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Admission and Preparation


Process of Admission

What are my chances of admission?

Admission is highly competitive.

Our Admissions Committee bases its decisions on such non-quantifiable factors as:

  • Extracurricular and community activities
  • Life experience
  • Work background

We also consider factors such as:

  • LSAT score
  • Undergraduate grades
  • Graduate work
  • Recommendations

Applicants are encouraged to submit a separate statement detailing aspects of their ethnic, cultural or linguistic backgrounds that will add to the diversity of the student body.

Overview of Fall 2013 entering class:

  • 4,096 applications were received.
  • Median LSAT score was 167, with the 25th and 75th percentiles for the class falling at 165 and 167, respectively.
  • Median GPA was 3.66, with the 25th and 75th percentiles falling at 3.52 and 3.73, respectively.

Does Cornell Law have rolling admissions?

Yes.

When will I know my admissions decision?

Typically, it takes eight to twelve weeks after your file is complete. However, it depends upon the volume of applications received. If your file is complete by February 1, every attempt will be made to send a decision no later than mid- April.

How do I check the status of my application for admission?

The online status checker allows you to check your status at any time during the application process.

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Binding Early Decision Options

What is Binding Early Decision?

Cornell's Binding Early Decision application process is for anyone who knows for sure that Cornell Law School is the school they most want to attend. In order to apply through the Binding Early Decision process, you must:

  • Submit the application form and fee by November 1, 2013 for Round I and by January 6, 2014 for Round II.
  • Make sure that your file is complete by November 15, 2013 for Round I and by January 15, 2014 for Round II.

We will send out our decisions no later January 1, 2014 for Round I and March 1, 2014 for Round II.

Do I receive more favorable consideration if I apply through Early Decision?

We apply the same admission standards during our early decision and regular decision processes. However, we will view it as a positive aspect of your application that you have committed to attend if you are admitted.

Can I apply for Early Decision if I'm taking the October or December LSAT?

Yes. Your file does not need to be complete with test scores until November 15, 2013 for Round I and January 15, 2014, making it possible to take either test.

What if I apply through Early Decision Round I, but then am unhappy with my October LSAT score or fail to complete my file by November 15?

If your file is still incomplete after November 15, your application will be deferred to Early Decision Round II.

What do I need to do to withdraw my application out of consideration for Early Decision?

If you would like to withdraw your application from Early Decision (for example, you decide that you will not be able to make the commitment needed to attend Cornell Law School if admitted), simply send us an email request as soon as possible.

What decisions will I receive through Early Decision?

Applicants will be admitted, denied, or deferred and re-read during Round II if they are in Round I, or deferred to our regular decision process if they are in Round II, where at that time you will no longer be bound to attend if admitted.

When do I have to commit if I get admitted through Early Decision?

You are required to pay the full $900 deposit within five business days of acceptance.

If I apply for financial aid, will I know how much I am being offered by Cornell Law School before I am to pay the $900 deposit for Early Decision?

No, the binding process requires that you pay the deposit and commit to Cornell regardless of financial aid notification. However, if you apply, you will be considered for financial aid during the normal course of our financial aid application process.

How many people applied last year?

Recently, we received over 4,000 applications for approximately 195 - 199 seats in the first year J.D. class.

Do you grant interviews?

Sometimes the Admissions Committee will request an evaluative interview. Due to our workload, we are not in a position to grant interviews upon applicant request.

Do you grant fee waivers?

We will consider a need-based waiver of the fee upon receipt of the following information:

  • If you are a registered student, a copy of your most recent financial aid award notice showing both budget and award
  • If you are not a student, a letter detailing your financial situation (e.g. employment, assets, etc.)

If you were granted a fee waiver from LSAC, the fee will be automatically waived when you apply using the LSAC electronic application.

Fee waivers are generally granted only to those extremely needy applicants who would not otherwise be able to apply to the Cornell Law School.

We will consider you for a merit-based fee waiver if you are registered with the LSAC Candidate Referral Service.  Should you be selected to receive an application fee waiver from us, you will receive an email and letter in the mail, and the fee will be waived in advance for you in the LSAC system.  If you receive a fee waiver from us after you apply, please follow the reimbursement procedures on the back of the fee waiver letter.

If you were or currently are a participant in Teach for America, please email us a copy of a letter verifying your participation.

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Transfer Admissions (Advanced Standing)
& Visiting Students

Does Cornell Law accept transfer students?

Cornell Law accepts transfer applications from students who have completed one year of study at a law school that is accredited by the American Bar Association and a member of the Association of American Law Schools. Please refer to the application for instructions on applying as a transfer or visiting student. 

