Having some of the best law schools in the world, it is not uncommon for The U.S. to be inundated from all over the world applying to pursue their law degree in one of these schools. It is typically a smooth process for most academic fields, especially the sciences, however, for international students that process for applying to a law school might have its challenges, more so if the English language is not your first language.
There are three things that once you know them, can really assist in paving your path on the law school application process.
1. The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is not really understanding what you read
2. Your language disadvantage can be turned into an advantage
3. Your Grade Point Average (GPA) might be actually better than you think
As stated the LSAT is not just about understanding what is written, in the world of standardized testing in the graduate school system, the LSAT is different and special, as it based on reading passages that are quite long – sometimes in excess of fifty lines – with the additional pressure of completing it within a given time period. This would definitely be a disadvantage for those that are not native to the English language, as their training in reading English would not have been extensive.
A common mistake that is made by students preparing for the LSAT is that they need to memorize the entire passage and they typically pay the price for it, more so those that are relatively new to speaking English. Rather than try to memorize each line, you should briefly read the passage once or twice to grasp the concept of the topic, then glance through the questions to determine which sections should be focused on in the passage. Focusing on sections in the passage that aren’t going to help answer any of the questions would be very pointless.
It is well known that the sections dealing with reading and understanding in the LSAT is quite difficult to prepare for, it would be beneficial for persons that might have the challenge of the language barrier, to focus on the logic section of the test, as this would make it easier to overcome the issue with the language barrier as it’s much easier to focus on short rather than long passages, plus these sections outnumber the reading and understanding sections. Additionally, these logic sections aren’t focused on testing your vocabulary or your reading speed but focus more on your attention to detail and logic, which when compared to language skills should be more transferable.
Your language disadvantage can be turned into an advantage. Most persons that English is not their native language are very wary of the application process for law school for several reasons. For example, the personal statement that each student is required to complete is the schools’ initial glimpse into the writing skills of the applicant, this is very significant for the school, so applicants that don’t speak English as a first language may worry that they won’t be on par with their English speaking peers. While this might actually be true, it can be made less severe by allowing another person – preferably one that English is the first language – to review the essays and highlight any errors or other issues that they come across.
It is important to note that this perceived disadvantage can be reversed in your application. In your travels to the U.S. is it without a doubt that you would have encounters and experiences that those who grew up in the United States can not share or the environment or culture in which you grew up lend itself to unique perspectives on the U.S. and current world events. Law school cherishes diversity and it is these unique qualities that you would do well to discuss during your personal statements, they would truly set you apart from the others.
In addition, being from a family that initially migrated to the U.S. in search of the ‘American Dream’ and you happen to be the first in a long line of generations to be able to pursue higher education, then ensure that you utilize the various opportunities that are available to first-generation applicants, that range from fee waivers to scholarships.
Your Grade Point Average (GPA) might be actually better than you think. Many applicants from other countries make the assumption that their GPA is simply calculated by conversion – they assume that once graded on a scale of 0 to 100 then they divide that GPA by 25 and their arrival at the equivalent to their U.S. counterparts – or that a B in their native land is simply taken at face value and seen as a B in the U.S. However, this is not the case, as the grading systems in many countries varies and the Law School Admission Council takes this into account and has derived a system that would adjust all grades to be fair.
Although the LSAC may not publicly divulge the conversion system and its details, it does account for the more strenuous grading system around the world. For example, using Israel, a student with an 85% GPA would be recognized with honors and the LSAC takes note of that and realizes that it would not be fair to convert that honors student into a B student. However, don’t sit back and relax and wait for the LSAC to do the work for you; ensure that included in your application is an appendix that detailed the difference in the grading systems and pleads with the law school to review your transcripts in light of this.