Frequently Asked Questions
Preparation for law school
What should I study?
There is no particular major or curriculum that is required for admission to or success in law school, and we find that a student body with backgrounds in a variety of disciplines adds depth and breadth to the classroom dialogue. As a result, an entering class at Michigan Law typically includes 55 or 60 different majors. The majors perennially most common in our entering classes are political science, history, economics, English, and philosophy; some atypical majors that we think provide particularly good training for law school are computer science, mathematics, engineering, and hard sciences, which disciplines make up about 15 percent of the class; classics, seen relatively rarely, is also an excellent foundation for legal study. But 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, since you are less likely to perform well in a major that doesn’t engage you. We recommend, therefore, that you study subjects that are interesting to you. Because we seek curricula that are both broad and deep, we also recommend that you take challenging courses in whatever is 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.
From what schools does the University of Michigan Law School accept students?
We accept students from a wide variety of undergraduate schools, with more than 250 distinct institutions represented in the student body. While the strength of an undergraduate institution is certainly a factor we consider in the admissions process, our commitment to maintaining the excellence of our student body does not limit the wide range of educational institutions from which our students hail. There most assuredly is no accredited school whose graduates we would be simply unwilling to admit. (And for the record, contrary to popular belief / persistent and intractable rumor, students who attended the University of Michigan for their undergraduate studies are not at any disadvantage over students from other schools. Go Blue!)
Now, we're all about visual aids, so below are a couple of fancy charts to illustrate our point that we admit people from lots of different institutions.
First, this chart shows the distribution of undergraduate institutions within the student body—in other words, each piece of the pie represents the number of schools from which a certain number of people in the student body as a whole have graduated. There are about 135 schools where only one person attended, and that works out to about 51% of the total number of schools represented by the student body. And so on.
Our second chart gets at the same question from another direction, asking: how many people in the student body come from school(s) that send a particular proportion of people? In other words, if you're the only person from School XYZ, how many other people will also be from schools that only have one graduate represented?
In what activities should I participate? What groups should I join?
As with majors, we have no preconceived list of "best extracurriculars." You should pursue the areas that interest you. So, while as a general matter we like to see some evidence of involvement and engagement in something outside your studies or employment, we have no particular preference for the type of activity. It is helpful if you give us some sense of the nature and extent of your involvement; further, if the name of a group or organization is a little mysterious to the uninitiated (e.g., the whacky-sounding Kalamazoo Moustache Society, which actually raises money to combat domestic violence), it might be helpful to describe briefly the mission or purpose.
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How does the University of Michigan Law School handle multiple LSAT scores?
The LSAC report for an applicant who has sat for the LSAT more than once will show every score or cancellation, as well as the average score. The ABA requires law schools to report score information based on an admitted student's highest score, and therefore, that is the score to which we give the most weight. We do, however, consider the average score as well, because data provided by the Law School Admissions Council suggests that it has the greatest predictive utility. The average score becomes less useful, though, as the disparity between two scores increases; for that reason, if you have a significant disparity between scores (six or more points), it would be very helpful to address any explanation for the difference in an optional essay or addendum.
What is the median LSAT score for accepted students?
We do not use an admissions formula or index system when we evaluate applicants, nor is there a floor below which we will not consider a candidate. However, University of Michigan Law School is very selective, and the LSAT is an important—though not dispositive—factor in our consideration of an applicant. The median LSAT score for the 2012 entering class is 169 (97th percentile) and the 25th and 75th percentiles for the class are 166 and 170, respectively. Bear in mind that there is no statistically significant difference within plus or minus three points of any particular LSAT score.
When should I take the LSAT?
There is no mandatory time to take the LSAT but conventional wisdom is that the June exam prior to the year in which you wish to begin law school will allow you the optimal amount of time for preparing your application. That said, the September/October sitting is always by far the most popular. You should keep in mind that we cannot begin to review your application until it is complete, which requires a valid score report. Applicants who take the LSAT in February of the year in which they’re applying (and do not already have other score reports) will likely be at a disadvantage because their score reports will not be available until early March, which is late in the admissions season.
Applicants applying under our binding Early Decision Program must take the LSAT no later than September/October of the year in which they're applying.
We will accept scores as old as June five years prior to the admission season. So, for the 2012-13 season, a score from June 2007 is the oldest we can accept.
How does the Admissions Committee view canceled LSAT scores?
While one canceled score will not raise any red flags in an application evaluation, a pattern of canceled scores may cause some concern. (For one thing, it shows that you have been exposed to the test on multiple dates, and any subsequent score needs to be assessed with that in mind.) It can be helpful if you provide an explanation for your cancellation(s), but that is not required.
Beginning with the June 2009 exam, the LSAC instituted a policy requiring people to make test date changes at least three weeks in advance of the test. The reasons for this are sensible; in the past, their very flexible policy (allowing for changes even after the test had occurred!) meant a misallocation of resources—people would not show up for the exam and there would be wasted space at a test center, while meanwhile, other people would have to travel to a second-choice location, sometimes at considerable expense and inconvenience. The new policy allows LSAC to plan much more precisely.
But it also means that people who have very good reasons for postponing can’t do so if they don’t learn of the conflict in the necessary timeframe. What to do?
