Town Hall Questions

Last Tuesday, we had a great virtual town hall meeting with Dean Rodriguez. If you weren’t able to join us, you can find a transcript of the chat on our website. During the chat we received a number of admissions-specific questions. Because Dean Rodriguez is not involved in the minutiae of processing applications (that’s why he has our office!), we decided to set those questions aside and answer them on the blog. Find answers to our leftover but no less important questions below.

Since Skype interviews are currently not available, is there anything specific that you look for in essays submitted in place of an interview?

We are aware that we’ve had more Skype interview demand than we’ve been able to meet. For anyone who wanted to interview but was unable to do so, we recommend submitting a short addendum explaining this.

We won’t be looking for anything different in your current application materials. However, if the Admissions Committee has any outstanding questions, they might email to set up a time to speak briefly.

Does NU grant full tuition waivers to international JD students?

International JD students have the same opportunity to receive scholarship funding as our incoming domestic JD students. We don’t differentiate between international or domestic students during the scholarship review process.

How strongly do you factor GPAs for applicants who have been out of school for several years?

We evaluate an applicant’s GPA in context of the remaining application materials. If you have a strong application in all respects but you left school five years ago with a less than stellar GPA, we’ll likely see that you’ve matured and that your academic record may not be entirely indicative of how you’ll perform in law school.

However, if you’ve been working the past few years but the writing in your application gives someone pause, you have no idea what you want to do with a law degree, and you showed up late to your interview without a resume, it’s less likely we’ll immediately overlook that GPA.

Unfortunately, there’s no straightforward answer to this question. It depends isn’t exactly helpful, but … it depends!

If waitlisted last cycle, does reapplying increase chances for this one?

It doesn’t necessarily increase your chances, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. It may increase your chances if things have changed since last year. On the whole, being a reapplicant is great. It means you like us enough to try again and we appreciate that! What doesn’t help is reapplying with the exact same application materials. If nothing on your end has changed, your admissions decision most likely won’t either.

If one has applied to NU and paid the application fee, but does not include/mail the certification letter, is their application still considered incomplete and not reviewed for admission?

The LSAC certification letter is only required if you pay your application fee with a paper check. By electronically signing and submitting your application through LSAC, you are certifying your materials.

If you are referring to our Early Decision Certification, that is a different story. We need that document for an applicant to be considered for our Early Decision program.

If you had to give a good estimate, how long would you think the decision process usually takes once the interview is complete?

Starting December 1 or the date your application becomes complete, it typically takes eight to ten weeks for a decision to be rendered. We do try to keep it under that timeframe, if possible.

From my understanding, a very large percentage of students at Northwestern Law have at least a year of post-undergraduate experience. Is there a major disadvantage for applicants applying straight out of university? For example, is there a (loose) cap on the number of applicants that are accepted that are coming straight out of university?

A major disadvantage? Not at all. However, we will be wondering why you, as a most likely 21 or 22 year old with fairly limited professional experience (just by virtue of being a student the past few years), want to be in law school with older, more mature students.

It’s no secret that our student body is generally older and has typically worked for a number of years before starting Northwestern Law. That doesn’t mean we automatically disregard applicants coming straight from their undergraduate institution. But we do expect these applicants to be more mature than their year in school or age may indicate. We also expect these applicants to articulate why they want to go to law school now, what they want out of a law degree, and why they think our community is the best fit for them.

And no we do not have a loose or formal cap on how many straight from undergrad students we admit each year.

At this point in the application process, after already having participated in an alumni interview, is there anything else that an applicant can do to show their desire to be admitted to, and in turn become a part of, the incoming class? Would it help, and would the admissions committee take note, if an applicant were to fly out to Chicago in order to sit in on classes in January at the start of the spring semester to show their definite desire to attend?

This is a question we get a lot, and while we appreciate the sentiment, there isn’t a great answer. The best way to indicate your interest is to craft a thoughtful application that includes an interview and perhaps a “Why Northwestern Law” optional essay. After that point, keep in touch with us if you have questions or updates.

We love when people come to visit the Law School. We think it’s a great way to get a feel for the place by meeting current students and visiting a class. However, we also know scheduling a campus visit can be a cost prohibitive method of expressing interest in us. For that reason, we don’t keep track of who visits or tours. So yes, we absolutely encourage you to stop by, but doing so won’t help you during the application review process.

I’m a current applicant interested in international law. I was wondering if you could expand upon the opportunities to intern or work abroad?

