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 University of Denver Sturm College 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?

Applicants should use every part of our application to provide as much information about their backgrounds as possible. It can be hard to say what exactly will make an applicant stand out in our application pool. It could be strong academics, work experience, significant personal accomplishments, leadership roles, a commitment to community service or other activities that show initiative, growth, and maturity. Applicants should try to provide us with as much information as possible in a clear and concise manner.

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

Keeping in mind the fact that your LSAT score and undergraduate GPA are only a part of what the Admissions Committee will consider, applicants should use the personal statement as an opportunity to explain to the committee why you should be selected for admission to the Sturm College of Law. Topics that the committee may consider helpful in evaluating an applicant's qualifications may include:

-- Significant personal experiences beyond what may be reflected in your transcripts and on your résumé

-- Characteristics and experiences that you will bring to the Sturm College of Law and the legal profession that distinguish you from other applicants

-- Long-range career plans and goals that you intend to pursue with your law degree

-- The intellectual contribution you will make to the classroom

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?

While the LSAT is an important factor in our review process, the University of Denver uses a holistic review process. LSAT score, GPA and transcripts, résumé, personal statement and letters of recommendation are all considered when the Admissions Committee reviews applications. We do not use any formulas, indexes or point systems. Through our review process we seek to admit applicants with strong academics that will make valuable contributions to the University's tradition of scholarship and service and who will inspire confidence in the bar.

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?

Since the committee uses a holistic review process there is no specific weight given to prior work or internship experience. While the committee finds work experience to be a compelling factor when reviewing applications, the committee does not expect an applicant to have previous work experience.

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?

The Faculty: The Sturm College of Law has a large and growing faculty, increasing our already impressive faculty-student ratio. Members of our faculty come from a variety of backgrounds, and almost all have practiced law, allowing them to teach based on experience. Most are recognized as national experts and leaders in their fields. And most importantly, they are dedicated to teaching. They incorporate the latest research on effective teaching methods and take advantage of the state-of-the-art technology that is available in all of our classrooms.

In addition to our full-time faculty, our students also benefit from the expertise and wisdom of some of the leading practitioners in the region. Our adjunct list includes the Attorney General of Colorado, the Solicitor General of Colorado, a Colorado Supreme Court Justice, the Chief Judge of the United States District Court, the former Speaker of the Colorado Assembly and the former President of the Colorado Senate.

The Curriculum: Our curriculum reflects our two priorities:

First, it produces graduates who are practice-ready and prepared to hit the ground running. This part of our curriculum is all about experiential learning, the most effective way to teach lawyers. With our nationally recognized clinics and legal writing program, one of the largest internship programs in the country, and an ever-growing menu of problem- and simulation-based "capstone" courses, the Sturm College of Law is a leader in training skilled lawyers, who graduate with meaningful and marketable legal experience.

Second, our curriculum includes five substantive areas of specialization, designed to maximize our students' opportunities: International and Comparative Law, Environmental and Natural Resources Law (with an emphasis on renewable energy), Workplace Law, Constitutional Rights and Remedies, and Business and Commercial Law. In each of these growing areas, we provide cutting-edge instruction by leading scholars and practitioners, as well as experiential learning opportunities.

The Location: The Sturm College of Law is perfectly located near downtown Denver, and a robust legal community with strong ties to our school. Students can try cases at the courthouses as part of our clinical program, intern in a variety of settings or work part-time in law offices and at the State Capitol. Affordable housing is located nearby, and downtown Denver is just a short ride away on the light rail line, which has a station two blocks from campus.

Denver is a vibrant city located in a stunningly beautiful part of the country. Here you truly can have the best of both worlds: You can enjoy all of the benefits available in a major metropolitan area and easily escape the city to enjoy the beauty of the Rocky Mountains.

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?

The committee looks for letters from recommenders that know the applicant very well. We would like to see the recommender be able to speak about their personal experience with the applicant and provide detailed information about their academic abilities, character, leadership skills along with any other information the recommender feels important to include.

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

The University of Denver Sturm College of Law begins accepting applications in the middle of September. Our Admissions Committee begins reviewing files in November and then on a rolling basis after that. It usually takes our committee six to eight weeks to make a decision and then seven to 10 days for the decision to be sent to the applicant.

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

Approximately half of our graduates are employed in private practice. Both regional and national law firms recruit students from the University of Denver. Denver has the second-highest concentration of federal agencies in the United States and each year we see a significant number of our graduates working in federal agencies. A large number of graduates also secure judicial clerkships after graduation. Our Career Development Center provides excellent programming, counseling, and networking opportunities for our students and alumni throughout the year.

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

With our rolling admission process we do not have an official deadline, but many applicants apply too late in our admission cycle. We tend to run out of seats to offer in March, and we usually run out of scholarship money as early as February. The other mistakes that we see most often are applicants not following the application instructions or having typographical errors in their application.

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

Our students come from a diverse range of backgrounds, so it very difficult to describe a typical student at the University of Denver. As a whole our student body tends to be very involved in not only their academic work at the University, but also in Denver's legal community. Public interest work is also very important to our students, who all complete 50 hours of public service as a graduation requirement.

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Getting into Law School: University of Denver Sturm College of Law