First, if the conflict is with the date itself—e.g., you’re scheduled for surgery—your only option is not to attend. There will be a notation on a subsequent score report showing that you were absent for the test. A single absence is simply not a big deal at all, and you shouldn’t worry about it. A pattern of absences may be a red flag, however, and so you would be wise to be careful to keep your calendar free for your next test registration date, or to be sure to postpone within the timeframe prescribed by LSAC. If you’re really worried about the notation of an absence, you’re more than welcome to submit a couple of lines in explanation along with your other application materials, but it truly is not necessary.
Second, if your conflict is not with the test date itself but with the necessary preparation (e.g., you’re a paralegal and were unexpectedly asked to participate in a trial for the two weeks prior to the test), you have two choices: (A) take the test and roll the dice with the score, or (B) take the test and cancel the score. (For information about canceled scores, see the prior FAQ.) Only you can know which option makes the most sense for your situation—but rolling the dice tends to be a pretty low-cost risk. Schools report the higher score, so if you retake and do better, that's the score that will carry the weight. And there's always a chance you'll do well and be done!
What if I don't feel ready to take the LSAT?
In general, law school admissions offices operate on a rolling basis, meaning that application files are reviewed in the order of their completion (although we don't necessarily reach a decision on an application in the order in which it is read; some decisions simply take longer than others). This means that there is usually some advantage to applying earlier in the process (when more seats remain to be filled) rather than later. It is also true, though, that it is to your advantage to have the highest possible score on the LSAT—so you shouldn't take the test until you're ready for it. If you're considering the February LSAT in connection with an application for the same year, bear in mind that the score will not be available until early March, meaning that the file will not be ready for review until sometime after that - putting the applicant at a disadvantage in the admissions process, as we will have already filled the majority of available seats. Each individual applicant will need to take these competing considerations (application timing versus getting the optimal score) into account for him- or herself. Consider, though, that you can always reapply in a future year and overcome the disadvantage of a late application, but you cannot erase a low LSAT score.
If I got a low score the first time, should I retake the LSAT?
If your score was significantly different from your practice tests (and you are confident that you were accurately timing yourself), and if you can identify something in particular that might have negatively affected your score the first time (you didn't prepare; you were sick; there was a marching band outside the exam site; etc.), you should seriously consider retaking the test. In the absence of both of those factors, though, odds are that a second score will not be a substantial improvement; the vast majority of people who retake the LSAT get a score that is only a couple of points higher. It would probably make more sense for you to put your energy into making sure the other elements of your application are the best that they can be. Some matters to take into account when considering taking the test again: there is no statistically significant difference within plus or minus three points of any particular LSAT score, so small differences are unlikely to be viewed as important by an admissions committee; multiple scores are averaged, and although we consider the highest score, we also consider the average score (see also our discussion above, about how to handle multiple scores); and, most horrifyingly, there is always the possibility that you will receive a lower score on a subsequent test—a possibility that, statistically speaking, becomes more likely when the initial score is 165 or higher.
I am re-taking the LSAT in December. If I submit my application prior to re-taking the LSAT, but with a previous score on record, will my application be reviewed prior to the release of my new score?
If you are comfortable with all your other application materials, we encourage you to submit your application now rather than waiting for the December LSAT score to send everything—and to make sure to let us know the new score is en route. Because we have a rolling admissions process, there is always something of an advantage to being reviewed earlier rather than later, and if you submit all your materials only after receiving your score, your application will not be complete and ready for review until late January or early February. (For that reason, if the December test is your first sitting for the LSAT, we do recommend that you submit all your other materials in advance, so that when the score arrives we can complete your application file immediately and submit it for review, rather than just beginning to process it at that time.)
While we do not universally hold applications in limbo while we await a new score, our reviewers will see that you are registered for the December LSAT. If we feel that a new score could be a decision-making difference, we will set the application aside and re-review it once the new score arrives. But if we are comfortable admitting you without seeing the new score, we will go ahead and do that; by the same token, if we are sure that an increased LSAT score would not alone lead to a different outcome, we will issue a final decision before receiving the score. If that happens, you are welcome to request that we reconsider your application in light of new information.
I have a learning disability that I believe would allow me to receive extra time on the LSAT. Should I apply for accommodation? Will my file be evaluated differently if I have an accommodated test score?
If you think you may be entitled to accommodation on the LSAT, you should certainly apply to the Law School Admissions Council; forms are available on the LSAC's website.
You should apply for accommodation irrespective of whether the accommodation you seek is extra time for a learning disability or some adaptation for a physical disability—but it is the former circumstance that tends to cause applicants concern that accommodation will reflect negatively on them in the application process. (For an extended discussion on accommodations for the visually impaired, visit the A2Z blog.) Please be assured that this certainly will not be the case at Michigan Law. We treat all LSAT scores, whether accommodated or not, as one element, albeit an important one, in an array of many factors in a complicated assessment process. If you are entitled to accommodation and do not utilize it, it is likely that your score will be negatively affected; while we would take into account any contextual information you provide about why the score may not be predictive for you, you would nonetheless be better off simply to have a more favorable score in the first instance. For a detailed FAQ on the subject of accommodated testing, visit the LSAC's website. Please be aware that the accommodation process can be time-intensive, and it would be to your benefit to apply for accommodation well in advance of when you intend to sit for the test.
If you apply for accommodation but the LSAC does not grant it, we would encourage you to provide us with any information that you think would allow us to more accurately gauge your score. For example, if you received accommodation at your undergraduate institution, or if you have a history of receiving low scores on standardized tests and outperforming those indicators, you should let us know that.
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How do I request an application and viewbook?
