Mistakes to Avoid in Law School Applications

Law School Expert Blog

Ok, been reviewing a lot of applications this weekend so I want to tell you of some common mistakes people have been making:

1. Pay attention to whether a school wants you to list things in chronological order or reverse chronological order.
2. Don’t submit a 4 page personal statement when 3 will do. Especially when a school has a 3 page limit.
3. Don’t forget to check a school’s guidelines for their personal statement topics.
4. Don’t try to write a diversity statement if you have nothing to say. If it feels like a stretch, it is a stretch.
5. Be very, very careful about the things you attach electronically. Turn off Track Changes!!!!

Hope this helps!

301 Responses

  1. Hi Ann,
    On my diversity statement, I accidently have the page numbers off on the headers. It’s 3 pages, but I am afraid that this may discount my application, do you think I should re-email a copy of my statement with the pages correctly numbered?

  2. Hi Ann,

    If the school has a 500 words limit on the PS and I sent out a PS with 700 words because I just couldn’t cut it, will it really disadvantage my application?

  3. THIS IS WHY I need everyone to use names – here I have 2 anonymous people and it’s not clear who I am answering.
    For the 700 word person, I believe in following directions. It’s cocky to think you have more to say than anybody else… .I never have any problem getting a PS to the right length. But, that being said, it’s not the end of the world either. I hope everything else in your application is fantastic and that every word in your PS was worth it ; )

  4. Here’s a good tip for the first anonymous and anyone else making minor errors- PRINT OUT YOUR FINAL APP IN PDF form before submitting it. Mistakes are more noticeable when looking at a paper application. If you want to save paper just go to print options and print multiple pages per sheet.

  5. Hi Ann,

    As I fill out my applications, I have noticed that there are many blanks for things that aren’t applicable to me. Should I fill these blanks with N/A or is it okay to just leave them blank??

  6. Hi Mary,
    Use your judgment on this because some things would look silly with an N/A and others, if you left it blank it would look like you forgot to answer…..
    (This is why I check my clients’ applications before they are sent ; )

    Good luck!

  7. Ann,
    I need to get advice from a third person because I cannot talk about this to anyone I know.

    I am an engineer at a very prestigious technological university and I will be graduating with High Honors. During my sophomore year, I went through a traumatic experience and had to go to private counseling for a year after. Subsequently my grades that year were not what they should have been.

    I am very confused as to what to do about my application. I do not want to use what happened to me or give any excuses for my not-so-stellar performance but at the same time I do not want to lose out on admission into a good school because of the dip in my grades. Should I submit an addendum?

    Thank you,
    confused girl

  8. Hi Confused Girl,
    The answer to your question really depends upon what the underlying issue was. The general rule is that if it’s something that would not impact your performance in the future, you should point it out succinctly and professionally and credibly in an addendum. However, if the issue would raise questions about your mental or emotional preparedness for the rigors of law school then you may want to reconsider.

  9. Ann,

    Thank you so much for your immediate response, I appreciate it greatly.
    Another thing I would like to thank you for is for giving us the opportunity of asking questions anonymously.

    My traumatic experience was that I was raped and I know that might be a little too much information, but I think it be more helpful in answering my question. Being a South Asian, the attached social stigma was staggering so I was unable to reach out to my family to help me get through it. Luckily through the help of support groups and my excellent friends I was able to get out of it and am performing at my best again.

    I have kept it private for so long and I do not even know where to begin writing an addendum. I have an amazing pre-law adviser who has been helping me with the application process but for obvious reasons I am absolutely unable to divulge this information to him which is why I am thankful for this opportunity.

    Do you think it would hurt my chances of getting in if I admitted to counseling and what happened to me?

    Thank you,
    confused girl

  10. Dear Confused Girl,
    I appreciate your bravery in addressing this issue and I do think it should be mentioned – if its not your PS topic then it is absolutely appropriate in an addendum to put your undergraduate work in context.

  11. First, thank you so much for this blog!

    Secondly, I have a well documented learning disability. Despite my best efforts and letters of appeal written by my doctor, I have been rejected for MUCH needed extended time on the December LSAT. I have a pretty strong GPA (3.77), but I have been scoring in the low 150s to high 140s on every practice LSAT I’ve taken.
    Would it be appropriate for me to submit an addendum and/or a letter from my doctor explaining my disability so this is hopefully taken into consideration when evaluating my [likely embarrassing] LSAT score?


