FAQs: Application Components

We receive numerous questions about each component of the application. Here are some of the most common questions about the personal statement, LSAT score, resume, letters of recommendation, transcripts, and the optional statements.

Personal Statement

What is the Admissions Committee looking for in the personal statement?
The Admissions Committee is primarily looking to learn about you as an individual, your interest in pursuing a legal education, as well as to assess your writing and communication ability.

What should I write about in my personal statement?
We do not have a specific topic or prompt for you to respond to because you are the best judge of how you should present yourself, interests, and background. You are encouraged to write about something personal, relevant, or unique to you. This may include writing about a significant aspect of your background, a quality or trait that you feel defines you, a transformative experience, or the things that interest or motivate you. The best personal statements are authentic and do not try to cover too many different topics due to the 1-2 page space limit.

Do I need to tell the Admissions Committee why I want to go to law school?
Keep in mind that this is a personal statement, not a statement of purpose. You are welcome to discuss your reasons and motivations for applying to law school, but it is not required. However, if your preparation or interest in law school is not evident based on your experiences or background, it may be wise to discuss why you wish to enter the legal profession.

How does the personal statement fit into the rest of my application?
The personal statement is often the Admissions Committee’s favorite part of the application! It is our opportunity to learn about you and go beyond what a transcript or test score can tell us. Correspondingly, the personal statement is not the place to sell us on your credentials or summarize your transcripts and/or resume – we will review those documents in due course.

What format should I use for my personal statement?
Personal statements should be no more than two double-spaced pages, use 12 point font and standard margins, and include a header with your name and LSAC number. It is important to note that your personal statement should be your own work and in your own words.

What are some common mistakes seen by the Admissions Committee in personal statements?
Personal statements are very individualized so what works for one applicant may not work for another. Avoid restating your resume, listing your qualifications, typographical or grammatical errors, leaving on tracked changes, name-dropping, covering too much information, or trying to use "legalese.”

What are some tips for a successful personal statement?
In general, your personal statement should be organized, straightforward, written in your own voice, and concise. Additionally, we recommend having another person (pre-law advisor, career counselor, faculty, family, or friend) read through your personal statement to provide suggestions, share their comments, and check for errors.

LSAT

How should I prepare for the LSAT?
The LSAT is a test for which most students need to prepare and study. While that much is self-evident, however, the method of preparation will depend on the individual. Regardless of if you take a preparation class or study on your own, your preparation should include taking practices exams in as close to “test like” conditions as possible.

When should I take the LSAT?
NDLS utilizes a rolling admission process, so we recommend that you register for the June or September exam offered the year you plan to apply to ensure that you can submit your application early in the process. This also provides you the opportunity to consider applying via the early decision application. The December and the February LSAT exam scores are also acceptable for our regular admissions period. Applicants offered spots on the waitlist may consider also sitting for the following June exam. Beginning in June 2018 the LSAT exam will be offered annually in June, September, November, January, and March.

How long is my LSAT score valid?
You must have received your LSAT score within five years of your date of application to NDLS.

What is your policy on multiple LSAT scores? Do you average them? Take the best?
While we are able to view an applicant’s entire LSAT taking history and can see all of your scores regardless of when each exam was administered, NDLS accepts an applicant’s highest LSAT score within the past 5 years (the life of the exam score) for admissions and scholarship purposes. NDLS does not average your LSAT scores.

How will my application be evaluated if I have a strong LSAT, but lower GPA? Or if I have a strong GPA, but lower LSAT?
An applicant’s academic achievements, both on the LSAT exam and during their undergraduate coursework, are extremely relevant to the admissions decision. However, NDLS employs a holistic review process of each applicant’s submitted materials in its search to find students who would be a good fit for the NDLS community and for whom the NDLS community will be best for them as well. We also consider the strength of an applicant’s curriculum and any major(s) or minor(s) completed.

Would you rather see an applicant that has average numbers (LSAT and GPA), but really excellent activities, or great numbers and marginal activities?
While quantitative academic marks are an important piece of the admissions decision, NDLS will thoroughly review an applicant’s entire application and all optional materials that are submitted by an applicant for a student’s overall “fittedness” at NDLS. Experience, involvement, leadership, and service are also important aspects of the application and can indicate an applicant’s ability to be successful.

Does the Admission Committee read the LSAT writing sample?
Yes. The Admissions Committee will review the written portion of each LSAT exam, and as such, we recommend that applicants complete this portion of the exam.

Resume

How long should my resume be?
Our application instructions do not specify a required length, but 1-2 pages is typical for students coming to law school directly from an undergraduate institution. Applicants with significant scholastic, research, or career experience may need more space to adequately describe their previous experiences and achievements, and are encouraged to do so if necessary.

Please note that you can also use the “Addenda” portion of the application to provide a further explanation or description of material found on your resume.

What is the Admissions Committee looking for on a resume?
An applicant’s resume can be used to demonstrate evidence of a strong work ethic and social and professional engagement by highlighting an applicant’s participation in community service activities, extracurricular events, and work experience. NDLS’ Admissions Committee is particularly interested in considering an applicant’s leadership experiences. Additionally, your resume may help us contextualize and understand your undergraduate performance.

