We posed questions to admissions officials at the University of California—Berkeley School 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?
We use a holistic review process to screen several hundreds of applications, culled from thousands we receive each year. Many of these have very similar or identical grades or LSAT scores. A well-written, substantive personal statement is often the only way an applicant can indicate the factors that set him or her apart from the rest. Other factors that could possibly distinguish applicants are a graduate degree, significant work or leadership experience, or mastery of a creative pursuit.
2. What do you look for in the application essays? What do the essays tell you about a candidate?
It is important that our classrooms be composed of students with a diverse array of experiences and life backgrounds. Therefore, the best essays describe the "voice" that an applicant will contribute to classroom dialogue. We also look for strong writing skills and attention to detail, which the applicant can illustrate in a lengthy personal statement.
3. How important is the applicant's LSAT score? How do you weight it against undergraduate GPA and work experience? Which of these carry the most weight? The least?
In brief, academic record, LSAT score, and personal statement/recommendations each comprise about one-third of our review.
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?
Although not required, work and internship experiences can differentiate the applicant from others. About 60 percent of our students held a challenging job or internship, or pursued a graduate degree or creative endeavor for at least one year after graduating from college.
5. What sets you apart from other schools? What can students gain from your school that they might not be able to find anywhere else?
At Berkeley Law, our students and faculty share a collective commitment to a broad public mission. We are driven to excel academically, but we are also determined to channel our tremendous resources to benefit society.
We're nestled within the UC—Berkeley campus, one of the world's finest research universities. That concentration of intellectual wealth offers our law students incomparable opportunities for pursuing their passions, wherever they may lead.
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?
The best letters are typically from professors or teaching assistants who taught the applicant in college and who can comment on his or her intellectual curiosity, integrity, collegiality, and so on. The next best letters come from supervisors or colleagues from a work or internship setting. Letters from prominent public figures, relatives, or friends of the family carry little or no weight.
7. Can you give a brief description of the life cycle of an application? What's the timeline applicants should expect?
Applications for admission to the first year of the J.D. program are accepted during the fall and winter, between October 1 and February 1. Applicants should apply as early as possible, preferably before Thanksgiving. We make admission decisions on a "rolling" basis, which means that there are more admission offers available early in the cycle.
8. Which firms/organizations recruit heavily from your school? Which ones hire the highest percentage of your graduates?
Many of our graduates are employed at large private law firms across the country. Others pursue public interest or government employment helped in large part by our enhanced Loan Repayment Assistance Program, which provides up to 10 years of unlimited support for repaying law school student loan debt.
9. What are some of the most common mistakes that applicants make that hurt their chances of being accepted?
The most common mistakes that applicants make are: 1. Not reading our application directions carefully, 2. Applying just before the application deadline, and 3. Using a template personal statement culled from a book.
10. Can you describe the archetypal student for your school?
Our students are exceptionally bright. But we look for equally important qualities, including respect for others, maturity, and purpose. We look for people who are entrepreneurial, adventurous, and vibrantly engaged in life.