The LSAT Enters the Digital Age

Mia Carpiniello, Associate Director

After 71 years, LSAT-takers will put down their #2 pencils for good. Starting this summer, the Law School Admission Test will transition from a paper-and-pencil test to a digital exam administered on the Microsoft Surface Go tablet. To familiarize applicants with the digital format, the Law School Admission Council has created a Digital LSAT Tutorial. In addition, there is an extensive list of FAQs about the digital LSAT on LSAC’s website.

When is this High-Tech Change Happening?

The first digital exam will be administered at the July 2019 test when approximately half of test-takers will be assigned the tablet test and half will be assigned the traditional pencil-and-paper test. After July, all exams will be digital.

To accommodate this transition with the July 2019 LSAT, those who take the July test will be given the opportunity to cancel the test after viewing their score. (Normally, you can only cancel a test before receiving a score.) If a July test-taker decides to cancel their score, they may take one additional LSAT through April 2020. Note that as with all cancellations, a July 2019 cancelled score will be reported to the law schools as a cancelled test.

Beginning in September 2019, all LSAT exams administered in North America will be digital.

What About the Writing Sample?

You might be wondering how the writing sample – the unscored, written section of the LSAT – will be affected by this transition to digital format. This section is changing in two ways starting with the June 3, 2019 test – so even before the digital LSAT is introduced. First, as you probably already guessed, the writing section will no longer be hand-written. Test-takers will now type their essays in a secure, online platform. Second, the writing sample will no longer be administered on test day. Instead, test-takers will complete the writing sample on a computer or laptop on their own, up to one year after their LSAT test date. For more information on the writing sample, check out these FAQs.

If you want advice about when to take the LSAT, we’re here to help! Schedule a pre-law advising appointment through Handshake or by calling our office at 215-898-1789.

Crafting an Effective Law School Resume

Mia Carpiniello, J.D., Associate Director

With the law school application season upon us, I thought our prior blog post on crafting an effective law school resume would prove helpful to our current applicants. So, read on below! And don’t forget to also check out the two sample law school resumes provided on our pre-law website (, which will serve as helpful guides to you as you prepare your own law school resume.

Your resume is one the several components that ultimately comprise your applications to law school.  Many students (and alumni) at Penn usually have some kind of resume in their possession – some are very up-to-date (for those actively applying for internships, jobs, or fellowships) and others have not seen a substantive update since high school graduation.  While some applications will ask you to list your most significant experiences directly on the application, there are often only a few lines to do so and the expectation is that you keep that brief and prioritized.  With that in mind, your resume is actually a very important aspect of your law school applications since, for many schools, it is the only opportunity to list and describe all of your activities, achievements, and involvements in full detail.  Law school admissions committees are very interested in how you spend your time and energy outside of class, so it is essential that you create a strong, accurate, and flattering portrayal of yourself on your resume.

There are several ways, however, that distinguish a law school resume from the aforementioned resume you might use in job or internship applications.  In addition to the two sample law school resumes I have provided for your reference on our pre-law website (under Law School Application Components), here are five (relatively) easy steps in converting the latter into the former.

  1. Stop cramming everything in.  Since law school admissions committees want you to use your resume to represent a full picture of your involvements, the days of eight-point fonts and 0.2-inch margins are gone.  In fact, most law schools will happily accept resumes that are 1-2 pages in length.  That’s right, your resume can finally be longer than one page for these purposes.  With that in mind, clarity and readability is critical.  So, widen those margins (to 1-inch) and increase that font size (to at least 11-point font… 12-point font is great, too) and feel free to increase the spacing between entries as well.  All of your terrific achievements and activities will be much easier to read and admissions officers will thank you for that.

  3. Stop leaving things out.  Now that you have 1-2 pages, you can (and should) feel free to revisit older drafts of your one-page resume and include the less significant, but certainly important experiences that didn’t make the final one-page-resume cut.  In fact, it’s important for law school admissions committees that you account for your time – both during the academic year and over the summers – so, again, they can see the full picture of who you are and what you have done as a candidate.  So, that summer that you worked as a lifeguard or a waitress or a camp counselor – that can now reside on your law school resume as well.
  4. Toot your (academic) horn.  After all, this is an academic program to which you’re applying.  Your Education section should be complete and detailed and, without exception, the first section that appears on your law school resume.  This is also the space to provide any academic highlights that might not appear directly on your transcript, like the title of your Senior Honors Thesis or detail about your study abroad program, to draw the admissions committee’s attention to your scholarly accomplishments.  On the same note, if you have accumulated any academic honors – Dean’s List, Honor Society inductions, Departmental Prizes – it is recommended that you create a separate section on your law school resume that enumerates and, if necessary, explains them.  You can title this section heading something like Honors and Awards, for example, and this section should also directly follow your Education section for consistency.