You may download our viewbook as a PDF, or you may request a paper copy through our website, by email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling the Admissions Office at 734.764.0537.
As for the application, there are two electronic application options, discussed below, or you may fill out and print a PDF version of the application (including our attempt at helpful commentary). If you prefer to complete an application on paper, but do not have access to a printer, we will be happy to mail a printed copy of the PDF version of the application to you—simply email us your request.
How should I send in my application?
We have no preference from among the various available application forms. You can apply electronically via the LSAC E-App or CollegeNet. Alternatively, you may download the PDF application, which you can fill out on the screen and print, or print out and complete by hand or typewriter. (You may want to take a look at the PDF irrespective of which form you use, as it contains some insider tips for particular questions.) For either of the latter two options, please mail your completed application to us at the Admissions Office (701 South State Street, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-3091).
Is it helpful to send multiple copies of my application to make sure you receive it?
No, please don't send more than one copy; we've never lost one yet. If you are afraid something is amiss, please just send an email, and we'll look into it.
What supporting materials need to be submitted with my application?
We need a completed application (that is, the filled-out form along with answers to our questions about your work and outside activities), the LSAC report (with transcripts from all colleges and universities you have attended and LSAT scores, and recommendation(s) if using LSAC’s Recommender Service), personal statement, optional essays (if any), recommendation(s) (if sending directly to school), and application fee ($75) or fee waiver. Note: one recommendation is required, but three are allowed, and suggested.
I am applying online via LSAC, and at checkout I have the option to view and print the Certification Letter. Do I need to sign this letter and send it to Michigan?
When you apply online via LSAC, you will electronically certify your application by filling in the date next to the signature line. (If you are applying for Early Decision, you will need to complete the date twice—once to certify your application, and once to certify the terms of the Early Decision application process.) At the checkout screen, you will have the option to view and print a PDF version of the Certification Letter, but it is not necessary to send us this letter.
If you choose the “Pay the School Directly” option at checkout, you will be prompted before the checkout screen to print out and sign the Certification Letter to send to us—please note this is not necessary. LSAC’s website indicates that we require you to submit this letter, but that is not the case.
If you submit your application without certifying it, which happens very rarely, please rest assured that we will contact you via email to let you know we need your certification.
We have two types of fee waivers, need-based and merit-based, available for students who qualify.
Merit-based waivers are given out based on information that we obtain from the Candidate Referral Service (CRS) via LSAC. CRS fee waivers are automatically sent to highly qualified applicants encouraging them to apply, and it will appear automatically during your checkout when you apply via LSAC.
A limited number of need-based waivers are given to applicants demonstrating financial hardship. Generally speaking, if you are eligible for a LSAC need-based waiver, then you’ll be eligible for our application fee waiver as well. Our fee waiver application form is available online as a PDF you can complete and print.
Please just send us an email and let us know your Teach for America status, along with the grade and school you teach (or taught). We’ll get back to you right away!
Foreign transcripts for postsecondary work outside the United States (including its territories) or Canada should be submitted through the LSAC JD Credential Assembly Service. For international undergraduate work, a Foreign Credential Evaluation will be compiled by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, which will be incorporated into your CAS report. To get started, log in to your online account and follow the instructions for registering for the service. Be sure to print out a Transcript Request form for each institution and send it promptly to them. Questions about the JD Credential Assembly Service can be directed to LSAC at 215.968.1001 or LSACinfo@LSAC.org.
Be aware that there can be significant delays in processing foreign transcript requests.
If you completed foreign work through a study abroad, consortium, or exchange program sponsored by a US or Canadian institution, and the work is clearly indicated as such on your home campus transcript, then you do not need to provide copies of the foreign transcript.
Your file will be considered complete in our office once we receive your LSAC report, which will include all transcripts required by LSAC. So the short answer is, no; it is not necessary to send us any transcripts that LSAC doesn’t require. However, our reviewers prefer to have as much information as possible when reviewing an application, especially in cases where there are courses taken (and perhaps grades earned) that will not appear on the degree-granting transcript. (With a formal study-abroad program, we get more information than a simple listing of total credits transferred.) If our reviewers read your application and have unanswered questions about your time spent at a foreign institution, that conceivably could have a negative effect on the decision. Other schools are likely to have a similar take—so if you decide you would like us to see your foreign transcript, we suggest that you send it to LSAC, rather than to our office. That way, it will be included as an attachment to your LSAC report for all law schools to which you are applying.
When should I apply?
We begin accepting applications for first-year admission—both summer and fall—on September 1, although we are not able to begin reviewing applications until early November. Due to our rolling admissions process, in which files are reviewed as they are completed and decisions are made on a continuous basis, it is to your benefit to apply as early in the season as you comfortably are able. The application deadline is February 15 and filing of the application form alone is sufficient to meet the deadline.
Early Decision applications (binding, matriculating in the summer only) must be completed by November 15; all application components, including letters of recommendation and the LSAC report must be received by the Admissions Office by that date. We suggest that all necessary materials be submitted by about November 1, as it can take up to two weeks for the Law School to receive LSAC reports as well as applications submitted via LSAC. The Law School will send a decision no later than December 15.
Applications for transfer and visiting students will be accepted between May 1 and July 21.
While we can’t review your application without an LSAT score, it is perfectly acceptable—indeed, a good idea!—to send the application and other materials as soon as you comfortably are able after September 1. That way, the rest of your application file can be processed and prepared while we wait for your score, and your application can be completed and submitted for review immediately after scores are released.
