J.D. Admissions Philosophy, Eligibility, and Admissions Standards

Admissions Philosophy 

The Admissions program at Columbia Law School is designed to identify and select a student body of diverse backgrounds and interests that shares a discernible commitment to excellence—individuals who have demonstrated unusual promise for distinguished performance at the Law School and, subsequently, for high service to the legal profession and the community.

In evaluating the applications of the approximately 7,000 applicants who seek admission to the Law School each year, we place primary emphasis on demonstrated qualities and proven skills we regard as necessary for academic success and intellectual engagement at Columbia.

We also value highly personal strengths that we believe predict professional distinction and public service. We endeavor to identify how and to what extent candidates have forged their values and achieved their goals—how they have actually chosen to commit their time, energies, and talents, and how they have made use of their opportunities. Applicants are evaluated, therefore, not only on their potential but by their demonstrated motivation, self-discipline, and industry. Our Admissions Committee weighs carefully the elements of the application, which speak to the candidate's background, interests, and goals, and which evidence sound character and judgment.

This approach to selection yields each year an entering J.D. class (of approximately 380 students) with especially strong prospects for academic success, for educating one another, for challenging our faculty, and for enhancing life and learning at Columbia Law School—learning that goes forward in our classes, seminars, clinics, internships, workshops, journals, conferences, brown bag luncheon discussions, and countless hours of engaging conversation.

Our student body is international in character and origin and truly diverse by standards of training, experience, and perspective. Members of recent classes have come from virtually every state in this country and from many foreign countries. They represent over 140 undergraduate colleges and universities located across the United States and abroad and reflect the broad range of economic, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds found in America.

Typically, 75 percent of Columbia’s entering class has spent some years after college fulfilling professional and/or family responsibilities. And about 7 percent of our entering students will have earned at least one graduate or professional degree before studying law at Columbia. Our Law School has been strengthened by the maturity and experiential enrichment that older students bring to their classmates and faculty.

We have been strengthened too by significant growth in the number of women and minority students. During this past decade, more women and people of color have chosen to study law at Columbia than at any other time in the School's history. Currently, women comprise about 48 percent of our student body. Approximately 40 percent is of American Indian, Asian, African-American, or Hispanic background—one of the very largest minority student populations among America’s leading law schools.

Eligibility

To be considered for the Juris Doctorate—a three-year, full-time program that begins only in the fall semester—at Columbia Law School, candidates must have earned by the time of matriculation a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution or its equivalent as determined by the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC). Candidates who have earned LL.M. degrees from institutions abroad may apply for first-year status. Additionally, per a new rule set by the American Bar Association, applicants who have earned an LL.M. degree from another ABA-accredited law school must also follow the application procedures for either Regular Admission or Early Decision.

Admissions Standards

The Admissions process at the Law School is designed to identify and select a student body of diverse backgrounds and interest that shares a discernible commitment to excellence—individuals who have demonstrated unusual promise for distinguished performance at the Law School and, subsequently, for high service to the legal profession and community.

Taking into consideration the collective strength of a candidate’s application, we employ a holistic review process. We truly believe in the value of thoroughly reviewing each candidate on an individual basis and do not compare candidates when determining admissibility. This approach gives each candidate the opportunity to illustrate through the application his or her admissibility and in many instances, demonstrate strength beyond numbers.

To assess intellectual and academic qualifications and aptitude for legal study, we rely on a candidate’s body of undergraduate (and if applicable, graduate) coursework, and the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) or Graduate Record Examination (GRE). While these components are certainly significant, there is no minimum LSAT/GRE score or GPA requirement, and no LSAT/GRE/GPA combination alone can solely determine admissibility. In undertaking a granular analysis of a candidate transcripts, we track their scholastic journey while considering (among other factors) course selection and rigor, pass/fail vs. graded courses, and trends in performance.   

We also highly value personal strengths that we believe predict professional distinction and public service, generally included in detail on a candidate’s résumé. We endeavor to identify how, and to what extent, candidates have forged their values and achieved their goals—how they have actually chosen to commit their time, energies, and talents, and how they have made use of the opportunities before them (special honors and awards, fellowship opportunities, publications, extracurricular involvement, community service, political activity, professional contributions, and other work experience). Applicants are evaluated, therefore, not only on their personal potential but also by their demonstrated motivation, self-discipline, and industry.

Evidence of superior writing ability is the trademark of any potential candidate for admission to the Law School, and for that reason, we pay careful attention to the personal statement. The personal statement—generally two double-spaced pages—should be sound in terms of grammar, usage, and mechanics and illustrate that the candidate is capable of writing at the graduate level. We hope to read essays in which candidates synthesize information clearly and concisely while revealing how they have arrived at the point at which a legal education is their next intellectual and professional step.

Letters of recommendation (academic and/or professional, depending on when a candidate completes the bachelor’s degree) provide highly useful third-party commentary regarding a candidate’s skills and capabilities, work ethic, strength of character, potential to succeed in legal study and the legal profession, etc. Additionally, some candidates will be interviewed. An interview will not carry any particular weight relative to the other application components, and because of the nature of our selection process, the interview will be contextualized differently for each applicant.

In evaluating the applications of approximately 7,000 candidates—many having strong credentials—who seek admission to the Law School each year, we place primary emphasis on demonstrated qualities and proven skills we regard as necessary for academic success and intellectual engagement at Columbia and in the legal field upon graduation. Our goal of composing a class that is academically astute, ready to act as conscientious citizens, and excited about the future of the legal profession is aided by an applicant pool that demonstrates excellence in myriad ways, and it is our sincere hope that all candidates prepare applications reflective of their potential contributions to the Columbia community.