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Career Education

Vassar College

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Pre-Law/Law School

At Vassar, pre-law is handled by the Center for Career Education, with additional support from a faculty pre-law advisor. Students and alums are supported at all stages of the pre-law advising and law school application process.

The Center for Career Education has a variety of resources available to help students determine their interest in the study of law, identify schools that fit, and find opportunities open to them after law school.

Curriculum recommendations

Although Vassar has special offices for assisting students interested in law school and a legal career, it does not recommend a special pre-law curriculum. Unlike medical school, there are no specific courses required or suggested for entry into law school. Instead, law schools want students with a broad liberal arts education and a demanding major, not those who have taken a particular series of courses. We recommend that students study fields that genuinely interest them rather than those they think law schools would like to see. The key to a successful pre-law study is to take a wide range of courses, develop a sophisticated understanding in one area of concentration, do well in all subjects, and continue to challenge themselves throughout their time at Vassar. Vassar does offer courses that can help students determine how interested in law they are, but these courses should not be seen as necessary for entrance into law school.

Key skills for gaining admission to law school 

There are certain skills that the American Bar Association states are most important for preparation for law school. They are:

Creative power in thinking—the ability to do creative research, reasoning, and analysis;

Comprehension and expression in words—the ability to read, write, and speak clearly; and

Critical understanding of the human institutions and values in which the law deals—comprehending the social, economic, cultural, and political context of law and the legal system.

Vassar students interested in law should try to develop these skills through coursework. Any broad-based, liberal arts curriculum and demanding major will impart these skills. You should look for more challenging courses that ask you to participate actively in research, writing, and speaking in class.

Law school admissions standards

Most important to your gaining admission to law school is the formation of good study habits, excellence in your academic work, and scoring well on the standardized law school Admission Test (LSAT). Grades provide a short-hand indication of the quality of your work, and the higher your grade point average, the better your chance of gaining admission. Similarly, law schools strongly emphasize scores on the law school Admission Test (LSAT). This test is meant to test your preparedness for law school by determining how well you read and how well you reason; it measures skills developed over a long period of time. 

Law school recruitment

Each fall, several law schools host in-person and virtual information sessions to speak with students planning to apply to law school. Since interviews are not granted to applicants at most law schools, these visits present an opportunity for students to have personal contact with admissions officers. Admissions officers can get to know Vassar students, and students can learn more realistically if a particular institution is the best place for their law studies.

Pre-Law workshops and alum-connected programming

Throughout the year the CCE works hard to provide students with valuable workshops and alum-connected programming. Our goal is to bring insightful and useful information to law-interested students. Workshops aim to provide insight into specific topics that can help students succeed in their application process and beyond. Our alum-connected programs are one of the best ways to meet Vassar alums who have gone through this process and are working in the law/legal field currently.

Advising

Students are also encouraged and urged to speak with the Center for Career Education or Associate Professor and Chair of Philosophy Jamie Kelly about their interest in law school and/or the application process. Pre-law advising appointments can help at every moment of your law school application process. Meet with the CCE’s pre-law advisor on anything from planning to making your post-acceptance decisions.

Pre-Law Periodical

The CCE sends out a periodical newsletter dedicated to students interested in studying law. This newsletter contains information such as application tips, events, workshops, job and internship opportunities, and much more! To receive updates regarding pre-law at Vassar and law-related events of interest, complete your profile in Handshake and update your “Career Interests.” We recommend filling out all of the sections, but to receive pre-law emails you should select ‘Legal & Law Enforcement’ in the ‘Which industries interest you?’ section.

Law School Application Timeline

The following timeline will help you plan ahead and meet deadlines as you apply for law school. Keep in mind that dates and deadlines vary depending on programs and schools.