We very frequently have applicants send along pieces of their application prior to formally applying, and we have a great system for keeping track of it all. Unfortunately, however, we aren’t staffed in a way that allows us to check on those individual pieces. Once you’ve submitted the application itself, you’ll receive an emailed acknowledgment from us, and about a week thereafter, you’ll receive an email about logging into our Online Status Check system. If at that time, you’re still concerned about whether we’ve received some element of your application (because your application is showing as “incomplete”), please feel free to contact us. And as a general proposition, it is extremely rare that we encounter a situation where something has been mailed but never received by us; if you know you mailed something, or if your recommender tells you he or she mailed something, it is our experience you can feel pretty confident that all is well.
Should I reapply if I was denied in a previous admissions season?
Please be assured that your previous application does not place you at any disadvantage. You are on equal footing with all of the applicants in this admissions cycle. To reapply, you must submit a new application and reregister with LSAC, even if you are not retaking the LSAT, so that we can order a new CAS report for you. If you completed any additional coursework since your previous application, all new official transcripts should be sent to LSAC. Any previous application materials submitted within the last year will automatically be added to your new application when it arrives, but if there is something in your previous application that you’d like us to pay particular attention to, please note that in a cover letter with your application. While we recommend that you submit a new personal statement and recommendations, we will review your previous personal statement in lieu of a new version if you direct, and will automatically consider any previous letters of recommendation to satisfy our recommendation requirement.
What should I write about in my personal statement/optional essays?
The personal statement is your chance to give a brief monologue to the file readers, so the best judgment about a topic is necessarily yours—only you can know what is most relevant about your background for purposes of admission to law school. To quote our application, “There is no formula for a successful personal statement, and different individuals will find different topics to be well-suited to them.” Spend some time thinking about what it is that you would tell an admissions officer if you had ten minutes of undivided attention—perhaps about what led you to law school, about unusual challenges you’ve overcome, about your religious, political, cultural, or sexual identity, about unusual experiences or travel, or simply why you’d be an interesting person to have in the class. Whatever topic you choose, your statement will be evaluated on both content and construction, so your goal should be to write about something interesting and write about it well. We also offer eight different optional essay topics, from which you can choose to write up to two additional essays, in order that our decision will be based on as much information about you as possible. These essays are truly optional, and many people are admitted without submitting additional essays beyond the personal statement; at the same time, we often find that they add extremely helpful depth and perspective.
If I reveal something confidential in my application, how confidential will it really be?
During the admissions stage, the only people to see applications are members of the Admissions Office and, on occasion, the faculty committee, all of whom understand the importance of and are accustomed to keeping the contents of the files confidential. Unless you check the box of our application asking us not to, however, we will often pass on to particular student groups the names and contact information of admitted applicants who have self-identified as being potential members of those groups. Admitted applicants who self-identify as African American, therefore, may be contacted by the Black Law Students Alliance, admitted female applicants may be contacted by the Women Law Students Association, admitted BYU grads may be contacted by the J. Reuben Clark Law Society, and so on. One exception to this rule: if an admitted applicant comes out in his or her application, the Admissions Office will first e-mail him or her for permission before passing along contact information to the Outlaws, our LGBTQ student organization.
If you are admitted and you matriculate, your application file will be transferred to the Records Office, and another set of eyes will have access to the materials. The privacy of current students, however, is protected under federal law by Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), 20 U.S.C. § 1232g.
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I know I'm a resident; why does your office think I'm not?
If you mark “yes” for residency on your application and we send you a letter telling you that you have to apply for residency, it doesn’t mean the Admissions Office thinks you’re not a resident. All it means is that something in your record has triggered, under preset criteria, a need for you to apply. We understand this can be frustrating for people who have no doubt that they are residents, but the Residency Classification Guidelines are complex and comprehensive and in order to ensure that they are fairly implemented, review of additional information by the experts in the Residency Classification Office is required in many cases—perhaps because you have been employed outside the state within the last three years, or because you attended a college outside the state, or for one of many other possible reasons. The University’s Residency Classification Guidelines and an Application for Resident Classification can be found on the Web at http://www.umich.edu/~regoff/resreg.html, or you’re welcome to contact the Residency Classification Office with your questions, in person or by mail at 1210 LSA Building, 500 South State Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1382, or by telephone at 734.764.1400. The office is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.
Be assured that your application will not be held or delayed during the residency classification process. While you should apply for residency as soon as you can, we do not wait for the official determination if there is any chance that you could be considered a resident; we just give you the benefit of the doubt.
Not to sound like a broken record, but the residency rules are detailed and complex, and smart as we like to think we are, the Admissions Office simply isn’t qualified to give you an advisory opinion on the likelihood that you’re a resident. If you think it’s possible you are, you should certainly be in touch with the Residency Classification Office with your questions, in person or by mail at 1210 LSA Building, 500 South State Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1382, or by telephone at 734.764.1400. The office is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.
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How many applications do you receive and what is the size of the incoming class?
We typically receive between 5000-6000 applications for an average entering class of about 350. Each entering class is divided into four equally sized sections, one of which begins in the summer. All first-year students have one core class divided into small sections of about 45 students; that small section is divided in half again for Legal Practice (the required legal writing and advocacy course), making that class about 22 students.
How long will it take for me to get a decision?
