Admission and Preparation
This SAP policy relates to Cornell Law School (Law School) students who apply for and/or receive federal financial aid. In addition to meeting the standards for receiving financial aid, students must also meet the academic standards of the Law School. Academic standards can be found in the Law School’s Student Handbook.
Policy for Cornell Law School Financial Aid Recipients
Federal regulations (General Provision CRF 668.1) require that Cornell University review the academic progress of students who apply for and/or receive financial assistance. SAP is comprised of three areas as required by federal regulations. A student must complete their degree within the specified maximum time frame, demonstrate they are making progress towards the completion of their degree at a pace that will ensure graduation within the maximum time frame, and achieve a GPA that is consistent with graduation requirements. This regulation applies to each financial aid applicant, whether a previous recipient or not.
Annual financial aid SAP evaluations will be completed by the Law School’s Financial Aid Office at the end of each academic year and cannot take place until final grades have been posted. This review will determine academic eligibility for the upcoming summer, fall, and/or spring terms. Every student who applies for financial aid must maintain SAP, regardless of whether they are a first-time applicant or have received financial aid in the past. Any financial assistance offered for the next year is subject to cancellation if the minimum standards of SAP have not been met.
Students will be notified of their failure to meet the SAP standards via their Cornell email account.
Maximum Time Frame for Degree Completion
Cornell Law School adheres to the New York State Board of Law Examiners Instructional, Credit Hour and Course of Study Requirements. Program and course of study at the Law School must be completed no earlier than 24 months and no later than 60 months after the commencement of all law study.
Federal regulations specify that a student must complete his/her degree within 150 percent of the published length of the program to be eligible for federal aid funding. The maximum time frame at Cornell Law is measured in credit hours. For example, the J.D. program requires 84 credit hours to graduate, the maximum time frame for degree completion is 126 attempted credits (150% of 84 credit hours).
Whether or not a student receives financial aid, the credit hours considered in the maximum time frame for degree calculation are all attempted credits. Attempted credits include:
Earned credits – Passed (A through D-), Satisfactory (S)
- Repeated courses – both attempts
- Failures – Failed (F), Unsatisfactory (U)
- All accepted transfer credits (including consortium agreements and study abroad courses) toward the degree program
Federal regulations do not allow for the exclusion of courses in which a student has remained past the drop period and earned a grade of ‘W” from its calculation of the maximum time frame.
Required Completion Rate
Federal regulations require that a student make steady progress toward degree completion by earning a minimum number of credit hours each semester; progress is calculated for all students by semester. In order to graduate within the maximum time frame, a student must earn at least 67% of credits hours attempted. Earned credit hours include:
- Grades of A through D- or S (with credit)
- Transferred credits – provided they meet degree requirements
Required Grade Point Averages
Federal regulations require the student meet a minimum 2.0 cumulative grade point average (GPA). Credits that have been transferred to the Law School are excluded from the degree GPA. For purposes of this regulation, the degree GPA will be used. Earned letter grades of A,B,C,D, and F (including repeated courses) are counted toward GPA. INC (incomplete), W (withdrawal), S/U (satisfactory/unsatisfactory), and GPA from transfer credits are not counted towards GPA.
Failing to Meet Satisfactory Academic Progress
Students failing to meet SAP standards will lose their financial aid eligibility. The Law School’s Financial Aid Office will notify them in writing.
Students terminated from receiving financial aid can reestablish eligibility by successfully completing the required number of credit hours and by attaining the overall required grade point average by the end of the next semester. Neither paying for one’s classes nor sitting out a semester is sufficient to reestablish financial aid eligibility for a student who has failed to meet SAP. If special or unusual circumstances contributed to a student’s lack of satisfactory academic progress, the student may appeal the denial of financial aid.
The letter of denial from the Law School’s Financial Aid Office will describe the appeal process and a link to the appeal form will be provided. Examples of special or unusual circumstances are personal injury or illness, death of a relative, or other circumstances as determined by the Law School Registrar. The appeal must explain how the special or unusual circumstances have been resolved so that the student will be able to complete the required number of credit hours or attain the required GPA.
The appeal must be submitted to the Law School’s Financial Aid Office for evaluation. The Law School’s Financial Aid Office will respond to the appeal in writing within two weeks of receiving the complete appeal.
If the appeal is approved, the student's financial aid will be reinstated for one semester. By the end of that semester, the student must have successfully completed the required number of credit hours and attained the overall required grade point average. Students who fail to make SAP by the end of that semester will have their future financial aid eligibility terminated.
Federal regulations prevent a student from submitting an appeal two semesters in a row. However, there is no limit to the number of appeals a student may submit if they can document there are additional circumstances preventing the student from making SAP.
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 a complete application by November 1 for Round I, and by January 8 for Round II.
You will be notified of your decision no later December 31 for Round I, and February 28 for Round II.
Do I receive more favorable consideration if I apply 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 am taking the October or December LSAT?
Yes, but your file needs to be complete with test scores by November 1 for Round I, and January 8 for 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 placed on our non-binding reserve list.
When do I have to commit if I get admitted through Early Decision?
You will be required to pay the full $900 non-refundable 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 have 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.
Note: Binding early decision applicants admitted without an LSAT score who subsequently take the LSAT will be subject to admission reconsideration. In the event admission is rescinded, any seat deposits paid will be refunded.
How many people applied last year to the J.D. Program?
We usually receive around 4,000 applications, and seat a class of approximately 200 in the first year class.
Do you grant interviews?
Interviews are at the request of our Admissions Committee only.
Do you grant fee waivers?
