We posed questions to admissions officials at the University of Iowa 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?
Write a good Personal Statement that is sincere and transparent. The LSAT and undergraduate GPA are requirements, and will, by definition, be as high as the applicant can achieve. However, the Personal Statement is the area in which the applicant can tell us what he or she really wants us to know about them. Also, it is seen by many Admissions Committee members as the first law school writing assignment, so it needs to be transparent and well written.
2. What do you look for in the application essays? What do the essays tell you about a candidate?
The Personal Statement is the only place in the application where the applicant can tell us what the applicant really wants us to know about him or her. By contrast, the LSAT is a reflection of the applicant based on a standardized test; the undergraduate GPA is a reflection of the applicant based on 30 to 35 different professors that a student has by the time a student graduates; Letters of Recommendation are reflections of the applicant based on a person who really does not know the applicant's life in its full view. The Personal Statement is the only tool that an applicant can use to tell us what the applicant really wants us to know about him or her. The Personal Statement should tell us one to three things that we really need to know about the applicant. Tell us why we need to know these things, give us some examples of what the applicant has learned from experiencing these things, and finally, tell us how this information is going to make the applicant a better law school student, lawyer, and citizen.
3. How important is the applicant's LSAT score? How do you weigh it against undergraduate GPA and work/internship experience? Which of these carry the most weight? The least?
In our process, the LSAT is worth approximately 35 percent of the individual decision, the GPA is worth approximately 25 percent of the decision, and non-academic factors are worth approximately 40 percent of the decision. This weighing will vary from school to school, and it is important that the applicant contact the individual schools to gain a sense of how that particular school weighs the admissions factors.
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?
Work experience does play a role in our admissions process. Work experience probably helps to shape the reasons why the applicant wants to attend law school. Full-time post undergraduate work experience carries a little more weight than internships attained during the undergraduate experience. Also, we are interested more in what the applicant has learned from the work experience, rather than an impressive job title or potential for a famous name of the supervisor. We are concerned about what the applicant has learned from the experience, and how it is going to help the applicant become a better law school student, lawyer, or citizen. Work experience is given equal weight to the other factors we consider on the non-academic side. Most of the people who apply to our law school have one or two years of work experience; but we have offered admission to individuals as young as 20 years old and no full-time work experience, and as old as 46 years old with 25 years of work experience. We have no set number of years of work experience that are either required or more impressive than another amount of years.
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?
When we ask alumni, the responding theme is consistent: 1. The ease by which students can develop positive student-faculty interactions2. Strong and positive national reputation3. Nice location; people enjoy going to law school in Iowa City4. Relatively low cost and lower-than-national-average debt load for our graduates upon graduation5. Small class sizes (one of the smallest entering classes in terms of enrollment number, in the country) make interaction with fellow students and faculty and staff easier and more prevalent6. A healthy respect for civility during interactions with other people. We look for people who know how to disagree without being disagreeable.