Pre-Law Preparation at UC Davis
There is no “pre-law” major at UC Davis. Law schools do not require any specific coursework or majors. Students from every major are qualified candidates to apply to law school, including the arts, humanities, social sciences ,sciences and engineering. It is important to select a major that you enjoy and will do well in academically, since the grade point average plays a significant role in the admissions process. However, it is wise to take courses that help develop the skills necessary to be successful in law school. Suggested courses are those that help develop: analytical and logical reasoning skills, composition skills, public speaking ability, understanding of human nature, knowledge of business and the economy, and an understanding of historical contexts.
The Application Process
Registration for the LSAT and the LSDAS now takes place on-line at the LSAC Web site. All of the forms that you will need, transcript request forms and the recommendation letter forms can be downloaded and you can also apply electronically through the Credential Assembly Service (CAS) on the Web.The application process includes four factors, the GPA, LSAT score, personal statement, and your recommendation letters. The stronger you can become in these four areas, the better the chance you have of getting into the law school of your choice. Two factors, however carry the most weight, the GPA and the LSAT score.
- Grade Point Average (GPA):
In determining a student's potential for the study of law, law schools often consider the LSAT score and GPA together. The GPA, on its own, can be interpreted many ways. In addition to the cumulative GPA other factors are considered such as your major, if there were external factors that brought your GPA down in a given quarter, change of academic major, or whether you had to work to pay for your education. In some cases, a high GPA can compensate for a low LSAT score. The CAS provides a means of centralizing and standardizing undergraduate academic records to simplify the law school admission process .Through CAS, grades are converted to allow law schools to uniformly compare applicants' grades earned at any undergraduate school. Most law schools use this “converted GPA” for admissions purposes. Some very important conversions to note are: the CAS averages “No Pass” grades as an “F” , “Pass” grades are not calculated, if you retake a class due to receipt of a D or F, CAS will include both grades in your GPA, and some classes are excluded from calculation of the GPA. On a positive note, CAS counts an A+ as 4.33 points, whereas UC Davis only counts it as 4 points.
- Law School Admission Test (LSAT):
A sample LSAT is available on line at the LSAC web site. The LSAT consists of five 35-minute sections and a writing sample. The five sections include: reading comprehension, analytical reasoning, logical reasoning (two), and one non-scored section. The test is scored on a scale of 120-180 points. Repeat scores are calculated differently from school to school. Some schools will average the scores, others may take the highest, others may use a formula. If you take the test a second time and the point spread is 5 points or more, a school that normally averages scores may take the higher score with a good reason for not doing well the first time.
- Letters of Recommendation:
Most law schools require one to three letters of recommendation. They should be written by individuals who know you well and can assess your ability to succeed in law school. Letters from professors or TAs carry the most weight, but internship supervisors, or employers may also be appropriate. At least one letter should be from a professor who can assess your academic potential for law school; they should also be substantial with examples as to why the writer believes you will be a successful law student . CAS includes a Letter of Recommendation service at no extra cost. You may have as many letters as you like, and you identify which letters you want sent to which school. Unless a school requires you to use the service,it is optional. For more information visit the LSAC web site.
- Personal Statement:
The personal statement is an important aspect of your admissions package. There are no personal interviews, so the statement becomes an important substitute. This is where the admissions committee determines how focused you are and what you will be able to contribute to their law school community. Your essay (usually 2-3 pages, typed, double-spaced) should include how you became interested in the field of law and what experiences you have had that confirm your interest in pursuing law. The admissions committee is also interested in knowing about your significant life experiences, whether they have been scholarly, personal or in the workplace. These experiences demonstrate growth, values, motivation, leadership, time management, and other skills which are important. This is also the place to discuss any hardships you have had or struggles that you have overcome, It would also be appropriate to address a weak academic record or low LSAT score. Remember, your statement should be concise yet interesting, well written and “personal” with specific examples. For further information refer to the “Writing the Personal Statement” handout.
Many law schools find applicants who have a variety of experiences, goals, backgrounds and work histories to be desirable candidates for law school. Be sure and let the committee know (via the personal statement) of your involvement in music, sports, sororities or fraternities, service organizations, etc. It is better to be involved in and play a significant role in one or a couple activities, rather than be a member in many with less involvement. Remember,involvement is good but not to the detriment of your GPA, especially if you also have to work. All of these types of experiences add to the uniqueness of your application.
For more information please come to the Student Academic Success Center, 111 South Hall, (530) 752-4475, and become familiar with all the pre-law advising services that are offered and make an appointment with the Pre-Law Advisor or the Law Student Advisor.