A good rule of thumb for current undergraduate students is quality of experience over quantity (joining 10 extracurricular organizations may not be as persuasive as having a deep level of involvement or leadership in two).

Is there a particular format I should use?
There is no required format, but your resume should look professional. Proofread carefully. Please use font sizes and line-spacing that allow the Committee to easily ascertain your experiences and professional achievements. We recommend talking to your undergraduate career office for assistance.

Is work experienced required?
Although work experience is a positive addition to an application, especially legally related work experience, it is not required. Approximately 50 percent of the incoming class will have at least one or two years of work experience.

Should I include non-legal experience?
Yes. Legal experience is helpful, but not required. Your resume should list all employment and activities because it helps us gain a more complete picture of you.

What if I have a gap on my resume?
You should address any gaps of time on your resume either on the resume itself or within an addendum. You may want to confer with a career counselor for the best way to structure such comments.

Letters of Recommendation

How many letters of recommendation does NDLS require?
NDLS requires two letters of recommendation but will accept up to four.

Who should I ask to write my letters of recommendation?
It is recommended that students who are coming to law school directly from an undergraduate institution supply letters of recommendation from professors who can speak to their academic and personal strengths. Students coming to law school from the professional world are encouraged to include letters of recommendation from former supervisors or managers who can speak to the applicants’ particular skill sets including teamwork and/or leadership skills. Ask recommenders who will have positives things to say about you and who know you well enough to write a detailed, substantive letter.

What should I avoid in choosing recommenders?
We recommend that applicants avoid asking politicians, public figures, judges, or alumni based on their name and title alone. Choosing a recommender solely on this basis does not usually result in a helpful letter. The most important part of a letter of recommendation is the content.

What should my letters of recommendation say?
Your recommenders should describe your academic and professional qualifications, strengths and any perceived weaknesses, and overall abilities – specifically those related to the successful completion of a legal education such as analytical and critical thinking skills, written and oral communication skills, and interpersonal skills. Personal characteristics such as the ability to work with others, your maturity, etc. are also relevant. The most helpful letters will contain substantive discussion of your abilities and provide examples or anecdotes.

Do you accept evaluations?
LSAC discontinued the use of evaluations on August 7, 2016. It is no longer possible to request evaluations, and evaluators will no longer be able to fill out or print evaluation forms.

Transcripts

What is the Admissions Committee looking for when reviewing transcripts?
The Admissions Committee reviews an applicant’s transcript for evidence of work ethic and overall grade trends throughout the undergraduate career. While we like to see that you have taken a well-rounded and challenging course load, we do not prefer any particular major or area of study and we accept students from a wide range of undergraduate institutions.

For admissions decisions, the Admissions Committee primarily relies on an applicant’s cumulative GPA as calculated by the Credential Assembly Service (CAS). We also consider the GPA distribution at your undergraduate institution, your percentile ranking in comparison to other law school candidates from the same institution (reported by CAS), the academic quality of the degree-conferring institution, and any trends in your performance or academic honors you have received.

How does the Admissions Committee evaluate graduate school transcripts?
The Admissions Committee will review and consider all graduate school transcripts. Strong graduate school performance is a positive factor for your application. However, graduate GPAs are not included by CAS for cumulative GPA purposes.

How does the Admissions Committee evaluate foreign transcripts?
If you attended a foreign institution, your foreign transcripts must be submitted through CAS. A Foreign Credential Evaluation will be completed by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) and incorporated into your CAS report.

What kinds of courses do you like to see on an applicant’s transcript?
We recommend that students take classes that they are interested in and that will help them develop the skills needed to succeed in law school. In addition to your major requirements, it is important to include courses that will help you prepare for the rigor of law school writing, research, and doctrinal courses. Undergraduate school is the time to craft your own academic curriculum broadly.

May I attach an addendum to explain my academic record?
Yes. If you believe there is a weakness in your academic record, you may explain the circumstances in a brief addendum. This should be included in your initial application and can be uploaded through LSAC. Addenda should be no more than two double-spaced pages, use 12 point font, and should include a header with your name and LSAC number.

Optional Statements

Should I provide the optional statements?
The Admissions Office strongly encourages applicants to include the optional essays in their application, provided the applicant uses them to add comments of significance and substance to their application. Use of the optional statements is less compelling as a mechanism to add length to the Personal Statement or to simply add length to the application.

What are the optional statements?
Per our application instructions, NDLS offers two optional statements: (1) the “Why Notre Dame Law School?” statement and (2) the “Different Kind of Lawyer” statement.

In the “Why Notre Dame Law School?” statement, applicants are asked to express their specific interest in Notre Dame Law School and address how their background, experiences, personal character, and career aspirations align with the legal education that NDLS provides. Applicants may also discuss specific programs, classes, or programs that they look forward to participating in as a student.

In the “Different Kind of Lawyer” statement, applicants are asked to explore how their own personal background, diversity, experiences, points of view, etc. will contribute to Notre Dame’s mission to educate a “Different Kind of Lawyer.”

What format should I use for the optional statements?
Applicants are encouraged to read and follow the instructions in the application. Additionally, these statements should be no more than two double-spaced pages, use 12 point font, and should include a header with your name and LSAC number. Applicants are reminded that their optional statements should be their original work in their own words.