Kristin Theis-Alvarez

Dean of Admissions & Financial Aid

University of California, Berkeley - School of Law

The Basics

What are your best tips for asking for an application fee waiver?

First, be sure that you understand the school's policies and processes, and that we don't all do things the same way. For example, we have a fee waiver request form on our website, and only offer waivers in limited circumstances.

In general, anyone who asks about a waiver will be redirected to complete the form. In general, there is no harm in asking for an application fee waiver, just understand that the response will vary from school to school.

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?

There is no general rule here. Each school should make clear in its application instructions what happens if you apply ED but are denied. At Berkeley, you are automatically rolled over into RD if you were not admitted during the review for Binding Early Decision.

You will be asked if you want to be held for a later LSAT score, but are otherwise considered "complete" and immediately eligible for RD review. You will be assigned a different reviewer. Every year there are people for are not admitted ED but are later admitted in RD review.

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?

Anyone matriculating to an ABA-accredited law school must ensure the law school receives official copies of final transcripts that show their degree was conferred. Generally speaking, it's helpful to send in updated transcripts if you are a senior who receives fall semester or quarter grades after submitting an application.

Your application is very likely still being reviewed, and if your overall cumulative undergrad GPA improves, that could make a difference. If you don't send them in, it's possible that we might reach out to you and ask for them - so it's not a good idea to think your grades won't matter. If you are admitted, that's typically a final decision, so unless you did not ultimately earn your degree, your grades in the last term probably won't have an impact.

Similarly, we won't re-review denied applicants based on their last semester grades. However, anyone who has not received a final decision - is on a hold or waitlist, or just has not heard back - should assume updates are a good idea.

The Law School Application

Name TWO things that all applicants need to consider when asking for a letter of recommendation.

Substance v. Signature, and Anecdote v. Adjectives. I'm much less interested in how impressive the letter writer is than in what they actually have to say about you based on their direct observation of your work and interactions with you.

A GSI who read your papers and heard your participation in the discussion section may have more insight to contribute than the tenured faculty member who delivered the lecture. The letter from the Senator might be less helpful than the one from their office manager who supervised your day-to-day.

Also, a long list of complimentary adjectives is usually not persuasive. We want specific examples of things that distinguish you from your peers.

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 smaller than 11 point font, and something easy to read (e.g., Times New Roman, Calibri, 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?

Please do not include a photo, and do not list an objective.

Also, unless a school tells you the resume can only be one page (in which case do follow their instructions), we'd rather learn more about your background than less. A 2-page resume is most welcome.

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 certainly don't frown upon a waitlisted applicant sending a letter of continued interest. One should be adequate. If the student wants to follow up later in the summer, it's reasonable to send an email asking expressing that they would accept an offer if extended, and perhaps inquiring as to whether the admissions office has any sense of the general likelihood that they will use the waitlist this cycle.

Do not ask whether we think a specific candidate will be taken from the waitlist - we won't be able to tell you, and it can come across as somewhat off-putting.

When you do go to your waitlist, what piece of information most significantly impacts your decision to extend an offer of admission?

When someone is waitlisted, we've already ranked them by quartile (and we will communicate quartile ranking to the applicant). The only thing that generates significant movement is people removing themselves from the waitlist.

Therefore, the best thing a person can do to improve the chances they are admitted (if we go to the waitlist at all) is to remain on the waitlist as long as possible.

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?

Ask for an extension beyond the accept/decline deadline we give them, or ask to accept but defer. If we are using the waitlist then we are probably looking to act quickly, and if you don't accept the offer we would make it to someone else.

Therefore, we are not going to be able to give you a lot of time, so if you need to visit the school you should do that earlier (and use what you learn to determine whether to remain on the waitlist).

If you were planning to defer at another school, or cannot start that fall, please remove yourself from the waitlist. We're trying to fill a spot in the class that fall when extending waitlist offers.

Character & Fitness

What is the impact of failing to disclose something on the Character & Fitness section of the application?

