The University of Texas School of Law offers academic excellence, affordability, and robust support to its students. In this podcast interview, UT’s Dean of Admissions, Mathiew Le, discusses the distinctive qualities of the UT Austin Law JD program. He highlights the vibrant city of Austin, the healthy and robust Texas legal market, and the focus on building a strong community at UT Law. Le also discusses the Society Program, which helps students navigate the law school experience in a fun and social way, and the Mentorship Program, which provides students with guidance and support throughout their time at UT Law. Le advises applicants to submit their applications early, but only if they have a strong application. He also discusses the acceptance of both the LSAT and GRE, and the importance of tailoring applications to specific law schools. Le emphasizes the importance of leadership, community engagement, and enriching the learning environment in the admissions process. He also advises against trying to be overly creative in personal statements and highlights the availability of financial aid and scholarships at UT Law.
Located in the heart of vibrant Austin, Texas Law offers its students academic excellence, affordability, and robust support, plus professional opportunities upon graduation. And today, we’re speaking with its Dean of Admissions.
Thanks for joining me for this, the 546 episode of Admissions Straight Talk.
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Now, for today’s interview, I’m delighted to have on Admissions Straight Talk, Mathiew Le, Assistant Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at the University of Texas School of Law. A native of Texas, Dean Le earned his bachelor’s from the University of Texas at Austin and his JD from Ohio State University, Moritz College of Law.
Prior to joining UT Law, Dean Le was the Assistant Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at the University of Washington School of Law for almost a decade. He has held numerous national service and leadership positions, including serving as a member of LSACs board of trustees. Dean Le firmly believes in the value of a public education and has a deep commitment to providing access for education to underrepresented groups and helped co-found the National Asian Pacific American Pre-Law conference, now associated with the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association Annual Convention.
Dean Le, welcome to Admissions Straight Talk. [2:10]
Thank you so much, Linda. It’s really a pleasure to be here. Thanks for having me.
I’m delighted to speak with you today. All right, let’s start with a very basic question. Can you give an overview of the more distinctive qualities or elements of the UT Austin Law JD program? [2:16]
Sure. Absolutely. Well, one of the things that I always like to start off telling students that makes UT special really comes from a place of three colors. The first of which is the City of Austin. Austin is one of the fastest growing cities in the country, and continues to be a city that is grounded in a vibrant music and entertainment culture. Many people know that there’s been an infusion of major tech companies like Amazon, Google, Oracle, and Tesla, combined with cultural offerings here. It’s just a wonderful pit stop for many students who will come to law school for three years here in Austin and then decide to go elsewhere. A little bit about the Texas legal market in general is that it’s very healthy, it’s very robust. In the state of Texas, we have several major markets, Houston of course, Dallas, and then San Antonio as well. Houston is the fourth-largest city in the country. And, is known to be the energy capital of the world. And so, many of our graduates will end up in the city of Houston upon graduation.
And then, Dallas is ninth in terms of the largest city in the country. And, their legal market is a little bit more diverse than Houston’s focus on energy. But even then, combined, those two cities, with the city of Austin, which of course is the capital city of one of the largest states in the country, the proximity to government agencies, nonprofits, public interest organizations, government agencies, all of the above, there’s a lot of opportunity in the great state of Texas. So, I think, the city itself makes UT quite attractive and very distinctive in many respects. But in addition to the location of the law school, what I also think sets UT apart from other programs is the way that we have focused a lot of our attention on building the community here at UT.
One of those features that we have as part of onboarding of our incoming cohort is what we describe as The Society Program. The Society Program was created back in 2004 in combination with our faculty and our student affairs team. And it’s really from a place of ensuring that students’ experience in law school of course is academic but also social and fun. We know that law school is built on a foundation of relationships, and friendships, and lifelong professional relationships. And so, how do you navigate law school in a way that, of course, is focused on your academics, but also ensures an experience that can be as fun as law school should be, as fun, right?