Sure! We have some fabulous international opportunities available to our students. We have a robust list of international externships offered through our International Human Rights program. If you are looking to work abroad, our Center for Career Strategy and faculty members in the Bluhm Legal Clinic are readily available to help you with that process.

When considering applicants, is there a difference between how candidates are assessed depending on if the application is for the two-year or three-year JD?

We are looking for strong academic credentials, social skills, professional experience, clarity in career goals, among other qualities in both our traditional three-year JD applicants and our Accelerated JD applicants. However, the AJD program was designed with an older student with even more professional experience in mind. As such, considering the length and depth of professional experience is an even more important part of the AJD application review process.

What would you advise students pursuing a career in a legal field that Northwestern does not offer a concentration, such as entertainment law?

We hope you’ll still consider us! We have a number of current students interested in the area, and many alumni who work in entertainment or sports law. No, we do not have a specific concentration, but we do offer many courses that focus on entertainment law or related practice areas (employment law, corporate or business transactional law, IP). We also have an active Sports Law Society here on campus.

I applied regular decision but think the accelerated program is a better fit for me. Is it too late to let the admissions office know?

Not at all! Please send us an email at indicating that you’d like to be considered for the Accelerated JD program. We recommend you do this as soon as possible.

Do you offer classes in biodiversity law?

We do not have any courses the solely focus on biodiversity law, but we offer several environmental law courses, an environmental law academic concentration, and an environmental law advocacy center where you can focus on issues relating to biodiversity. Our senior research program is another method of doing more focused legal research in a niche area.

Is it possible to be accepted to Northwestern’s 3 year program and switch to a 2 year track?

It’s possible if you make the change before classes begin. If that’s something you’re considering, you need to email a formal request to the Admissions Office indicating why you’d like to make this change.

Can you comment on the admissions process/expectations for ED vs Regular decision candidates given for instance the factors of a binding decision and scholarship involved with ED. If an entering class profile was published on just ED students, would it significantly look different?

The Early Decision application process is undoubtedly competitive. It’s a smaller pool of applicants, and we automatically offer one of our highest scholarships with it. That said, the Admissions Committee is looking for the same qualities in both ED and RD applicants. An entering class profile of last year’s Early Decision applicants would not look significantly different than our general JD class profile.

I was wondering if you could speak to the holistic nature of the application process … do applicants with lower LSATs or UGPAs have a fair shot to gain admission? And how strongly is the interview weighted in the review?

This is another question that, unfortunately, does not have a straightforward answer. LSAT scores and GPAs are reviewed within the context of the remaining application. As are interview reports.

If your academic credentials are well above our medians but you were rude, inappropriate, or egocentric during your interview, you most likely have less of a chance of being admitted than a stellar applicant in all respects whose LSAT or GPA is lower than our median.

There is a certain degree of subjectivity to this though. If you graduated with a terrible GPA but aced the LSAT, we still want to know what happened during your undergraduate education. Were you bored? Did you switch your major from pre-med to poli sci at the last minute? Were you working full-time or taking care of a family member? We want to know how you rationalize and articulate the part of your application that isn’t like the others.

We don’t “weigh” any part of our application. However, interviews are a great supplement to an application. They are particularly helpful for borderline applicants, and at times have made the difference between being denied or placed on hold or the waitlist, or being placed on hold or the waitlist and being admitted.

Does NU desire a statement of purpose? Or, is it considered too much given all of the other components of the application?

A statement of purpose is unnecessary. The personal statement should be enough. If you need more space in your application, you’re welcome to submit optional essays and addenda. However, keep in mind that part of submitting an application is finding a succinct way to include all of the information you think is relevant.

What can students who fall below NU Law’s medians do to strengthen their applications? What could a wait listed student do to strengthen his or her chances of admission?

Interviewing is first and foremost the best thing you can do for your application. However, we are aware that our interview schedule is almost completely booked right now. The next best thing is to make sure your application is thoughtful, well-crafted, and submitted well ahead of the deadline. We also recommend you complete one or both of our optional essays.

If you are ultimately placed on hold or later on the waitlist, we typically offer many opportunities for applicants to keep in touch. At that point we encourage applicants to submit short essays, letters of continued interest, or additional letters of recommendation.

If you have submitted your application and conducted your interview, but it has been 2+ weeks since the application status checker has updated to indication your application is “complete,” should you contact the Admissions Office to verify?

Absolutely! Sometimes people slip through the cracks and application statuses are not updated appropriately. Unless you are missing another component of your application, it sounds like an error on our end. Shoot us an email at and we’ll look into it for you.

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