We posed questions to admissions officials at the University of Illinois 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?
The University of Illinois College of Law seeks students with exceptional academic records, strong writing skills, demonstrated leadership ability, relevant real-world experience, great ambition, and high integrity.
2. What do you look for in the application essays? What do the essays tell you about a candidate?
Personal statements provide an opportunity for applicants to convey something special about themselves, including why they wish to attend law school, what goals they hope to achieve, what interesting experiences they have had, or what challenges they have overcome. Although every applicant's personal statement will reflect the applicant's own experiences, we look for statements that are clearly written and suggest high potential for future success.
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?
The University of Illinois College of Law assesses a range of factors when considering applicants, including the applicant's undergraduate GPA, the applicant's LSAT score, the quality and rigor of the applicant's undergraduate course of study, leadership ability, and real-world experience. Assessments are individualized, and no one factor is most or least important.
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?
Students from a variety of backgrounds succeed at the College of Law, and the collective diversity of those experiences enriches the learning environment. Some have extensive work experience, including in corporations, education, the military, or public interest organizations. Others come directly from undergraduate or graduate programs. Extensive experiential course offerings—including clinics and courses in pretrial procedure, trial advocacy, mediation, and negotiations—ensure that graduates of the College of Law emerge prepared to practice in complex legal-professional settings.
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?
The University of Illinois College of Law features an intimate and collaborative learning environment in the setting of a world-class research university. Classes are small, students cooperate inside and outside the classroom, and professors work with their doors open and value interactions with students. A dozen faculty members hold Ph.D. degrees and students may pursue top-notch interdisciplinary work in a range of fields, including economics, engineering, history, philosophy, and psychology.
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 most helpful letters of recommendation are those that speak from firsthand knowledge about an applicant's ability and future potential. In the case of academic references, letters that speak to an applicant's analytic skills, writing ability, and oral skills are particularly helpful. In the case of work-related references, letters that address the applicant's problem-solving ability, creativity, work ethic, professionalism, and ability to work in teams are highly valued. Letters from any individual without direct knowledge of an applicant are not helpful and not welcomed.
7. Can you give a brief description of the life cycle of an application? What's the timeline applicants should expect?
Applications are reviewed in the order in which they are complete. Once the application is complete, the file may take up to six weeks to be reviewed. Admissions decisions are communicated via e-mail, with scholarship decisions conveyed at the time of admission.
8. Which firms/organizations recruit heavily from your school? Which ones hire the highest percentage of your graduates?
Students at the University of Illinois College of Law are recruited by a range of employers, including AmLaw 250 firms, federal and state government, and public interest organizations. Our students have the opportunity to interview with law firms from every major American city in on-campus interviews, at any of more than 20 off-campus recruitment programs, and, increasingly, through the use of state-of-the-art teleconferencing technology. In the past five years, we have placed substantial numbers of graduates at the following law firms: Baker & McKenzie; Covington & Burling; DLA Piper; Jenner & Block; Kirkland & Ellis; Mayer Brown; Shearman & Sterling; and Sidley Austin. Graduates of the College have served in a number of prestigious clerkships, including on the U.S. Supreme Court, various U.S. Courts of Appeals, numerous U.S. District Courts, and a variety of state supreme courts. Illinois alums have been successful in competing for coveted positions through the Federal Government Honors Programs with the Department of Justice, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the IRS. The College also prides itself on the Illinois Public Interest Fellowship, placing students with statewide legal services agencies, and the Illinois Prosecutorial Fellows program, which provides young prosecutors with an opportunity to work with the State Appellate Prosecutor's office and States Attorney's office.
9. What are some of the most common mistakes that applicants make that hurt their chances of being accepted?
The most common mistake that an applicant can make is not paying attention to the details. The application to law school is the start of one's professional legal career and should be treated as such.
10. Can you describe the archetypal student for your school?
By reputation, our students are exceptionally bright, down to earth, ambitious, and resourceful. But there is no archetypical Illinois student. The most recently admitted class, the Class of 2012, includes CEOs and opera singers, poets and archaeologists, war heroes and three-sport varsity athletes, Girl Scout gold award recipients and Eagle Scouts, investigative reporters, Teach for America volunteers, and an anthropologist researching the medicinal use of plants consumed by lemurs in Madagascar. Not surprisingly, given these diverse talents, our graduates go on to distinguished careers in law, business, government, public service, and a variety of other fields.