The Society Program –, so what we do for the incoming cohort is we divide the students in the traditional academic sections, but we then further divide the students into smaller cohorts named after an important figure here at the law school. And, each of the cohorts have a society coordinator, a faculty advisor, and two dean’s fellows whose charge is to plan activities to ensure that the cohort and the society will, again, ease into the law school culture and the process to the best of their ability, right, to have a seamless transition, if you will. And so, The Society Program, at the end of the third year, we love to survey our students. And, many of our students will come back and say that The Society Program was truly one of the most memorable experiences that they’ve had in law school. And it is really a lifesaver in many respects, because many of our students are first generation students who don’t have access to faculty members or lawyers. And it’s just a wonderful way to connect our incoming class with a community here at the law school.
In addition to The Society Program, I would say, another distinctive feature of UT is that we want to help students, again, navigate the law school experience in a way that will help them academically, but also professionally as well. The Mentorship Program is something that we are so proud of. I don’t know many law schools that have hired a full-time, dedicated staff member whose job is to develop a comprehensive mentorship program. And we’re so lucky to have Remi Ratliff, who is a graduate of Texas Law to help us build a comprehensive program.
And there are four mentorship programs under the mentorship umbrella. The primary one is our incoming 1L Mentorship Program. While it’s not required of our students, it is strongly encouraged, and I would say, 98-99% of the incoming students will participate in the 1L Mentorship Program. The idea behind the 1L Mentorship Program is to connect the students with someone who is practicing in the Austin area to give them face-to-face, to develop a relationship, to help the students navigate, of course, the law school experience, and then help them have conversations about what you should anticipate in the first year summer. How do you plan your second year courses? What are the things that you need to be anticipating in your upper division years here at the law school? That’s a little bit distinct than our 2L Mentorship Program, where of course, students now have a better idea of what it is that they want to do and perhaps where they want to end up.
And so, the 2L Mentorship Program is a continuation of the 1L program with the distinction that it doesn’t have to be an alumni mentor who is situated in the City of Austin. So many of our graduates will want to practice outside of the great state of Texas, maybe DC, New York. And so, we also have a summer mentorship program for students who want to enter into those jurisdictions, because we know that connecting with someone in the community, starting the legwork, connecting them with law firms and hiring partners, that’s part of a feature that the summer mentorship program has. And then, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the transfer mentorship program. We have a number of students who transfer into UT. And, we connect to those students who come in as a transfer with other alumni who perhaps transferred into the program as well. So as you can see, it’s pretty comprehensive when it comes to the mentorship program and something that we’re quite proud of.
And again, it’s really from a place of helping our students navigate this daunting thing that’s called law school. As I mentioned, many of our students are first generation students who don’t have access to attorneys, and this is their first interaction with an attorney, knowing how to navigate the networking process, because one of the things that I think colleges still don’t do a good job on is helping students understand what networking is about, how to network, how to navigate those relationships and The Mentorship Program has been instrumental in helping students excel in that space. So, that’s our Mentorship Program.
It sounds like you have different forms of mentoring, you have social mentoring, I assume there’s academic mentoring also, but from what your comments, there’s social mentoring as well as professional mentoring? [9:58]
Yeah, you’re absolutely right. And I think it’s a different way of thinking about the law school experience. I think, traditionally, law school has been so focused on the doctrinal courses, ensuring students had that foundation in law. And, over the years, there’s been more of a focus on clinical experience and experiential learning, and of course that’s very important as well. But I think, this day and age, students are interested in other parts of their experience in their education, right? And I think it’s a carryover from what students have experienced on the college level. It’s not just going to classes, it’s also how do you develop these soft skills that are also important in the professional world. And so, I think, a lot of schools, including us, have really been mindful in hearing what students are saying. They want more than just the educational experience. And, they know that coming to UT Law, they’re going to get a strong foundation in the academics, but what more can we do? And that’s where The Society Program and The Mentoring Program really come into play.
