How to Get In: University of Pennsylvania Law School

What can you do to set yourself apart in your application? Admissions officials have the answers.

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We are also known as a pioneer in cross-disciplinary legal education. Our faculty collaborate with colleagues across the University, and our students may enroll in joint-degree or certificate programs at other Penn schools. Students may also choose to take up to four classes toward their J.D. at other Penn schools. Even within the traditional legal curriculum, students easily gain cross-disciplinary exposure; 70 percent of Penn Law faculty holding advanced degrees in fields in addition to law, making it nearly impossible for our students not to learn the law from multiple perspectives. We believe that our cross-disciplinary pedagogical approach provides the best preparation for lawyers who will increasingly enter a marketplace where the boundaries of traditional legal issues blur, and the ability to critically evaluate and synthesize diverse perspectives will be among a lawyer's most important skills.

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?

Recommendation letters provide an additional source of information—and perspective—about the strengths, skills, and experience an applicant will bring to the Law School. Applicants should think strategically about who they choose to write their letters of recommendation. The most important criteria is that the recommender knows the applicant well and can speak directly to the applicant's academic or professional skills and strengths; a letter from someone who is well-known to the Admissions Committee, but knows little about the applicant, is of little value. We always suggest that applicants provide their recommenders with as much information as possible, such as an academic paper, current résumé, and a clear explanation of why the applicant wishes to pursue a legal education.

With those criteria in mind, candidates applying directly from college or a year or so out of school should submit at least two letters from faculty members. If a candidate has been out of school for a number of years, professional letters are more helpful. Our Admissions Committee will consider as many as four letters of recommendation. This allows applicants some flexibility to select recommenders who can speak to different facets of their background: academic, professional, or community leadership, to name a few.

7. Can you give a brief description of the life cycle of an application? What's the timeline applicants should expect?

Each year we receive more than 6,000 applications for our first-year class of approximately 250 students. Every application is read in its entirety by two members of the Admissions Committee and, in some cases, by three, four, or even five members of the Committee.

We begin the application review process in the fall, focusing first on Early Decision applications and conducting a preliminary reading of other applications. Early Decision applications are due by November 15 and must be completed by December 1. The Admissions Committee, in turn, notifies each Early Decision applicant of a decision by December 31. Regular Decision applications are due by February 15, and decisions are made on a rolling basis from early January through the spring. It generally takes two to four weeks from the date that we receive an application to process and complete the file. Once an applicant's file is complete, it is placed in the queue and evaluated by the Committee on a rolling basis. The evaluation process typically takes eight to 12 weeks from the date on which the application is completed, though some decisions are made much sooner. Throughout the process, candidates can track the status of their application though the Law School's online status checker.

8. Which firms/organizations recruit heavily from your school? Which ones hire the highest percentage of your graduates?

Our students are sought after by a wide range of organizations, from government, to public interest, to private sector, to traditional law firms. Many students spend their first year after graduation in judicial clerkships and then work in firms or practice in the public or government sectors. Several years post-graduation, many graduates have proceeded to in-house careers or leadership roles in the business and non-profit sectors.