA can help balance out an LSAT...

Understanding Necessary in the Context of the LSAT

This is a post in a series that focuses on the LSAT. Each post in this series contains an excerpt from our new Guide to Formal Logic on the LSAT; this focuses on if/then statements as sufficient/ necessary. If you would like to download the full guide, please use the form at the bottom of this post. We’ve talked already about basic “if/then” conditionals, which we diagrammed as If –> Then And, if we think about the conditionals we talked about in the last section, we might call them all SUFFICIENT conditions. In the example Brooklyn –> New York City Being in Brooklyn is SUFFICIENT for being in New York City. Do you need to be in Brooklyn in order to be in New York City? Of course not! New York City is very large and Brooklyn is only one part of it. However, it is necessary to be in New York City in order to be in Brooklyn. So another way of looking at a normal if/then conditional is Sufficient –> Necessary   Diagram the following two examples: Todd needs an A on this midterm in order to pass the class. Anyone who takes the LSAT in June will take it in the afternoon. SOLUTION Pass the Class –> A on Midterm. (the A is necessary) LSAT in June –> Take in Afternoon. (June LSAT is sufficient for an afternoon examination) Make sure you’re fully prepared for the LSAT come test day. Next Step offers customized one-on-one LSAT tutoring at an affordable price. Learn more about our tutoring packages today. See what our students have to say about...

Why “Unless” Matters on the LSAT

This is a post in a series that focuses on the LSAT. Each post in this series contains an excerpt from our new Guide to Formal Logic on the LSAT; this focuses on understanding the use of “unless” on the LSAT. If you would like to download the full guide, please use the form at the bottom of this post. Unless: Some of the trickiest conditionals on the test involve the word “unless;” yet, somehow, most English-speakers can operate conditionals in everyday life using this word flawlessly. Here are step-by-step instructions on how to diagram “unless” Take whatever term follows the “unless” and put it to the right of the arrow Take the rest of the conditional and put it to the left of the arrow (3.) Negate (or Un-negate) the term on the left. Let’s do two together: Unless I’m mistaken, that painting was not here last time. [other term] –> I’m Mistaken That Painting Was Not Here –> I’m Mistaken That Painting Was Here –> I’m mistaken In step 3, you can see the sensible conclusion – if that painting were here, then I would be mistaken. We can then infer the contrapositive: if I’m not mistaken, then the painting was not here. Let’s look at one more.   EXAMPLES The party will be a success unless we run out of dip. Unless the train is late, we won’t arrive in time to see Margerie. SOLUTIONS ~Success –> Ran Out of Dip. ~Run out of dip —> Success See Margerie –> Train is Late. ~Train is Late –> ~See Margerie. Make sure you’re fully prepared for the...

Formal Logic on the LSAT

This is a post in a series that focuses on the LSAT. Each post in this series contains an excerpt from our new Guide to Formal Logic on the LSAT; this focuses on formal logic on the LSAT. If you would like to download the full guide, please use the form at the bottom of this post. In LR, formal logic questions are questions that involve a long series of claims about the relationships among various groups. Writing out complex formal arguments takes time, so, for most students, it makes sense to save questions involving complex arguments for the end of the section and work on easier problems first. Example: All chickens are birds, and most birds are diurnal. Some diurnal creatures hibernate during the winter, but not all hibernating creatures are diurnal. Many students find these questions quite challenging; they involve a complex set of relationships which are almost impossible to keep track of mentally. However, with the diagramming techniques we’ll cover below, you’ll be able to simplify these arguments and answer questions on them correctly. Understanding these relationships starts with understanding the basic terminology and how the LSAT uses these words. All: Every single one. No exceptions. All dogs are mammals. All people in Brooklyn are in New York City. Note that for the purposes of diagramming conditional statements, the word “all” is synonymous with “if.” All dogs are mammals = Dog –> Mammal. Most: More than half, so anywhere from 50.1%- to 100%. Most people in the US live in urban areas. Most dogs have four legs. Most dogs are mammals. That last example is a...