We often get semi-frantic emails and calls from people who are concerned that their applications are not complete, or that their failure already to have received a decision spells certain doom. In an effort to allay some of these fears, we provide this detailed guide to what goes on in the Admissions Office once we receive your application materials, and what you can expect in terms of timing.
First, when we receive the initial application materials from you, we immediately send you an email letting you know we've received them. This email does not mean that the application is complete, but it also doesn't mean it's not complete. It simply means we've received your initial materials. We then begin processing your application, which involves sending acknowledgments to recommenders, checking our files to see whether we have already received some submission from you or from your recommenders in advance of the actual application, requesting your CAS report, performing considerable, and time-consuming, data entry, arranging the materials in our file folders, and printing labels and comment sheets for the readers. This takes a fair amount of time for each individual file, and it is not unusual for us to receive 150-200 applications a day, particularly in December and January.
You will receive an email from our office approximately one to two weeks after we receive your application with your University of Michigan ID and a link to our Online Status Check. Once we have received and processed all your application materials, we mark your file as complete, and our Online Status Check registers the status change. Those files are parceled out to the various readers in the office, in accord with our internal assignment system. A file might receive a decision immediately, or may proceed to further review before a committee. We are cautious in our decisions, either to admit or to deny, and do not like to proceed hastily. We take our responsibility of composing a top-notch class extremely seriously, and that is to your benefit; you can be assured your application materials are receiving a thorough review. We try to be sensitive to the stress law school applicants are under and we hope you will be patient with our efforts.
You went to great lengths to apply early in our season, and now you’re disappointed—or, well, irritated—that you haven’t received an answer yet. We understand how you feel, but we nonetheless ask for your patience. Once the Online Status Check shows that your file is complete, your application is reviewed within a week by a first reader, and is then sent on to a second reader—but even after getting two people’s input, we can’t always make a decision right away. Simply put, some decisions are more difficult than others. A delay doesn't mean we've forgotten about you; it just means we have a lot of applications to read and decisions to make. If you apply early in the season and we find we are unable to reach a decision quickly, we will contact you to let you know we're still considering your application. We routinely and frequently review the files of applicants for whom we couldn’t make an immediate decision, in an effort to balance our sensitivity to your stress levels—which, honestly, we are very aware of!—with our mission of making the best possible decisions.
Does the University of Michigan have an early decision program?
We have an Early Decision program for summer starters only; it is binding, which means that in applying, you agree to come if we make you an offer. We recommend that applicants to the Early Decision program submit their materials by early November in order to be assured that we receive all the necessary components by our November 15 deadline; we will make all decisions by December 15. If an applicant is not admitted under Early Decision, his or her application will be rolled over into the regular decision pool. Typically, a little less than half of the summer section is admitted as part of the Early Decision program. Note: if you apply Early Decision, and we do not make you an offer on December 15, but roll your application into the regular pool, you could then receive an offer for either summer or fall.
The Law School uses a modified rolling admissions process, meaning that applications are reviewed as they are completed, but admissions decisions are not necessarily made in that order. Applicants are encouraged to apply and complete their files as early as they comfortably are able, because the later they wait in the application cycle, the fewer the seats that are available.
How is my application evaluated?
We view our student body as one of our greatest assets, and our goal is to admit a group of students who, individually and collectively, are among the best applying to American law schools in a given year. We seek a mix of students with varying backgrounds and experiences, who will respect and learn from each other. Our most general measure is a composite of an applicant's LSAT score and undergraduate GPA and, as measured by those statistics, Michigan is among the handful of the most selective law schools in the country. However, each of these measures is far from definitive. Even the highest possible scores will not guarantee admission, and quite low scores will, likewise, not automatically result in a denial, as both circumstances may have significant offsetting considerations. We evaluate the strength of the personal statement and recommendations, the rigor of an applicant's undergraduate curriculum, significant work experience, significant life experiences and community involvement, among other things. For more information about how applications are reviewed, please refer to Dean Zearfoss's article, "Admissions of a director."
We require only one letter of recommendation for your application to be considered complete, but we suggest that you submit up to three. (In general, we find that submitting more than three tends to result in unhelpful repetition of information—but that said, of course, additional letters may make sense in an individual case.) For most applicants, an academic recommendation is the most useful. It can be from an undergraduate or a graduate institution, and it need not be from a professor. The best advice is to select recommenders who know you the best and can speak in the most detail about your potential contribution, and for many candidates, that recommender will be a teaching assistant or graduate student instructor. We also find it very useful to hear from employers or others who have supervised your work (whether in a volunteer or for-pay capacity). For some candidates, a helpful recommender might be more idiosyncratic, such as a coach. The only recommendations we usually find unhelpful are those from people who have themselves attained impressive accomplishments but who have little detailed knowledge of the candidate, and those from relatives, who may know the candidate quite intimately but to whom we naturally attribute a certain bias.
Do you participate in LSAC's new evaluation service?
We accept the LSAC evaluation form, but we do not require it. Evaluations function only as a supplement to your letter(s) of recommendation, and it should be from someone other than your recommendation letter writer(s). Evaluations cannot fulfill our letter of recommendation requirement, as we generally find them to be lacking in important detail.
I have an LSAT of X, and a GPA of Y. What are my chances of admission?
Because we receive so many highly competitive applications and base our decisions on a wide variety of factors, it is very difficult to judge an individual applicant's chances of admission. Even if we have all of the relevant information for an applicant, admissions decisions are made within the context of the entire applicant pool—and we typically receive 5000-6000 applications for about 350 spots. That said, the median LSAT score for the 2012 entering class was 169 and the 25th and 75th percentiles for the class were 166 and 170, respectively. The median GPA was 3.73 with the 25th and 75th percentiles falling at 3.58 and 3.83, respectively.