How many spaces does Cornell Law have available for transfer students?

In recent years we have normally had spaces for between five and ten transfer students in the second-year class, but the exact number of available spaces is not known until late summer.

What is Cornell Law looking for in a transfer application?

Our Admissions Committee is interested primarily in your academic performance at your current law school, as well as in your reasons for wishing to transfer. Accepted transfer students are almost always at least in the top 10% of their first-year class.

What materials are needed for a transfer application?

For a complete transfer application we need the following:

  • official transcript showing your first-year law school grades
  • letter from the Dean's Office at your present law school indicating that you are in good academic standing (not the Dean's Certification form)
  • Law School report
  • official copy of your undergraduate transcript 
  • two letters of recommendation from law professors with whom you have studied law
  • two completed LSAC evaluations (optional)
  • class rank at the end of the first year (If this kind of information is not available, even with your authorization, please ask a dean or faculty member to give us an indication of the relative strength of your academic record).
  • If you answer 'yes' to the first Character and Fitness question on the application, a Dean's Certification from the institution where the infraction occurred is required.

How many advanced standing credits could I receive as a transfer student to Cornell Law?

As a transfer student, Cornell Law may grant you up to 32 hours advanced standing toward the J.D. degree. Transfer students may be awarded less than 32 hours advanced standing, depending upon the correspondence between first-year courses at Cornell and those of your current law school.

Is financial aid available to transfer students?

Our Financial Aid Office normally does not award institutional scholarship assistance to transfer students. Transfer students are eligible for loan assistance during their attendance at Cornell.

How competitive is the transfer process?

We receive over 75 applications every year for Fall transfer. To be competitive, students should be in the top 10% of their class.

Can transfer students participate in the Fall Recruitment Program?

Yes, the Career Services Office will do its best to accommodate transfer students' participation in the Fall Recruitment Program if timing permits.

Can transfer students become a member of a law journal?

Due to the timing of the summer writing competition, transfer students are not able to be a member of a journal.

When can I submit a transfer application?

You may submit your transfer application when it is available in mid to late-April, but the deadline is in mid-July and your application will not be complete until your first year law school grades are received. Please refer to the application for the actual deadline.

If I hold an LLM degree, may I apply to the J.D. program at Cornell Law as a transfer student?

Yes, but you must take the LSAT. You are eligible to receive advanced standing if you are admitted.


Visiting Students

Does Cornell Law accept visiting students?

Yes, students currently enrolled in a law school that is a member of the Association of American Law Schools may apply to be a visiting student at the Law School. If you will be applying as a visiting student please email the Admissions Office for detailed instructions.

Can visiting students apply to transfer to the Cornell Law?

No, visiting students may not apply to transfer.

What tuition does Cornell Law charge for visiting students?

Visiting students are charged the same the tuition and fees that Cornell Law charges its JD students.

Can visiting students participate in Fall Recruitment activities at Cornell Law?

Visiting students are not eligible to participate in Fall Recruitment activities but with a letter from their home law school they can obtain access to certain career services resources at Cornell Law.

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Re-Application Process

What materials does the re-applicant need to submit with new application?

Applicants who are denied admission may re-apply to Cornell Law in a subsequent year. The Admissions Committee will review your entire application, but will also focus on any significant changes since your prior application.

To re-apply for admission you should submit new versions of the following:

  • Application
  • Resume
  • Personal statement
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Dean's certification (if necessary)
  • Application fee (currently $80)
  • Re-register with the Credential Assembly Service

The Admissions Office can access your recent application; therefore, if it will be a hardship for recommenders to submit new letters of recommendation as part of a new application, a re-applicant may use recommendations submitted the previous year.

To do so, the re-applicant should email or write to the Admissions Office and tell us exactly which recommendation(s) from last year's application you would like to use for your new application. We will consider the old recommendation(s) specified to be part of the new admissions file.

Please note that unless we are informed in writing that you wish to re-activate one or more prior recommendations, we will assume that a re-applicant is submitting a new set. While the Admissions Office will do its best to assist with your re-application, it is ultimately the applicant’s responsibility to assure that his or her file is complete.

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Reserve and Waitlist Status

What is the difference between a decision of Reserve and the Summer Waitlist?

At Cornell Law, if we have given you a decision of reserve, it means that we have reviewed your application, but we have not reached a final decision of admit or deny on your application. We will review your application at least one more time before reaching a final decision.

You may submit additional information to support your application as you are waiting for the final decision. Typically, applicants submit additional grades, new honors or promotions or an additional letter of recommendation.

