Columbia Law School
Established in 1858, the Columbia University School of Law is consistently considered to be among the top law schools in America. Given its location and reputation in New York City, its Ivy League affiliation, and its long history of academic excellence, Columbia's rank and prestige should come as no surprise. It is at the same time one of the most expensive schools in the country (with a total debt-financed cost of about $288,597) and one of the best for employment prospects (with a Law School Transparency employment score of 93.4%).
- 1 Admissions
- 2 Financial Considerations
- 3 Curriculum
- 4 Quality of life
- 5 Employment prospects & bar passage
- 6 Contact information
- 7 Quick reference
Applicants interested in Columbia should be prepared to face a highly selective admissions process.
Columbia's median LSAT score is 171 and the median undergraduate GPA is a 3.70.
|25th - 50th - 75th percentile LSAT||169 - 171 - 173||170 - 172 - 174|
|25th - 50th - 75th percentile GPA||3.54 - 3.70 - 3.81||3.58 - 3.71 - 3.82|
Columbia does not have a set page limit for personal statements, but instructs that "a good guideline is two double-spaced pages, using readable fonts and margins."
Nkonye Iwerebon, Columbia's Dean of Admissions, gave the following advice regarding personal statements:
We recognize that different programs may look for different qualities in such a statement, but at Columbia the content is entirely up to you; anything that you believe will express a sense of your background and aptitude for a legal career is fair game. …
A good way for some people to start the process is to write down everything that comes to mind as though you were writing for nobody but yourself. Jot down ideas about moments of great impact to you, accomplishments that fill you with pride, and broad ideas about what drives you to progress in whatever lies ahead. Once that is done, take a break—for a few minutes, an hour, or even a day. Then look back over your notes, zero in on the items that still grab you, and use those to organize your piece.What you can rely on is the fact that how you express yourself will be noticed. Keep in mind that “personal” does not mean “informal”. Misspellings, grammatical errors, slang, and lack of discernable structure will make our jobs more difficult—especially in cases of otherwise exceptional applications (remember that good lawyers are detail-oriented). Do not simply rely on spell-check; proofread, re-read, and edit your work.
For applicants who are currently in school or who graduated within the past two years, Columbia says that it expects two academic letters of recommendation. Applicants who have been out of school for longer than two years may submit professional letters of recommendation, but Columbia notes that the admissions committee "does prefer academic letters of recommendation, so please make every attempt to obtain at least one."
Columbia's review process begins in November and applications are usually reviewed in the order in which they are received and processed as complete.
In recent years, the largest number of acceptances have been released in January, according to data from MyLSN.
Accepted students should apply for financial aid by March 1 and must submit their enrollment deposit and housing application by May 1. Accepted students who wish to defer their enrollment for one or two years must request a deferral by June 1.
Applicants who are sure they want to attend Columbia may apply through the Early Decision program. Early decision applications are binding and must be submitted by November 15. The latest LSAT that can be considered for early decision is the October test. Early decision applicants typically receive a decision in December.
Early decision applicants may either be accepted, denied, or held for review in the regular pool.
Statistical analysis of data from Law School Numbers revealed that applicants do not receive a statistically significant boost by applying through the early decision program.
Every application is read by at least two admissions officers. Columbia began a pilot program for interviewing a random subset of candidates via Skype during the 2013-2014 cycle and plans to expand the interview program in future cycles.
Aside from the usual emphasis placed on an applicant's numbers, Columbia prides itself on the diversity of its student body and thus seeks out applicants with diverse backgrounds and experiences. Further, in a typical year, about 10% of Columbia's entering class consists of international students, which is high among elite law schools.
Columbia says that work experience and advanced degrees are "considered positively in the review process," with about two-thirds of Columbia's entering class typically boasting either work experience or graduate studies. However, Nkonye Iwerebon, Columbia's Dean of Admissions, said in 2010 that Columbia's "Admissions Committee really has no expectation that an applicant will necessarily present either work experience or a graduate degree, and that ratio is more a reflection of the characteristics of our applicant pool than a preference for work experience or graduate degrees by our Admissions Committee."
Applicants can use Columbia's status checker to tell when their application has been received and when it has been completed. Once the file is complete, however, applicants will not receive any further updates through the status checker. Acceptances will be sent via mail for domestic applicants and via email for international applicants.
Columbia's tuition alone has increased to an astonishing $55,916 for the 2013-2014 school year.
Columbia's notable named scholarships are the Hamilton, a full-tuition scholarship, and the Butler, a half-tuition scholarship. Hamiltons and Butlers in initial acceptance packages.
A total of 592 students -- or about 45.7% of students enrolled for the 2013-2014 academic year -- received scholarships or grants from Columbia. A total of 103 students received half to full tuition scholarships while 15 students received full tuition scholarships. The remaining 474 students received less than half-tuition scholarships. The median grant award was $12,000 during the 2013-2014 academic year.
Institutional grants are made to entering students on a three-year basis
Seventy five percent of students borrow to finance their education, and on average, students leave school $141,566 in the red, before interest. Even on the standard New York biglaw starting salary ($160,000), this will take years and years to pay off, especially given New York's high cost of living.
Accepted students should apply for financial aid by March 1.
Loan Repayment Assistance Program
Columbia offers a Loan Repayment Assistance Program to enable students to pursue careers in public service. More information about Columbia's LRAP can be found at the school's website.
First-year students must enroll in predetermined required classes, and can expect class sizes to be large, usually above 100 students per class. After the first year, students are mostly free to choose their own courses, nearly half of which will contain less than 25 students. Columbia's student-to-faculty ratio is 8:1.
Quality of life
Located in Manhattan's ever-expanding Upper West Side, Columbia offers students an endless number of ways to pass their prized free time. The school is surrounded by restaurants, clubs, and bars of all varieties, and everything that New York City has to offer is accessible via a short ride on the subway. Also, because the law school is connected to the main campus of the university, law students have the opportunity to enjoy a "real" college campus in Manhattan.
All of this comes at a high price, however, as the cost of living for Columbia's law students is among the highest in the nation. The school estimates that the total cost of living for the 2013-2014 school year will be about $21,000-assuming you can find a nine-month lease on a $1,333-a-month apartment.
Employment prospects & bar passage
In the past, securing employment at top law firms has been likened to "shooting fish in a barrel" by some Columbia graduates. Now, however, it's not so easy.
Typically, many Columbia law students secure full-time jobs before they begin their third year at the law school. Often, students are offered employment with the same top firms at which they interned or worked during the summers after their first and second years. Of course, many of these employment opportunities are in the New York City area, as Columbia is often considered the premier school for job placement in the top law firms in the city.
But these days, entry-level biglaw hiring has been shrinking (including the traditional biglaw summer programs). Students should not assume they will get big-firm jobs, even from Columbia.
The bar exam rarely impedes Columbia grads, as nearly 95% of the school's graduates typically pass the exam on their first attempt (96.2% in New York in 2011, compared to a state average of 76.5%). Close to 70% of Columbia grads stay in New York after graduation, and California and Washington, D.C., each take around 7% of the class. A little under 8% of the class of 2012 obtained coveted federal judicial clerkships.
2013 Above the Law ranking: 8
2014 U.S. News ranking: 4
LSAT scores at 25th, 50th, and 75th percentiles: 170 - 172 - 174
GPA at 25th, 50th, and 75th percentiles: 3.58 - 3.71 - 3.82
Application deadlines: Nov. 15 (ED), Feb. 15 (RD)
Application fee: $85
LST employment score, class of 2012: 93.4%
LST total debt-financed cost of attendance: $288,597