We posed questions to admissions officials at the Gonzaga 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?
Successful applicants distinguish themselves via the personal statement. They use it as a means of expressing their values and to connect those values with their desire to attend law school.
2. What do you look for in application essays? What do the essays tell you about a candidate?
We look for well-written essays that reflect the applicant's capacity for critical thought and self reflection. The essays reveal an applicant's ability to construct a cohesive statement and a coherent argument. Disjointed statements and those that leave the reader feeling a disconnect between values and actions reflect poorly on the candidate. We'd rather read about an event that triggered the candidate's desire to attend law school, or to learn about her or his passion for justice, than to read they want to be a lawyer because their father is a lawyer.
3. How important is the applicant's LSAT score? How do you weight it against undergraduate GPA and work/internship experience? Which of these carry the most weight? The least?
For us, a top candidate is a well-rounded person. The LSAT is important, but it's just one indicator of future success, which to us means doing well in the first year and ultimately being able to pass the bar. We don't weight the LSAT; we will accept a student with a lower LSAT and high grades. We look for relevant work experience, extracurriculars, and volunteerism. We want to see accomplishments outside of the classroom. We look for good LSAT scores, good grades, and a balanced life.
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?
We don't attach a weight to work experience. Some students come in only with work experience only their college years, while some have 20 years of experience. Both offer something to the class.
5. What sets you apart from other law schools? What can students gain from your school that they might not be able to find anywhere else?
We are a community whose purpose is to support our students. Our faculty has an open-door policy and we support a wide variety of student organizations that engage and unite students around issues that matter to them.
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?
Letters are important. We want at least one to come from a professor because that sheds light on the applicant's academic abilities, his or her capacity for critical thought and analysis, and his or her ability to work with others.
Letters can alert us to concerns about any of those qualities, which we believe are critical. We also like to receive one letter from a nonschool employer or a volunteer leader. These help us know whether an applicant is responsible, and whether he or she works well in a group setting.
7. Can you give a brief description of the life cycle of an application? What's the timeline applicants should expect?
We use a rolling administration cycle that starts October 1. We review applications in January, in the order received, and start rolling out decisions in January. Candidates should hear from us within four to six weeks of submitting their applications.
8. What are some of the most common mistakes that applicants make that hurt their chances of being accepted?
The biggest mistake is applying late in the cycle. The second is submitting a poorly crafted personal letter.
9. Can you describe the archetypal student for your school?
We want a whole person; we want our students to be balanced. We want them to be academically inclined and to have a strong public-service orientation. Students who thrive here are those who have been engaged in their academic careers, worked as volunteers, and have relevant work experience.