Register with the LSAC Candidate Referral Service, and if you are selected to receive a waiver based on our selection parameters, we will notify you by email. CRS fee waivers are processed soon after each LSAT exam (the absence of a GPA on record with LSAC will not preclude you from consideration).
Teach for America, AmeriCorps, and Peace Corps
If you are a current or past member, email a copy of your participation letter along with your LSAC number to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are a current or past member of the United States military, email a copy of your documentation and LSAC number to email@example.com (this does not include participation in a foreign military service).
You should apply for a LSAC waiver initially, and if granted, our application fee will automatically be waived when you apply to Cornell Law. If your request is denied by LSAC, you may complete and submit our application fee waiver form(pdf) to firstname.lastname@example.org
Early Admission Transfer, Regular Admission Transfer & 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.
In 2018, Cornell Law initiated an early admission transfer program that grants conditional transfer admission based upon one semester of grades. Transfer admission is finalized after receipt of the full first year’s grades are received in the spring.
WHAT IS THE BENEFIT OF BEING ACCEPTED EARLY TO TRANSFER?
At Cornell Law, student success is critical to our mission and one component of that success is as smooth a transition as possible to our community. We want our incoming transfer students to maximize their ability to participate in our student journal selection and employment opportunities. Our regular transfer process necessitates receipt of an official transcript that includes all first-year grades. The majority of our transfer applicants do not receive final grades until after our journal competition has concluded. Additionally, 90% of our transfer students miss the deadline to participate in our August Job Fair (AJF) or successive On-Campus Interviews (OCI). Early transfer acceptance affords transfer students an opportunity to receive career counseling by our Career Service professionals prior to the deadline for either AJF or OCI submission and in time to participate in our Journal Write-On competition.
How many spaces does Cornell Law have available for transfer students?
We usually accept five to fifteen transfer students in the second-year class.
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 in the top 10 to 20% of their first-year class.
What materials are needed for a transfer application?
A complete transfer application will consist of the following:
- transfer application from LSAC (application fee waivers are not available to transfer applicants)
- CAS report consisting of LSAT score(s), undergraduate transcript(s), law school transcript, and two letters of recommendation from law school professors with whom you have studied
- law school transcript reflecting fall semester grades must be received by February 1 for early admission consideration
- class rank at the end of the first year of law school (if this information is not available, even with your authorization, please ask a dean or faculty member to provide us with an email indicating the relative strength of your academic record)
- letter from your current law school stating that you are in good academic standing
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.
NOTE: If you hold an LLM degree, you are not eligible to apply as a transfer applicant, but you may apply for our regular decision JD program. If you are admitted, you may petition for advanced standing.
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 around 75 applications each 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?
Our application will be available mid-March and our application deadline is August 1.
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 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.
WHAT MATERIALS WILL I NEED TO SUBMIT IF I PLAN TO RE-APPLY?
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, in addition to the electronic application, you should submit new versions of the following:
- Personal statement
- CAS report (consisting of LSAT score(s), transcript(s), and two letters of recommendation)
If I am on Reserve, when will I receive a decision?
Applicants who wish to stay active and available for further consideration will be re-reviewed again before we make additional offers. The reserve list is not ranked, and will remain active until the end of summer.
How many applicants are placed on the Reserve List and how many are offered admission?
The number of candidates who are placed on the reserve list and are ultimately offered admission varies from year to year. Factors that may affect this are:
- The quantity and quality of applications received
- The number of applicants who accept our admission offers
- The number of applicants who defer to the following year, or who withdraw their seat in the class
We realize that some applicants are not in a position to stay active on reserve, but remaining active for as long as possible increases the likelihood of admission.
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?
Deferrals are granted on a case-by-case basis.
The Admissions Committee will generally grant 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 non-refundable registration deposit of $900 (deposit will be credited toward tuition upon enrollment). This deadline will be noted in a deferral approval email.
The deadline for the following items is the beginning of February. An email with the exact date will be sent in November:
- An official final undergraduate transcript
- An email indicating what you have been doing for the period of your deferment and stating:
(1) That you have not registered with 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
One-year deferral requests received after our mid-May deadline, if granted, will include a binding commitment to enroll at Cornell Law School after your deferral period.
Please note that financial aid awards are NOT deferred, and you will need to re-apply for financial aid for the year you intend to enroll.
Do you grant deferrals for more than one-year?
The Admissions Committee will consider requests for two-year deferrals. These deferrals are only granted 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.
Preparation for Law School
What should I study?
There is no particular major or curriculum that is required for admission to law school. An entering class typically represents 40 or 45 different majors. The majors most commonly found in our entering class 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. Typically 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 that you 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 in general we like to see some evidence of involvement and engagement in something outside of academic 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, keep in mind that it is helpful if you give us some sense of the nature and extent of your involvement; 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 a detailed explanation.
Complete accuracy is required in all statements made on any portion of the application. To ensure that decisions are based on factual information, we audit some applications at random each year. In addition, you are required to update us about any changes that take place after submission of the application. Inaccurate, incomplete, or misleading statements, or failure to update, can result in withdrawal of admission offers, honor code proceedings, dismissal from Cornell Law School, rescission or cancellation of any degrees you may have received from Cornell Law School, or other disciplinary sanctions.
Note: In some states you must register with the Board of Bar Examiners before beginning the study of law. Make sure you check the requirements in the state(s) where you want to practice. All applicants are advised that there are character, fitness, and other qualifications for admission to the bar. Prior to your matriculation at Cornell Law School, you are encouraged to determine what those bar admission requirements are in the state(s) in which you intend to practice.
Are all applications read?
Yes, each application is thoroughly reviewed, and all of the components of your application will be considered. We do not make any decisions based solely on numerical scores.