You mentioned that not all graduates of UT Law stay in the great state of Texas. They go throughout the country. Where do most graduates go, in terms not just of geography, but also in terms of career focus and firm size? [11:17]
Yeah, that’s a great question. And I often get this question when I meet a student who doesn’t come from the great state of Texas, right? Students will say, “Well, I’d love to come to Austin for three years, but will I be stuck in Texas? I’m not sure if I want to end up staying here.” And the reality is that of course, we just do well in our backyard. We are the best law school for 1000 miles east and west. And so, from our view, if you want to stay in the great state of Texas, then you’re going to really position yourself quite favorably. But, for those students who decide not to stay here, New York tends to be the largest jurisdiction where our graduates will end up, in part because of our focus on the corporate law space.
And then, outside of New York, California and DC actually compete for that third position. But I would say, New York has been consistently that second jurisdiction. And, DC sometimes one year, and then California another year, and they flip-flop just depending on the number of students that we end up entering into those markets. So, the reality though is we have graduates who are entering other markets as well, not just those major markets. I would say, the breakdown ends up being about 70% who end up staying in Texas upon graduation. And then, the remainder will decide to go elsewhere.
As far as practice areas, the vast majority of students still end up in private practice. I think roughly more than 60% of our graduates will end up in the firms, many of whom end up in the large law firms. We do have a growing number of students who enter into public interest, government of course, because of our access to the capital city, and just government agencies, and nonprofits in the area. So students will end up staying close to Austin. And then, we have a growing number of students that end up doing clerkships. It tends to hover around 13 to 15%. Vast majority of students doing clerkships will end up doing federal clerkships, and that tends to be in the upper 80% range. So, if you really want to position yourself in terms of clerkships, I truly believe there’s no better place than Texas Law to start your professional career.
Now, let’s turn our attention more to the application side. [13:49]
For this year’s applicants, when is the best time to apply? [13:56]
I’m of the mindset that early is always better, but what does early really mean? I would say that-
Great question. [14:05]
… Yeah, if you submit your application by the end of the calendar year, that’s certainly very early. And I think you are positioning yourself favorably, because we do start reviewing applications for our early decision candidates, we do prioritize. And so, we have two pathways, the early decision, and then the regular decision. For early decision, that deadline is November 1st. And we prioritize the reading of those applications in early October. And then, the regular decision folks, we’ll start reviewing those applications in December. You have to realize that many law schools will have holiday winter breaks in December. And so, we are only in the office for the first couple of weeks. And then, everyone goes on vacation, and then they come back in January. But by getting your application in by the end of the calendar year, once we return back from the holiday break, we are really hitting the ground running when it comes to the application review process.
And so, I think that’s really a good time to apply. Even though our application isn’t due until March 1st, I would say that if you’re planning to submit your application at the end of February or even by March 1st, I would not consider that to be early. And that’s not to say that students are putting themselves in a disadvantage. It’s just that, you have to realize that we’re making many decisions upfront, and things tend to get more complicated as you get closer to the application deadline. But my general advice is if you can get it in by the end of the calendar year, that would be really beneficial to you.
But also, at the end of the day, don’t submit an application early just for the sake of submitting it early. You want to put your best foot forward. So, if you don’t have the LSAT score or GRE score that you’re really looking for, or it’s not your best showing in terms of your GPA, it’s better to wait to submit an application that is your strongest application than to submit a subpar application early. So, I would certainly keep that in mind as well as you’re deciding when to submit an application.
I think that’s fantastic advice. I have a rule I’ve been touting for almost 30 years now, and it’s, “Submit your application as soon as possible, PROVIDED – and “provided” is always in caps if I write it out — you don’t compromise the quality. [16:18]
UT Law accepts the LSAT and the GRE. Are you finding that the GRE is equally predictive of future success in law school? I don’t know how many years you’ve been doing that, but have you been able to test that out? Or do you have enough numbers to test it out even? [16:35]
That’s a good question. And, we started to accept the GRE in 2018, beginning in that cycle.
