Spring for most undergraduates marks a frenzied search for summer internships, but a poll released Tuesday indicates for prospective law school students the yearly scramble may be overrated.
According to a survey conducted by Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions, 61 percent of law school admissions officers representing 152 law schools across the country said internships and job experience in the legal profession do not necessarily improve the chance of admittance to law school.
“I think what they’re pretty much telling us is that the LSAT is still the most important factor being considered by the law school,” said Howard Bell, executive director of pre-law programs at Kaplan.
He added after the LSAT, schools typically consider grade point average, personal statements and letters of recommendation with varying preference on each.
Mike Hall, assistant dean for admissions and financial aid at the University of Wisconsin Law School, said LSAT scores and GPA are a “big part” of UW’s final review process, adding they are only a few criterion in a wide range of factors admissions officers take into consideration.
“We strongly encourage people to work hard while in undergrad to maximize undergrad GPA,” Hall said.
He also recommended students take LSAT preparation seriously by studying and attending classes to get the best score possible.
Hall said UW Law School looks for students with strong test and academic performances, experience and background, underrepresented minorities in the legal profession and Wisconsin residency.
“We have a very, very large applicant pool and it’s going to encompass a broad range of people,” Hall said, noting that diverse experiences bring different viewpoints into the classroom.
Hall added UW Law School seeks applicants with a wide variety of experiences and said students should not be deterred from pursuing jobs and internships that interest them because of the survey. He said these experiences contribute to having a broad range of experiences and background.
According to Bell, the survey shows admissions officers view the LSAT as the strongest indicator of a student’s success in law school, but the experience and references students gain from internships and work are vital for solid letters of recommendation.
“The best thing to do is to bring the strongest broad base of application components you can,” Bell said.
Another component of the study evaluated a recent trend in which law school applicants have added law school admissions officers as friends on Facebook and Myspace. According to the survey, 48 percent of law school admissions officers have received friend requests from prospective students or know another that has.
Bell said this is only acceptable on a case-by-case basis, depending both on the law school admissions officer’s preferences and the applicant’s Facebook profile.
“I would just encourage students to do their homework,” Bell said. “You don’t want to stand out for the wrong reason.”
The survey also indicates law schools are becoming more competitive, with 65 percent of respondents reporting a rise in applicants and 82 percent of respondents reporting they will not increase the number of students admitted.