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Interview with Isabel DiSciullo, Assistant Dean of Admissions for Drexel Law

Published February 2010, last updated March 2010

Dean DiSciullo, thank you for taking some time during this busy part of the year to answer a few questions about the Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law.

Admissions

TLS: First, can you briefly describe the admissions process at Drexel Law? How is each component of an application ranked?

The Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law takes a holistic approach in the admissions process. We read and review everything that is in an applicant’s file and no one component is more important than the other. We certainly want to make sure that the applicant is academically ready for the rigors of law school, so we take a very close look at their academic profile – their LSAT, GPA, and curriculum. However, we’re also looking for students who will be active members of our community and give back to the institution through participation/leadership in our student organizations and, eventually, our alumni programs. Therefore, we also take the information shared in the applicant’s resume, letters of recommendation and personal statement into consideration.

TLS: How long should students expect to wait to hear back on their applications after submission?

We are a “rolling admissions” school and usually begin receiving applications in October. However, we do not usually begin the file review process until the end of our travel season – late November/early December – and roll decisions out from there. Once we begin the file review process, we do our best to get decisions out to applicants within 2-4 weeks.

TLS: What qualities do you look for in an “ideal” candidate for Drexel Law?

The Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law looks for a well-rounded student. Our students have strong but diverse academic backgrounds that prepare them well for the rigors of law school. But, they have also immersed themselves in life outside the classroom. They were leaders in their respective undergraduate institutions and volunteers in their communities. Others come with a variety of work experience and advanced degrees. In essence, we are looking for students who are able to handle the academic challenges of law school, while becoming an active member of the law school community.

TLS: Under what circumstances should an applicant write an addendum?

Students should write an addendum if they feel that there is information they need to share with the Admissions Committee that isn’t included in any other part of application – such as a drop in GPA or an explanation for a low LSAT. The addendum should be no more than 1 or 2 paragraphs and should only state the facts.

TLS: How does Drexel Law view multiple LSAT scores?

While we see the scores from all the exams the student sits for as well as the average, we take the higher score when considering a student for admission to the Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law.

TLS: Are there any “soft” factors that Drexel Law views particularly favorably? (For example, Teach for America and the Peace Corps are often given as significant “soft” factors in admissions.)

As I indicated earlier, we’re looking for a well-rounded candidate, so everything that a candidate shares about himself/herself is taken into consideration. We value leadership skills and community engagement as well as life experiences, so all those “soft” factors are very important to us. I can’t say that there are ones that are more important than others. We just want to see students doing things that they are passionate about.

TLS: Does Drexel Law take into account the difficulty of undergraduate major when making admissions decisions?

We take the entire academic profile into consideration and that includes major and curriculum. For us, the curriculum and the student’s choice of courses tells us more than just looking at the major. We want to make sure students are taking challenging courses that strengthen their critical thinking, analytical thinking, and writing skills.

TLS: Could you briefly describe the waitlist process for Drexel Law? Is there anything that students can do while on the waitlist to improve their chances of admission? Do letters of continued interest (or LOCI) help in this regard?

Students on our waitlist are truly viable candidates that we are ready to admit should space in the class open up. We do not rank our waitlist and all candidates are reviewed once again should we need to activate our waitlist. Students have the choice to accept our offer to remain on our waitlist and only students who have indicated an interest in remaining on our waitlist will be considered. For the most part, students do not need to send anything in; they’ve already given us all the information we need. However, they are more than welcome to send a letter of interest or an update if something significant has changed in their file.

TLS: I noticed that Drexel Law reports that 18% of the Class of 2012 is comprised of “students of color.” What measures does Drexel Law take during admissions to ensure that the incoming class is diverse?

The Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law is extremely committed to bringing a diverse student body. Our efforts begin in the recruitment cycle and carry into the application review period. As I mentioned earlier, we take a holistic approach to reviewing a candidate’s application and take all aspects of the file into consideration. While the LSAT and GPA are important, we also take a close look at a candidate’s letters of recommendation, resume and personal statement.

TLS: For better or worse, it seems that the US News rankings have a significant effect on students’ perceptions of different law schools. What is your opinion of these rankings?

While law schools may have mixed feelings about the US News rankings, there is no doubt that students look at this information. To some extent, it may give a student a starting point when he/she begins searching for law schools. However, it shouldn’t be the only factor that students consider when selecting law schools. Students should delve deeper into the law schools that they are interested in to learn more about them in detail and not just rely solely on the rankings. I’m not sure that any ranking system would accurately capture the totality of our programs, faculty, students and community, much less the level of preparation for legal practice that we provide to our students.