So that was a while now. [16:58]
Yeah, it’s been a while. But truth be told, I think it’s been a couple of years. It really took a couple of years before we started to see some traction with the GRE. And I think, part of the reason why is that students were still trying to figure out, “Well, which one do I take? And, I am not sure if I want to disadvantage myself by taking the GRE and not taking the LSAT.” Because the vast majority of schools at the time still were accepting the LSAT and not many were accepting the GRE. We don’t have enough data, truth be told, to decide whether or not the GRE is equally predictive. That first year when we started to accept the GRE, I don’t believe anyone came in with the GRE. It took at least a couple of years before we got maybe two people with the GRE.
And even then, that’s not a statistical number in which we could say, okay, with great confidence that the GRE is on the same playing field with the LSAT. At the end of the day however, I would say that the GRE and the LSAT is only one factor among the entire rest of the application. And that’s what we’re really trying to get a sense for is, is the candidate prepared for the academic rigors of law school? So while a score may be a high GRE or a high LSAT, that alone is not going to be determinative on whether you’re going to be admitted or not. But to answer your question, I just don’t think we have enough data to decide whether or not it has any predictive value in the same way that we know that the LSAT does.
How would you advise applicants to choose between the LSAT and the GRE? I mean, if they’re applying only to law schools that accept both tests, obviously if they apply to law schools that will only take the LSAT, they have to take the LSAT. But what if they’re applying to all law schools that will accept either one? How would you advise an applicant to choose? [18:36]
Yeah. In general, what I have told students is that you want to position yourself in the best way possible for the admissions committee. I think, when the GRE was introduced into the admissions process for law schools, it was really from a place of, “How do we provide access to other programs and other students for whom may have been in other disciplines, students who might’ve been in the public affairs program or the MBA program?” And so, to offer more access to the law school experience, the GRE or other test would be beneficial. So, I would say, if a student is thinking about doing a dual degree and is interested in, I guess, diversifying their legal education and maybe take classes in other programs at the university, then the GRE might be more beneficial to that candidate.
But at the same time, you got to choose what you think is going to best characterize your academic potential. And there are two very different tests. We know that the LSAT is geared for the law school experience. There’s no other test like it. The GRE is more interdisciplinary. And so, it’s different in that respect. And so, that would be my general advice.
Turning to the personal statement, should the personal statement for a Texas Law address why the applicant wants to go to law school? Or, I think, the language on your site, can it be about backgrounds, interests, and experiences that are not necessarily directly related to law, but maybe more about the individual’s journey to date? What would you say? [20:26]
I would say, if you’re able to do both, then I would encourage you to do both. I think those are the best essays truly, to share more about your background, your interest, and your experiences, and then figure out how to tie it into why you’re pursuing law. I think, there are some candidates for whom we know that law school was the most logical trajectory in the next step for them, right? And sometimes, students don’t have to be explicit in their personal statement as to why they’re pursuing law. There are other candidates for whom it’s going to take us a little bit more to understand why they might be pursuing law. Perhaps someone who’s been working in a particular industry for a number of years, and then have decided to pivot to go to law school. I know that the faculty and the admissions committee would be interested in that question as to why is the student applying to law school now? So I would advise that candidate to be more explicit in their personal statement to say, “Well, and this is why I want to go to law school.”
But, again, I think if you can tie your background and your interest as to the motivations for going to law, I think that’s wonderful. And I think you’re really giving the admissions committee enough to understand your personal and professional experiences, but also the motivations on why you’re pursuing law.
And also demonstrating communication skills and writing skills in the process. If you can tie it all together effectively, it’s a good piece. Any advice for the optional material that is a part of the Texas Law application? When should applicants take advantage of those opportunities to share more information? [22:14]
I’m a huge fan of students submitting optional statements, in part because you have to remember that students don’t have the ability to sit in front of the admissions committee and ask us questions. We can’t ask you questions. And we can’t have a conversation with them. And so, if there’s more for a student to share with admissions committee, by all means, use the optional materials as an opportunity to share those things that you may not have been able to express in other parts of your application.
