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Joseph F. Rice School of Law

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How We Review Applications

Admissions Policy

Our admissions policy calls for the Committee on Admissions to employ a holistic approach, taking into account all information available about each applicant. No single factor is conclusive. The undergraduate academic record and admissions test scores are very important, and the committees decision is also influenced by other factors, including the strength of the applicants undergraduate curriculum, trends in grades, evidence of writing ability, information gained through the applicant's personal statement, "character and fitness" disclosures, work or life experience, military service, graduate study, residency, contributions to campus or community through service or leadership, the assessment of recommenders, and the applicant’s potential for contribution to a diverse educational environment.

When should I take the LSAT?
We encourage you to take the LSAT in the February, June, September/October, or December administrations the year before you expect to enroll. We will accept a score from the February or June LSAT in the same year in which you hope to enroll, but we will already have begun to fill places in the entering class by the time your LSAT score is received, which can affect your chances of admission.

Do you use the highest or average LSAT score?
The American Bar Association requires law schools to use the highest of multiple LSAT scores when reporting entering student credentials, so for that reason the highest score is typically the one used in making admissions decisions. The Admissions Committee will consider all information presented in the application for admission, however, including scores earned on all LSATs. For that reason, if there are significant differences between your scores on different administrations of the LSAT and you have any information to help explain the disparity — illness, poor testing conditions, or the like — you may wish to include it in an addendum to your application.

Is there a minimum LSAT score that will be considered?
No. While undergraduate grades and LSAT scores are useful tools, no single factor is dispositive. No application is screened out or reviewed differently because of an LSAT score or GPA.

LSAT Writing is a proctored, on-demand writing exam that is administered online using secure proctoring software that is installed on your computer. LSAC developed LSAT Writing in response to feedback from test takers. The new approach has shortened the LSAT test day and provides more flexibility for you when taking the exam. Using LSAT Writing, you can complete the writing sample portion of the test at a convenient time and place of your choice. LSAT Writing uses the same decision-prompt structure that used in previous LSAT administrations. This structure is specifically designed to elicit the kind of argumentative writing that candidates will be expected to produce in law school. You will have 35 minutes to write an essay in response to the prompt that is presented to you.  Complete information about LSAT writing is available on the LSAC website.

Transcripts of your prior academic work are submitted through LSAC's Credential Assembly Service. LSAC will send us electronic and paper copies of your transcripts, along with an analysis of grade trends across your entire academic career and statistical information about your school that allows us to compare your academic record with other students at your institution. Our Committee will consider not only your undergraduate GPA, but also trends in your grades, the difficulty of the coursework taken, the grading curve at your school, how recent the academic work is, and any external factors which may have affected your academic performance, such as family responsibilities, work obligations, or other individual circumstances. If you attended graduate school, the Committee will also consider academic performance in a graduate program, but those grades are not averaged into the undergraduate GPA calculated by LSAC.

Why is the undergraduate GPA on my CAS report different from the GPA on my transcript?
LSAC recalculates your cumulative undergraduate GPA according to a uniform set of rules that apply to all applicants. For instance, all academic work in taken into account, not just the work completed at the school where you receive your degree, so if you took summer school classes at another school or transferred to a different institution, grades earned at the other school will be included. In addition, LSAC assigns numerical values to letter grades that may be different from those assigned by your school, and it does not allow for grade substitutions if you retake a class. For a complete explanation of LSAC's transcript analysis process, see the LSAC website.

Far too many applicants underestimate the importance of the personal statement. It is your chance to tell us about yourself: What your most significant achievements have been; what has shaped you into the person you are today; what engages you intellectually; what are you passionate about; or what you hope to accomplish in your life. It may, but does not need to, address why you want to go to law school or to be a lawyer. Remember that the salient characteristic of a good personal statement is that it is personal. It is our chance to assess what qualities, viewpoint, or experiences you will bring to the law school classroom, which is, at its best, a lively discussion in which many different voices participate. Remember, too, that this is the primary way we assess your writing skills. In many cases, the personal statement is the make-or-break element in the application, and it is the one element over which you have complete control.

There is no specified length. Take the time to tell us what you think we need to know, but remember that economy of style is a strength in good writing!

The primary focus of any admissions committee will be on your potential as a law student. Letters from faculty members who have taught you in undergraduate or graduate school will typically be the most helpful. Letters should address your ability to analyze complex information, to form reasoned conclusions about it, and to present those conclusions effectively, in writing and orally. It can also be helpful to have their assessment of personal characteristics such as maturity, self-discipline, commitment, cooperativeness, and professionalism. If you have been away from school for a significant time, you may submit letters from others who can evaluate the same skills and qualities.

We ask that letters be submitted through the LSAC Letter of Recommendation service. This service is included in the LSAC/CAS registration subscription. Letters are copied and sent to the USC School of Law with the LSAC/CAS Report. Directions for submitting letters can be found on the LSAC website


Have a question about the admissions process? Here are a few frequently asked questions:

Decisions dates vary. We begin to review applications as soon as they are complete, typically in September of each year. In some cases, the Committee on Admissions reaches a decision very quickly, and the applicant is notified of the decision immediately. In other cases, the file may be held over for a second round of review, to give the Committee an opportunity to make a comparative evaluation of credentials later in the admissions process. Applicants are notified as soon as the Committee makes a decision. We encourage applicants to be patient during the review process. We do not make decisions based solely on numbers. Ours is a thorough, individualized, and holistic process of review by members of the admissions staff and Committee. We anticipate making application decisions 4-12 weeks after an application is marked as complete.

You may be notified by postal mail, e-mail, or both. To protect your privacy, we normally will not release admissions decisions over the phone, nor will we discuss an application with anyone other than the applicant.

Once admitted, you will receive detailed instructions and a time table to pay your seat deposit. You will also be provided with your VIP ID and USC ID, which will allow you to pay your seat deposit electronically through

Deferrals are granted on a case-by-case basis. A deferral is appropriate for a student who wishes to commit to enrolling at USC, but in a future year. You must pay the $500 acceptance deposit by the deposit deadline; you may request a deferral at that time or at any time before the start of school. Students requesting a deferral must agree not to hold a place in another law school's entering class, and not to apply for admission to another law school, during the deferral year. To confirm your intention to enroll the following year, you will be asked to pay a second $500 deposit. Both deposits are nonrefundable and are applied to your first semester's tuition.


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