TLS: On a similar note, the Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law is a new school, only opening in the fall of 2006 and receiving provisional accreditation in 2008. Do you see Drexel Law climbing the ranks of US News in the coming years? How important is it for Drexel to be placed in the “Top 100” law schools as dictated by US News?

Given US News’ policies, we may not find ourselves in the rankings until 2011 or 2012. With that said, however, our LSAT and GPA profiles, the quality of our faculty and students, the bar pass rates for our inaugural class, and even our job placement numbers during the current economic crisis suggest that we will do well when the US News does rank us.

Financial Aid

TLS: What percentage of students generally receives scholarships? How are scholarship recipients selected? Is there anything prospective students can do to increase their chances of receiving aid?

We are committed to helping students finance their legal education as best as we can. We understand the rising costs of legal education and have been committed to providing academic scholarships to as many students that qualify. All students who apply to the School of Law are automatically reviewed for merit scholarships. Throughout our history, the university has provided us tremendous support which has been instrumental in our achieving such rapid success. This support has included ample financial support, which permits us to make competitive scholarship offers to qualified students. Reflecting this level of support, last year approximately 75%-80% of our students received academic merit scholarships varying in amount from $2,500 to $30,000 per year. Approximately 75%-80% of our students received academic merit scholarships.

TLS: Please talk a bit more about the Drexel Alumni Scholarships. Which students at Drexel can take advantage of this program?

All Drexel University alumni are eligible for the Drexel Alumni Scholarship. Drexel alumni who are admitted to and select to attend the Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law are eligible for this scholarship which provides them with a $1,000 grant for each year of full-time study.

TLS: Will the current state of the economy affect the distribution of merit or need-based scholarships?

There is no doubt that Drexel University and the School of Law are feeling the challenges of the current state of our economy and the rising cost of legal education. We continue to be committed to helping our students, both prospective and current, weather this storm by keeping our merit scholarships as generous as we can.

Personal Statements

TLS: Does it significantly help a student’s chances of admission to tailor his/her personal statement to Drexel Law?

Since most law schools don’t have the manpower to offer one-on-one interviews, applicants should treat their personal statement as if it is an “interview on paper.” It should tell the admissions committee something about the applicant that we can’t gather from the rest of the application. The applicant does not necessarily have to tailor it to Drexel. However, if they are interested in a particular aspect of our School of Law, they could highlight why that program interests them and how it can help them achieve their goals. In some cases, when students tailor their statement to a particular school, they end up telling us all about the school (which we already know) and nothing about them. If a student does tailor their personal statement to Drexel or any other school for that matter, he/she should make sure to send the right statement to the right school.

TLS: Can you give any examples of mistakes that students make in their personal statements that severely hinder their chances of obtaining admission?

While we use the personal statement to learn more about the applicant, it is also another opportunity for us to gauge their writing skills. Therefore, personal statements that are submitted with numerous spelling and grammatical errors do not usually sit well with the committee. And, as I mentioned above, if the applicant is trying to be school-specific, they need to make sure that they are sending it off to the right school. In addition, the personal statement should tell us something we don’t already know, so a reiteration of the applicant’s resume or an in-depth discussion about the programs at our law school will not help him/her at all.

TLS: Are there any Personal Statement topics that of which applicants should probably steer clear?

Applicants should use their personal statement to tell us more about their passions, motivations and goals and try to tie it into how law school can help them achieve these goals. I don’t usually limit the applicants to certain topics, but I do suggest being cautious about how they discuss or frame sensitive topics such as politics and religion, since they may not necessarily know who exactly their “audience” might be.

Transferring

TLS: Could you briefly discuss the transferring process at Drexel Law? Approximately how many students transfer in / transfer out each year? Is there anything transferring students can do to increase their chance of acceptance?

We do receive a few transfer students each year. Transfer students can apply after completing one full year of law school at an ABA-accredited law school. We don’t have a large number of students transferring out, therefore, we only accept 5-10 transfer students each year. It is a competitive process and we take a holistic review in the application process. We are clearly interested in their most recent work at their current law school, but we require that they send us a copy of their LSDAS report and consider their previous academic work and their LSAT as well.

Parting Words

TLS: Do you have any final thoughts for the readers of Top-Law-Schools.com? Any advice for students applying this cycle?

It is becoming increasingly competitive to gain admission to law schools. I encourage law school applicants to really take the time to put together an extremely strong application- an application that will allow the admissions committee to see what distinguishes you from the rest of the applicant pool. Tell me about your passions and motivations, not what you think I want to hear as an admissions person. I wish all the Fall 2010 applicants the best of luck! I hope to see some of you at the Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law! But, more importantly, I hope that you are able to attend the law school of your choice…







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