We recognize that the application materials are limiting in many respects. For us, we limit the personal statement to two pages, 11 point font, one inch margins, and that’s not a lot of real estate to share everything that I’m sure that you want to share with us. And so, the optional materials is really that place where you can say, “I may have talked about this in my personal statement, but there are other parts of me that I think may be of interest to you as you’re making the decision.” Right? So, I would say, it can only be an advantage for you. And, it can only help you, and not necessarily hurt you.
Have the applicants give you more reasons to accept them. Right? [23:41]
How do you go through an application and evaluate? What’s the process at Texas Law? [23:46]
Oh, that’s a great question. One of the things that I underscore when I train our faculty admissions committee is, I say, we start off with the electronic application. I don’t know if students really know this, but on our end, what we receive are essentially two documents electronically, the electronic application and the CAS report. And then of course, any additional materials that the student may have submitted. But, we start off with the electronic application, in part because I don’t want the committee to make a decision just on an LSAT and a GPA, which is in the CAS report. In the electronic application, will be your personal statement, will be your resume, will be any of the optional materials that you’ve submitted to us. And I really want to start there, because I think that’s how students really get their foot into the door here. Students have spent their precious time, energy, money to submit an application to us. And, I really want to focus on what does the student have to share with the committee, right?
And so, that’s why we start there. Of course, that’s not to say that the academics don’t matter as well. And so, that’s where then we go to the CAS report. And for those who don’t know, the CAS report has all of the transcripts that you submitted to LSAC, they’ve processed them. The letters of recommendations, and we require two letters of recommendations, and then the writing sample that you would’ve submitted along with your LSAT. And so, we do that analysis second, in part because one, it’s so hard to read the transcripts, it’s not my favorite thing to do. Thankfully, LSAC, they provide a summary report, where we get a lot of the detailed analysis. And so, that’s how the application review process operates here at the law school.
So I assume that individual members of the committee review the electronic application, the CAS report. And then, how many people typically review it? Two or three? [25:41]
So we have administrative reviewers first, those who are staffed in the admissions office, and then we- Oh gosh, I think at least five or six admissions or faculty members. Don’t quote me exactly on that number, but it’s around there.
I see that interviews are sometimes part of the process. Are all admitted applicants interviewed? If not, who is invited to interview? [26:08]
Sure. So we do have an interview process. We’ve had one since I’ve been here at the law school, and I started here back in 2018. I think the law school had adopted the interview process maybe a year or two years before my arrival. And it has been just so helpful in the admissions process. I’ve been doing this for nearly two decades now. And, things start to look the same, right? Personal statements, resumes. And so, I’m all about how can we innovate and have the application process evolve. And, the interviews have really added so much more flavor to a candidate’s profile, because there’s more to a student than their 2-dimensional materials in their personal statement and their resume. We have switched over our vendor recently. But in the past, we had a vendor where we had a limited number of licenses, so we had to be very judicious about who we could invite to participate in the asynchronous interview.
But since we’ve moved over to a new platform, the hope is that we will be able to invite more students to participate in the interview process. But to answer the second part of your question, it’s not required of the students who are admitted. I would say, just because you’ve been asked to interview, it’s not a guarantee of admission, and just because you didn’t get an interview doesn’t mean that you’re not going to be admitted. So, it’s just been an addition to the overall application process that we’ve had here at the law school. And, I’m excited to see what’s to come in this coming year.
Okay, so you plan to expand it. But it is UT law’s option, right? It’s not like a student can say, “Oh, I’m going to be on campus, could I be interviewed?” It’s at your invitation, correct? [27:59]
We have a bank of questions that we have students respond to. There are four questions, one of which is a written question, and they’re randomized based on the bank of questions. And we’re trying to get an assessment of the student’s communication skills, their presentation, and just how they think on their feet. So, I know a lot of students really stress about the interview, but it’s really from a place of wanting to know more about the student. And, they’re not questions that you should be surprised. We’re not going to ask you to analyze a complicated SCOTUS case or anything like that. It’s really questions that you should probably anticipate.