Conditional Logic on the LSAT Part 2

This is a post in a series that focuses on the LSAT. Each post in this series contains an excerpt from our new Guide to Formal Logic on the LSAT; this focuses on contrapositives in conditional logic. If you would like to download the full guide, please use the form at the bottom of this post. The contrapositive is a two-step process – flip the terms and then (un)negate them. Every single conditional has a valid contrapositive. It’s worth repeating: the contrapositive is the only valid inference you can make from a conditional. The LSAT will attempt to trick you with a few common and invalid inferences. We’ll look at them in more detail, but they can be summarized very quickly: as the contrapositive requires both flipping and (un)negating, incorrect inferences will do only one of these things. Let’s look at the final example in more detail. “If I’m not in New England, then I’m not in Boston,” which we correctly contraposed to “If I’m in Boston, then I must be in New England.” That contrapositive was both flipped and negated. The LSAT will frequently present this option as an answer/inference: “If I’m not in Boston, then I’m not in New England.” We call this an Incorrect Reversal, as the terms are merely switched and not negated.   EXAMPLES – are they correct contrapositives or are they fallacies? If someone didn’t watch the debate, then they can’t be fully caught up on political events. Jason isn’t caught up on political events, so he must not have watched the debate. Manny will stay in town if he accepts the position....

If/Then and Why They Matter on the LSAT

This is a post in a series that focuses on the LSAT. Each post in this series contains an excerpt from our new Guide to Formal Logic on the LSAT; this focuses on if vs only if statements. If you would like to download the full guide, please use the form at the bottom of this post. If v. Only If:  We talked about “if/then” statements in the previous section, but there’s a huge exception to the rule If –> Then That exception is an “only if” statement. Typically, any “if” statement suggests a sufficient condition (“if it rains, the picnic is canceled” means rain is sufficient to cancel the picnic. Many things could cancel the picnic – nuclear fallout for example – but we know one of them, for sure, is rain.) “Only if” suggests a necessary condition. (“The picnic is canceled only if it rains” means that even in the event of nuclear fallout, we’re still having a picnic, unless it also rains). You can think about “only if” statements, in regard to diagrams, as follows: [Rest of Statement] –> Only If Any “Only If” statement is effectively a sign that says “put this to the right of the arrow.” Any “if” statement without the word “only” is a sign that says “put this to the left of the arrow.” Key Words Indicating Sufficient Conditions: “If,” Enough, Any, All, Every, None, When Key Words Indicating Necessary Conditions: “only if,” only, must, requires, prerequisite, “cannot without”   EXAMPLES You can come skiing tomorrow only if you buy or rent skis. The picnic will be canceled if it rains...

Conditional Logic on the LSAT

This is the first post in a series that focuses on the LSAT. Each post in this series contains an excerpt from our new Guide to Formal Logic on the LSAT; this focuses on if/then statements in conditional logic. If you would like to download the full guide, please use the form at the bottom of this post. By far, the most commonly tested type of formal logic on the LSAT is the conditional statement. It is found in abundance in both Logic Games – particularly in grouping games – and in Logical Reasoning. Conditional statements can essentially be boiled down to “if/then” statements, or what must follow from a given condition. We use the following structure when we diagram such statements: if –> then If you live in Brooklyn, then you live in New York City. If you live in Brooklyn –> then you live in New York City   When actually diagramming these for the test, we’re going to remove the words “if” and “then.” Instead, we’ll remember that the left of the arrow means if, and the right of the arrow means then, yielding: Live in Brooklyn –> Live in New York City Diagram the following examples: If you don’t include the broth, the meal will be incomplete. The dinner will start at 8 if Daniel is on time. SOLUTIONS ~Broth –> Incomplete. ~Incomplete –> Broth Daniel’s on time –> Start at 8. ~Start at 8 —> ~Daniel’s not on time. Make sure you’re fully prepared for the LSAT come test day. Next Step offers customized one-on-one LSAT tutoring at an affordable price. Learn more about...

How to Demonstrate Your Interest in a Law School Through your Personal Statement

Contrary to popular opinion, all law schools – even the best ones – like to see that you have a particular interest in their school. Although your level of interest is rarely determinative of whether you are accepted or rejected, it is often helpful for admissions officers to see that an applicant has done some research on the school, especially if you are a borderline candidate. A demonstrated knowledge of the school is probably the best way to communicate a genuine interest in attending it. An effective way to demonstrate both that you have researched a school, as well as your particular interest in its offerings, is to mention a few specific courses, professors or groups that you would be interested in taking or getting involved with. But be careful not to go too far. For example, you shouldn’t explicitly state your “three-year-plan” at that law school; you don’t need to say, “If I’m accepted, I will seek a leadership position in the Federalist Society, the Transactional Law Society, etc.” Rather, your potential interests should be apparent from the rest of your law school personal statement. The fact is that school administrators assess the success or failure of an admissions office largely by their yield (the proportion of accepted students who actually attend that school). Thus, you improve your chances of acceptance by making it clear that, if accepted, you are likely to attend. If there are glaring reasons why you might not attend, your personal statement may be a good place to carefully address them. And if you can do a better job to convince them you want...