Admissions Criteria

The University of Wisconsin Law School is committed to an admissions program that provides an academically qualified student body that is as diverse as possible. 

Having students with different interests, goals, life experiences, backgrounds and attitudes is critical in order to ensure the robust exchange of ideas that is called for in training lawyers and potential political leaders.  And, just as a diverse student body enriches the educational process, a diverse group of law graduates strengthens the legal profession and better enables it to represent all segments of our society.  No factor, however, will outweigh judgment that a particular applicant's credentials, taken as a whole, represent unacceptably high academic risk.  We accept only those we judge to be fully qualified academically and will not accept any applicant with a predicted first-year score of less than the equivalent to our Law School grade of "C" (2.0).

Admission to the University of Wisconsin Law School is very competitive, and we understand that you, as a prospective applicant, are interested in knowing how best to present your application, and whether you have reasonable possibility of acceptance.  The following information is designed to help you answer those questions.

When we receive your file, we begin our review with four main priorities in mind, seeking applicants that:

  1. have strong academic credentials (including cumulative undergraduate grade point and LSAT score)
  2. have a broad range of experiences and backgrounds
  3. are members of groups historically underrepresented in the legal profession, including racial and ethnic minorities
  4. are Wisconsin residents

We also consider the following factors, most of which are specific examples of the four priorities referred to above (for example, strong academic credentials, broad experiences and backgrounds):

Trend of college grades. An applicant who started very poorly in college but performed strongly in later college years may be judged more favorably than another with the same GPA but a level or declining record.

Letters of recommendation. A careful, thoughtful letter from teacher or employer may tell us enough about the intellect, imagination, or diligence of an applicant so that we may judge the applicant 's prospects for academic success better than mere numerical factors might suggest.

Graduate study. Although the mere experience of graduate study does not, in our judgment, significantly increase the quality of law school performance, strong recent graduate work plus strong LSAT may overcome weaker college grades. Also, an interesting background of graduate study may be a favorable factor in itself.

Time interval between college graduation and application to law school. We have some evidence that applicants at least a year out of college, especially those with strong recent LSAT scores, will have a better academic record in law school than their numerical credentials suggest. The post-college experience, whether in work or volunteer activity, may be favorable factor as well.

Quality of applicant's undergraduate institution. Though difficult to measure, the quality of the institution where the applicant earned an undergraduate degree is a relevant factor. We consider any convincing evidence, such as numerical indices supplied by CAS, or information supplied by the applicant.

College grading and course selection patterns. We examine transcripts individually. If an applicant has clearly followed an unusually easy or difficult pattern of courses, we try to take it into account. If an otherwise top record combines with poor grades in an exceptionally difficult subject area, we also take that into account. An occasional college pass-fail grade does not affect our evaluation of the GPA; however, a heavy load of ungraded, pass-fail work undermines whatever GPA remains and creates need for careful and candid letters of evaluation from college teachers of the applicant.

Outside work while in college. A full-time or extra-heavy part-time work load (or, rarely, an extraordinarily heavy load of extracurricular activity) may suggest that the applicant would have had a better GPA with lesser load. We consider this factor in close cases.

Writing sample. The LSAT includes a short spontaneous essay that is sent to law schools. Writing is so important to law study that we may give weight to this sample if it shows exceptional writing skill or weakness.

Unusual cultural background. Our quest for diversity gives some advantage to fully qualified applicants from unusual or disadvantaged backgrounds.

Geographical diversity. Other factors being equal, a fully qualified applicant from an area of the country, or an area of Wisconsin, relatively unrepresented in our student body will receive slight preference in selection.

Acceptance in a prior year. Acceptance at the UW Law School is valid only for the year for which accepted even if the circumstances preventing attendance were beyond the applicant 's control. However, if circumstances beyond the applicant's control prevented enrollment, this fact will be one factor in the applicant 's favor on subsequent application.

Diversity of experience or background. A background of work experience, life experience, college activity, political activity, etc., that adds an additional or unusual perspective to the law school student body may work in the applicant 's favor.

Diversity of stated professional goals. Our application form gives applicants an opportunity to express their reasons for studying law. We prefer an entering class made up of individuals with many different reasons for being here. For example, if most of our applicants say they want to use their legal training to be social reformers, a plus may go to the applicant who wants to be a small- town practitioner.

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