Fordham Law Optional Essay

By Hillary Mantis

There have been some major changes to law school applications this admissions season. I started advising pre-law students over a decade ago, and never have I seen as many changes in one admissions cycle.

These changes began when Harvard Law School announced that they would begin accepting the GRE in lieu of the LSAT. Over the course of a few months, the number of law schools accepting the GRE increased to 15. 

Also, the number of people taking the LSAT and applying to law school has increased after many years of decline. Almost 32,000 people have registered for the February 2018 LSAT, more than an 11 percent increase over last year. Many law schools have also reported an increase in applications.

As a pre-law advisor, I am now checking for new trends all of the time—and so should you. For those planning to apply in the coming year, here are a few recent changes you should be following, and resources to help you to track them.

1 | The GRE

The number of schools accepting the GRE is growing as I write this article. For those applying in the fall of 2018, the list of accepting schools may change significantly. The Educational Testing Service is a site I am getting to know better as law schools announce their acceptance of the GRE, one by one. To see which law schools are accepting the GRE, check with www.ets.org  throughout the application cycle.

The growing acceptance of the GRE gives you an opportunity to think strategically about which test appeals to you and would capitalize on your test taking skills. For example, if you have a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) background, the GRE play to your strengths. Much like the SAT and the ACT, different tests may work better for different applicants.

2 | The LSAT

The Law School Admission Council has also been making changes to accommodate test takers.

They recently changed the rule that limited the number of times applicants could take the LSAT. In the past, applicants could only take the LSAT three times within a two-year period. 

In addition, LSAC increased the number of test dates from four to six. The tests will be administered on June 11, July 23, September 8, November 17, January 26, 2019 and March 30, 2019.

As a bonus to December LSAT test-takers, LSAC released the December LSAT scores before Christmas this year, earlier than anticipated.

How can you keep up with future LSAT changes? If you go to www.lsac.org, their home page usually either lists or has a link to the most up to date information. LSAC’s website provides valuable data about how many people are registering for the LSAT and applying to law school. Check out the “Data and More” tab, for example, to see LSAT related statistics.

3 | Optional Essays

I have also noticed that law school applications, which used to be pretty standard from school to school, are now changing as well. In addition to personal statements and diversity statements, schools seem to be adding optional school-specific essay prompts (such as “Why our school?”). Some have added very nontraditional optional statements as well. Though these essays are listed as optional, my advice is to complete all of the statements that you can.

4| Law School Interviews

Law schools seem to have added more interviews as well — both invitational and open — by skype, phone and in person. This is yet another trend that you can take advantage of should you have the opportunity. Law school interviews can be incredibly important for some law school applicants. I have seen a number of applicants who were ultimately accepted to the school they interviewed with. It is a unique opportunity for law schools to get to know their applicants beyond a written essay.

5| Merit Scholarships

Merit scholarship awards seem to be changing too. Many schools offer full or partial scholarship offers based on merit, many of which are conditional and continue based on your grades once you are in law school. Some law schools have recently changed their policies, and merit scholarship offers are now guaranteed to continue for all three years of study.

I am guessing that more changes will be in store for future applicants. I recommend checking out official sources of information, such as the Law School Admissions Council (www.lsac.org), and the Educational Testing Service (www.ets.org), as they are often the first to report updates. The American Bar Association also has statistics about every law school.

While the rapidly changing landscape can be confusing, it’s also presenting many great new options for applicants.  Here are some other links that may be useful as you prepare to apply:

LSAC Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools: https://officialguide.lsac.org

ABA Required Disclosures: abarequireddisclosures.org

​ABA Employment Summaries: employmentsummary.abaquestionnaire.org​

Educational Testing Service (GRE information): www.ets.org

Related articles:

How To Get An Excellent Law School Letter Of Recommendation

LSAT changes give aspiring law students more options

Three reasons why more people may be taking the LSAT

How To Start Studying For The LSAT


Hillary Mantis works with law school applicants, law students and lawyers. She is the author of Alternative Careers for Lawyers and Pre-Law Advising Program Director at Fordham University. Questions about applying to law school? You can reach Hillary at altcareer@aol.com.


Like many legal answers, it depends.  

First, you should follow the framework, as in applying to colleges, of several safety, several mid-range and several reaches. When selecting particular schools for each category, the LSAT and GPA combination is the best indicator for likelihood of admission, and LSAC has a tool to estimate such likelihood based on these criteria.  

Of course, if you stopped here, you would have quite a long list.  To further narrow down your list, you should think about where you want to practice law.  Many schools will send students predominantly to only 1-2 states or metropolitan regions, and it wouldn't make much sense for you to attend a law school that does not place graduates in the state you wish to practice.  Law School 509 reports, available on the homepage of every ABA-approved law school, will show you where schools send their graduates for employment, as will Law School Transparency's LST School Reports.  If a school places heavily in the area in which you wish to practice, you will have greater access to alumni networking opportunities, on-campus interviews, and both internships and externships.

Still, you should balance region with the nature of law you wish to practice.  If a particular school has the best ranked program for what you wish to practice, but does not send many graduates to the area in which you wish to practice, then you should discuss these concerns with your pre-law advisor and the law school directly.  This would be a terrific question to ask when on prospective or admitted student days.  

Even if you don't want to attend a lower ranked safety law school, I recommend that you apply to a couple of such schools so that you hopefully receive a significant scholarship, and can then push yourself on the value of other admissions in hand, perhaps at a higher price.  It is a helpful exercise to value your anticipated degree.  I also recommend applying to a couple of reaches because the only way you certainly won't get in is if you don't apply.  I would focus the most attention on the 50/50 range, and have the majority of schools in that category.

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