Sunday, October 30, 2011

Admissions officers do more online background checks of law school applicants than those applying to other programs.

According to a new survey from Kaplan Test Prep as reported by the National Law Journal:

A poll by Kaplan Test Prep found that law school admissions officers are far more likely to investigate applicants' digital trails than are those handling undergraduate or business school admissions.

Of the 128 law school admissions officers who responded to the poll, 41% said they had researched an applicant using a Web search engine, while 37% said they had looked up an applicant on Facebook or another social networking site. By comparison, only 20% of undergraduate admissions officers and 27% of business school admissions officers said they had done so.

It appeared that law school administrators take social media and online activity seriously — 32% told Kaplan that they had found something online that hurt an applicant's chances of gaining admission. That compared with 12% of undergraduate admission officers and 14% of business school admissions officers.

"These findings makes sense in context with what we consistently hear from law school admissions officers, which is that while admissions are based on high LSAT scores, strong GPAs and compelling personal statements, an overarching theme…is whether an applicant is able to exercise good judgment," said Jeff Thomas, director of pre-law programs at Kaplan. "Clearly, an applicant's digital trail can be an indicator of whether or not she or he possesses this quality."

The fact that aspiring lawyers must pass character and fitness tests before they are admitted to the bar, and must follow codes of conduct once they are admitted, gives law schools an added incentive to closely screen candidates, Thomas said.

Kaplan polled 869 prospective law students who took the Law School Admission Test in October, and found that 77% objected to admissions officials considering their online personas. However, just 15% said there was something online that would hurt their applications.


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