Application FAQs

Do you have a question related to applying? You may find the answer you're seeking here.

What's the best subject to major in if I want to go to law school?

Because there's no Pre-Law major and no specific major is required for law school, many students wonder “What should I be studying to prepare myself?” A good way to address this question is by reviewing what the American Bar Association recommends for students preparing for legal education. Use this resource to help you assess which skills you're already developing through your major and which ones you can improve by taking other coursework.

The best major is one that suits your strengths, involves a great deal of reading and writing, and challenges you to build critical thinking skills. We have worked with successful Pre-Law students from every major on campus, from Art Education to Music to History to Marketing to Electrical Engineering, and everything in between. You really CAN major in anything and go to law school! 

Regardless of the major you choose, you should:

  • Improve your study skills and discipline—you will need them in graduate school.
  • Keep a careful eye on your GPA. You must do well academically in whichever major you choose.
  • Challenge yourself by taking a wide range of interesting coursework.
  • Move up to upper-level courses by your junior year. Don't pad a junior or senior year GPA with lots of 100 level courses; law schools see through this.
  • Work on your writing as much as possible. You will need those skills in law school. 
  • Read a wide variety of material inside and outside of the classroom.

For a more in-depth discussion, review the Choosing a Major and Course Planning sections of our website, and visit the resources listed there. We also talk about majors extensively in our Pre-Law 101 workshops.

Should I go to law school in this economy?

When the job market was strong and law school wasn’t such a big investment, attending law school was a low-risk venture. In today’s world, law school is a significant investment, and the legal job market is less stable. Choosing to attend law school is a very complex and personal decision, and as with any significant investment, it's a decision that should be made carefully. Law school isn’t the best choice for everyone, and it probably never was.

Law school might not be the best fit for you if:

  • You don’t want to practice law. After all, law school teaches you how to be a lawyer. If what you want is to run a business or work for a nonprofit, there are other paths to those careers.
  • You don’t really know what you want to do. For these individuals, getting some work experience is usually the best way to discover what you do or do not want in a career.
  • You don’t really know what lawyers do. Many law school graduates are surprised at the hours, the paperwork, and the financial challenges of running a law firm. Have you spent any time with lawyers? Have you asked them about their jobs? Do you understand both the benefits and drawbacks of practicing law in various settings? Do you know why you may be a good fit for the legal profession?

However, if you understand the realities of the legal profession and know what you want to do, this can be a great time to attend law school for the following reasons:

  • With the volume of applications down (as compared to 2009-2010 pools), applicants are getting into more great schools with more financial aid than in the past. This fluctuates from year to year.
  • While the legal market is generally not expected to return to its glory days, some legal areas are actively growing. For example, as energy needs continue to increase, energy law will continue to be in demand, as will patent and technology fields. Job opportunities in some geographic areas are expected to grow as more baby boomers retire.
  • All the media attention on law school debt and employment rates has made applicants much more savvy consumers. As a result, students are taking the financial investment of law school much more seriously than in the past, taking on less debt and budgeting more carefully.
  • The investment of a law degree can pay off over the course of a lifetime career.

If you're bright and motivated, have a realistic picture of the legal profession, want to practice law, and are careful about the investment of law school, this can be a great time to go to law school. Businesses, governments, and nonprofit organizations will continue to need talented legal minds.

When should I apply to go to law school?

Most schools have rolling admissions, which means they will start accepting applications in September and will continually admit students until their classes are full. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you apply early in the application cycle—ideally, September through November. This puts applicants in the best position for admission and for scholarships offered by the law school.

Did you know that more law school applicants graduated from undergrad 1 or more years ago than people who applied to go straight through to law school? Most applicants will work for one or more years before applying to law school. Work experience can be valuable, especially for schools that express a preference for candidates with a professional background. Working for a few (or more) years before law school can be a great way to save money, determine whether the path right for you, or explore other opportunities (like Teach for America) before committing to a legal career.

For more information on when to apply, check out our Pre-Law Handbook.

What's the Credential Assembly Service, and why does it change my GPA?

This is a very popular question, and we have some very good resources to help you understand it.

What is it?

The Credential Assembly Service is an online account through which you'll store transcripts and letters of recommendation, and eventually complete your law school applications. This service is required by law schools and administered by the Law School Admission Council. Their website contains helpful information about the Credential Assembly Service and how it works.

Once you register for the Credential Assembly Service online, you 'll set up an account, and through that account you'll receive detailed instructions walking you through each step of the process.

How does it change my GPA?

In an effort to make all candidates comparable, the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) will review your transcript and will recalculate your GPA, including this recalculated GPA on your LSAC Law School Report (though your official University of Illinois GPA doesn't change). The report will be submitted to law schools to which you apply. This process is explained on the LSAC website. One positive for students is that the LSAC will calculate any A+ grades as 4.3 rather than 4.0, resulting in a GPA boost for Illinois students who earn an A+.

Note that we're not affiliated with the LSAC and cannot answer questions about your LSAC or Credential Assembly Service account. Specific questions about your account should be directed to LSAC by calling their Candidate Service Representatives.

How does credit/no credit look on my law school application?

