Standing Out – Are the Numbers in your Favor?

While some law schools have yet to seat their incoming class, a significant number of programs across the country have commenced their fall semesters.  Typically, the focus is on the seated class and the unique students that have elected to join a specific program.  While stats are certified by the LSAC at the beginning of October (they are currently uncertified [and may not be]), you can find the University of Houston Law Center’s newest class profile available for review.

As we celebrate those that enter into this storied profession, let’s take a moment to understand just how difficult the admission process is to select the Law Center’s incoming student body.  The Admissions Office received 2,565 applications for the Fall 2016 entering class.  Numerically, the applicant pool presented GPAs ranging from above 4.0s to sub 2.0s and LSAT scores ranging from above 175 to below 125.  Regardless of GPA and LSAT, every completed application received full file review as the Admission Committee evaluated each candidate for admission.

The statistics should illustrate the importance of working hard to have your application stand out as admission officers across the nation read and review your application and application materials.  In contrast and as an example, take a look at the top 5 undergraduate programs applicants represented as well as the top 5 majors for applicants:

Applicants represented more than 450 undergraduate programs, the top programs represented were:

  • the University of Texas-Austin,
  • Texas A&M University,
  • the University of Houston,
  • Sam Houston State University, and
  • Baylor University

There were more than 100 different majors represented in the applicant pool. The top majors were:

  • Political Science,
  • Psychology,
  • Criminal Justice,
  • English, and
  • Economics

As you can see, this is not terribly dissimilar from the incoming student profile.  Taking advantage of the multiple programs offered by the Law Center’s Admission Office (Information Sessions [online and in-person], Group Advising, tours, etc.) as well as re-applicant counseling, offers options for applicants to understand the importance of their submission and the relevant pieces of their application both as an incoming student or as a transfer student.

To misquote Public Enemy, “lemme hear you say fight the [numbers]” and educate yourself how to stand out as an applicant.

What’s in a GPA?

That which we learn in class

By any other feedback would be as stressful


With law school applications coming in across the country (insert declining national applicant pool joke, here), I thought it would be nice to provide a little insight into what admissions offices see when it comes to G.rade P.oint A.verages (aka GPAs).

When I am reviewing an applicant’s GPA, I endeavor to avoid all thought of the final numbers LSAC has provided for us in your CAS (Credential Assembly Service) report, until I’ve gained context. That being said, it’s important to note that LSAC, through proprietary methods, will standardize and provide a calculation of your GPA which may in fact be different from what you see on your transcript. This calculation includes all course work attempted except for courses from which you properly withdrew at all institutions that provided course credit toward your Bachelor’s degree. Eventually, I will review the final calculated Undergraduate “Cumulative GPA” (which includes grades from all attended programs) and the “Degree (Summary) GPA” which only includes grades from the program you’ve graduated from. Before that, I like to look at a number of different factors to provide the abovementioned context for what you GPA means to me and to the University of Houston Law Center.

Factors taken into consideration (in regard to your GPA):

  • What does your GPA look like from a year to year basis?
  • How many hours did you take and what GPA did that yield?
  • In looking at your transcripts, what classes did you take?
  • Does your resume indicate you were working while obtaining your bachelor’s/post-secondary degree?
  • What was your major?
  • What is your GPA in relation to other students from your degree granting program (i.e.; is it in the 50th percentile, the 99th percentile, the 1st percentile)?

As you can see, your Cumulative GPA provides our Office of Admission with a significant amount of information beyond just the numbers. Keep in mind that you are not a number, you are, potentially, a great addition to the Cougar Community and we want your APPPLICATION (in its entirety) to show that!

Whether you had the best GPA in the world or you were the certified “last in your class,” (don’t worry, that’s not really a thing) it would behoove each of you to understand that in your first semester you are not only ranked number one in your law center entering class, but you are also ranked number last in your law center entering class. Every law student, despite his or her academic beginnings in his or her undergraduate (or graduate, or doctorate) program, has a 0.00. Take advantage of your fresh slate and in all instances, exceed your expectations. After all, you can only go up from a 0.00!

9,951

Some of the little things can become big things awfully fast!  By big, I of course mean the difference between $29,748 and $39,699, or in non-math terms, $9,951.00.

What, you may ask, does $9,951.00 have to do with anything?  $9,951.00 represents the difference between the non-resident tuition rate and the resident tuition rate.

If you believe you are a Texas resident (for tuition purposes), it is imperative that you properly respond to each and every question posed to you within Residency and Residency Questionnaire sections within the application.  If you have already applied and think you may have missed something, or if your Application Status Check residency status indicates that you are out-of-state, don’t hesitate to re-submit the Residency Questionnaire.

