Associate Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid
USC, Gould School of Law
What are your best tips for asking for an application fee waiver?
Do your research before asking. Case in point, we waive the application fee for any student who applies by our February 1st priority deadline. No need to ask.
Honestly, what is “yield protection” and does it really exist?
Yield protection is when a law school takes an action other than admitting a student based on a belief that the student is highly unlikely to attend. I can't speak on behalf of other law schools, but its not a practice we engage in at Gould.
Understanding that all schools may have different procedures, but generally, if an applicant doesn’t get accepted to a school when they applied ED, do they automatically get rolled over to regular decision or is it possible that you can be rejected directly from ED?
We will roll over the vast majority of ED applicants that are not admitted. However, there will normally be a number of rejections as well.
Understanding that all schools may have different procedures, but generally, what is the latest you would recommend a student taking the LSAT if they wanted to apply to law school during a given admissions cycle?
An applicant really needs to base this on the schools they are targeting. The answer will be different if a school has a prioirty deadline of February 1st (like ours) versus a deadline of April or May 1st. To have a completed application by our priority deadline, I recommend taking the LSAT no later than the January administration.
Will K-JDs need to submit to LSAC another copy of their transcript after the fall semester and/or spring semester of their senior year? And, be honest, how much does a POST-admission GPA really matter to an admissions committee?
Absolutely, all enrolling students who do not have a final transcript indicating degree conferral will be required to submit one. The transcript sent to LSAC does not satisfy this requirement. A post-admission GPA really does matter as the admission decision is made on the data as of the time of acceptance.
That said, if I am on the fence about a K-JD candidate and the current GPA is too close for comfort, then I will normally ask for an updated transcript and not make a final decision until I have that piece of information.
The Law School Application
In your view, what is the biggest impact that can be had by hiring a law school admissions consultant?
It is another set of eyes looking at the application materials. However, an applicant can get the same benefit at far lower cost with other resources. Myself and members of my staff are more than happy to respond to general questions about the application process and the various component pieces that make up an application. That said, there is some benefit to having those extra eyes coming from individuals, many of whom have worked in the law schools admissions field.
When reviewing an applicant's file, where do you typically start and what part do you tend to spend the most time (and why)?
I normally start with the CAS report as it gives me a quick, high-level overview of the numeric factors of an application. This quick overview then prompts questions that I am looking for the applicant to answer with the remaining pieces of the application. I look at the application as a story and the CAS report is the table of contents.
Aside from typos, or naming the wrong law school, what are the other two biggest mistakes that far too many students make in their personal statements?
They make the personal statement about somebody else. Even if this somebody else has been influential on the applicant's life, I am admitting the applicant, not his/her mom/dad/brother/sister.
The personal statement becomes a narrative recitation of the resume. This is just wasting space as I am going to read the resume as well and the personal statement should tell a different part of the story.
The best personal statements I’ve read always contain:
They tell me what has influenced the applicant to be at the point in there life where they are now applying to law school. It tends to answer the "why" and "why now" questions.
If a law school has a page limit for their personal statement but does not list a font size min/max, what do you recommend?
No less than 12 point font.
Name TWO things that all applicants need to consider when asking for a letter of recommendation.
First, that the recommender can enthisically endorse the candidate. Second, that the recommends can comment on the skills/traits that will help make the student successful in law school. This can come from an employer, in addition to a faculty member, but should focus on a core set of skills, like: time management, honesty, integrity, teamwork, etc.
A resumé is a resumé, however, aside from typos, what are TWO things you've seen included on a resumé that can totally sink an applicant?
A picture and an "objective" statement. Both waste valuable space that can be used to discuss more important factors.
Character & Fitness
What is the impact of failing to disclose something on the Character & Fitness section of the application?
The impact, at its most severe, can lead to a report to LSAC of Misconduct in the Application Process, which is reported to all law schools if a finding of guilt is reached. Additionally, this can lead to revocation and/or rescission of an acceptance (even after a student has enrolled). There can also be implications on admission to the state bar.
What’s your best advice for students wrestling whether to disclose unflattering periods in their past?
Disclose, disclose, disclose.
The Admissions Review
What is the best way to prepare for an admissions interview, either online or in person?
USC Gould does not conduct admission interviews so I do not feel like I have enough information to answer this set of questions.
The Dreaded Waitlist
For waitlisted candidates who would immediately accept an offer of admission, how would you recommend that they convey that enthusiasm with your admissions team (and how often)?
We let waitlisted candidates know how often we would expect correspondence from them. The candidate should follow the lead of the school. Additionally, if waitlist follow up emails are sent, the candidate should respond in an expeditious manner.