Are you at all concerned about the impact of ChatGPT and AI, specifically the essays? [28:51]
That’s a good question. We’ve been having some internal discussions about the impact of ChatGPT. And, in the midst of everything that transpired with the SCOTUS case this summer, it seemed that the conversation around AI and artificial intelligence really crept up on us. And it just showed me that many institutions of higher education are so behind the students, right? And, we don’t have a policy position around that, at this point. My sense is that students understand what we are expecting is something that is genuine and authentic to them. And we are very capable of identifying when someone who is just giving us surface level stuff. I can’t imagine ChatGPT providing a writing sample that is going to give us those elements of a personal statement and of a personal experience in a way that I think would be helpful to us. But it’s TBD. It’d be interesting to see how it plays out for this year, and maybe we’ll have a more formalized policy in the coming years.
But as of right now, I’m not too concerned. I mean, we know students are googling how to write the best personal statements and getting advice through other means. And so, at the end of the day, we really are expecting students to provide an application that is coming from them, and they’re certifying that in the application process. But, I’m not too concerned at this point.
I’ve played with it a little bit. I found it to just produce extremely generic, superficial stuff. One of our consultants, who actually has a background as a journalist and is a very, very fine writer, she decided to try it. And in order to get it to a point where it was actually something specific to her, she had to iterate, and iterate, and iterate, and iterate, and give it more, and more, and more information, such that, it would’ve taken her less time to write it on her own. So, if you just go to it, and let it spit out something, it’s not going to be very good. To make it good, it might take you as much time or more as if you just wrote it. [30:41]
Let’s go back to some other questions about admissions. In terms of applicant background or qualifications, do you like to see experience in their background, full-time work experience, or part-time work experience that is closely related to law, like working in a law office or a legal clinic for example, or something related to policy and politics? [31:23]
Yeah, I think, work experience does help a candidate become a stronger candidate in the application process. I’m a huge fan of students deciding to take a little bit of time before they decide to go to law school. The average age here at Texas Law tends to be around 24, and assuming that many graduates will end up graduating around 21 or 22, that means many students are entering law school after at least a couple of years of professional experience or any experience before jumping on the law school train. It doesn’t have to be legal experience. Of course, that helps underscore why students are pursuing a law school legal education. And so, from that perspective, it helps, but it’s not required, right? The law intersects in so many different areas and disciplines. And, for many candidates, it’s not necessary to have legal experience as a prerequisite before deciding to go to law school.
But for other students, it might be beneficial to them from the place of, “Am I really on the right track? Is law school really something I want to do?” I talk to many students who after doing a legal internship, they’re even more excited about going to law school. Equally valuable is when a student says, “I did that legal internship and it so is not my jam.” Right? And that’s equally powerful, because now the student is informed, they’re not sitting preparing for the LSAT blindly, and spending all of this money to submit applications, and all of that stuff, and really finding their path towards a profession that they’re going to enjoy long-term.
So, from that perspective, students are weighing whether or not they should pursue a gap year or not to the extent that getting legal experience will help them make that decision on going to law school, I think is going to be beneficial to them. I also think from the place of employment during law school, I have found anecdotally that students who have professional experience tend to do well in the hiring process, just because in the same way that I think it makes them a better candidate in the application process for law school, it will also make them a better candidate when it comes to hiring for lawyers and associates. When you think about it, the students are handling people’s lives in their most difficult and challenging times, and students who have that professional experience have an understanding of the way the world works, have developed really those strong interpersonal connection skills, really tend to rise to the top of the hiring pool.
That makes complete sense. Just getting back to your point about the value to the applicant of the experience, not even in terms of future employment or anything like that, 20 years ago, taking that gap year was much less common. And a friend came to me when her daughter called her up one day, she was a student at an Ivy League school, and burst into tears, and it was like, “What’s the matter? What’s going on?” And, I think she was a college senior at the time, and she says, “I don’t know what to do. I’m studying for the LSAT. I’m studying for the GRE. I can’t figure out what I want to do. Either I want to go to law school, or I want to go into an entirely unrelated field.” And, the mother naturally said, “Well, you don’t have to make a decision this minute. Just take a year off.” She had her classes. “It’s okay. You don’t have to go to law school right away.”
