We posed questions to admissions officials at Vermont Law School 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?
Applicants can do a number of things to indicate their strong interest in Vermont Law School. We strongly encourage applicants to visit the campus; if that is not feasible, schedule a phone interview with an admissions counselor. Take advantage of the essays to demonstrate that you have researched the school and understand who we are as an institution. Reach out to us and make sure that we know you.
2. What do you look for in the application essays? What do the essays tell you about a candidate?
Basics first: we look at grammar, punctuation, and writing style. Has this essay been proofread? Is our school name correct? Vermont Law School is not affiliated with the University of Vermont. Our essay topics ask very specific questions: 1. What are your goals and how do the programs at Vermont Law School help you to meet them? 2. How have you affected change? A very generic personal statement that rehashes the résumé will not address these questions or convince us that this person is truly interested in our school.
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?
The LSAT score and GPA are both very important and they are weighed equally. The LSAT helps to tell us how the applicant thinks; do they have the logical thinking skills to enable them to perform well in law school? The GPA demonstrates long term academic performance. We understand that there may be bumps in the academic record and we provide an opportunity through an optional essay for the applicant to explain any discrepancies.
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?
Prior work or internship experience is important from the life experience perspective. They are not required, but strongly recommended because of how they help to shape a certain level of responsibility and adult perspective. No particular amount or kind of work is expected; the situation for each applicant is different.
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?
Vermont Law School embodies a commitment to service, thus our motto "Law for the community and the world." Whether a student is committed to environmental issues, international human rights, or local community legal services, we have programs, internships, and service activities in place. This is a campus for advocates.
Also, as a small standalone law school in a rural area, we provide a strong sense of community within the institution. This is an active, close-knit law school that will support each student through his or her three years of law school and beyond.
Students are competitive in that they strive to do well academically. However, there is an overriding commitment of trust and support. Students can leave their laptops in the student center or library all day and no one will touch them. Class notes and outlines are readily shared among classmates.
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?
Because most of our applicants have been out of school for two or three years, letters of recommendation come from a wide range of sources. Primarily, we are looking for confirmation of a strong work ethic, a commitment to service, and a person who has the ethical and moral standards that exemplify the mission of Vermont Law School and the legal profession.
7. Can you give a brief description of the life cycle of an application? What's the timeline applicants should expect?
All applications are read by at least two reviewers. In addition, a significant number of files are referred to the full admissions committee. Therefore, the timeline for a decision typically ranges from four to eight weeks.
8. Which firms/organizations recruit heavily from your school? Which ones hire the highest percentage of your graduates?
Vermont Law School is a national law school. Our entering classes come from more than 40 states and graduates sit for the bar in more than 35 states. Our graduates work in national, state, and local government positions with organizations such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Justice, the U.S. Senate, state attorneys general and regulatory agencies, and a host of local district attorney and municipal offices. In the nonprofit arena, our graduates are environmental justice attorneys with the Natural Resources Defense Council, a public affairs director for Planned Parenthood, a staff attorney with Defenders of Wildlife, and a number of staff attorneys for legal aid and public defender organizations. Across the nation, our graduates are working in both large and small law firms, focusing on litigation, the environment, energy, intellectual property, antitrust, securities, and more.
Some examples of positions obtained by the Class of 2010 include Latham & Watkins and Weil Gotshal; The Department of Justice Honors Program, the EPA Honors Program, more than 20 judicial clerkships, and a wide range of state and local firms and agencies.
9. What are some of the most common mistakes that applicants make that hurt their chances of being accepted?
The most common mistake is not proofing the application materials or submitting a marked-up copy of the résumé and essays. Also, a common mistake is in the selection of recommenders. We receive several letters each year from recommenders who state that they cannot wholly support the applicant for admission to law school.
10. Can you describe the archetypal student for your school?
Vermont law students are passionate about their world. They typically love the outdoors and relish the adventure of attending law school in the magnificent Green Mountains of Vermont. Whatever their area of interest, they participate in campus organizations, support numerous causes, and strive to take advantage of every campus opportunity. Many bring a strong interest in international travel to law school and are attracted to our numerous study abroad and international dual degree options. Vermont law students are advocates.