Please understand that when the Office of Admissions indicates that you are a non-resident, it is not to question whether you are a true Texan.  Often it is to ensure that we have the necessary documentation to justify the application of resident tuition.

Professionalism in the Admissions Process- Email

The New York Times recently published an article on college students and email.  While much of the article focused on students’ desire to avoid email, one student quoted in the article expressed confusion about the level of formality required by email as compared to text messages.  Based upon some of the emails that arrive in my inbox, I know her confusion is not uncommon.  Here are a few tips to assist you in your email communications with admissions offices, professors, and future employers.

Though emails between friends and close colleagues can be informal, emails to those whom you do not know well or to those in a superior position (such as a professor or work supervisor) should generally be written using formal conventions.

  • Include a brief, descriptive subject line.
  • Include a salutation and address the person formally.  If the person is a Dean or Professor, they should be addressed as such.  If you’re not sure about the title, it is better to use “Mr.” or “Ms.” than to use a first name only. For example write, “Dear Dean Dillon” rather than “Jamie” or “Hey, Jamie!”  I get “Hey, Jamie!” a lot.
  • Include a closing such as “Best wishes,” “Thank you,” or “Sincerely”.
  • Include your first and last name.  If you are in the application process, you should also include your LSAC account number (L number).
  • Use complete sentences with proper punctuation.
  • All words should be spelled out except for common terms such as LSAT (for Law School Admission Test) or UHLC (for University of Houston Law Center).  Although we might recognize many common text acronyms, they are not appropriate for email.
  • Emails should be of a reasonable length.  If you find that you have complicated or numerous questions, it is a good idea to schedule an in-person or phone appointment.
  • Don’t take templates from admissions chatboards.

Composing a professional, well-written email will take longer than writing a text message-style email, but it is an important skill to master.  It will set you apart from your peers in the application process, and it will be expected of you later in your legal career.

If you would like to read the full article, it can be access here: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/29/fashion/technology-and-the-college-generation.html?smid=pl-share.

Tips for a Successful Personal Statement

Happy Thanksgiving!  The Office of Admissions wants to wish you and yours a safe holiday weekend.  Enjoy catching up with loved ones, the shopping, and the food!  We know that a lot of you will be using your time off to work on your personal statements, and we wanted to give you a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Use the space provided.  We allow 3 pages for the personal statement; if you submit a 1 page document, you’re really just cheating yourself.  Remember, this is your one opportunity to tell us about yourself; it’s your interview on paper.  Make sure that by the end of your statement, you’ve included everything you want us to know about you, and we have a complete idea of you as a candidate.
  • Don’t be too creative.  We want to be able to see your unique personality and character through your writing, but remember that you are applying to a professional degree program, not a creative writing seminar.  It’s best to leave out the poetry and illustrations, and focusing on a well written, thoughtful statement.
  • Focus on the ‘personal’ in personal statement.  For example, you may have been inspired by someone to go to law school, and we want to hear that story, but just be sure to keep the focus on you and your strength, and how an experience with that person may have shaped your decisions.  If you tell us the life story of the other person, we’ll know everything about that person, but unfortunately nothing about you.
  • Keep it positive.  The personal statement is not the time to explain why you did so poorly during a semester of undergrad.  Save those explanations for the option statement, and keep the personal statement positive.
  • Don’t duplicate information.  A common mistake applicants make is including the information that is on their resume in their personal statement.  If you tell us information that is already presented somewhere else in your file, you are wasting one of the few opportunities you have during the application process to tell us about yourself.  It’s fine to elaborate on a specific point in your resume, but done make your personal statement just another list of credentials and achievements.
  • Remember your audience.  This is not the time to try to show us how much you know about the law.  We’re all lawyers; chances are we know more than you.  Focus on information that will help us understand your strengths and why you will make a good law student.
  • Last but most definitely not least, proofread!  In addition to reviewing spelling and grammar, make sure you aren’t sending a personal statement intended for one school to another.  Mistakes like this are completely avoidable, and can be embarrassing for an applicant.  Don’t rely on your computer’s spell-check; a lot of words you didn’t mean to use will slip under the radar because you spelled them correctly.  Have others read your statement.  Proofread, proofread, proofread!

We hope this helps answer some of the many questions you probably have about the personal statement.  The most important thing to keep in mind is that your personal statement will act as your sales pitch, your writing sample, and your admissions interview.  Make sure that when it’s complete there are no unanswered questions, and we have a clear picture of you as a candidate to our program.  We look forward to reading your personal statements, and getting to know more about you.  Now, back to the turkey!