  6. Give extracurricular activities equal real estate.  Law schools are filled with innumerable student groups and organizations and, perhaps unsurprisingly, law school admissions committees are very interested in filling their incoming classes with active and engaged students who will contribute to their vibrant student life.  So, your participation in extracurricular involvements in college – especially those activities in which you ascended to leadership roles – is highly relevant and interesting to admissions committees, as are your more professional experiences.  You should treat your extracurricular and leadership activities with the same level of detail and depth on your law school resume as you would, say, your summer internships.  Provide the dates that you were involved, descriptions of your activities and responsibilities, the positions/titles you held and, of course, make sure that these campus activities have their own appropriate section heading.

  8. Say good-bye (for the most part) to high school.  Law schools are interested in the adult version of you and, as a senior or an alumnus/a, that will largely not include activities and honors from high school.  That’s not to say that, if you had a few significant experiences and/or prestigious accomplishments before coming to Penn, that you couldn’t still list them on your law school resume.  But those should not be more than a few (1-2) and should be chosen thoughtfully.  If you had a significant leadership in a high school club (President, Founder, etc.), achieved a distinctive honor (Valedictorian, Class Speaker, National Merit Finalist, etc.), or substantively participated in a significant activity outside of high school (lab research, summer internship, etc.), then you still might consider including them on a law school resume.  But, it’s time to delete that you were the Secretary of the French Club in your sophomore year of high school.  And please delete your high school GPA, however impressive it is (and was, at the time, to the Penn Undergraduate Admissions Office).


The AAMC’s Aspiring Docs Website: A Reliable Online Resource for PreMed Students

Mia Carpiniello, Associate Director

If you’re thinking of applying to medical school, you may find the Association of American Medical Colleges’ Aspiring Docs website helpful. With fact sheets, Ask a Med Student videos, and Ask the Experts Q&As, this website provides detailed information on becoming a physician from multiple perspectives. Moreover, the Aspiring Docs Diaries blog and the Inspiring Stories interviews reveal the personal journeys and perspectives of individual pre-med students, medical students, residents and physicians.

So, in addition to meeting with your pre-med advisor in our office, we encourage you to check out Aspiring Docs for reliable information as you explore pursuing a career in medicine.

To Take a Gap Year or Not to Take a Gap Year? That is the (Common Pre-Med/Pre-Dental) Question.

Mia Carpiniello, Associate Director

Are you considering taking time in between college and medical or dental school? You’re not alone. Taking a “gap year” or even multiple “gap years” before embarking on professional school has become increasingly popular. Students often wonder what they can or should do during their one or more gap years. There are many options, as the list of 2015-2016 gap year experiences on our pre-med website indicates.

Ultimately, the decision whether or not to take a gap year is a personal one. The pre-health advising team in Career Services is here to talk through this decision with you as you plan for medical or dental school. In the meantime, check out this interesting article from The Atlantic about one person’s decision to take a gap year before starting an MD/PhD program.

Practical Learning At Its Best

Josh Oppenheimer – COL’13, MPA ’13, L’16

It’s usually hard waking up at 4:30 in the morning. But, not when you have to catch a train from Philly for a meeting in Washington . . . at The White House.

During the fall semester of my 3L year at Penn Law, I enrolled in an administrative law class that examined how the various federal agencies in our government operate, and what – if anything – could be done to make them more efficient. My class had previously spent a day in Philadelphia, meeting with Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) from the Social Security Administration and counsel for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 3. Now, we were off to meet with policy leaders in our nation’s capital.

While I knew that the administrative state was large and bureaucratic – cue the presidential candidates listing which agencies they would eliminate if they were elected President – I never knew how large it really was. Our first stop was on Capitol Hill, where we met with staffers working on administrative reform bills. Sometimes, sweeping change needs to come from the top, which is why Congress is currently debating how best to reign-in what some call “rouge” agencies.

Sometimes, though, effective change must arise from within.

After our meetings on Capitol Hill, we traversed Pennsylvania Avenue and – once passing through the black gates at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue – met with an official in the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. OIRA – as it’s more commonly known in the “alphabet soup” that makes up the D.C. lingo – is itself an agency that oversees and keeps in line the countless other federal agencies. That’s right, there’s an agency for the agencies! Like a coxswain on a crew boat, OIRA is tasked with making sure agencies’ policies line-up with one another and that the federal bureaucracy stays in-sync with itself.

As we finished up our day and headed back to Union Station to catch our train, I (almost literally) ran into a man whose old office we had just left. Peter Orszag, the former director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), used to supervise OIRA’s day-to-day activities. An agency overseeing an agency overseeing lots of agencies…Oh, Washington.

Though it looks like it will take more than a simple nudge to reform our administrative state, I am so fortunate that Penn Law appreciates not only the need for theoretical-based classes where we learn through textbooks, but also practical, hands-on experiences that come when we get outside the classroom, whether that be through scheduled meetings or serendipitous occurrences waiting for our train.

Josh and Orszag