by Kim Clark

What can you do to set yourself apart in your law school application? Admissions officials have the answers

We posed questions to admissions officials at the Creighton University School of Law regarding the application process, what they look for in applicants, and what sets their school apart. These are their responses:

1. What can applicants do to set themselves apart from their peers?

Our Admissions Committee strives to enroll a diverse entering class, representing a wide variety of backgrounds and interests. We encourage applicants to highlight their educational, work, leadership, military, and other experiences in their application. We also encourage applicants to research the school(s) they are applying to; let us know why you are interested in Creighton Law School.

In addition, we recommend applicants visit the law school. Take the time to meet with our students and faculty and to learn more about our program.

2. What do you look for in the application essays? What do the essays tell you about a candidate?

The application essay is the applicant's opportunity to "speak" to the Admissions Committee. It provides the applicant with a chance to share his/her passion for pursuing a career in law. We also encourage applicants to call attention to factors in their background that may be indicative of their potential success as a law student and a member of the bar.

3. How important is the applicant's LSAT score? How do you weigh it against undergraduate GPA and work/internship experience? Which of these carry the most weight? The least?

At Creighton Law School, we take a holistic approach in reviewing application files. Each file we receive is carefully reviewed and the entire application file is considered in the decision process. Primary consideration is given to undergraduate grade point average and LSAT score; however, the Admissions Committee recognizes that these factors are not always indicative of motivation, character, and capability. Other factors which have significant impact on admission decisions are the type of courses completed, grade patterns, extracurricular and community activities, honors, work experience, military achievements, graduate studies, and adjustment to individual hardship. The Admissions Committee also considers personal qualities that suggest the application will be a successful student and a competent attorney.

4. How much does prior work/internship experience weigh into your decision making? What's the typical or expected amount of work experience from an applicant?

We do not have a requirement that an applicant must have work/internship experience prior to law school. Each year, approximately 40 percent to 45 percent of our incoming students have been out of school for one year or more prior to beginning law school. Such work/internship experiences are considered valuable by the committee during the review process.

5. What sets you apart from other schools? What can students gain from your school that they might not be able to find anywhere else?

Faculty offices surround the Commons, making them easily accessible to students. Faculty members maintain an "open door" policy that encourages students to come visit, ask questions, test theories, or just chat. Creighton can achieve this because it decided to be a small, highly interactive law school. Consequently, students are not a number to us; they are people.

Creighton Law School graduates are prepared to practice across the country. Each year, our graduates take the bar exam in approximately 18 to 24 different states. The 2009 graduating class had an overall bar passage rate of 92 percent.

Like all Jesuit schools, Creighton adheres to the tradition of cura personalis, Latin for care of the whole person. Basically, for the mind to flourish and intellectual curiosity to thrive, the person must develop as a whole. In practice, this means that professors spend more time with students, counseling them, cajoling them, and challenging them to go farther than they think they can.

6. What do you look for in recommendation letters? How important is it that the letter's writer has worked regularly with the candidate in an office or school setting?

We require a minimum of two letters of recommendation. We want to hear from recommenders who know the applicant well and can speak to his/her strengths and ability to be successful in a graduate/professional school program. Detailed letters that provide specific examples are particularly helpful. If the applicant is currently enrolled in an academic program, we expect at least one of his/her letters to be from a professor.

7. Can you give a brief description of the life cycle of an application? What's the timeline applicants should expect?

Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis. Applicants may begin to submit applications on September 1st. Applicants are notified via E-mail once their application file completes and all materials have been received. The Admissions Committee begins reviewing completed applications in late November, with the first decision letters sent out on approximately December 1. Once a completed application file is forwarded to the Admissions Committee for review, applicants can expect a two- to four-week turnaround time.

8. Which firms/organizations recruit heavily from your school? Which ones hire the highest percentage of your graduates?

Employers from across the country recognize the excellent preparation for practice that Creighton Law graduates receive. Local and regional law firms, such as Kutak Rock, Husch Blackwell Sanders, Koley Jessen and Stinson Morrison Hecker, participate in on campus interview programs to hire summer associates and entry-level attorneys. Typically, one-half or more of the graduating class enters private practice. As a result of the excellence of Creighton's trial practice programs, government and public interest employers from across the nation hire Creighton students that they know will be able to hit the ground running. Creighton Law graduates secure judicial clerkships with federal, state and local courts at both the appellate and trial level, including a recent U.S. Supreme Court clerkship.

9. What are some of the most common mistakes that applicants make that hurt their chances of being accepted?

A common mistake made by applicants is submitting an incomplete application. Applicants need to make sure they answer all questions asked in the application and submit all required materials. Neglecting to do so can significantly slow down the review process for the applicant's file.

Applicants also must make sure they are submitting the correct personal statement or essay for a particular school. At times, we come across essays that were clearly intended for another law school.

Applications should be carefully reviewed for grammatical and typographical errors.

10. Can you describe the archetypal student for your school?

Creighton Law School provides a quality education which begins with the selection of a diverse, motivated, and accomplished student body. The student body at Creighton Law School is composed of 485 students who represent 157 undergraduate institutions and come from 41 states and three foreign countries. Our Admissions Committee strives to enroll a diverse entering class, representing a wide variety of backgrounds and interests.

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Getting into Law School: Creighton University School of Law