As outlined above, the LSAC will recalculate your GPA. If you took a class at Illinois for credit/no credit and received a credit, that class will appear on your transcript but will not be included in the calculation of your LSAC-generated GPA.

If you took a class at Illinois for credit/no credit and received no credit, the LSAC will count this as an F and will factor it into your LSAC-generated GPA accordingly. It does not matter that the University of Illinois doesn't include that no credit result in your Illinois GPA.

It's fine to take one or two classes credit/no credit for law school as long as you earn credit. However, more than two classes taken this way can make a law school dean wonder if a student is trying to slack off by not having to work for an actual grade. Remember that you want to demonstrate to a law school that you can perform well in a challenging academic environment. 

How does grade replacement affect my law school application?

The University of Illinois created a grade replacement policy in fall 2010. This policy allows students who meet certain criteria to retake a course and replace the original grade with the new grade. (For information about grade replacement at Illinois, review our Student Code). Note that although your Illinois GPA will replace the first grade with the replacement grade, the LSAC GPA will include both grades.

Let’s say Mike took Math 220 (5 credits) at Illinois in fall 2012 and got a D+. He decides to retake the course in spring 2013, gets approval for grade replacement from his department, and receives a C in the course this time. Mike’s Illinois GPA would only calculate the C from the second Math 220. But when Mike applies to law school, his LSAC-generated GPA would calculate both the original D+ and the C.

You can't hide a low grade from a law school admissions dean by retaking a class. They'll still see that low grade and incorporate it into your overall GPA. Therefore, most students would be better off taking a different class that suits their strengths rather than retaking a class that they found very difficult. Unless you need the class credit for your major or minor, or you need to understand the material because it's a foundation for other required courses, Pre-Law students are generally better off not re-taking a course in which they have performed poorly.

It's important to speak with your academic advisor about the pros and cons of retaking a course so that he or she can help you understand all relevant factors. Visit this blog post for more discussion of grade replacement and law school. 

Will I get into my dream law school?

Law school admission is very dependent on the quality of the applicant pool in any given year. For this reason, it depends.

The good news is that our 2017 data show that Illinois student and alumni law school applicants are accepted to law school each year at rates far above the national acceptance rate for applicants. (For even more applicant data visit our Compass page.) 

However, it's important to understand that law school is still a competitive process. Demand for law school seats hasn’t fallen so much that LSAT scores suddenly don’t matter. Whether you'll be accepted to a particular school is dependent upon many factors, including GPA, LSAT, work experience, transferrable skills, writing ability, and the applicant pool.

Your best resource is to compare yourself to the last entering class by using the Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools. Here, you can search by your GPA and estimated or actual LSAT score to estimate your likelihood of admission.

How do I write my personal statement?

Many students find that writing the personal statement is the hardest part of applying. Our first piece of advice is: Do not procrastinate. This isn't a piece that's best written in the wee hours of the morning and turned in last minute.

There's no magic formula to determine what to write. Your personal statement should be just that: personal. It's your opportunity to tell a law school why they should admit you over 10 other people who all want that seat in the class. Take the opportunity to highlight your strengths. What makes you different from the rest of the pool? What do you hope to achieve with a legal education? How are you going to make this school glad that they admitted you? What will you add to the legal profession?

For more information, review our tips. In addition, we've created a personal statement workshop to help give you some ideas about how to get started. For more information and to register, view our calendar. Our blog also contains many articles, tips, and resources about writing an effective personal statement.

We also suggest that you check out our Pre-Law Handbook and the university's Writer’s Workshop.

On my applications, do I really have to disclose the underage drinking ticket I received?

Yes, you really do. Law school applications will ask applicants to disclose any citations, violations of the law (sometimes including traffic tickets), and academic dishonesty or probation. They might also ask other relevant questions about your character. This is partly because they want to know the type of people who will be representing their school for the rest of their lives, and partly because the Board of Admissions to the Bar will thoroughly investigate your character before allowing you to take the bar exam.

Failure to disclose the tickets you've received (or any other relevant information the questions ask of you) reflects poorly on your integrity and judgment, both of which are critical when practicing law. You can be reprimanded by the law school or even questioned by the Board of Admissions to the Bar, which can ask why you did not disclose the information on your law school applications. You've selected a profession that demands respect for our legal system. It's fair that you are asked to demonstrate this to law schools and the Board of Admissions to the Bar.

Read more information about disclosures and misconduct in the admissions process.

From whom should I request a letter of recommendation?

Consider the purpose of the letter: to demonstrate that you have either the academic strengths or the personal qualities that indicate you'll be successful in law school and beyond. For this reason, many law schools express a preference for letters of recommendation from professors (or graduate assistants as a secondary preference) who have taught you in college. The key is that your recommenders have been in a position to evaluate your work and assess your intellectual strengths.

If you've been out of college for more than two years, most law schools will understand that it will be difficult for you to track down your old college professors, but it's still a good idea to try to obtain one. Alternatively, if you're in a graduate program, you should consider asking one of your graduate school professors to write a recommendation. If you're employed, consider asking your boss to write a recommendation.

Letters of recommendation from state senators, friends of the family, and judges or lawyers who know you socially are generally not considered to be very helpful, unless you worked for that person and he or she can assess your professional or intellectual strengths in an unbiased manner.