If you sent me an invitation to apply, am I more likely to be accepted?
We send invitations to apply only to those people who, through the information they provide to LSAC's Candidate Referral Service, seem like they would be competitive applicants. However, the only information we have available to us through the Candidate Referral Service is limited: LSAT, GPA, major, undergraduate institution, and so forth. An invitation to apply cannot be a guarantee of admission, because, as described above, we take many other factors into account that are not reflected in the summary data provided by CRS. Historically, however, receiving an invitation does indicate a greater likelihood of admission; we admit about one fifth of the overall pool, but we admit more than half of the applicants who were invited to apply.
Bear in mind that it's very difficult, for you or for us, to estimate your chances of admission (and that, as they say in the stock market, past performance is not a guarantee of future results). Typically, more than half of our applicant pool has numbers that are at or above our median scores for the previous year's incoming class, which is almost three times the number of people we can actually admit. Consider, too, that "the numbers" are merely a starting point for our evaluation of which candidates will make up the best possible entering class. If you want to increase your chances of admission, please take care with your application, and be sure to provide us with all the relevant information you can about your experiences, activities, and background and how you might be a good fit for our community.
If my numbers are above your medians and you don’t admit me, doesn't that mean that you're "yield protecting"? I.e., you didn't admit me because you're sure I wouldn't come?
Such questions deeply underestimate the confidence of this Admissions Office, which tends to assume that everyone who is admitted to Michigan Law will want to come to Michigan Law. Okay, okay, we know—not everyone comes, and people who are admitted to lots of other top law schools are the ones least likely to come. But if this yield-protection allegation were true, then we’d be implementing our nefarious plans very poorly; every year, the school with which we have the highest overlap for admitted candidates is Harvard. We never deny someone because we think, by virtue of their LSAT and GPA, that they will be unlikely to accept our offer of admission. Most people with high numbers will be offered admission—but it is also true that people with very strong numbers will often not be admitted. Like all top law schools, we simply receive far more applications from prospective students with high numbers than we could possibly admit—and we look at many, many factors apart from the numbers. No matter how strong a candidate you are numerically, it is worth putting effort into your application to ensure that you are portraying yourself as well as possible.
How does residency affect my chances of admission?
Michigan residency is a factor in admissions, but it is only a small part. We are a public institution, but we are also highly selective. We are fortunate enough to receive so many highly qualified applicants from Michigan that our incoming classes are composed of about 20 percent in-state residents. Our office makes only preliminary determinations of residency based on the answers that you provide in your application and the guidelines given by the University; if you have detailed questions about residency guidelines, please contact the University of Michigan's Residency Classification Office at 734.764.1400.
Does the Law School defer admission?
Yes, but deferrals of admission are harder to get than offers of admission and are granted solely at the discretion of the Dean of Admissions. Considerations include your strength as a candidate relative to anticipated future applicant pools, and your reason for deferring. It is rare that we will grant a deferral for an endeavor that does not have a defined time limit. If you know you do not intend to matriculate in the year for which you’re applying because you already have a commitment to do something else, then we strongly encourage you to postpone applying. But things come up! And if some golden opportunity (or difficult situation) presents itself after you’re admitted, please contact us to discuss.
As a Teach for America partner school, Michigan Law automatically grants deferrals for TFA corps members who are or will be in the process of completing their term of service.
Are interviews part of the admissions process? If not, why not?
While evaluative interviews are not a part of our process at Michigan, our admissions counselors are happy to meet with you and answer any questions you may have about the Law School or the admissions process. We also occasionally contact applicants to get clarification about certain elements of an application. We choose not to interview because social science research suggests that interviews offer no information helpful to the decision-making process; further, anecdotal evidence suggest that many fantastic and talented people do not always make a great first impression, particularly if the meeting takes place under the stressful circumstances of an evaluative interview. Interviews also present opportunities for discrimination on the basis of academically irrelevant personal characteristics, which we would prefer to avoid. And, to tell the truth: Dean Zearfoss is a bit of a control freak and doesn't like the idea of delegating the interviews.
It is worth noting that schools that do employ interviews typically do so not because it enhances their selection of candidates, but because it enhances their ability to select people who are committed to attending the institution. In other words, they believe that if you are willing to attend an interview, you are much more likely to attend the school if you are admitted.
What can I do on a visit to the Law School?
If you are planning a visit to the Law School, we would be happy to help arrange a tour or a class visit. Please visit our Online Scheduling System for a list of classes for which the professors have given permission to have visitors attend, as well as a list of scheduled tour times. In addition, the Admissions Office staff is available for appointments, and would be delighted to meet with you. The best time to visit the Law School is on a weekday when classes are in session. Although the Law School buildings are open on weekends, classes are not held and the Admissions staff is not in the office.
Does the University of Michigan Law School require a Dean's Certification?
We do not require a Dean's Certification with our first-year JD program application. (We do, however, require a letter of good standing for transfer applicants.)
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How do I apply as a transfer?
The University of Michigan Law School accepts transfer students for the fall semester only. Candidates for transfer admission must have completed the equivalent of the first year of law school (at least 28 credits). Transfer students do NOT have to register for the CAS service (although they may choose to). They must complete the application and provide five items: A complete first year transcript; if that transcript does not include class rank, a letter indicating the applicant's class rank; the first page of the applicant's CAS report; a letter of good standing from the dean; and a letter of recommendation from a professor at their current law school. For a detailed checklist and more information, see our transfer admissions page.
