6. What do you look for in recommendation letters? How important is it that the letter's writer has worked regularly with the candidate in an office or school setting? Do you put much weight on letters from prominent public figures who may not know the applicant well?
We like recommendations that are from teachers who not only know the student well, but who also are willing to make comparative judgments about their intellectual qualities. Supplemental recommendations from work or internship supervisors can also be helpful if they address the qualities that are important to success in law school. Unless an applicant has had an extended and direct working relationship with a public figure, it is unlikely that such a person would be able to provide a helpful recommendation.
7. Can you give a brief description of the life cycle of an application? What's the timeline applicants should expect?
We collect all of the required elements of an application before anyone reviews it. Once the application becomes complete, it is reviewed by at least two members of our admissions committee. If further discussion is necessary, the application might be referred for further review by additional members of the committee or by the committee as a whole. For our early action applicants, they can expect a decision by the middle of December. For our regular pool applicants, by mid-April. For applicants who are placed on our "reserve" or "waiting" lists, the timing of things will be more extended, possibly even into the summer months.
8. Which firms/organizations recruit heavily from your school? Which ones hire the highest percentage of your graduates?
We are visited by the full array of employers in the legal profession. This includes not only the top large firms from around the country and the world, but also smaller and mid-sized firms, government agencies, and not-for-profits. A significant percentage of our graduates also are employed a judicial clerks with both federal and state court judges.
9. What are some of the most common mistakes that applicants make that hurt their chances of being accepted?
Most applicants don't make mistakes in their applications, particularly if they are true to themselves and let the facts speak for themselves. If we do see mistakes, they often arise from the notion that applicants have to "do" something in their application to make it stand out. Sometimes applicants understand this in such a way that it causes them to resort to contrivances that really only serve as a distraction. Applicants should try hard to avoid ever having an admissions committee ask the question whether to admit them "despite" something that was included in their application.
10. Can you describe the archetypal student for your school?
At Cornell, we like people who are genuinely excited by intellectual engagement but who are also willing to have some fun and not take themselves too seriously.