In order to centralize and standardize objective application information (GPAs and LSAT scores), ABA-approved law schools require applicants to subscribe to the Credential Assembly Service (CAS) through the Law School Admission Council (LSAC). The CAS organizes and analyzes applicant information in a way that allows law schools to compare academic records from undergraduate schools that use different grading systems. It simplifies the process by requiring you to submit your transcript(s) and letters of recommendation just once - ultimately compiling them into a report that will be sent to each law school to whom you apply.
The law school report includes:
- A year-by-year grade and credit summary
- Copies of all transcripts
- Your GPA for each academic year, your degree GPA, and your cumulative GPA reflecting work at other institutions you have attended
- A description of your overall grade distribution
- The mean LSAT score and GPA of students at your undergraduate school who have subscribed to the CAS and your percentile graduation rank among those students
- Up to 12 LSAT scores, including cancellations and absences
- An average LSAT score, if you have more than one score on file
- Copies of your LSAT writing sample
The $195 fee for the CAS includes access to electronic applications for nearly all ABA-approved and participating law schools. Completing application forms is a fairly straightforward process. Schools will be seeking basic information about you, including your academic background, extracurricular activities, and employment history. Many schools will also ask for the names of your recommenders, the date(s) on which you took (or plan to take) the LSAT, your intention to apply for financial aid, and any criminal convictions on your record. You may be asked to list other schools to which you are applying; responding to this question and/or indicating an interest in financial aid will not affect your chances for admission. Be truthful and forthright as you complete the applications. It is a good idea to enclose a resume with your application, but do not use it as a substitute for responding to questions on the applications.
Applications typically become available in the CAS in mid-September. This is an ideal time to start the application process. The CAS makes it easy for you to work on your applications and save them. The end of November is the best time to submit your final applications.
Law schools consider the objective criteria - the GPA and LSAT score - the factors that most accurately predict how applicants will perform in their first year and are therefore often the most heavily regarded aspects of the application.
- Transcript/GPA: Early in the fall of the application cycle, you will need to request an official transcript from each college or university from which you have earned academic credit. You will need to enter the names of the institutions in the Credential Assembly Service area of the LSAC web site. Official transcripts should be sent to the Credential Assembly Service for analysis; therefore, do not send transcripts directly to law schools. After analysis and approval, your transcripts will be included in your CAS file.
- LSAT: In most cases, the most important element of your law school application. As a general rule, the higher the score, the better your chances for law school admission and scholarships. Never take the LSAT until you are ready to do your best. Do not take the LSAT the first time to “practice” with the intention of retaking it if you do not like your score. Although the LSAT is not the only factor in determining law school admissions, it’s a significant factor for every school, and you should take it very seriously.
In addition to GPA and LSAT score, law schools also weigh additional, subjective, factors when considering applicants. These include the personal statement, letters of recommendation, addenda, resume, and Dean’s Certification (if applicable).
- 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 him/her qualified to study at their law schools.
- Letters of Recommendation:
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 and personal qualities. Admissions officers find most helpful specific examples of applicants’ motivation and intellectual curiosity, an assessment of communication skills, and a comparison with peers.
An addendum is something you can choose to include in your application to offer an explanation regarding another part of your application. An addendum should be very concise and can explain issues such as a low GPA, low LSAT score, lapse in academic performance, etc. If a legitimate reason cannot be offered for a particular weakness in the application, an addendum should not be included, nor should one be included if there are no obvious issues needing to be addressed.
This factor includes undergraduate curricular and extracurricular activities, internships, part-time and full-time work experience, volunteer experience, etc. Include a resume in your application materials that demonstrates your skills and abilities relevant to the study of law and how you will contribute to the diversity and strength of the class.
- Dean’s Certification:
A dean's certification letter is required by some law schools to confirm that applicants have not been involved in academic or disciplinary transgressions as undergraduates. The certification is generally a formality handled by a designated college official. At Dickinson, the contact is the Dean of Advising, whom you can contact by calling 717-245-1080.