  12. Hello Slow Reader,
    That might be appropriate, especially if you were given extra time on exams in college.
    Did LSAC tell you there was any additional documentation you could provide to be reconsidered? If so, pursue it to the end – be an advocate for yourself. Good luck!

  13. Hi Ann,

    I am very worried.

    I made a boo boo in my Personal Statement. I used too, instead of to. Will they notice? Will it make a huge difference?

    If so should I ask to send a corrected essay?

  14. Hi Ann,

    I made a boo boo in my personal statement.

    I accidentally used the word too, instaed of to. I am so worried. What are the chances they notice? Would that be a make or break?

    Should I call and ask them to let me replace the essay?

  15. Call and see if you can send a new version…. Then send it with a nice little cover letter.
    For safety schools, this will not break your application. And, in reality, if this is the worst thing in your file then it’s pretty darn good overall…. I’ve seen a lot of disastrous application files as a director of admissions….

  16. Hi Ann,
    I have a sort of weird question– I was enrolled in college for from 2003- Spring 2007, then spent a year working on an undergraduate thesis while not at all enrolled in classes (I did technically have an incomplete that year for my indepdenent study “class”). I got my degree in May 2008.
    I’ve worked full-time since Jul 2007.
    On my dates of attendance, do I put 03-07, or 03-08? I want to list my post-college work experience as starting in 7/07, but I’m afraid it will look like I’m trying to be misleading. I know they should be able to figure this out if they see my transcript, but I don’t want to seem dishonest.
    Also, is it worth writing an addendum about this?
    If you’d prefer not to answer, I totally understand. Thanks so much either way for all the great advice on this blog!

  17. Hi Lindsey – thanks for reading. Either a 1 sentence addendum or a footnote on your resume should take care of any concerns. Good luck!

  18. Hi Ann,

    Currently I am enrolled in an MA bioethics program that I hope to complete in one year (typically an 18-24 month program). My question is two fold:

    1) Should I make note of the fact that I am completing the program quicker than usual?

    2) To what extent does a graduate degree count in the application process? Can it off set such things like a lower undergrad GPA (3.36)?

  19. Hi Tom,
    It can be useful to point out how quickly you’re finishing the program, and there are several appropriate options for doing so.
    While your UGPA will be what is used for index purposes by the school and is what “counts”, your graduate work may be a “plus factor” in your application materials if you stress it effectively.

  20. Ann,

    I made a really stupid mistake on my application, and somehow checked ‘female’ instead of ‘male’. Should I call my contact in the admissions office and let them know? Also, will this completely discount my application?

    Dumb Guy

  21. Dear Dumb Guy,
    I feel like there might be a “punked” camera on me…. this is definitely not a question that I’ve answered before, so you win bonus points there.
    Um, yes. correct the mistake.

  22. Hi Ann,

    Thank you so much for your blog. I recently submitted an application to a school before thoroughly checking the school’s admissions website. I submitted my application with blanks but the school requests that you put “N/A” for questions that do not apply. Should I contact the school about the mistake? Should I send a new application? Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

  23. Hi Lauren,
    I know, those schools get you with the website instructions that aren’t on the application, don’t they?
    Call the law school to confirm if you’re really worried, but this is BEYOND minor and is not the reason you won’t get into school. You’re probably the only person that even noticed that instruction : )
    Call the school and see if your application is considered complete even though you left those blank. If not, ask them how best to correct the situation.

  24. Hi Ann,

    I made a pretty silly mistake. I misspelled Summa cum laude on my resume. I know the irony is quite entertaining, but I’m worried about the implications this will have on my applications. I spelled it with one “m”. Should I resubmit a corrected copy of my resume? Will it count heavily against me?

  25. Zoola,
    I caught one of my clients making the exact same mistake just last week!
    For safety schools, forget about it. For others, send a new version of your resume and ask them to replace it (or at least add it) to your file. You get points for trying.
    Good luck!

  26. Ok, Send the new resume in hard copy form to each school’s admissions office? With a cover letter explaining the mistake? Should I mention the mistake?