It's important to know that law schools typically have rolling admissions. Most law school applications will open in September. Applicants should ideally aim to submit their applications by late October or mid-November at the latest. Below is a timeline of what you should be doing before September to prepare to apply to law school:

January before the application year

  • Create your LSAC Online Services account.
  • Read up on the Law School Admission Council’s LSAT & CAS (Credential Assembly Service).
  • If you plan to take the June LSAT (recommended), begin preparing for the LSAT:
    • Take the sample test on a timed basis.
    • Order additional practice materials from LSAC or purchase supplemental guides from other vendors.
    • Consider whether you want to take a preparatory course.
    • Allow approximately 3–6 months of dedicated study time(10-15 hrs/week)LSAT.

May before the application year

  • Register for the Law School Data Assembly Service (CAS) (via your LSAC Online Services account).
  • Register for the June LSAT or begin studying for the September/October LSAT (see preparation suggestions above).

June before the application year

  • Take the LSAT; or, begin studying for the late September/early October LSAT.
  • Approximately three weeks after you take the LSAT, the CAS will e-mail your LSAT report to you, indicating your current test results and the results of any previous tests for which you registered in the last five years.
  • View the Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools. Identify schools that meet your specialty criteria, read their literature/review their websites, and begin reviewing their applications.
  • Use LSAC’s school search feature, where you can input your GPA and LSAT score and sort schools by likelihood of acceptance.

July before the application year

  • Request official copies of your transcript from the Registrar’s Office and from every college you have attended (even if you were not awarded a degree). You will also need to provide a Transcript Request form from your CAS. You will need to submit both the transcript forms back to the registrar to finalize the request. If you are sending a transcript before completing your degree, you will likely also be asked to provide a final transcript at the end of your last semester.

August before the application year

  • If you have not already taken the LSAT, register online for the late September/early October LSAT. Continue to study!
  • Review LSAC's Letters of Recommendation page online to learn your options regarding general and/or school-specific letters.
  • Begin thinking about your personal statement. Review selected school’s applications to get a sense of what questions you will be prompted to answer.
  • Most schools do not require a school-specifc LOR, but in some instances, it may make sense. For example, if one of your letter writers is an alum to the school you are applying to, you may want them to reference that in the letter.  Review the Letters of Reference section in the LSAT for more information on letters of recommendations
  • Begin to request letters of reference, and give recommenders guidelines for writing law school references. This includes encouraging your writers to be specific and unique with what they are writing about. Your goal is to have 3 letters of recommendation that showcase three specific details that make you a strong candidate for law school. Allow your recommenders ample time (two months) to complete their evaluations by the deadline.

September/October of the application year

  • Attend on-campus law school informational meetings and fairs. Consider attending the law school Forums sponsored by LSAC.
  • Check each application and determine what references are required. Law schools may require a dean’s form (college questionnaire or certification). Determine if you must provide a dean’s form for each educational institution attended (undergraduate and graduate) or from your degree-granting undergraduate institution only. The Dean of Studies will complete this form.
  • Finalize your applications and essays.
  • Complete and submit applications by mid-October.
  • Check the status of your CAS file online to be sure that all of your undergraduate transcripts have been received and the CAS summary has been completed. Check the biographical and academic information carefully and report any inaccuracies to the CAS.
  • If you were unable to take the late September/early October LSAT, register for the December exam. Note that the time between the October and the December test administrations probably will not permit you to receive October scores before the December registration deadlines. If you have to wait for December test scores to select your schools, note carefully the application deadlines.

November/December of the application year

  • Many law schools send acknowledgments when your file is complete. If you have not received an acknowledgment within nine or ten weeks from the time the application should have been received, inquire about its status and follow up on any problems

January of the application year

  • Undergraduates should send fall semester grades to the CAS. If your file is active, CAS will send an updated report to the law schools (see LSAT & CAS Information Book).

February–April of the application year

  • Acceptances and rejections begin to arrive, although some schools with rolling admissions will notify you of your status earlier.
  • When you begin to receive your decisions, we can continue to be a resource to support you through the decision process. From help navigating waitlists to walking through scholarship negotiation, the CCE is here to help you through the entire process.

