Leadership Experience Admission Deferral (LEAD) Fellowship Program
Frequently Asked Questions
THE ADMISSIONS PROCESS
What are you looking for in LEAD Fellowship Program applicants? How do you evaluate LEAD applicants?
We are seeking applicants who are intellectually and academically exceptional and who have given measured consideration to their determination to seek a law degree. In addition, we are seeking students possessing a bold and enterprising spirit and innovative vision directed towards an entrepreneurial, advocacy, or charitable goal they wish to advance. We evaluate all applicants on the basis of a thorough, holistic review of their application materials in accordance with our stated admissions philosophy and standards.
Who is eligible for admission to the LEAD Fellowship Program?
Current Columbia University undergraduates at Columbia College, Barnard College, SEAS, and the School of General Studies who
- are in their junior or senior year;
- have taken, and received a score for, the LSAT or GRE by May 15 of the year in which they are applying;
- intend to found, expand and/or advance a commercial or nonprofit startup venture prior to attending law school; and
- complete and timely submit an Application for admission and all related materials.
What sorts of undertakings potentially qualify for a LEAD funding grant?
A qualifying undertaking or activity may be any of
- forming an organization or enterprise in advance of a specified goal;
- starting a business;
- conceiving and pursuing a public service or philanthropic endeavor;
- partnering with a nonprofit or commercial collaborator; or
- any like project, venture, or activity.
Must I exclusively devote myself to my LEAD undertaking during my two-year mandatory gap period?
No. You may pursue employment opportunities or graduate studies in addition to your LEAD undertaking so long as doing so will not conflict with the venture or your obligation to matriculate at the Law School at the end of your gap period.
THE ADMISSIONS PROCESS
How do I apply to the LEAD Fellowship Program?
- Register with LSAC.org and enroll in the Credential Assembly Service;
- Take and receive a score for the LSAT or GRE by no later than May 15 of the year in which you are applying; (If you choose to submit GRE scores, kindly instruct Educational Testing Services to forward to us all GRE scores from the past 5 years.)
- Complete and submit an Application (together with all related materials) through LSAC.org by May 15 of the year in which you are applying; and
- Arrange to have your current Spring-semester grades sent to us as soon as they become available.
Is there a fee to apply to the LEAD Fellowship Program?
No. The normal application fee of $85 is waived for Columbia University undergraduates.
When will I receive an admission decision?
Applicants will receive an admission decision (together with, if applicable, a financial aid determination) on or around July 15. Applicants who receive a favorable admission decision shall have five (5) business days within which to accept their offer of admission by returning to us a signed copy of the LEAD Contract and submitting the non-refundable seat deposit.
What are the components of the LEAD Fellowship Program Application?
All applicants must submit
- a completed and signed Application Form
- a Résumé
- a Personal Statement/Essay
- a Project Plan
- two academic/faculty Letters of Recommendation
- an official Undergraduate Transcript
- a Dean's Certification (sent directly by your college pre-law advisor)
- any and all addenda required by the Character and Fitness section of the Application
In addition, applicants may submit
- one additional letter of recommendation (Non-academic only)
- any additional addenda the applicant deems necessary or appropriate
Applicants may be invited to interview.
What should I include in my Personal Statement? How long should my Personal Statement be?
The personal statement/essay portion of the application is an opportunity to present pertinent information about yourself that you are not otherwise able to convey through your other application materials. It may include any information you believe is relevant and that could help us make our admission decision. In particular, we are curious about your interests, goals, and aspirations and how the LEAD program and a J.D. from Columbia can help you achieve these. While we do not have a hard and fast rule, you should strive to make your personal statement no longer than two double-spaced pages.
What should I include in my LEAD project plan? How long should my project plan be?
Your LEAD project plan should include a description of your intended undertaking detailing how you intend to pursue and realize the objectives of that undertaking, including, specifically, how you intend to utilize and apply your LEAD funding grant. You should also include a brief description of the other activities/employment in which you will be engaged during the two-year mandatory gap period. The project plan may be whatever length you feel is appropriate or necessary, but we anticipate a document that is 3-5 pages in length. Please include an executive summary of the project plan of no more than one page.
What happens if my plans change? How do I update my LEAD project plan?
If your plans change, either prior to the commencement of your gap period or over the course of the gap period, please promptly notify the Office of Admissions and submit a revised and updated project plan setting forth your new gap period plans and the reason for the change in your previously submitted plans.
What are my obligations under the LEAD Contract?
Pursuant to the LEAD Contract you will commit to:
- Matriculate at the Law School at the conclusion of your two-year mandatory gap period, i.e., three years following admission as a junior or two years following admission as a senior;
- Diligently pursue an undertaking in accordance with your LEAD project plan and provide quarterly written progress reports in accordance with the terms of the LEAD Contract;
- Refrain from applying to other law schools; and
- Repay in full your LEAD funding grant should you fail to comply with any of the terms of the LEAD Contract such that your offer of admission is rescinded.
What can I expect if I am asked to interview? May I request an interview?
Interviews are conducted either in person or via Skype. You will be provided with instructions at the time you are invited to make an interview appointment. Interviews are by invitation only.
Are LEAD Fellows eligible for financial aid?
Candidates for admission who apply through the LEAD program are eligible to apply and be considered for financial aid. Applicants will be evaluated on the same basis as are all other applicants to Columbia Law School. Candidates must submit the required financial aid materials by May 15 and will receive their financial aid determination, if applicable, along with their admission decision on or around July 15.
Is the LEAD Fellowship Program binding?
Yes. You are obligated to matriculate at the Law School in the event that you accept your offer of admission. We are seeking applicants who have thought very carefully about their decision to earn a law degree and who are committed to matriculating, albeit on a deferred basis.
If I am not admitted via the LEAD Fellowship Program, may I re-apply via the regular process?
Yes. All applicants who are not admitted via the LEAD program may re-apply, as either an Early Decision or Regular Decision applicant, during the regular admission cycle that begins on September 1 of each year. Additionally, junior-year LEAD applicants who are not admitted via the LEAD program during the summer preceding their senior year may reapply under the LEAD program in the spring of their senior year. All reapplicants to the Law School are given full consideration without prejudice.
If I'm admitted to the LEAD Fellowship Program following my junior year, what happens if my grades drop during my senior year?
By offering you admission following your junior year, we hope to encourage you to challenge yourself and make the most of your senior year, both academically and extra-curricularly, without undue concerns about grades. However, please be mindful that any unwarranted drop in rigor and/or achievement during your senior year could be cause for rescission of your admission offer.
I’m interested! How can I find out more about the LEAD Fellowship Program?
- Consult with your pre-law advisor:
- At Barnard: Nikki Youngblood Giles, Dean for Pre-Professional Advising
- At Columbia/SEAS: Cynthia Cogdill, Advising Dean for Pre-Professional Advising or Megan Rigney, Senior Assistant Dean; Director of Pre-Professional Advising and Academic Resources in Support of Excellence
- At General Studies: Tiffany Decker, Assistant Dean of Students
- Attend a LEAD Fellowship Program Info Session hosted by the Law School
- Visit our offices – we have an open door policy and Admissions representatives are available to meet with you and answer your questions
(We are located at 1125 Amsterdam Avenue on the 5th Floor)