How to Handle a Law School Application Mistake

If you find a typo after submitting your materials, there may still be time to fix the error.

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A businessman puts his head in his hands.

It is the moment every law school applicant dreads: You finally submit your last application, you sigh with relief, and then, suddenly, as you are clearing papers off your desk, you see it. A typo in the second line of your personal statement or a missing word in a bullet on your résumé.

You feel nauseous. Does this mean you will not get into law school?

Luckily, the answer is no. While you should, of course, do everything in your power to ensure there are no mistakes in your application, if you do find an error after submission, you may be able to fix the problem—or you may not even need to.

[Get tips on applying to law school.]

If you realize the mistake quickly, call the admissions offices at all of the law schools to which you have applied, and ask very politely if you can substitute the document with an updated version. There's no need to specify the error; you do not need to specify that you used the wrong there, their, or they're, or that you put an extra "o" in lose.

In nearly ten years of LSAT test prep and law school admissions counseling, I have seen no evidence that asking to replace one document affects admissions decisions in any way.

If the admissions committee has not started reviewing your application yet, they will typically allow you to submit the new document by sending it to a general admissions E-mail from which it will be matched to the application you submitted electronically. Check the new version very carefully to be sure that there are no other mistakes, and double check that you are sending the edited version.

If you realize your mistake more than a week after you submitted your applications, you likely cannot fix the error, and therefore should not follow up. Still, no need to panic. Trust that one typo in an otherwise flawless application will almost certainly not be the difference between admittance and rejection. The admissions officer reviewing your application may not even notice the mistake.

One caveat to this general advice is an accuracy error, which, while often less noticeable than a typo, is actually more of a risk. Honesty and integrity are essential qualities for a lawyer, and if a law school admissions officer believes that you may have intentionally lied in your application, you may not be admitted or your application could be revoked.

Admissions committees may perform spot checks to verify everything from dates of employment to leadership positions, so if you discover a substantive mistake you should make every effort to fix it.

[See why extracurricular activities are important for law applicants.]

To avoid having to confront a situation like this, use these three tips before submitting your applications:

1. Make sure spell check is enabled when working in all your Word documents, and adjust the settings to be sure that the program is also checking for grammar. This may seem obvious, but if you have accidentally turned these tools off, you are working at a handicap.

At the same time, do not overly rely on Word to catch your errors. After all, "from" and "form" are both correctly spelled words, and the program likely will not be able to distinguish such an error.

2. Print out your entire application and proofread the hard copy. You will often see typos in print that you would not notice on the computer.

3. Enlist the help of friends or colleagues to edit your applications, encouraging them to look specifically for typos and grammatical errors so they do not get caught up suggesting potential content revisions.

What are you doing to ensure you have no mistakes or typos in your applications? Let me know in the comments, E-mail me at shawn.oconnor@stratusprep.com, or contact me via Twitter at @StratusPrep.