Law School Admissions: Biographical Information

    I recently recorded a web series with my awesome boss, PowerScore founder and author of the wildly popular PowerScore LSAT Bible Series, Dave Killoran. It's up on the PowerScore YouTube channel, but I thought I would post it up here, too, since it pertains directly with what I talk about on a daily basis: law school admissions. This is the first in a series of nine short webisodes that comprise the PowerScore Guide to Law School Admissions.



    DAVE: Hi. My name is Dave Killoran, and with me today is Anne Chaconas, who is the head of PowerScore's Admissions Counseling programs. Today, what we want to do is talk to you about law school admissions components. Specifically, we're going to take a look at the items on the screen [biographical information, résumé, transcripts, letters of recommendation, LSDAS Law School Report, personal statement, supplemental essays, addenda], ranging from the biographical information that law schools ask about, all the way down to who is responsible for what in the process. The one thing that we're not going to talk about is the LSAT itself. All of you have spent a considerable amount of time preparing for the test, and so we're not going to talk about the role of the LSAT within the process (we all know it's huge), although we are going to talk a little about LSDAS [Law School Credential Assembly Service] and how they affect your application and your admissions chances. So let's go ahead and get started. We'll start off by talking about biographical information. I'll turn the mike over to Anne, and let her talk a little bit about that.

    ANNE: Thanks, Dave, and hello everybody! I'm glad to be able to be talking to you today about the components of the law school application. As Dave said, we're going to start with the biographical information. Biographical information can essentially be broken down into two broad categories: the first is your résumé questions, and the second is your conduct questions. We'll talk about conduct questions on their own, because they do have a specific set of requirements that need to be met, and so we'll deal with those individually.

    As far as résumé questions go, it's essentially the questions you are asked every day on forms, or when you're applying for a job: your educational history, your professional history--nothing big there; name, Social Security number, etc. The biggest thing that you have to worry about with the résumé questions is that they have to match everything else in your application. They have to match your actual résumé, they have to match what you registered to take the LSAT with, they have to match what the Social Security Department has--everything has to match. That's the biggest thing to remember about the résumé questions.

    Now, the conduct questions are a completely different and separate entity, and you actually have to treat them as something separate. They come in three broad definitions: academic, criminal/behavioral, and military questions. I'd like to actually read you a couple of examples of how these questions look so that you know exactly what you're dealing with. As far as an academic kind of question, you would probably be asked something to the effect of, "Have you ever been placed on academic probation or have been required to withdraw from any school for academic reasons?" As far as anything criminal would go, you might be asked something like, "Have you ever, either as an adult or juvenile, been charged with or convicted of any crime, or charged with or found to have committed any offence, or are any such charges pending?" And as a military question, you might be asked, "If you have ever served on full-time military active duty, was your discharge under conditions other than honorable?"

    What you'll notice right away is all of these have to do with negative things. That's what they all want to know. And the biggest thing here is disclose, disclose, disclose. You want to be as truthful as possible; you don't want to "fudge" the truth, not even in the slightest bit. The second thing you need to be aware of, aside from being as "disclosure-friendly" as possible, is that these are the questions that will eventually lead to addendums, and that's what we'll talk about a little later on in this session [See video 8 of 9, "Addenda"].

    DAVE: Anne, let me just add in a little thought to that point that you made about disclosure. Sometimes, with certain students, you get down to these questions on your application and you think to yourself, "Well, maybe I don't really need to put all that information out there; it's kind of negative, so maybe I can play the edges and get past." As Anne said, don't do it. It's certainly an attractive idea, but the problem you run into is that, first off, you're lying--and that's a bad thing in and of itself--and secondly, if [law schools] find out, they literally have the power to throw you out of law school or they can withdraw your offer of acceptance. If you're in law school, they can simply ask you to leave. Even all the way down when you're an attorney, [the ABA] can put you under sanctions, and so you really don't want to mess around with this. You would be amazed by how long this information will follow you--they don't throw this out when they're done and they've accepted you. They keep all this information. So, ultimately, if you decide that you're going to play around with your answer a little bit, you're putting yourself at risk all the way down the entire career you're trying to get into. I realize that some things you don't want to come out, but you have to if they ask about it.

    Now, also, you can look at the letter of the question: some questions ask you if you've been convicted, some ask you whether or not you've been charged or convicted, and so you can look very carefully at what they're saying and make a determination. If you were charged with something, but not convicted, and they don't ask about what you were charged for, then you don't have to disclose that. If they ask whether you were arrested or charged, then you do have to admit that, if that's the case. There's nothing wrong with adhering exactly to what [the question says], but if they've asked you for something, you have to actually respond to it.

    As with everything, when you go ahead and actually submit your application, you put a certifying statement on there that says, "Yes, indeed, I have gone ahead and told you the truth." One thing that certain applications, I'm looking at the NYU one here, will say is: "I understand that omission or misrepresentation may be the basis for denial of admission, rescinding of an offer of admission, dismissal from the law school, or revokation of the NYU Law degree." That's pretty brutal. All of a sudden it's 10 years down the road, it turns out that you lied about something, and here's NYU knocking at your door, saying, "By the way, that degree that you have from us? You can kiss that goodbye." We don't want to over-emphasize the importance of this, but we certainly want you to understand that this is something that you cannot play games with. The information that you provide in these applications will follow you around and you really want to make sure that, if there's something that you need to disclose, that you go ahead and disclose it.