We posed questions to admissions officials at the Santa Clara 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?
Every applicant has a story to tell—a story that is uniquely theirs. Not everyone has a list of major accomplishments to his or her name and not everyone has overcome major obstacles, but everyone can present a compelling story about who they are and why they should receive maximum consideration in the decision process.
2. What do you look for in the application essays? What do the essays tell you about a candidate?
Our admissions committee likes to read personal statements that are "personal", rather than generic. Often essays that reveal a sense of self knowledge and maturity are the most effective.
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?
We don't make any admissions decisions strictly by the numbers. We use a holistic approach to evaluating each candidate. The LSAT score is important because it is a common factor for all applicants. The GPA and the academic record it represents are important because they reflect the candidate's past academic achievement. The LSAT and GPA taken together are somewhat predictive of first-year law school performance. Work and internship experience help to round out the applicant and give an idea of the additional types of experience the candidate would be bringing to the classroom. No one element is always more important that the others.
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?
About one-third of our applicants apply immediately following undergraduate school. Few of these candidates have any significant work experience. While work experience and internship experience can be very beneficial to the candidate, they have little bearing in the decision process except when the experience is significant or in some other way helps us to understand the applicant as a person. For instance, we would expect an applicant who writes about their commitment to community service to be able demonstrate their past involvement. Our expectations for part-time applicants can be quite different for applicants. A number of these applicants have significant career accomplishments that can be weighed heavily in the decision process.
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?
Our location is one of our most important advantages. Santa Clara Law is in the heart of Silicon Valley, a dynamic region that is often characterized by its entrepreneurial spirit and myriad opportunities. It is also a spectacular place to live, with a mild Mediterranean climate and many recreational and cultural opportunities. Applicants interested in a career in Intellectual Property, one of three specialties we offer, will have unique opportunities to network with our alumni in the field;do internships with high tech leaders such as Facebook, Google, Electronic Arts, and Intel; experience a very broad curriculum; and take cutting-edge courses from experts in the field. Most Silicon Valley firms and companies have a global presence, which also benefits our students who are interested in International Law, another area of specialization. A third area of specialization we offer is Public Interest and Social Justice Law. Students interested in serving the public interest find a comprehensive array of courses, mentors, fellowships, and career options available 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 of recommendation can be very helpful in rounding out the application. The recommender may be able to share insights about the applicant's performance in the classroom or in the workplace that could reinforce their potential as a law student. The most effective letters are those written by people who know the applicant well or have had direct observation of their performance.