We posed questions to admissions officials at the University of California—Davis 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?
Because we are striving to put together a talented, diverse, and well-rounded student body to join the law school community, ours is a holistic evaluation. We look for strong academic credentials, such as high grades and Law School Admission Test (LSAT) scores. But we also seek applicants who can demonstrate that they are dedicated, ethical, intellectually curious, and ready to learn. We like students who are leaders, who are involved in professional or extracurricular activities. We try to base our admissions decision on the whole package.
The best law students are those who took every opportunity to obtain a very well-rounded education before law school. Sometimes that means taking classes outside of your major in order to stretch yourself in other areas or hone skills that may not be used as often in your chosen field. You might go beyond what is normally required of your major department by writing a thesis or contributing to a journal of some type. All applicants will have to consider seriously who they are, where they have come from, and where they are headed.
2. What do you look for in the application essays? What do the essays tell you about a candidate?
If you apply to UC Davis School of Law, you will be asked to write a personal statement. You are given four pages to convey any information you think would be of interest to the Admission Committee as it evaluates your application. We provide no prompt; we are interested to see what you choose to write about.
Take the personal statement very seriously. If necessary, utilize this opportunity to explain discrepancies in your academic history or LSAT performance. Fill in gaps in schooling or work history. Discuss the challenges you have confronted and how you have responded to them. Again, how you choose to use this opportunity to communicate with the Admission Committee tells us almost as much as what you actually write.
Remember that your statement is a sample of your writing, so your writing skills, including basics like grammar and punctuation, will be examined closely.
Generally, we want to know who you are, what has caused you to become the person you are, how well you know yourself, and why you want to study law.
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?
There are a number of primary items in every applicant's file. They are the application, the personal statement, the letters of recommendation, and the Credential Assembly Service report that includes transcripts and the LSAT score. Each of these items is important and helps to provide us with a total picture of your preparation for the study of law. Each of these items, including the LSAT, is viewed in the context of the entire application file. For one person, the LSAT might be very important but for another applicant, its importance might be lessened by information provided in the personal statement in combination with stellar grades.
It is not possible for us to make a blanket statement about the weight given to the LSAT, although it is important for applicants to understand that they should prepare for the exam and do their best to score as highly as possible. The LSAT is the only standardized piece of the application. It allows us to compare applicants throughout the country who have taken the same exam. It is important for applicants to provide enough information about themselves, including Grade Point Average (GPA) and work/internship experience to allow us to make an informed decision.
One item alone in the application will not determine whether you are (or are not) admitted.
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?