Question: What topics are risky? When do such topics work?

Cornell Law: It is best not to view topics in the terms of “risky”. Real people read your personal statement. Choose a topic that you would want the reader to remember and that isn’t obvious from some other part of your application. If you decide to try to be humorous, ask yourself whether everyone reading what you’ve written will find it funny.

Question: What experience would you like students to write about more often?

Cornell Law: There is no one topic that student should write about more often. The personal statement is meant to be personal—unique and from the writer’s perspective.

Question: What steps do you take to recognize and prevent plagiarism? Do you have an institutional policy on plagiarism?

Cornell Law: Our seasoned readers include lawyers, law professors, and law school administrators. When situations warrant, we will report incidents of plagiarism to the LSAC.

Question: If you had the option of doing away with personal statements altogether, would you?

Cornell Law: The personal statement is an integral part of law school application process. It should not be eliminated.

Question: How many personal statements do you and your personal staff receive? How much time do you spend reading each application?

Cornell Law: We receive and review thousands of applications each year. We read each file and we are known as a “full-file” review school. This means that every part of the application is reviewed and taken into consideration during our selection process.

Question: What is the process that each application undergoes, from receipt to decision? How many hands does it pass through on the way?

Cornell Law: After an application is processed by support staff, it is reviewed by at least two admissions officers, and depending on the file, may receive multiple reviews by members of the Admissions Committee. The Admissions Committee is comprised of the dean of admissions, law professors, senior law school administrators as well as admissions officers.

Question: What work experience do you require from the people reviewing applications? Are there any particular qualities that you look for in a reader?

Cornell Law: The Admissions Committee is comprised of the Dean of Admissions, law professors, and senior law school administrators as well as admissions officers. A majority of the committee members have attended law school, practiced law, and/or worked for years in legal education.

Question: How many applications, generally speaking, go to committee each year?

Cornell Law: It varies from year to year. There is no set goal or target.

Question: If an element of the application is marked “optional,” is it truly optional? If a candidate opts not to complete that part of the application, is his or her candidacy weakened?

Cornell Law: We encourage applicants to take advantage of our “full-file” review process. It is helpful to be able to look at the fullest possible range of information in making our decisions.

Question: do applicants send extra material to you? If so, which materials are helpful? How much is too much?

Cornell Law: Applicants should avoid repetition as is adds little or no value to the file. Applicants may submit additional letters of recommendation as well as a resume and/or published articles. Applicants may also submit an addendum to explain parts of their application.

Question: The low LSAT score explanation: when is this necessary? Unnecessary? How often does this change your mind? (Have you ever received any ridiculous explanations that you’d like to share?)

Cornell Law: If applicants sit for the LSAT more than one time, they may submit a low LSAT score explanation. We consider all factors that are brought to our attention. In general, a large increase in a score occurs for some reason, if the reason is brought to our attention, we will take it into account. If the score increase is small, an explanation might not be necessary as some variation in scores will occur naturally as part of the standardized testing process.

Question: Do you use an academic or other index initially to sort applications into “for sure,” “maybe,” and “long-shot” piles? If not, how do you do your initial sorting?

Cornell Law: We generally review files in the order they are completed. No sorting occurs before they are reviewed by admissions officers and then the sorting is based on a “full-file” review.

Question: If you have an applicant with lower numbers but a great personal statement, what do you do? If a personal statement is unimpressive but the student’s grades are great, what then? Is it possible for a personal statement to change your mind about a candidate?

Cornell Law: Every part of the application is reviewed and taken into consideration during our selection process. We have a long-standing tradition of “full-file” review. Our goal is to find students who will thrive academically and enrich the law school community. Because law school applicants come from all walks of life and have very different academic and personal backgrounds, the personal statement provides more information to inform our decisions during the selection process. That said, it is rare for a personal statement by itself to overcome an otherwise poor academic record.

Question: How is your decision affected by a perspective or opinion (expressed by an applicant in his or her personal statement) with which you categorically disagree?

Cornell Law: We welcome all viewpoints and perspectives as diversity of thought is what drives an intellectual discourse.

Question: How do you feel about other academic credentials? Does having an MPA, for example, better candidates’ chances of gaining acceptance, even if he or she has a low undergraduate GPA or LSAT score?

Cornell Law: While grades received in graduate studies are not counted as part of your grade point average, we do review graduate school transcripts and take note of grades received. A strong graduate school record is generally viewed as a plus.

Question: Does coming from a specific field underrepresented in law school (engineering, for example) help or hurt someone?

Cornell Law: Applicants to law school come from a range of academic backgrounds. There is no particular major or curriculum that is required for admission to and success in law school. An entering class typically represents forty or forty-five different majors. The majors most commonly found in out entering classes are political science, history, economics, English, psychology, and philosophy. Some atypical majors that we think provide particularly good training for law school are computer science, mathematics, classics, and physics. Usually, 10 percent of the entering class has majored in a “hard” science. Pursuing a particular major simply because you think it will give you an advantage in the law school admissions process is an exercise in futility. You are less likely to perform well in a major that doesn’t engage you. We recommend, therefore, that you study subjects that are challenging and interesting to you and to follow your academic passion. Because we seek curricula that are both broad and deep, we also recommend that you take challenging course in your chosen core field and that you branch out and test yourself in areas outside your comfort zone. Classes that give you experience with close reading of texts, detailed analysis, logical reasoning, and extensive writing are always helpful.

Question: Do you have a descending degree of importance that you assign the different application requirements? Is the LSAT score, for example, the most important measure of ability? Where does the personal statement fall?

Cornell Law: It’s never as simple as a number or order of importance. We’re basically looking at everything that will help us predict an applicant’s ability to thrive academically and to contribute as a member of the Cornell Law School community.

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