In early summer, we review all the applicants still on hold and create a summer waitlist.

If I am on Reserve, when will I receive a decision?

For our regular decision process, an applicant placed on Reserve will re-reviewed later in the cycle and a final decision reached by the end of summer if placed on the Summer Waitlist.

Four our Early Decision process, applicants will be re-read during Round II if they are in Round I, or deferred to our regular decision process if they are in Round II. And if placed on Reserve, will also have a decision by the end of the summer if placed on the Summer Waitlist.

If I am on the Summer Waitlist, when will I receive a decision?

We create the summer waitlist in early summer. When there is space available in our entering class during the summer months, we will review applicants on the summer waitlist to make additional admission offers. Accordingly, you could hear from us at any time during the summer months.

We recommend that you keep us informed about your whereabouts, so that we can find you easily, if necessary.

Is the summer waitlist ranked?

No, our waitlist is not ranked.

How many applicants are placed on the Summer Waitlist and how many are offered admission?

The number of candidates who are placed on the waitlist and who are offered admission from the waitlist varies dramatically from year to year.

Several factors affect the waitlist, such as:

  • The quantity and quality of our applications relative to prior years
  • The number of students who accept our offer of admission
  • The number of students who defer their admission to the following year or who withdraw their acceptance of our offer

We know that some applicants are not in a position to remain on our summer waitlist, but we do advise applicants that the longer you can remain on the summer waitlist, the better your chances for admission are.

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Enrollment Options and Deferrals

Does Cornell Law have a part-time or evening program?

No, we only have a full-time day program.

Can I start at Cornell Law in the spring semester?

No, Cornell Law only offers Fall enrollment.

Are deferrals granted?

One-year deferrals are granted on a case by case basis.

The Admissions Committee generally will guarantee an admitted applicant a one year deferral if it is requested in writing before the second deposit deadline (mid-May), and if the following are submitted by their respective deadlines:

  • A registration non-refundable deposit of approximately $900 for J.D. and $700 for L.L.M. students (we will notify you in advance of the precise amount of the deposit and a portion will be credited toward tuition on enrollment). This deadline will be noted in the deferral approval letter.

The deadline for the following items is the beginning of February. A letter with the exact date will be sent in November:

  • An official final undergraduate transcript
  • A letter indicating what you have been doing for the period of your deferment and stating:
    (1) That you have not registered in another law school in the interim year
    (2) That you have not been convicted of a crime and no charges are pending
    (3) If you have served in the military, that any discharge you received was honorable

Please note that financial aid awards are not deferred; you need to reapply for financial aid for the year you intend to enroll.

Do you grant deferrals longer than one-year?

The Admissions Committee will consider requests for two-year deferrals. These are granted on a case-by-case basis.

The Admissions Committee only grants deferrals for compelling two-year commitments, such as:

  • Teach for America
  • Peace Corps
  • Academic fellowship
  • Military commitment

Please contact the admissions office by email to request a deferral.

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Preparation for Law School

What should I study?

There is no particular major or curriculum that is required for admission to and success in law school. An entering class typically represents 40 or 45 different majors. The majors most commonly found in our entering classes are political science, history, economics, English, psychology, and philosophy. Some atypical majors that we think provide particularly good training for law school are computer science, mathematics, classics, and physics. Usually, ten percent of the entering class has majored in a "hard" science.

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. You are less likely to perform well in a major that doesn’t engage you. We recommend, therefore, that you study subjects that are challenging and interesting to you and to follow your academic passion.

Because we seek curricula that are both broad and deep, we also recommend that you take challenging courses in 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.

What extracurricular activities should I participate in?

As with majors, we have no pre-conceived list of “best extracurricular activities.” You should pursue the areas that interest you. Although as a general matter we like to see some evidence of involvement and engagement in something outside one’s studies, we have no particular preference for the type of activity.

We advise students to focus their interests and work to obtain a leadership role in whatever activities they pursue. We are looking for the quality of your extracurricular activity, not the sheer quantity of your memberships in clubs or groups.

In preparing your application, bear in mind that it is helpful if you give us some sense of the nature and extent of your involvement; furthermore, if the name of a group or organization is a little mysterious to the uninitiated, it might be helpful to describe briefly the mission or purpose.

What if I have a disciplinary record?

It is always best to answer questions concerning your disciplinary record fully and openly, and to provide an explanation. The Admissions Committee reviews both the factual disciplinary record and how the applicant addresses his or her record.

Are all applications read?

Yes. Each application is thoroughly reviewed, and Admission Committee members take all factors into account. We do not make any automatic decisions to offer or deny admissions solely on numerical scores.

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