Failure to disclose could result in revocation of the offer of admission, even after study has begun. When you submit your application you are also signing a veracity statement, which you should read carefully, and that includes "lies of omission."

Failure to disclose can also have other far-reaching consequences such as endangering the candidate's ability to be admitted to the State Bar. Applicants should err on the side of disclosure.

What’s your best advice for students wrestling whether to disclose unflattering periods in their past?

There is a difference between "unflattering periods" and specific acts or instances that one of our C&F questions asks about, and if you respond affirmatively, it requires an explanation.

In the latter case, there's nothing to wrestle with - you must disclose. Whether the applicant should proactively share something else that is difficult from their past (not implicated by C&F questions) may be a question best directed to a specific law school admissions office. Again, though, when in doubt err on the side of disclosure.

Social Media & Online Forums

What role, if any, does an applicant’s social media presence play in the admission decision (LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram)?

We do not look for social media posts in the application process, nor do we perform internet searches on people. However, if you include a link in your resume (or elsewhere) to something about you (an article, a you tube video, etc.) then you are inviting the person or people reviewing your file to click on it.

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 do not review internet forums. However, based on the emails that we receive (that seem to be following up on things they saw or heard or were told), I would guess that a significant amount of the information being shared there is inaccurate.

Financial Aid

How does my credit history impact my eligibility for student loans?

I assume this question is focused on federal loans, and specifically, Grad Plus loans. These loans do not require a particular credit score or qualify (or varying rates based on credit score), but an applicant can be ineligible based on "adverse credit" (e.g., default on another student loan, etc.) There is an appeals process. Know that the law school financial aid office has no ability to influence these decisions, but that you can reach out to use for guidance through the process.

If you anticipate or encounter a problem securing loans, it's best to proactively contact the financial aid office. Timing matters, and even if you are embarrassed there is nothing we can do to assist you if we don't know there is a problem.

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?

No one can receive financial aid above the total cost of attendance. If a student received a scholarship and was already packaged with non-loan aid to their COA, something would be pulled back from their package.

If a student has loans and gets a scholarship, that scholarship will replace loan offers. Sometimes a generic/placeholder scholarship offer will be later swapped out for a specific, named award. In that case, a scholarship is replacing a scholarship, not adding more non-loan aid. The school would explain that in their communication to the student.

If I don't apply for financial aid this year, will that affect my eligibility for financial aid in subsequent years?

It depends on what you mean by financial aid, and by "apply." Not submitting a FAFSA means you won't be offered federal loans (and perhaps not offered financial aid, depending on the school's policies) that year, but you could submit a FAFSA another year. That means you could get loans later, but whether you can get scholarships or grants is a different and school-specific policy.

Many schools will consider you for merit-based aid without any additional steps or requirements, and if you don't get this type of aid offered in year one, they *might* have continuing student scholarships available later. If a school has need-based aid, they will probably require both the FAFSA and possible additional forms or documents.

If you don't qualify (or don't apply) in year one, whether you can be considered in later years is totally dependent of school policy.

Several schools say they don't require your parents financial info for financial aid over a certain age, some still do. How do you fill out and send the FAFSA and CSS profiles with parental information to some schools, and without it to others? Can you send it without to some schools, then fill it out more, and send the new one to different schools?

We don't require parental information on the FAFSA, nor do we require the CSS profile. After someone is admitted, we invited them to submit our own Supplemental Gift Aid application in order to be considered for need-based aid and specific scholarships. This sounds like a question best directed to CSS profile, or to the schools that require it.

Does your law school practice need-blind admissions? Or will applying for financial aid hurt my chances of being admitted?

Yes, our admissions process is need-blind. You don't apply for financial aid until after you've been admitted, and we don't ask whether you plan to apply for financial aid in the application for admission. If you complete a FAFSA before you receive a final decision from us, we will not have downloaded or reviewed that until after you are admitted.

If the financial aid is insufficient or my circumstances have changed, how do you suggest I appeal for more financial aid?

We have a formal reconsideration process. More information is available to admitted students.