  27. Good morning,

    I have a question concerning addenda. After taking the October LSAT, I wanted to improve my score and decided to retake the exam in December. The day before the exam, I suffered extreme abdominal pain which precluded me from performing to my best ability. I canceled my score, and ten days after the exam, went through a major surgery.

    Should I write about this in an addendum to my schools? The point I want to get across is that I could have improved, given the higher scores I was receiving on practice tests, but that this severe illness (which resulted in surgery) prohibited me from doing so.

    I’m concerned that they won’t be convinced that I could have improved significantly, if at all. On the other hand, this seems like a specific situation I would want to address.

    Thank you so much in advance for your advice!


  28. MK, I think your surgery makes your reason very credible and is worth mentioning in an addendum.
    Good luck!

  29. Hi Ann,

    I made a really dumb mistake. I accidentally filled in my graduation date as 06/08 on the common app form, and it populated all of my apps that day. My dates of attendance are right (08/03-06/07), but the grad date is wrong. I sent this to harvard, columbia etc. Should I be terrified? What should I do?


  30. Katherine, don’t be terrified but do correct the mistake. Send each law school an email with the correct date.

  31. Hi Ann,

    I too made a dumb mistake — I listed one of my LSAT test dates as 10/03/08, when it should have been 10/04/08.

    Is it worth e-mailing the schools to clarify?


  32. Hi Ann,

    Thanks for your help!

    In general, though, do schools count “Correction” emails as a mark against you?

  33. Hi Ann,

    I have a question, I have applied to a law school which Im very eager to get accepted to (its my #1 choice) and I think I have a great shot at it. Because Im so eager to hear back I have already called once on the application status and was informed they haven’t made a decision yet… is it okay for me to call back again and ask again a few weeks later (I dont want to seem to noisy etc).

  34. Insanely quiet, some schools are just faster than others in getting back to people. I don’t know when you applied, but so long as you know your application is complete, just hang tight and be patient…. No reason to call unless months go by…

  35. Hi Ann,
    I got a 165 of the Oct LSAT and a 173 on the Dec LSAT. Should I include an addendum in my applications concerning the first score? My only excuse would be related to stress and under performance.


  36. Hi John,
    That’s a pretty significant jump. You should explain it, but a 1 sentence explanation is probably sufficient.
    Congrats on the high score.

  37. Hello Ann,

    Although I proofread my application three times, I did not sign it until I submitted the application electronically. I just reviewed my app, again, and realized that I entered the wrong date! It reads 2008 instead of 2009. Should I call the admissions office, or will it bring unnecessary attention to my mistake.

    Living in the past.

  38. Hi Ann,

    I am super stressed out by this process. I proofread my application three times for each school and dated the electronic app when I submitted the form. I just noticed that in 3 of my applications (Harvard, Penn, and Stanford) I wrote 2008 instead of 2009 in the signature section of the application. Should I call the admissions office correcting this mistake or will it draw unnecessary attention to my mistake.

    Thank you for your advice in advance.

    Living in the past

  39. Pablo, I feel for you! Really!
    I would just send a simple one sentence email explaining the mistake in the date and leave it at that…..

  40. Hi Ann,

    I recently sent out a couple of applications with my work resume attached instead of a law school resume. Will this affect my chances of being admitted in a major way?

    Thanks in advance.

  41. Hi Ann,

    Would you address an increase from 144 to 156 on the LSAT? If so, to what detail should I go into.

    Thanks for your time and consideration.

    1. Hi Buffsfan,
      I would ABSOLUTELY address that increase. It’s huge. The amount of detail depends upon the circumstances. Law Schools don’t need to know you just broke up with your boyfriend, or overcame a nervous breakdown…. sometimes less is more. A sentence or two about additional preparation methods or an illness is a good idea.

  42. Hi Ann,

    I attached an addendum to my application where I explained that the recent passing of a friend played a large part in my lower-than-expected LSAT score. I also used this as part of my personal statement.

    In the addendum, I accidentally said that her passing occurred less than a week before the LSAT administration when it actually was about 2 weeks prior. Seeing as how I addressed the date in my personal statement, I was wondering what the most appropriate form of communication would be in contacting the law school: E-mail vs. phone?

    Additionally, I’m starting to have second thoughts on my personal statement now as I briefly mentioned her passing in the addendum… do you think that was overkill?

