Inside BC Law’s Admissions Process: A Q&A With Dean McShay

Applying to law school is no easy task. You have to gather a number of recommendation letters, study for the LSAT while you are either in school or working, and craft the perfect narrative for your personal statement. In short, you need to figure out how to paint the best picture of yourself for an unknown admissions team.

The Impact blog previously did a series on tips for making your law school application stronger (see below links), but we thought it would be even more helpful to get the inside scoop on the BC admissions process from Assistant Dean Shawn McShay. Dean McShay has been overseeing admissions at BC for over four years, but has nearly twenty years of experience in law school admissions.

Here are Dean McShay’s responses to questions he receives from prospective students time and time again:

What is the admissions process like at BC Law?

Our process goes through a number of stages. We typically receive over 5,000 applications for a class size of around 250. Right now, we are in the middle of the recruitment process where members of our admissions team are out on the road meeting students at various fairs. This takes place from September to mid-November. Around mid-October, the evaluation process begins where the whole team begins reading files. We have a number of eyes looking at each application but do our best to make a decision within three to five weeks. Students also are able to check the status of their application online. In the spring, we focus more on showcasing the school through marketing efforts, hosting students at Admitted Students Day, and encouraging prospective students to visit campus and sit in on a class.

Can you provide a little more information about the evaluation process?

The first set of eyes reviews your application to ensure no parts are missing. For example, if you are missing an addendum, a member of my team will reach out to you and request it. Once your application is complete, it will go before the admissions committee, which is comprised of professors, members of career services, reference librarians, and of course, the admissions team.

Every person reviewing an application has a different approach and may put more weight on some factors over others. For example, a career advisor might be looking for marketability, while a professor may be more interested in the perspective that can be brought into the classroom.

My personal approach to reviewing an application is this. I start with the resume to get a sense of what the applicant has done prior to this point in time. I look at the applicant’s skills, hobbies, awards, work product, etc. In short, the resume sets the premise for everything else I am about to read. Next I move to the personal statement where I hope to learn something beyond the resume. My advice is to use your personal statement to tell your story and treat it like an interview. Once the narrative is brought home through the personal statement, I then look at the candidate’s credentials. The academic record is the marathon and the LSAT is your point-in-time performance. It’s always my hope that these credentials further illustrate the person I thought I met through the resume and personal statement.

BC Law does not use a point system in our review process. Like most law schools, we take a holistic approach in evaluating each application. Mostly, I want to see a certain level of sincerity come through the application. I want to know that you want to be at BC, that you can do well at BC, and you will go on to represent BC positively once you graduate.

A final piece of advice: because BC’s admissions are rolling, I would suggest getting your application in early. We have more flexibility in the early stages of our cycle to take chances on students who may not have the top credentials. Anything before the holiday break is considered an early application in my book.

Speaking of credentials, does BC look outside of its LSAT/GPA range?

LSAT scores are an important factor in the law school admissions process, and at BC Law they have a direct effect on scholarship amounts and eligibility. When combined with your undergraduate performance, the score can often serve as a good indicator for how a student will perform in the first year of law school. Now, that is not to say students don’t ever outperform this metric, because they do. This is why we build a class utilizing a wholistic evaluation approach where we can incorporate each student’s unique perspective and accomplishments into the decision-making process.

How does the waitlist work, and how can a waitlist applicant increase his or her chances of admission?

Our office tries our best to be extremely communicative with waitlist applicants. We recognize how stressful the waitlist process can be, which is why we periodically provide updates throughout the process. For example, we’ll send out emails after each of our deposit deadlines to give these applicants a better sense of that year’s cycle.

If you are on the waitlist and BC is your top choice, I encourage you make this clear to us. Come visit campus, meet with a member of our team, and continue to show interest throughout the process.

What advice do you have for non-traditional law school applicants?

We have plenty of non-traditional law students at BC. I honestly wish I could age the class a bit! But we are in a college town so I don’t think that will be happening anytime soon.

My best advice for you is to visit campus, sit in on a class, and see if this environment makes you feel comfortable. I think you will realize everyone in the classroom, regardless of age, shares a common passion for pursuing justice in some way. Students build off each other’s experiences, and a broad age range brings more perspectives into the classroom.

I do receive a number of questions from non-traditional law school applicants about letters of recommendation. Simply put, get your letters from the best source. Be mindful of the narrative you are creating through your application and figure out what component is missing. Use your best professional judgment when selecting your recommenders, whether it’s a professor, employer, supervisor at a volunteer organization, or someone else.

Links to last year’s “Preparing for Law School” series:


Courtney Ruggeri is a 2L student at BC Law. She loves to hear from readers–contact her at ruggeric@bc.edu.

One thought on “Inside BC Law’s Admissions Process: A Q&A With Dean McShay

  1. Pingback: Inside BC Law’s Career Services Office: A Q&A With Assistant Dean Jen Perrigo | BC Law: Impact

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s