Of course, the kid didn’t listen to her. She had to talk to a consultant to hear the same thing. So, she got a job at a big Manhattan law firm. And I was talking to my friend several months later, and I said, “How’s she doing at the big Manhattan law firm?” And she said she quit. She hated it. [34:37]
It’s a very valuable six weeks. Invaluable. [35:48]
To me, that’s not necessarily worst case scenario, because everyone has their… But, just imagine, all of the time, all of the money that has been spent to achieve this one goal, and to realize, it’s not really what you want to do.
And, time is your most precious commodity, right?
When I was in college, it was very common to say law school is a good degree for something. It’s a good foundation, and school was much less expensive than too, especially public schools. But it’s a good foundation. I had so many friends whose parents pushed them into law school, because it was a good foundation for something, and they never practiced law. They didn’t like it. [36:17]
It was sad. And then, other people went to law school and were very happy. But, the point is, try it out first. [36:42]
Try it out first. And you’re absolutely right. One of the differences between this generation and the generation of yesteryear is that it is so much more expensive to attend law school, which is another distinctive feature of UT that I failed to mention, which is our lower tuition price point. But, despite having a lower tuition price point for the quality of education that you’re getting here at UT, students are still graduating on average with over $100,000 in debt.
That’s a pretty penny to be paying back, particularly at the interest rate that many of the loans are at.
I mean, at the time that I went to graduate school, I was paying per quarter. It was on the quarter systems, they had three quarters. I was paying basically three months rent for every year and tuition. Gosh, anybody would be happy to pay that today, even with LA rent.
Does UT Law consider letters from applicants who have something significant to tell you after they submit their applications and before hearing back from you or perhaps after being wait-listed? [37:35]
Yeah, we welcome any updates from applicants. And so, if there’s anything material and substantively material that you deemed worthy for the admissions committee to know, by all means, just send it to our admissions team and we’ll be more than happy to incorporate it into your application. For wait-listed candidates, same thing. We do limit letters of continuing interest to about three during the wait-list period, but we’re pretty clear about the expectations for that. But if, again, there’s anything materially that would change your application, you’re more than welcome to update the admissions committee with an email.
Now, you’ve emphasized a couple of times during our conversation that you don’t want to just make a decision based on LSAT and GPA, or GRE and GPA. You want to look beyond the academics, while the academics are important. What other factors are you weighing in addition to the test score and the GPA? [38:47]
I would say, leadership comes to mind. We know that our students are not just going to be strong and zealous advocates for their clients. They’re going to be leaders in their communities. Lawyers play a role in the community that is really grounded in leadership. And so, that’s something that we’re looking for. Because we’re a public law school students who’ve engaged in the community, worked in underserved communities is also something that we’re looking for as well. And leadership looks different in many respects. And I think sometimes students equate leadership that they have to be a president of a student organization, but that’s not necessarily true. You can do all kinds of roles and demonstrate leadership in different ways during college, and things that you’ve done in the community. So I’d say, that comes up quite a bit.
And, at the end of the day, we’re also looking for students who are going to enrich the learning environment. So through your own personal experiences, professionally, personally, how did those experiences have shaped the way that you view the world? And so, we’re also interested in that. And so, those are the couple factors that, I think, really rise to the top when we are reviewing an application.
