Reflecting a dramatic rise in the number of applicants to law school over the past few years, students crowded into Harvard Law School’s Langdell Hall Thursday to learn the secret to snagging an acceptance letter from one of America’s top law schools.
Admissions deans from Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Cornell and NYU law schools gave the eager prospective applicants tips on getting in without slapping on a bikini and making an application tape Elle Woods-style.
The deans hit on every aspect of the application process, including the LSAT score, GPA, transcripts, letters of recommendation, extra-curriculars and the personal statement.
Cornell Dean of Admission Richard R. Geiger said his school’s admissions committee considers the GPA in the context of what college the applicant attended.
He said the committee ranks schools based on the average LSAT score of the test-takers.
“Not all 3.5s are created equal,” he said.
Geiger said Cornell gives the LSAT a 20 percent weight in considering an applicant for admission.
He cautioned students not to take the LSAT a second time unless their performance the first time was impeded by extreme circumstances.
“Taking the test for the second time is like a second marriage—a victory of hope over experience,” he said.
Joyce Curll, Harvard Law School’s assistant dean for admissions and financial aid, said students who are planning to apply to more than one graduate program at Harvard will be judged independently by each school.
Curll said a student should not pick a school solely based on the immediate financial aid it offers, but should consider the loan repayment ability a student has coming from a prestigious program.
The deans advised that time off before school might be an attractive option.
Abigail S. Burger ’04 said she was not planning to apply this fall because she wants to leave her options open.
“I want to wait and see if I definitely want to get into law or if I would prefer the route of academia,” Burger said. “Through writing my thesis this year, this decision will become more clear.”
The deans also used the panel as an opportunity to tout their own programs.
The Cornell representative and NYU dean both focused on the positive aspects of their institutions’ very different locations, Ithaca, NY, and New York City, respectively.
All of the deans described the specific programs that their law schools offer, with the Yale representative focusing on public interest policy.
Yale Law School Associate Dean of Admissions Megan Barnett said Yale supports its graduates’ public service goals by providing money to them in their years after graduation—a feature several other law schools have also recently instituted to encourage students who might otherwise not be able to pursue public service law.
Barnett also pointed out that Yale Law School does not distribute letter grades, eliminating the competitiveaspect of the classroom.
Curll, on the other hand, portrayed HLS as an institution on the brink of exciting changes with a new dean.
Students at the panel said their interest in law school stemmed from many different areas.
Anna E. Byrne ’04 said the struggling economy made law school an attractive prospect for her post-graduation plans.
“I’m applying to law school because I’m interested in law but also because the job market isn’t as good as I would hope,” she said.
Ishan K. Bhabha ’04 said going to law school was always on his mind—and in his blood.
“My mother and grandfather were lawyers,” Bhabha aid. “It fits with the way I like to think.”
Most students said they were there to gain some insight about the schools and the application process.
“Although I don’t know where I will eventually go with a law degree, I’ve always found law fascinating,” said Nathan P. Lang ’04. “I’m here to learn more about each university and to get an edge up on the application process.”