Mathiew Le

Mathiew Le

Assistant Dean of Admissions & Financial Aid

University of Texas School of Law

The Basics

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

Applicants should first review our fee waiver guidelines and check to see whether they fall within one of the criteria. If so, simply send an email to [email protected] to request a fee waiver if they didn’t already receive one through LSAC’s Candidate Referral Service (CRS).

Honestly, what is “yield protection” and does it really exist?

“Yield protection” is this idea that schools only admit students that they have a strong sense would matriculate into their schools. I don’t know if I can speak to whether it really exists or not, but what I do know is that we evaluate candidates for admission based on a holistic review of a candidate’s academic talent, experience, and general fit.

We only admit students whom we want to be part of Texas Law and our community. Whether an admitted student decides to enroll or not (and of course we want them to!) is a complicated decision involving many factors some of which are beyond our control.

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?

For us, it is possible to be admitted, denied, put on the waiting list, and held for regular decision during the Early Decision process.

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?

With so many new LSAT test dates it can get confusing quickly! Applicants applying under Early Decision should take the LSAT no later than the October administration to make our November 1 application deadline and those applying under Regular Decision should plan on taking the LSAT no later than the February administration to make our March 1 application deadline.

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?

It’s a good idea for applicants to update their CAS Report with recent grades as they become available in the fall through spring terms, especially if they performed well and it would increase their overall GPA. We require all of our admitted incoming students to submit their final transcripts to LSAC anyways, so the applicant might as well do it on the front end.

The Law School Application

In your view, what is the biggest impact that can be had by hiring a law school admissions consultant?

Many applicants graduate from undergraduate programs that lack prelaw resources or have academic/prelaw advisors that are truly knowledgeable about the law school application process.

Consultants can fill that gap in prelaw services to applicants who didn’t have access to a prelaw advisor during college or even post-college. But be wary, not all consultants are the same! So I strongly urge anyone thinking of hiring a consultant to do their due diligence and fact-finding to determine whether a specific consulting firm is a good fit for them or not.

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 typically start with the personal statement and spend most of my time here as well. This is because the personal statement is one of the most important components of the entire application.

It gives us a sense of who the applicant is, what’s their background and experiences, what lessons have they learned, how their views and perspectives were shaped, and how it relates to their pursuit of a legal education. We’re also spending a great deal of time with the personal statement because we are assessing the applicant’s writing abilities and talent.

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?

One of the biggest mistakes I see frequently is when an applicant doesn’t follow directions. We are very specific about the formats and length of the personal statement and resumé, so I am always surprised that students do not follow those instructions. It does not give the Committee a positive impression.

The best personal statements I’ve read always contain:

Quality writing.

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?

11-point font.

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

The first thing the applicant needs to consider is whether the person whom they are asking can provide a positive letter of recommendation. You’d be surprised how many letters of recommendation I read where the recommender provided a negative or very lukewarm recommendation. This obviously can lower the student’s chances of being admitted.

The second consideration the applicant needs to think about is who is going to provide the letter of recommendation. Typically, many schools prefer or specifically indicate that a letter of recommendation should be an academic letter, i.e., written by a professor or anyone who is in a position to assess the candidate’s academic potential.

This is particularly important when the applicant’s academic credentials or their LSAT is not at the school’s medians. We’ve reviewed so many applications where the student’s GPA or LSAT are below our medians but our concerns have been assuaged by a professor who wrote about the candidate’s aptitude and scholastic achievements despite their scores—they can be truly persuasive.

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?

I mentioned this earlier, but one thing that doesn’t impress the Committee favorably is when the applicant doesn’t follow the instructions and submits a resumé that goes beyond the page limit. I would always recommend following the application instructions.

Another thing that I’ve seen applicants do that doesn’t appeal to the Committee is when the applicant experiments with creative formats for the resumé. You want to provide the information in a straightforward format and not make it difficult for the Committee to decipher the information.

Character & Fitness

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

The impact of failing to disclose something could be as serious and grave as having the Committee rescind an applicant’s admission offer.

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

My best advice to these students is always err on the side of fully disclosing their past indiscretions no matter how small the infraction might be. I tell students to imagine a scenario where the student doesn’t fully disclose during the application process, they are admitted, enrolled, complete three years of law school, and they are unable to sit or be admitted into the bar because the State Bar has concerns about the applicant’s character and fitness because of the applicant’s failure to disclose something on their law school application. That’s not a situation any student wants to be in.

The Admissions Review

What is the best way to prepare for an admissions interview, either online or in person?

The best way is to practice with a friend or someone who is willing to provide constructive feedback. We use an online interview platform and sometimes students don’t know where to look or they look away from the camera. The more a student practices speaking alone in front of their computer camera, the better the interview will be.

What is the one thing a student does NOT want to do during their interview?

Read from a script or prepared statement that they’ve written in advance—don’t do it! The idea of the online interview is to simulate an actual in-person interview. We are assessing an applicant’s ability to develop an improvised response to our questions and reading directly from a script takes away from that assessment.

What are TWO things you hope you leave an admissions interview knowing about the candidate?

One thing I hope I take away from the applicant is an understanding of why they are pursuing law school, particularly at Texas Law. We are fortunate to receive thousands of applications each year and it’s helpful to understand how the applicant’s interest in law aligns with something that Texas Law might offer.

Another thing that I hope to take away from their interview is an assessment of the applicant’s oral communication abilities. It’s probably the most valuable thing we can gain from the interview that we wouldn’t obtain otherwise in the application process.

