We posed questions to admissions officials at the Florida State University College of Law regarding the application process, what they look for in applicants and what sets their school apart. These are their responses:
1. What can applicants do to set themselves apart from their peers?
At Florida State University College of Law the admissions committee relies on the personal statement in the application to provide the necessary information that will distinguish one applicant from another. All other factors equal, an effective, well-written personal statement can make an application stand out. The committee is looking for applicants whose personal experiences and backgrounds will enhance the cultural, experiential, and intellectual diversity of the student body. Additionally, an applicant that communicates a knowledge of or familiarity with our faculty through the personal statement, and expresses a desire to work with our faculty in a specific area, can set themselves apart from other applicants.
2. What do you look for in the application essay? What does the essay tell you about a candidate?
The admissions committee looks for the personal statement to be a well written, engaging representation of the applicant that explains what makes them unique. The committee looks for the applicant to fully utilize the number of pages allowed for the essay to communicate traits not found on the transcripts or résumé. It is truly a personal statement in nature and as such should include content relevant to the applicant's life, goals, struggles, triumphs, and how those elements have prepared them for law school.
The essay communicates to the committee not only what is evident in its content, but also several other things. The applicant's attention to detail is also communicated through the essay based on the length of the essay, proper spelling and grammatical correctness.
3. How important is the applicant's LSAT score? How do you weigh it against undergraduate GPA and work/internship experience? Which of these carry the most weight? The least?
The LSAT score is one of the most important factors in the application, followed by the undergraduate GPA. These two factors combined make up a significant portion of the application strength. Related work or internship experience can add to the strength of the application; however, it will not hold more weight than the LSAT and undergraduate GPA.
4. How much does prior work/internship experience weigh into your decision making? What's the typical or expected amount of work experience from an applicant?
An applicant with a strong LSAT and undergraduate GPA who also brings significant work experience to the table typically significantly increases the strength of their application. The committee does not hold an expectation that an applicant coming straight out of undergraduate studies will have work experience. Participation in an internship while in school is not required, but successful completion of an internship while maintaining strong academic standards is a positive addition to an application.
5. 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?
The admissions committee looks for letters from faculty members who taught the applicant or from someone who knows the applicant very well, such as an adviser. The committee looks for details regarding the applicant's aptitude for success in the study and practice of law based on close observation of and interaction with the applicant in an academic setting. If an applicant has been out of school for an extended period of time and obtaining academic letters of recommendation is not possible, then letters from employers that can attest to the applicant's aptitude for success are acceptable. Letters of recommendation from individuals who are personal family friends or have not worked directly with an applicant either in an academic or employment setting do not strengthen the application.
6. Can you give a brief description of the life cycle of an application? What's the timeline applicants should expect?
Florida State University College of Law has a long application window each cycle. Our application window opens on September 1 and closes on April 1. We have a rolling admission process based on the strength of the application and admit applicants beginning in October through May each year. Before an application can be reviewed by the admissions committee, it must first be complete and meet all the requirements set forth on our application in terms of documentation. Once an application is complete, an applicant can expect that their application will be reviewed by the committee within two to three months of the completion date. Once the committee reaches a decision on the application the applicant is notified of their decision in writing by mail.
7. What are some of the most common mistakes that applicants make that hurt their chances of being accepted?
The committee looks for an application to be thorough, to adhere to the guidelines and requirements set forth, and to be free of errors. The most common mistakes the committee sees occur in the personal statement. These errors include grammatical and spelling errors, a personal statement that is not long enough, and submitting a personal statement that is clearly intended for another law school as part of the application. Another area where applicants need to follow the guidelines and requirements set forth is in answering any questions pertaining to academic discipline or law violations. These questions require full disclosure and official documentation and sometimes an applicant fails to fully disclose the information in the application or provide the necessary documentation. Academic and law violations can cause an applicant with an otherwise strong application to be denied. Violations disclosed after an applicant is admitted may result in a revocation of admission, as well as difficulty obtaining admission to the bar.
8. What sets you apart from other schools? What can students gain from your school that they might not be able to find anywhere else?
Students consistently tell us that our attentive, dedicated faculty of experts is what makes their law school experience so outstanding. Our professors are regarded as experts in the national legal community. Their scholarship is noted for its quality and impact, as well as its quantity: our faculty regularly ranks in the top 30 most downloaded law faculty on the Social Science Research Network, with our tax faculty in the top 15. Additionally, law schools nationally use books written by our faculty in subjects ranging from environmental law to tax law.
Stimulating, day-to-day interactions between our students and faculty characterize the collaborative atmosphere at our law school and often lead to lasting professional relationships after our students graduate. Because of our liberal arts orientation, we place great value on close working relationships among students and faculty. Having a liberal arts orientation also means that our students have a special relationship among themselves. Our students have a strong sense of community. They are proud of our law school and of one another. They are confident in their successes and are competitive without being cut-throat.
Our alumni are highly engaged with the law school and as a result we have extremely high placement rates as well as high alumni and student giving rates. This year, 81 percent of current students made cash gifts to the law school, and in recent years our alumni have had one of the highest giving rates in the country. We believe this demonstrates a high level of connectivity with a very satisfied and successful alumni base.
9. Which firms/organizations recruit heavily from your school? Which ones hire the highest percentage of your graduates?
Law firms, state and local governmental agencies, courts and public interest employers all recruit our graduates. More of our graduates work in the private sector than anything else, and 10 percent work in business and industry versus a traditional law job.
10. Can you describe the archetypal student for your school?
At Florida State University College of Law, our students come from a spectrum of majors and a variety of cultural and experiential backgrounds. Our current students represent 34 states, 16 countries, and 181 colleges and universities. We have students with extensive backgrounds in the arts, social sciences, and hard sciences, including a classically trained pianist, professional ballerina, fashion designer, engineers, political advisors, accountants, teachers, and service men and women. The archetypal student at Florida State University College of Law will appreciate and help to continue our collegial, supportive environment where students are competitive without being cutthroat and will be a strong and enthusiastic supporter of our school.