    Thank you so much for you time and I appreciate that you are willing to take time out of your day to help others with their law school questions,

    1. Hi Jenny. Yes, it might’ve been overkill. Just email the schools and tell them in a sentence or two that you used the wrong date and tell them the right one. It’s no big deal to have that small an inconsistency….

  43. Help Ann!!!!

    I am afraid my prior brush(es) with the law will depict me as a cop-beating, arrest-resisting, druggie alcoholic that only pepper-spray can control…And that is NOT ME at all…

    The first arrest was in Feb 2003- My friend picked me up at school to give me a ride home, and made the stupid mistake of smoking marijuana in the car. Undercover cops saw him, stopped and searched the car, and we were arrested & charged with 3 counts Paraphernalia (Misdemeanor), Possession of Marijuana (Misdemeanor) and suspected Possession of Cocaine (felony). The cocaine charge and 2 counts paraphernalia were subsequently dropped when we asked for trial by jury, and the remaining charges were Nolle Pros (I completed a drug class for Pre-Trial Diversion).

    The second arrest was in November 2006 in Australia (while studying abroad). I was riding my scooter home from bar and was followed by 2 cops. When I got into my gated parking lot and parked, they told me i was being arrested for ‘Drink Driving.’ I didn’t feel it was justified b/c there was no sobriety test or breathalyzer or any other means of determining my level of intoxication, and I made this known to the police officers. So they handcuffed me and charged me with Obstructing Justice. I made a REALLY bad choice and slipped my hand out of the handcuffs (instinct? reaction? stupidity.). It was at that point that both officers emptied their canisters of pepper spray on me (a completely non-threatening 5 ft girl), added a charge of ‘Assault of an Officer,’ and threw me in back of the paddywagon. I made sure to get my court date changed b/c I was coming back home the next month. I went in front of the Magistrate, and was convicted for ‘Drink Driving’ but nothing else (upon payment of a fine).

    Am I now limited to one of those non-accredited online law schools because of those 2 incidents!? Does the Bar care about/check international records? Is there anyway to explain without sounding like I’m making excuses/blaming? Should I leave out the pepper spray so it doesn’t sound like I was going buck-wild? Can I say something to the likes of “While I sincerely regret my bad judgment and wish I could take it back, it did teach me an important lesson: The law is fluid. I neglected to make myself familiar with the Australian laws that would affect me as a driver, and for that I take full responsibility.”

    Sorry this is 38534859 years long, but I wanted to give all the details!!! Eagerly awaiting your judgment,

    -Not Guilty

    1. Dear Not Guilty, Assuming everything else in your file goes to maturity and sincerity and purpose, I don’t count you out of going to a good law school. It’s all in the presentation. You will obviously need an addendum to your applications, and you may want to consult with an admissions consultant on this. (I tell my clients that nothing shocks me anymore after helping people explain arrests; yours are especially not shocking – I promise).

  44. Ann,

    I made a bad LSAT grade last month. I really want to make my PS great so I can still be accepted into law school. Should i explain why my scores were so low?

    1. LSAT Challenged, if your current LSAt won’t get you in the door at the law school you’re applying to, then no explanation is going to make up for that. That’s the honest truth. Your PS is not the place to discuss your LSAT scores (unless a school specifically states that’s where they want you to discuss it).

  45. Ann,
    I made an error on my application where they ask if you know anyone who has attended the law school. I erroneously put a name down who attended the Grad school not the law school. If there is a way to fix this, how should I go about doing it?

  46. Dear Ann,

    Though I looked over my application 20 times before sending it, correcting the most minor typos, I missed something major. I listed my last taken LSAT as 01/10 instead of 10/10. Also, on my resume, I listed one of the dates as 09/07 instead of 06/07 and stated that I was abroad from 07/07-09/07.

    Do you think I should write to the law schools to correct this? It was to my #1 choice and I really don’t want to look bad for such a stupid, stupid mistake on my behalf.

    Hope to hear your reply soon,


  47. hey ann, i took the lsat in october and did terrible, i was ill and had serious family issues at the time, however i am retaking in december and know i will do much better. should i submit my apps now or wait till my score from the lsat in december comes in. i have heard the sooner you submit the better, but i want them to look at my second score as well. will they wait on it even if i submit?