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What are the advantages of starting in the summer?
Please visit our summer start page for a detailed discussion of our summer start, in which students graduate a half year earlier than would otherwise be possible.
Statistically speaking, applying for both summer and fall semesters gives the file reader more seats for which to consider the applicant in any given year. However, if you cannot attend for the summer term, please apply for fall only, since the slight statistical boost is not worth it if you cannot actually attend, and term switches are not guaranteed.
How does being a summer starter help or hurt my career prospects?
By the time that a summer starter would begin a summer internship with a law firm or public service employer, the student will have had three semesters of law school, which means that they are already halfway through their legal education. Students should communicate this to employers, as many employers will consider this quite beneficial.
The other distinction for summer starters is the fact that most will graduate in December and will sit for the February bar exam. After that, many will take advantage of the time they have to do a short-term, post-graduate internship with a nonprofit, either in the United States or abroad (Michigan Law School students may apply for a Bates Fellowship, which funds work/study abroad). Others may use the time to travel, and still others will decide to start working in March, rather than wait until September when most new associates begin their jobs.
Should I apply through the Early Decision Plan?
Is your heart set on Michigan? If you’ve considered all of your options and know this is the place for you, applying Early Decision is a great way to demonstrate a high level of interest in Michigan Law as well as to ensure that your application will be among the first to be reviewed. In return for the Law School's commitment to give you a decision by mid-December, you must commit, at the time of application, to attend the Law School if admitted under the Early Decision program, and to withdraw and/or not initiate applications at other law schools (that means you may not simultaneously apply under the binding early decision programs of other schools). The Early Decision program at Michigan is limited to those applicants wishing to begin in the summer term: the Early Decision option will advantage summer-start candidates by enabling them to begin planning a few months earlier for the early June starting date.
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What is the tuition at the University of Michigan Law School?
The tuition and fees for the 2012-13 academic year are $48,250 for Michigan Residents and $51,250 for Nonresidents, and estimated living expenses are approximately $18,700. A tuition estimate for the 2013-2014 academic year will be available in February.
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Do a lot of Law Students come straight from their undergraduate institutions?
Between two thirds and three fourths of our student body spend one or more years off before enrolling in the Law School; most take five or fewer years off.
What was the average age of the 1L class?
The mean age of the 2012 entering class is 24; ages range from 20 to 37.
Where do law students live?
Michigan Law students have numerous on-campus and off-campus housing options. Typically, a little less than half of the first-year class has chosen to live on campus in the Lawyers Club, which is part of the Law Quadrangle. The Lawyers Club will be open and freshly renovated for the 2013-14 school year, thanks in large part to a generous donation by Charles T. Munger. Another on-campus option is our graduate and family housing on North Campus—called Northwood Community Apartments—which is just a short, free bus ride away from the law school.
Approximately two thirds of our students live off campus in apartments and houses, most within walking distance of the law school. The Off-Campus Housing Office has an extensive website that includes listings of apartments, rooms, co-ops, parking spaces, and a roommate matching service. It also includes maps and a list of landlords and management companies who have met certain criteria for inclusion. Popular neighborhoods close to campus include Angell, Bach, and Burns Park, which encompass Downtown, Kerrytown, the Old West Side, and the area immediately south of the law school. Check out Arborweb’s neighborhood guide to get a better sense of which part of town is right for you.
Law students also have the option of living at The Kent Inn House of Phi Delta Phi, known as the Phid House, which is very affordable and just a block from the law school.
Are most Michigan Law students from the Midwest?
Our students come from all over the country and all over the world. As the chart demonstrates, only about 40 percent come from Michigan and the other 11 states that comprise the Midwest, and an almost equal number come from the East and the West Coasts.
What is Ann Arbor like?
Ann Arbor is an exciting and vibrant city of about 115,000. Because it is, in many respects, the quintessential "university town," it offers many businesses and services geared towards students' needs, therefore making it a great place to be a student. Yet Ann Arbor is also remarkably sophisticated, offering a plethora of cultural activities—theatre, dance, popular and classical music, films—as well as restaurants specializing in a wide variety of cuisines, innumerable coffee shops and bookstores. And, of course, the sports venues—both college and professional—are unsurpassed. Athletes, in addition to spectators, will also love what Ann Arbor can offer in terms of running, canoeing, cross-country skiing, and workout facilities. If you're moving to Ann Arbor with family, the city has great public schools as well as parks and an award-winning public library.
Some useful Web sites to introduce you to Ann Arbor are:
What about the weather?
It is our impression that, perhaps due to some fundamental geographic confusion, many people imagine the weather in Ann Arbor to be much worse than it actually is. Protestations from us, however, end up sounding a bit pathetic. So instead, we say judge for yourself—check out the average temperatures and snowfall in Ann Arbor, Boston, New York and Chicago. And bear in mind: it's always a balmy 70 degrees in the library.
What time zone is Ann Arbor in?
We are at the western edge of the Eastern time zone, so we have the same time as our friends on the East Coast, but it is light for about an hour later in the evening—a particularly welcome fact during December afternoons.
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When evaluating essays from applicants from non-English speaking countries, do you give more leeway to the language quality of the essay, or do you apply the same standards as you would to the writing of a native speaker?
