Negative letter of recommendation is application killer, Kaplan survey says

Nearly 90 percent of law school admissions officers report they have received a negative letter of recommendation about an applicant, according to a survey of admissions officers by Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions.

A word of warning: Aspiring lawyers need to be more careful about who they call as their own character witnesses for their law school recommendations.

According to the new survey from officers at 145 law schools across the United States, 87 percent say they have received a negative letter of recommendation about an applicant. Fifteen percent report that a poor letter of recommendation is actually the biggest application killer.

“While your LSAT score and GPA are by far the most important factors in your application, letters of recommendation do factor in, and what these results show us is that students need to be much more self-aware about who they choose to advocate for them in their applications,” said Howard Bell, executive director, pre-law programs, Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions. “First rule: Do no harm. Only ask for recommendations from people who like you personally and think highly of you.”

Still, 64 percent of admissions officers report that an applicant’s LSAT score is the most important admission factor. GPA placed second with 23 percent.

The Kaplan survey also reports that 73 percent of admissions officers have discovered claims on an applicant’s application to be “exaggerated or untrue.”

Also in the Kaplan survey:

  • Debunking a common myth: 84 percent of admissions officers say those who claim the undergraduate school as their alma mater have no advantage in the admissions process over applicants who do not.
  • Law school applications continue to climb: 56 percent predict an increase in applications this year, while only 6 percent predict a decrease, 25 percent predict application numbers to remain flat, while 13 percent were not sure.
  • It’s the economy: 75 percent say the lagging effects of the recession are responsible for the recent and predicted application increases.
  • High LSAT score = financial aid: 73 percent of admissions officers testify that a strong LSAT score “very much” helps an applicant receive merit-based aid.