Keep in mind, when the law school application process coincides with senior year, students often don’t anticipate how time-consuming the process will be. Keeping up with the demands of academic work and a thesis should be the first priority for all students. Vassar has an excellent track record for law school admissions and every year approximately 60 candidates seek admission. The vast majority of those candidates are alums. So whether you decide to attend law school immediately following graduation, or at a future date, career services, and pre-law advisement will continue to be available to you. Vassar for a lifetime!

Researching Law Schools

There are several resources available to assist prospective applicants in identifying law schools of interest and determining where they would be a competitive applicant:

Visit LSAC’s Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools to identify schools that meet your specialty criteria, read their literature/review their websites, and begin reviewing their application requirements.

The Wilson-Stern Book of Law School Lists (7MB) is a helpful resource for students and alums looking to pursue specialty degrees and programs; it lists all of the schools that offer combination degrees (i.e., dual degree programs like a Ph.D. in Economics and a JD).

Several resources available can help students and alums identify schools that are appropriate to target based on GPA and LSAT scores. The LSAC helps applicants see where they might be competitive based on their GPA and LSAT scores.

Law school application materials

LSAC is the gateway to the entire law school admission process. While students and alums applying to graduate school must typically submit individual application packets to each school, LSAC has a Credential Assembly Service (CAS) that streamlines the admission process: you only have to send your transcripts, recommendations, and evaluations to LSAC one time.

It is important to get your application in as early as possible if the law schools you are applying to have rolling admissions or early decision opportunities that you wish to capitalize upon (so long as it does not come at the expense of the quality of your application).

Standardized tests

Registering for the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is the beginning of the process for most applicants. The LSAT is held 9 times a year, so it is important to schedule your LSAT date to allow plenty of time to obtain your score before any of your law school application deadlines. When registering you can decide if you would prefer to take the test in person or remotely. A majority of tests are now taken remotely in the location of the test taker's choosing. The following official LSAT website provides you with specific information on test content, dates, and locations. You will receive your LSAT score by email approximately three weeks after taking the test. Exam scores are usually valid for 3 to 5 years, depending on the school.

An alternative standardized test that is accepted by most schools is the GRE (Graduate Record Examination). In most cases applicants choose to take the LSAT, but in cases in which applicants are searching for a dual degree such as a MBA/JD program or if they are applying to both graduate and law school at the same time.

Essay/personal statement

The purpose of the personal statement is to articulate your goals and reasons for applying to law school. Discuss how your background and qualifications have prepared you for law school and show evidence of your motivation to succeed. Personal Statements should represent your best writing efforts and be proofread carefully. Successful essays often go through many drafts and revisions.

Our Writing the Personal Statement publication provides more detail on personal statements and prompts to help get you started. The CCE is available to review drafts of personal statements/statements of purpose (and any additional application materials) before your application deadlines.

Resume or CV

Come by the CCE or download a copy of our Resumes & CVs Guide for assistance. Stop by the CCE during drop-in- hours (1:30-4pm M-F) to receive feedback on your resume/CV draft. Schedule an appointment with a Career Counselor to ensure that it is polished before you submit your application.

Transcripts

Request official copies of your transcript from the Registrar’s Office and from every college you have attended (even if you were not awarded a degree). You will also need to provide a Transcript Request form from your CAS. You will need to submit both the transcript forms back to the registrar to finalize the request. If you are sending a transcript before completing your degree, you will likely also be asked to provide a final transcript at the end of your last semester.

Letters of recommendation

Most law school applications require 2–3 letters of recommendation, but applicants should always check each school’s specific requirements.

When asking someone to write a letter of recommendation, do so in person if possible—and be sure to ask your recommenders early in the application process. Only ask individuals who know you well enough to write a meaningful reference. Provide your recommenders with appropriate details such as a transcript, resume/CV, an example of your class work, any accomplishments, special projects, or promotions, and any relevant details on the law schools you are applying to. Letters that are detailed and specific are usually more valuable to your candidacy. Your goal is for each letter to highlight a specific detail about you that would make you successful in law school. It is ok to help the writer frame what they will be writing to ensure you are getting a diverse perspective of your abilities.

