Interview with Susan Lee, Former Director of Admissions at Gonzaga University School of Law

Published December 2009

Dean Lee, thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions on the admissions and financial aid policies at Gonzaga University School of Law.


TLS: First, how would you describe the ideal candidate for Gonzaga?  What are some traits that you look for in an applicant?

We look for students who are academically inclined. From among the best-qualified candidates, we try to identify those who will flourish here. Specifically, we want to attract those students who have a history of involvement in extra-curricular activities, including, but not limited, to service.

In the end, we want to know if this person is authentic, if they are who they say they are. We are a small school and believe each of our students has something important to contribute to the school, the community and his or her classmates.

TLS: Could you briefly explain the admissions process at Gonzaga?  How is each component of an application ranked?  Do you read the personal statement first, or look at the numbers?

Our admissions process is holistic; we look at the entire candidate. To us, the personal statement is more important than the raw numbers; we want to know something about a prospective student’s personal values and why they want to go to law school.

We use a five-part evaluation process that includes the personal statement, undergraduate achievement (GPA), LSAT results, resume, and two letters of recommendation.

TLS: Gonzaga take into account the prestige of an applicant’s undergraduate institution? 

We consider the undergraduate institution but ultimately the student’s academic achievement matters more to us than the prestige of the school where they did their undergraduate work.

TLS: Many students are concerned about grade deflation at their undergraduate universities (e.g., Swarthmore) when applying to law schools.  How does Gonzaga take grade deflation into account when making decisions?  On a similar note, does the school view some undergraduate majors as more rigorous than others?

We do consider grade deflation and we understand that some undergraduate degrees are more rigorous than others. We take those factors into consideration, then we step back and look at the big picture; i.e., is this person a good fit for us and are we a good fit for them?

TLS: How highly does Gonzaga value graduate degrees?  Can a great graduate school GPA make up for a lower undergraduate GPA?

We look favorably on graduate degrees, especially when a student did not excel in his or her undergraduate work.
In the case of students who underperformed in college, we always recommend that they a) provide an addendum explaining any extenuating circumstances and b) take responsibility for for their failure to excel.

TLS: Gonzaga clearly views a “respect for diversity” as an important part of the law school.  What measures does Gonzaga take to ensure that its incoming class is diverse? 

We have a specific diversity outreach effort that includes a diversity recruiter who works directly with prospects from underrepresented populations.

Our Assistant Dean of Students, John Sklut, is actively engaged in the support and mentorship of our student population, with a focus on the needs of those from underrepresented groups.

TLS: How actively do the U. S. News rankings affect admissions?  Do the rankings ever affect the law school’s decision on a particular applicant?

We’ve seen an increase in applications and in the quality of those students who are applying. This appears to have been at least partially a consequence of the US News ranking.

While we’re pleased to receive recognition from the media, we are careful not to get caught up in rankings. We believe that a focus on rankings has the potential to cause us to make decisions we wouldn’t otherwise.

TLS: Do applicants benefit by sending in their applications earlier rather than later?  If so, how late is too late?

Yes, and we recommend that students submit their applications by January. Applicants who wait until February are taking their chances.

TLS: How does Gonzaga’s faculty set itself apart from those at other schools?

Our faculty is encouraged to follow an open-door policy. We want our students to succeed and feel that accessibility to their instructors is a key elements. We see this as an important part of our mission to educate the whole person.

TLS: Please talk a bit about the Gonzaga “Ask an Ambassador” program.

Our Ambassadors Program offers incoming and prospective students an insider’s perspective. They can learn first-hand what life at Gonzaga is like.

Ideally, it also gives them a chance to meet and identify with a student with whom they might have something in common.

TLS: How do you think Gonzaga’s reputation as a “Jesuit” school helps shape its student body?

Our mission reflects the Jesuit, Catholic and humanistic traditions. We are committed to the principle of serving others through the practice of law. It’s the concept of selfless, servant leadership, the idea that the individual can help make the world a better place.

Our student body is very public-service oriented and we look for those qualities in our entering students.

TLS: I noticed that Gonzaga has a “Twitter page.”  How do you think embracing this modern technology will help the law school seek out and secure the best possible students that it can?

Twitter gives us another way to communicate with students who are considering Gonzaga. Its value lies in the fact that a prospective student can get a sense of the rhythms of student life, to know what’s happening right now in the lives of our students.

Financial Aid

TLS: Gonzaga is generous with its financial aid, giving out a number of significant merit scholarships (most notably the Thomas More Scholarship).  What percentage of students generally receives scholarships?  How are students selected to receive scholarships?  Is there anything prospective students can do to increase their chances of receiving aid? 

Ninety-five percent of Gonzaga Law’s student body receive scholarships. These awards are based on academic achievements and LSAT scores.


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

Transferring is just like applying as a first-year student.

We’re a small school and can’t admit many transfers. In a typical year, we will admit four, but have admitted as many as five. We don’t actively recruit transfers because we don’t have many seats available.

Parting Words

TLS: Do you have any final thoughts for the readers of  Any advice for students applying this cycle?

It’s important to pick a law school on its personal fit. Come visit. You want to enjoy the experience and be a happy alum. Make sure it’s a really good fit.