We posed questions to admissions officials at the University of Miami 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?
Each person has a story to tell that will be relevant to those reading the file. Applicants should use all aspects of the application to reflect their strengths, skills, accomplishments, and goals so that we have a sense of what type of student they'll be in the classroom and what they'll contribute to the law school community and the legal profession. Hopefully recommenders will confirm what applicants are saying about themselves: I am a bright, motivated, disciplined, and professional individual who will be someone you'll enjoy as a member of the law community and be proud to claim as an alumna/alumnus.
Submitting the application early places applicants in the best position for both admission and scholarship consideration. At the beginning of the season, we're just starting to read files so we're fresh and eager to dig in. Later in the cycle, after having read thousands of files, it is harder to stand out, especially for individuals who fall in the "gray" area. Therefore, applicants should optimize their chances by being first in line.
2. What do you look for in the application essays? What do the essays tell you about a candidate?
If you had five minutes in a room with the individuals reviewing your file, what would you highlight and why is it relevant? Your essay tells us who you are, what you'll bring to the table, what type of student you'll be, what you'll contribute and whether you'll be a good match for our institution. The essay should be well written, concise and short (approximately two pages).
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?
Realizing that there is no one formula that fits all applicants, our goal is to approach each file holistically. The weight of the GPA and LSAT score shifts with the strengths and weaknesses of each applicant. The LSAT might be more important if someone has a low GPA but presents other factors such as a number of years of work experience, or a graduate degree along with a solid LSAT score. Applicants who present high LSAT scores but have consistently underperformed academically will have to provide convincing arguments that this lack of achievement will not repeat in law school. We value the writing experience of applicants who have engaged in a senior or honors thesis or have other significant writing experience. Regarding GPAs, grade trends, rigor of courses, and majors and minors are all reviewed with a serious eye.
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?
Maturity (regardless of age), professionalism, seriousness of purpose, and time management skills are valued at Miami. Thus, while work/internship experiences are not expected, we appreciate that professional, internship, leadership or volunteer experiences indicate exposure to team work, time management, responsibility, and accountability. We pay heed to applicants who have taken interest in the world outside of their scope of well-being through public service and volunteer work. Miami likes to see applicants who have made it their business to learn how to navigate and get the most out of each experience, whether in an academic or professional setting.
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?
Leadership! In her first year alone, Dean Trish White, a leader with vision and experience, has ignited an exciting momentum at Miami. She has greatly expanded collaborative efforts with other departments within the University (such as the newly created J.D./Masters in Music Business and Entertainment Law and for undergraduate business majors a triple degree option—J.D./M.B.A./LL.M. in Taxation or Real Property), heralded an extensive externship program, actively supported the new specialization in international arbitration (headed by one of the world's most powerful international arbitrators, Jan Paulsson), approved new clinics (the immigration clinic and the human rights clinic slated to begin in spring, 2011), as well as added several new study abroad options in Versailles, France, Hamburg, Germany, Haifa, Israel and the Africa Neutral Trial Observer Initiative. These outstanding new offerings hold promise for many more to come.