Addenda

An addendum is not required but is sometimes justified to include in a law school application. An addendum is a brief note to the admissions committee explaining (not excusing) why there is some type of discrepancy in your application. For example, did any personal issues impact your performance during a semester or perhaps you had extreme differences in your LSAT Scores. Even in a case in which you have slight disciplinary record that you may and should speak to. We highly recommend that you err on the side of disclosure. Work with a Pre-Law Advisor to draft and edit addenda before submitting them to ensure they are appropriate.

Interviews

Some schools will require an interview for acceptance. Remember that the goal in any interview is to communicate to the interviewer that you are ready for and excited about their law school.

Law school interviews can take various forms: one-on-one meetings, group interviews, campus/faculty visits, panel interviews, and/or phone/Skype interviews. Here are some general guidelines to help you prepare before a graduate and professional school interview:

  • Do your homework: Know the school, the program, and the faculty, especially those that you want to work with while in the program. There was a reason why you applied to this school and chose this field—recall why and convey that during the interview.
  • Know your goals: Consider whether your goal is to teach, to do research, to go into industry, etc. Really think about what areas of law you are interested in or what stands out to you about the courses this particular school offers.
  • Review your transcript: Be aware of “glitches” in your transcript and be prepared to explain them. In addition, remind yourself of commitments outside of academia that may have contributed to making you a strong candidate to succeed in graduate school.
  • Practice: Schedule a mock interview with the CCE or an appointment to discuss interview strategies so you are more prepared for the interview.
  • Prepare questions for the end of the interview: Most likely you will be given a chance to ask your own questions. Ask meaningful questions that demonstrate you have researched the law school and field carefully, as well as ones that show you’ve been listening to the interviewer. It's also appropriate to ask when you can expect to hear from the admissions committee.
  • Be prepared to answer the following questions:
    • Tell me about yourself.
    • What do you know about our program and why did you choose to apply to our program?
    • What other law schools are you considering?
    • How have your previous experience and academic background prepared you for law school?
    • How will you make a contribution to this field?
    • What are your professional/career goals? How will this program help you achieve those goals?
    • What areas of law do you think you might be interested in?
    • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
    • What do you believe will be your greatest challenge if you are accepted into this program?

Law School Outcomes

Vassar students and alums are regularly accepted into some of the top law schools in the country.

Law school application demographics

On average, more than three-quarters of Vassar applicants to law school are alums. While alums compose the greatest proportion of applicants from Vassar, they are not a homogenous group. Alums can include recent graduates or career changers who have significant life experiences or other advanced degrees, often making them strong candidates in the application process. About 45% of Vassar applicants are alums 1–3 years out and 40% are alums more than 3 years out. Seniors going directly to law school comprise just 15% of Vassar applicants in a typical year.

Law school acceptance rates

Vassar applicants fare exceptionally well in the law school application process. The acceptance rate for Vassar applicants is routinely above 85%, and about 15 percentage points higher than the national average.

Top law school destinations amongst Vassar applicants

In the past 5 years, Vassar applicants matriculated into each of the following top law schools:

  • Columbia University
  • Duke University
  • Harvard University
  • New York University
  • Northwestern University (Pritzker)
  • University of California, Berkeley
  • University of Chicago
  • University of Pennsylvania (Carey)
  • University of Virginia
  • Stanford  University
  • Yale University

The most popular locations for Vassar alums to attend law school at are New York, Massachusetts, Washington, DC, and California. The following are the most popular law schools (by frequency) where Vassar alums matriculated in the past 5 years:

  • Brooklyn law school
  • CUNY
  • Columbia University
  • Fordham University
  • Georgetown University
  • George Washington University
  • New York University
  • Seton Hall
  • UC Berkeley
  • University of Michigan