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Interview with Joan Howland, Associate Dean at the University of Minnesota
Published November 2007, last updated July 2009
As one of the nation’s premier public law schools, the University of Minnesota Law School has much to be proud of—our faculty is nationally and internationally recognized, we offer a challenging curriculum that includes an impressive three-year legal writing program, and our clinical programs and law library are among the best in the nation. We have a highly talented, diverse, qualified, and committed student body who achieve excellence during law school and after graduation.
A strength I am particularly proud of is the “personality” of the law school. Our students and alumni repeatedly report a high degree of satisfaction with the collegial academic and professional environment at the University of Minnesota Law School. Our students not only receive a top-notch education but they thrive personally during their time at the Law School, forming lasting professional and personal relationships.
There are several reasons why we have an outstanding, collegial environment. First, our students are highly qualified. They know they will succeed after graduation. Our five year average employment rate and bar passage rates are 99.5% and 99% respectively. Second, our students are engaged and energetic. With over 60 student organizations, seven journals, and eight moot courts, our students have many opportunities to pursue a variety of interests, interact with others who share similar interests and values, and form lasting relationships outside the classroom. Finally, our faculty does a wonderful job of fostering a challenging, yet collegial, learning environment. Many of our first year lecture courses have an optional structured study group component, which encourages students to study together. Our faculty and students can often be spotted together around the Law School. The faculty is friendly and accessible, which contributes to our outstanding community.
Our students are highly qualified, diverse, motivated, energetic, and ethical. An ideal candidate would be similar to the description of our students and would demonstrate a strong desire to attend the University of Minnesota Law School.
A somewhat unique attribute of our admissions process is that it is faculty-driven. Our applications are reviewed by an Admissions Committee which is composed of faculty. This high level of faculty involvement is a reflection of the faculty’s commitment to building and developing the most exceptional student body possible.
Although as a state institution, Minnesota residents pay lower tuition than nonresidents, there are no admission quotas. For the 2007 entering class, 36 states, the District of Columbia, 6 foreign countries and 106 undergraduate institutions are represented. Approximately 60 percent of the class are nonresidents.
The University of Minnesota provides reciprocity for those states for undergraduate study. The University of Minnesota Law School only provides reciprocity for South Dakota and Wisconsin residents. There is no additional benefit in the admissions process for these applicants.
Applicants should ensure that the personal statement reflects strong writing and communication skills. Applicants should consider commenting on what life experiences brought them to the decision to apply to law school, how a law degree factors into their short term and long-term goals, and why they are interested in the University of Minnesota.
At least one letter should be from a person in an academic setting who is personally familiar with the applicant’s performance as a student and can attest to the applicant’s ability to enter a competitive professional program. If the applicant has been out of college for more than four years, letters from an employer may be submitted instead. Letters from family friends or personal acquaintances are less helpful.
There is no interview component to the application process. However, we would encourage applicants to visit the law school. Such a visit will allow the student to view our phenomenal community firsthand and see why we are regarded as one of the nation’s premier public law schools. A visit would also allow out of state students to experience the welcoming, diverse, friendly, and cosmopolitan atmosphere of the Twin Cities.
There is no advantage other than receiving a decision on the application sooner. However, we encourage students to submit applications before December 15th if possible.
The LSAT and GPA are given slightly more weight because those are the most objective parts of the application. The admissions committee thoroughly reviews the personal statement, letter of recommendation and resume. These materials provide a more complete picture of the student and assist the committee in making its final decision.
The admissions committee considers the highest LSAT score.
Although the typical image of the law school environment is that of a cutthroat environment, the University of Minnesota Law School prides itself on cultivating and maintaining an intellectually stimulating, yet supportive and collegial, learning environment.
The LSDAS presents each transcript in a format that allows the admissions committee to interpret the grading structure of each institution. The admissions committee will review an applicant’s GPA, as well as the applicant’s class rank.
The grade trend and the rigor of the coursework are two of the many factors taken into consideration by the admissions committee.
The average age of the 2007 entering class is 25, but there are a significant number of nontraditional students as well. We encourage prospective students to apply to law school when they feel prepared to do so. While many of our students apply directly after undergraduate school, many students have found great value in pursing employment, service, and other life enhancing opportunities before pursuing a legal education.
Experiences and employment that challenges an applicant, and/or broadens an applicant’s life experiences, are looked upon favorably.
Students are encouraged to keep the admissions office apprised of any significant changes in their application after they have been placed on the waitlist. Students are also encouraged to stay in contact with the admissions office and express ongoing interest.
Approximately 85% of our students receive financial aid. Applicants’ files are reviewed for both merit-based and need based scholarships at the time of admission. Approximately 45% of the incoming class is awarded a scholarship, which ranges from $2,500 to full tuition.
We strive to make attendance at the University of Minnesota Law School as affordable as possible. Admitted students are welcome to share any factors that would influence their decision to attend the Law School.
The admissions staff periodically reads the forums, but the best way to communicate with the University of Minnesota Law School is to directly contact the Law School and speak with or schedule a meeting with a member of the admissions office staff.
Like all American law schools, we continue to see increasingly well qualified applicants. The University of Minnesota Law School strives to strengthen the academic caliber and diversity of its incoming classes and continues to do so each year.
In order to be a successful law school applicant and student, try to forge a balance between achieving your academic, professional, and personal goals.
Dean Joan Howland, thank you so much for your time and insight on admissions at the University of Minnesota, it is truly appreciated.
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