What is the best question a candidate ever asked YOU during an admissions interview?

I don’t have one single “best” question, but I’m usually impressed when a student asks questions that are forward thinking, e.g., “ where do you see Texas Law in five years?” It shows me that the student is not just interested in their short-term goals, but it also shows me that they are interested in how their law school choice will impact them in the future.

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)?

Any email expressing their continued interest is the best way to convey their enthusiasm and willingness to accept an offer. As a general matter, sending a letter of continued interest after our initial deposit deadline would be ideal and no more than once a month.

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

Several factors go into our waitlist decisions but I would highlight an applicant’s resumé and experiences as having a significant impact on whether an applicant will be extended an admissions offer or not.

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?

I think the most frustrating thing a student could do is to not communicate with us or “ghost” us after being offered a spot or even after accepting a spot. We understand an applicant’s ultimate choice in a law school is complicated and their situation is dynamic as new information or offers arise. But when a student doesn’t communicate with us or keep us in the loop, it is truly difficult to make other decisions without knowing where they stand.

It surprises me every year how many students do not have the courtesy to let us know one way or the other and just stop communicating altogether despite our efforts to get a response. It’s okay to let us know that you’re no longer interested!

Social Media & Internet Forums

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

Social media plays a very insignificant role in any of our admission decisions. We have too many applicants to be reviewing an applicant’s social media presence without any cause or reason to do so.

Typically when we do look anyone up, it’s because the applicant has drawn us there, e.g., they indicated they’re a professional nature photographer and we were curious of their work. But in general we are not looking up an applicant’s social media.

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?

We rarely look at the various forums because quite frankly it’s too easy to fall into the rabbit hole and to be honest, there’s so much misinformation on there that it surprises me that any applicant would want to get their information on the forums rather than send us an email or contact us for specific information or if they have a question, which is what we encourage students to do.

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 would say anecdotally 90% of the time.

Have you ever tried to identify an Internet forum poster in your applicant pool and, if so, were you successful?

Who has that kind of time?! And plus, my guess is students are savvy these days and are aware of their digital footprint. But again, we don’t give this issue too much of our time.

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.

The first thing I recommend to any student visiting the law school is to stop any random student, introduce themselves, and ask them to answer questions about the law school environment. Typically when a student visits, we pair them up with a Student Ambassador, who obviously have positive things to say about the law school. But to truly get a sense of the school, I think it’s a great idea to ask non-Ambassadors as well.

Another thing I would recommend a visiting student do is to actually take time to visit the city and take in the sights if it’s their first time in the city. You’re potentially going to spend three years in that city and you want to feel good not only about the school itself but also whether you would enjoy living in that city.

If you were a prospective student visiting a law school, what TWO questions you would ask current students?

For starters, I would ask the student to describe the student culture and learning environment. Then, I would ask encourage the student to ask what is one thing that they really like about that the law school and what is one thing that they really don’t like about that law school. That’s technically three questions, but they’re all important!

If you were a prospective student visiting a law school, what TWO questions you would ask law school administrators or faculty?

Two questions I would ask is what is one thing that the law school has implemented in the last year that was student-centric. The second question I would ask is if you could improve one thing at the law school what would it be?

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?

I would advise them to develop sound financial habits and getting their financial house in tact before making an investment in a legal education. I see too often students who struggle during law school because of financial-related stress. Law school is already difficult and stressful and to add financial stressors on top of their other stressors, it undoubtedly impacts their law school experience.

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

Most students have to cover their law school expenses with the Grad PLUS loan which requires a credit check. Students who have egregious credit will have a difficult time qualifying for the Grad PLUS loan and will have to figure out how to cover their remaining cost of attendance.

In addition, graduating 3Ls will often look into bar loans to cover expenses related to sitting for the bar and living expenses after graduation before they begin their first post-law school job and those loans are traditionally through private banks and will depend on the student’s creditworthiness.

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?

I would say the top three things anyone who is 1+ years away from starting law school can do to improve their financial aid packages is to finish their undergraduate degree strong with a competitive GPA, do well on the LSAT (as most scholarship packages are merit-based), and pay off any consumer debt.

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?

Typically, scholarships will reduce the loan burden that a student has to borrow to cover the cost of attendance. Our scholarships will take into consideration both merit- and need-based factors.

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

Each year is independent of one another. So if a student doesn’t apply for financial aid in one year, it does not impact them in subsequent years, but we would encourage a student to submit a FAFSA every year so that they are considered for as many financial aid opportunities available.

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?

I would first have the student check with each school to make sure they understand that school’s process and how they pull that information. In general, once the FAFSA is complete, the Student Aid Report (SAR) is sent to each school that the student listed.

If parental information is on the SAR and the school doesn’t seek that information, then the school can choose to ignore that information. Only specific schools require a CSS and again the student should check with that school whether they participate or not.

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

We do not practice need-blind admissions. We don’t evaluate financial aid until after an admission decision has been rendered.

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

Because everyone’s financial situation is rather unique, we advise students to work directly with one of our excellent and experienced financial aid counselors to learn about their options and to determine what is in their best interest.

What is the WORST tactic candidates have used when trying to negotiate more financial aid?

The worst tactic I’ve experienced is when a student fabricated a competing scholarship offer from another law school to use to negotiate additional money from our law school. Needless to say, it didn’t work out for the student.