We do expect to see essentially an equivalent level of mastery of written English. We expect to see certain types of minor mistakes—e.g., problems with plurals—with non-native speakers, but in terms of overall skill level, we expect full fluency. Applying this standard is to the benefit of the applicant, because this is the level of skill an applicant will need in order to succeed here.
May a foreign applicant who does not write well in English use a professional editing service to edit for language and style?
We expect that essays are the work of the applicant. It’s one thing to show them to a friend or two for input, but we definitely frown upon a professional service. This is true whether the applicant is a native speaker or not; all too often, U.S. natives will hire “admissions consultants” to actually pen their personal statements, and we view that too as a violation of our expectation that all the work is that of the applicant. You’d be surprised how easily we are able to detect these professionally polished essays. We will often compare the writing style of the LSAT essay with that of the personal statement, for example, and when there’s a stark contrast, we’ll know why.
We do not require TOEFL scores for the JD application as the LSAT is an adequate measure of English proficiency.
How does Michigan Law evaluate the undergraduate GPAs of international applicants from countries that have a different grading system than the United States? Will a foreign applicant be at a disadvantage if her college does not grade-inflate as much as some American undergraduate institutions might, especially if the foreign college does not rank its students? If the foreign college does rank its students, what percentile/rank do you typically look for?
Thanks to our LLM program (to which we admit almost exclusively foreign-trained lawyers), we have a great deal of institutional knowledge of the grading practices of various countries and colleges in those countries, and are able to evaluate transcripts with a great deal of nuance. Further, bear in mind that although some U.S. colleges do engage in a shocking degree of grade inflation, we get information about that from the Law School Admissions Council, and assess records from those schools accordingly; i.e., students from grade-inflating schools are not themselves at an advantage.
There is no cutoff for class rank, and we don’t target a particular performance; we evaluate the transcript with an eye toward the strength of the institution and the rigor of the curriculum. We also look at how long ago the grades were earned, and whether the applicant has since acquired some interesting work experience or a graduate degree.
To what extent does the name recognition of one's undergraduate institution affect Michigan Law's admission decision? Presumably American law school admission officers are more familiar with the reputation and relative strengths of American colleges, and are less familiar with foreign colleges. Are you willing to admit students from foreign colleges that are less well-known internationally (but nevertheless well respected domestically)?
We certainly do evaluate the caliber of the undergraduate institution, and consider the applicant’s record in light of the strength of the school. But as mentioned above, we have perhaps more in-house knowledge about a wide variety of international institutions than do many law schools.
For a foreign applicant who, following an undergraduate degree from overseas, has completed a graduate degree in the U.S., will her graduate GPA from the U.S. institution be given more weight than her undergraduate GPA from abroad?
We don’t have a formula, but it will certainly play an important role in the evaluation.
If an applicant has already earned an LLB from abroad and is applying to your JD program, would you prefer that she explain in her essay why she needs another first law degree (instead of the LLM), or would you treat her application no differently than applications from students who majored in a subject other than law? What if the applicant has already earned both an LLB and an LLM from elsewhere?
For the first scenario, we wouldn’t at all be surprised to see someone seeking a JD rather than an LLM; the two degrees have very different purposes and functions. If someone has already earned an LLM in the U.S., however, it would be useful (though not mandatory, by any means) to include a discussion of what additional value the JD will provide.
For applicants from non-English speaking countries, do you favor those who majored/minored in English over those who have not received a rigorous training in the English language? What if the applicant has completed a graduate degree in an English-speaking country?
We definitely expect all our JD candidates, including those for whom English is not the native language, to be fluent in English; to that end, being able to demonstrate significant English language background will be helpful. Majoring, however, is certainly not necessary. Any level of schooling in an English-speaking country would be a helpful indicator of English preparation but again, it’s not necessary. Often we see students who have worked for U.S. companies or firms, albeit in another country, and that too can be a good way to indicate strong English proficiency.
Will a recommendation letter from a professor who does not write well in English hurt my chances?
It definitely won’t hurt you—we won’t attribute your professor’s relative lack of English ability to you!—but it simply won’t be a weight in your favor. If we have trouble understanding the letter, we will most likely simply ignore it. So long as you have one strong letter of recommendation from someone who is able to communicate easily in English, you need not be concerned.
Currently, what percentage of the applications you receive is from international students, i.e., those who are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents, regardless of where they attended college? Do you expect this number to rise in the next few years? Will Michigan admit more international students in response, or is there a somewhat fixed number of seats allocated to international students?
Right now, we have a relatively small number of applicants who are neither citizens nor permanent legal residents of the U.S.—about 300 a year, out of the 5000-6000 applications we typically receive, or about 5 percent of our pool. But even though it’s small, that’s about a 100 percent increase since 2000, and we anticipate a continuing upward trend. We have no fixed number of seats allocated to international students; the number we admit will depend on the quality of the international pool, taken in the context of the quality of the pool overall. Our goal is to admit the best law school applicants in the world in any given year, so as the pool grows and improves, the number we admit will grow as well.
What are some of the most common mistakes you see in applications from China or other countries? What other suggestions and advice do you have for international applicants?
The biggest hurdle for the international applicant is often the personal statement. We really look for something personal; not something secret or scandalous, but something that only you could have written, and something that really gives us insight into what you would be like to have in the student body. U.S. culture likely trains U.S. folks to do this relatively easily, but it can be a more uncomfortable exercise for people from many other cultures.
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