We posed questions to admissions officials at the Boston University 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?
They can pursue their most authentic interests. Applicants are most likely to blend in with other applicants when they are all doing the same things that they think the law schools want to see. As an applicant, the way to set yourself apart is simple, though not necessarily easy. You pursue the projects that you genuinely care about, whatever they might be—novel or traditional, large or small in scale—and you pursue them with constant energy and fierce commitment. The applicant who has the courage to do that will, without much additional effort, be set apart from all others.
2. What do you look for in the application essays? What do the essays tell you about a candidate?
A strong essay finds a way to convey the hopes and passions that are inspiring its author to go to law school. Individuals have their own vision of what they may want to do with a law degree. The vision may be precise or still somewhat blurry; it may be unusual or it may reflect goals that are also widely held by lots of other people; it may involve a lucrative career or perhaps one that has nothing to do with wealth. But the details of the dream that starts someone down this path are almost always unique. An essay that captures that individual vision will always be a pleasure to read and will usually reflect well on the applicant.
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?
It is impossible to answer that question in a general way. It depends on the applicant. We read each application in its entirety and holistically. Grades from college do matter, because they say something about the applicant's work habits and aptitude for a demanding academic program—but we have had many law students whose academic performance here vastly exceeded anything they had done before in school, because law was a better fit for them than whatever they had previously studied. Likewise, the LSAT is relevant because it helps to predict how well a student will do on first-year law school exams. But sometimes it doesn't predict that performance well after all; and in any event, there are lots of ways to be a successful law student besides getting high grades. So strengths in other areas can and do make up for shortfalls on those conventional metrics. Every year we admit a significant number of students with numbers well below what you might expect, and deny some applicants who have numbers higher than our medians.
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?
More than two-thirds of our entering students do have post-collegiate work or graduate school experience. Of course, we admit many students who come directly from their undergraduate institution, but we consider it essential that a large proportion of our admitted students bring some measure of additional experience to our entering class. We have no specific expectation of an applicant's work experience, and our entering students typically range from new college graduates to highly experienced professionals. We view both graduate degrees and work experience positively. Post-collegiate experiences demonstrate types of accomplishment and/or relevant sorts of intellectual development that contribute substantially to the education of every member of a law school class.
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?
First, our students usually say that the faculty here is unlike any they have encountered earlier in their educational careers. Our professors are frequently decorated with teaching awards because they are intensely dedicated to the classroom and to giving every student a great law school experience. Second, we have an amazing range of opportunities for students with varying interests: first-rate clinics, externships, a semester in practice program, and also one of the largest sets of study-abroad programs of any law school in the country. Third, we highly value public interest work; this school was recently recognized by a national magazine as one of the four top schools in the country for public service. Last, our location—within walking distance of downtown Boston—is outstanding. Boston has all the advantages of huge cities as a legal market and from a cultural standpoint, but it also is a city that you can manage on foot. It is the best place in the world to be a student.