When you do go to your waitlist, what piece of information most significantly impacts your decision to extend an offer of admission?
My belief in the likelihood that the candidate will accept and follow thru to enrollment.
Aside from an outright denial of your offer, what is the most frustrating thing a student can do after being offered a spot from the waitlist?
To fail to respond to subsequent e-mails, aka "ghost" us OR to come back immediately and let us know that whatever law school they were committed to has increased their scholarship and they are no longer interested in attending without additional funding. In other words, the applicant's "word" that they would be thrilled to accept an offer off the waiting list was merely a strategy to leverage additional scholarship dollars out of another school.
Social Media & Internet Forums
What role, if any, does an applicant’s social media presence play in the admission decision (LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram)?
Unless something in the application prompts a member of the admissions committee to look at it, it plays very little role (we simply don't have the time to visit the social median profiles of all applicants)
Do you, or members of your admission team, review Internet forums that discuss the law school admissions process (e.g., r/lawschooladmissions, LawSchoolNumbers) and, if so, what information do you typically learn or seek to learn?
Yes, we do. It is helpful to get a sense of the questions and concerns that are out there amongst applicants. However, we have to remember that those who visit forums and blogs represent a very small portion of the overall applicant pool (despite the fact that they may think otherwise).
If you review internet admissions forums, in your estimation, what percent of the time are references to your law school or the procedures followed in your admission office INACCURATE.
I'd say they are INACCURATE more often that accurate.
Have you ever tried to identify an Internet forum poster in your applicant pool and, if so, were you successful?
Yes, this has happened before. And yes, I've been successful.
Visits & Admitted Students Days
If you were a prospective student visiting a law school, name TWO things you would do and/or look out for during the campus tour.
I would ask random current students their thoughts on the law school outside of the panels that the admissions office organized. I would encourage them to hang around the building outside of formal parts of the law school tour in order to get a sense of a true "day-in-the-life."
If you were a prospective student visiting a law school, what TWO questions you would ask current students?
I'd ask about the number one thing that could be improved and the number on thing they enjoy about the law school.
If you were a prospective student visiting a law school, what TWO questions you would ask law school administrators or faculty?
I'd ask the faculty how they view their role in the student-faculty relationship. I'd ask the administration how they deal with student suggestions for improvement.
Financial Aid Questions
If you had a child who was determined to attend law school, what is the most important piece of financial-related advice you can give them about making an investment in a legal education?
That legal education is truly an investment. The debt s/he incurs is in many ways much more valuable that the debt from buying a home or a car. The debt once incurs from law school is for investment in oneself (human capital) that should pay itself off 10x over by the end of a legal career.
That said, I would tell my child to think carefully about the level of debt they are comfortable with and the sacrifices that paying the debt off post-law school will require. Will it be such a high level of debt that my child would be forced to pursue a big-law career directly out of law school in order to pay the bills at the expense of pursuing something closer to their passion?
How does my credit history impact my eligibility for student loans?
As far as the Stafford portion of the loan, credit history is not a factor. However, most law students will need a loan in addition to the Stafford loan program. Whether this is via the Federal Grad PLUS loan or private lenders, credit will be a factor here.
What are the top three things students who are 1+ year away from starting law school can do to improve their eligibility status and/or overall financial aid packages?
1) Check their credit and improve their score wherever possible. 2) At schools where scholarship assistance is merit or primarily merit-based, retake the LSAT if s/he believes a higher score is possible. 3) Research all the different funding options out there.
If I am awarded a scholarship from the school, do you reduce my financial aid package? If so, does the scholarship replace loans or grants?
A student may only take out a financial aid package up to the total Cost of Attendance (COA) as cacluated by the law school. So, yes, the amount of loans a student is eligible to take out will be reduced by any scholarship award.
If I don't apply for financial aid this year, will that affect my eligibility for financial aid in subsequent years?
No, it is a new process each year that is initiated by completing the FAFSA.
Does your law school practice need-blind admissions? Or will applying for financial aid hurt my chances of being admitted?
Yes, we practice entirely need-blind admissions.
If the financial aid is insufficient or my circumstances have changed, how do you suggest I appeal for more financial aid?
One should contact the Financial Aid Office directly as we consider appeals on a case-by-case basis.
What is the WORST tactic candidates have used when trying to negotiate more financial aid?
Using a form letter that basically names their price. Additionally, appeals that go on about the cost of living in Los Angeles. I realize that the cost of living in LA is higher than many other cities. However, if you are appealing with offers from schools in NYC and SF, we are less expensive.
Beyond that, there is a reason that cost of living in higher here than other places, there are many desirable aspects about living in LA, including a very robust legal market. At the end of the day, the student needs to decide how much additional cost this is worth.