By Adia Sykes
This piece is the first in a blog series entitled The Progression Through Law School. The series is an attempt to provide you, my readers, with a look into what it’s really like to be a law student. We’ll start with the application process, move on to the experiences of current law students, see what it’s like to be a student fresh out of law school, and finally end with an account from a lawyer who’s been in the game for a while. No glitz, no glamour, just an honest look into what it’s really like to pursue a career in law.
Currently ranked fifth according to the U.S. News and World Report, The University of Chicago Law School sees scores of applications every year, and at the head of the application reviewing process is Ann K. Perry. Ms. Perry, the Associate Dean for Admissions at the University of Chicago Law School, was kind enough to make time in she schedule to sit down with me and discuss the law school application process.
UCULR: Are there any majors that you consider more or less beneficial, or maybe more “impressive” for students looking to apply to a law school?
Perry: You know, I really don’t have any favorite majors or think that there’s any right major for law school. We really have a broad representation of majors here at the University of Chicago Law School. We have majors ranging from the sciences and math to English, history and music. So my word of advice when it comes to majors is that you major in something you’re interested in, because you’ll tend to do well in it. Don’t take classes because you think it’ll make you a better law student. I think students should always be working on their writing skills, their reading comprehension, analytical skills and their presentation skills, but you can do that in a broad range of ways and in different majors.
UCULR: How early should students apply to law school? The University of Chicago Law School has rolling admissions. Does being towards the top of the pile as one of the first to get your résumé and application in have any benefits?
Perry: There are a couple of things to think about. You need to look at how you want to apply to law school. We have a couple early decision programs; one being the Chicago Law Scholars Program, which is an early decision program just for graduates of The College and alumni of The College. It’s an early deadline, September 1st, but you’ll hear by November 1st and it’s binding. Meaning that if you are accepted you will be expected to come. We do have substantial scholarships for those who apply to that program, and that’s to keep the best and the brightest students from The College here at the Law School. Then we have our Early Decision Applicants, who apply by December 1st hear by the end of December. Again, this is binding and for anyone who wants to make the University of Chicago his or her number one school for law school. Finally, our deadline is February 1st, but it is rolling. So, I would recommend getting applications in within the first two months that we start accepting applications (September 1st), just to make sure you appear early in the pool.
UCULR: Could you speak a little bit about the weight of the different components of the law school application—GPA, LSAT, personal statement, and résumé? Are they weighted any particular way to where one would severely tip the scale in favor of or against an applicant?
Perry: I can only speak to the admissions process here at the University of Chicago. Here it’s a very holistic approach; meaning there are no cut offs in any area, specifically the GPA or LSAT. We read every application. As a result we really have a wide range of admitted GPAs and LSAT scores. We really have the ability to read every single application and not focus solely on the numbers. Are they important? Yes. Is the résumé important? Yes. Are the letters of recommendation important? Yes. We really review everything.
UCULR: What are your thoughts on gap years? Does taking a gap year to travel or work help or hinder an applicant’s ability to get into law school?
Perry: We see a broad range of things that students due in between undergrad and coming back to school. We don’t have any requirements about taking time off, but I like to tell students that this is the time to do it if you want to do it. We’re always going to be here. Law school is always going to be an option, but once you go to law school you’re not going to have that flexibility at the end of these three years to go and do whatever it is you want to do. You’re going to be starting your career. So if you have the time and the drive to go do something after you graduate from your undergraduate university that’s the time to go do it. You can do a broad range of things. There’s not one thing in particular that I think will make you a better law school applicant, but I would recommend that you do something so that you don’t have this open part of your résumé so that it doesn’t look like you were doing nothing during that time.
UCULR: Lastly, is there any other general advice that you’d like to give to prospective law school applicants?Perry: I think undergrads should start trying to form relationships with faculty that can write letters of recommendation, or TAs. It doesn’t have to be the name professor of the class, but someone who really knows your academic capabilities. Also, start to think about the whole process of going to law school because it’s a substantial investment of time and of resources that you’re going to want to make sure you really want to invest.
Adia Sykes is a First Year in the College.