Summary List Placement
The University of Chicago Law School is the fourth-best law school in the US, according to US News and World Report
Insider spoke with current and former admissions officers, consultants, and graduates to learn what it takes to make your application stand out.
According to Ann K. Perry, associate dean of admissions and head of the admissions department, UChicago takes a “broad and holistic view” of each applicant.
“When applying, an applicant needs to make sure that they use every item in their application as a way to advocate for their acceptance,” Perry told Insider. While some students believe that admissions looks only at test scores and GPA, the resume, personal statement, and letters of recommendation are also very important.
“I like reading an application where the pieces fit together and tell the applicant’s story in a clear and thoughtful way,” she said.
Anna Ivey, a consultant and former dean of admissions and alumnus at UChicago, added that admissions also looks for a strong presentation of “soft factors,” such as life experience and diversity.
Use your resume to showcase extracurriculars
Perry said a resume can be useful to outline everything you’ve done outside the classroom.
“It is important to include detail about any of the extracurricular activities, provide information about part-time work and summer experiences,” Perry said.
She added that it’s okay if it stretches to two pages.
“We would rather you to provide more detail and explanation for the admissions committee to review,” Perry said.
Choose recommenders who know you well
Perry said applicants should give significant thought as to who writes their recommendation letters.
“It should be someone who knows the applicant and can provide insight into their academic success and abilities,” Perry said.
A strong letter provides information about how the applicant works with coworkers, analyzes and solves problems, and takes initiative with projects, as well as other signs of professionalism and maturity.
“For example, one applicant in recent years had a recommender who was their undergraduate thesis advisor, who spoke in detail about how the applicant had engaged in unusually complex fieldwork and developed strong relationships with all the other researchers in their lab,” Perry said.
Treat your personal statement like a writing sample
Perry said the committee looks at the personal statement as a writing sample.
“One of the most important skills a lawyer has is writing,” she said. “During law school, students will learn how to write like a lawyer, but we want to make sure the applicant has a good foundation in writing.”
One memorable statement Perry recalled reading talked about the applicant’s volunteer experience at a nursing home.
“The applicant talked about the new perspectives he gained as well as empathy for others around him,” Perry said. “This particular statement showed the admissions committee how the applicant has grown and how he takes advantage of learning in different environments.”
Law-school consultant Ali Nash suggested writing about something “personal, relevant, and completely individual to you,” noting that unlike other law schools, UChicago doesn’t require you to answer, “Why law school?”
“This may include writing about a significant aspect of your background, a quality or trait that you believe defines you, a transformative experience, or the things that interest and motivate you,” Nash said.
Your personal statement isn’t the place to demonstrate your knowledge of the law or role of attorneys, she added.
“Your readers likely know quite a bit about those topics,” Nash said. “Your job is instead to educate the admissions committee on yourself.”
Suzie Kim, class of 2020, said the biggest challenge she faced was differentiating herself from other applicants.
“When applying, I felt the need to strongly demonstrate how my undergraduate experience and relatively short work experience after college ultimately made me interested in the field of law and prepared me for law school,” Kim told Insider.
She decided to focus on her role as chair of the International Student Advisory Board of Columbia University, where she advised administrators on implementing new policies to improve campus life and job-search opportunities for international students. She also highlighted her experiences as a research assistant in the psychology department and provided details about a grant proposal she drafted for the nonprofit Nutrition and Education International.
Show you’re intellectually curious
Ivey said UChicago is tough academically, so it helps to signal in your application that you’re not just ready for that, but that that kind of environment is attractive to you.
“It has ‘real grades’ in a way that other top law schools have largely abandoned. It’s a culture that is proud to take academics seriously, and there’s a lot of intrinsic motivation — people want to do well because they take personal pride in learning. The ‘life of the mind’ is a real thing there,” Ivey said.
UChicago law students as a whole tend to be exceptionally studious and focused.
“They tend not to disappear and goof off too much during 3L [the third year of law school], which is what happens at some other peer schools,” Ivey said. “They stay engaged.”
As an example, she said a student’s version of fun might be to join a book club hosted at a professor’s home or take Roman Law because they feel like it.
Miranda Perry Fleischer, a 1996 graduate who’s now a professor at the University of San Diego School of Law, agreed that UChicago has a long history of attracting people who are intellectually curious.
However, “it is not cutthroat in an ‘every person for herself’ way,” Fleischer said. “Students help each other out and listen respectfully to others’ arguments, viewpoints, and ideas.”
“You end up knowing almost everyone in your class as well as your professors,” she added. “You don’t feel you have to knock others down to get a recommendation from a professor, for example, because everyone has a chance to get to know the professors.”
Dig deep in the interview
Shreya Gupta, class of 2019, recommended using the interview process to really ask yourself what you want out of a law school, ensuring that you explain why attending UChicago accomplishes that.
“Maybe it’s the school’s law and economics-based approach, the class size, or maybe it’s the federal criminal-justice clinic, which is unique to the school itself,” Gupta said. “Regardless of your reasons, dig deep past the surface-level names of classes or clinics.”
Kim added that interviews might also include unique queries that may be more difficult to answer.
“For example, I remember being asked the following question: ‘If you had a chance to meet a historical figure, who would it be and why?'” Kim said.
Perry said that given the unprecedented challenges associated with COVID-19, UChicago will evaluate applicants in this upcoming cycle — and in future cycles — with these impacts in mind, including respecting decisions to grade courses with a pass/no pass or other basis.
This year, UChicago Law offered students a hybrid schedule.
“We look forward to a full in-person schedule of courses for the 2021-22 academic year,” Perry said.
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