What is a common mistake that you’ve seen applicants make during the application process? I mean, you’ve been doing this for several years at this point. I’m sure you’ve seen certain patterns recur. [40:27]
Just a few. We probably could do a whole other segment on just-
How much time do I have? [40:45]
… I think what comes to mind first is when students try to do a one size fits all application for every single school. While many law schools have shared missions and there are a lot of similarities between institutions, we also have a lot of differences and distinctions as well. And so, when you’re able to tailor your interest to what a school might be offering, then I think it really has an impact on the admissions committee. So, doing a one size fits all, not tailoring your application to the specific school itself, I think, is really a missed opportunity. I’ve seen where students will write about, “I’m applying to UT Law…” I’m making this up, but it’s something that we’re not necessarily known for. But space law, for example. Right? Sure, we have a lot of classes, but I don’t think space law and UT are necessarily equated to each other, right?
Coming to the table and saying that you’re interested in UT and you’re applying to UT because of your strong interest in national security law or constitutional law, then that shows the admissions committee that you’ve taken the step to really research the institution. And so, I think, tailoring your application certainly is advised. I would say, another common mistake I’ve seen over the years is when students will spend a lot of time talking about an inspiration to go to law school, more so than talking about themselves. I’ve read so many applications where students will talk about an important legal figure or maybe a family member who was a lawyer as their inspiration to go to law school. I’ve learned more about that person than I’ve learned about the candidate who’s applying to law school.
And so, that’s a missed opportunity as well, because as mentioned, you only have two pages to share with the admissions committee everything that’s wonderful about you. And so, when you spend a page and a half talking about the other person, I’m left wondering, “Who are you? And why are you applying to law school?” So that’s another missed opportunity. I can go on.
I think these were excellent, I especially like the last one. I think you’re right. [43:12]
I think another one that I’ve seen creep up over the years is an attempt to be creative or standing out. And I don’t know if this is a carryover in the college admissions process, where I feel like the college admissions process, you have the ability to answer more fun type questions, or be more creative in the process than in law school. But, law schools are rooted in tradition, right? And, the way that we’ve been doing things have been the same for a number of years. And I don’t think the personal statement or the application process is the time in which you should be creative.
And so, I’ve seen personal statements written in a transcript format. Students have attempted to write a deposition, if you will, as to why they want to go to law school. And, you just don’t know who’s going to read your application and how it’s going to fall on that reader. And so, I wouldn’t advise a student to be creative in that respect, keep it to what we’re looking for, and we’re looking for information about your background, your interest, your perspective, and why do you want to pursue law school. And so, this is not the time to be creative.
What would you have liked me to ask you? [44:35]
Oh gosh. My favorite barbecue spot.
Okay. What’s your favorite barbecue spot? [44:44]
Oh gosh, I’m not getting any plugs here, but Black’s Barbecue is amazing. But, that aside, with respect to the application process… Let’s see. I think a question that we really haven’t talked about is about financial aid.
Go for it. What financial aid and scholarships are available at Texas Law? [45:12]
Yeah, we’re pretty generous when it comes to our scholarship giving, in part because we recognize the cost of legal education is rising, and rising, and rising. And one of the things that we’ve been so proud of is being able to keep our tuition pretty much the same since I’ve been here. So, there have been no increases in terms of the tuition over the last five years.
That’s amazing. [45:44]
It’s been extraordinary. I hope no one on the Board of Regents listens to this. But, I think, the institution and the university is committed to providing access to education in general. So, I say that in jest, but really, I think that is something that we’re quite proud of. And, of course, I have no guarantee of whether that will remain the same when someone is listening to this. But, don’t think what will change is our commitment to ensuring that we continue to provide students with robust scholarships to ensure that they have livelihood after graduation. We know that loan debt can be oftentimes insurmountable for a lot of students, many students who’ve had to take out loans as an undergrad to get through their primary education. And so, we really try to do our best to offset that by providing robust scholarships.
That’s great. Thank you. Thank you for raising that. Dean Le, I think we’re almost out of time. Thank you so much for joining me and sharing your insider perspective. Where can listeners learn more about Texas Law? [46:45]
Oh, we welcome students to visit us on our website. And if you have any questions or if you’d like to set up an appointment and a meeting with an admissions representative, you can email us at email@example.com.
Thank you so much, Linda. It’s been a pleasure.
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