Dean Chollett is the Dean of Admissions for Baylor Law School.
Q: What do you consider the most significant parts of an application?
A: Aside from the academic record and LSAT score, the most important part of an application is the personal statement. The personal statement is one component of the application packet that an applicant has control of and one that an applicant can use to make that powerful first impression with members of an admissions committee.
Q: Is there anything you frequently see on an application that you hope to never see again?
A: Yes, quotes used to start personal statements. Trust me, I have read all the famous quotes and there is nothing more effective than an applicant’s own words. Additionally, reading sloppy applications and/or personal statements are things that I hope not to see. Application packages that are not thoughtfully put together convey to me that the applicant is not really interested in going to law school.
Q: What common pitfalls should applicants be careful to avoid?
A: This is a great question. Applicants should follow the directions set out in the application instructions. For example, if the instructions for a personal statement state that the personal statement should be no more than two pages in length and double-spaced, an applicant should not submit a five page personal statement that is single spaced.
Applicants should not spend time crafting a personal statement that they assume an admissions committee wants to read. The best personal statements are ones that are passionate, authentic, sincere and written in the applicant’s own voice.
Q: Are there any myths about the application process that you would like to dispel?
A: The one myth that I would like to dispel is that law schools only look at the numbers (GPA and LSAT score(s)). If the admission process truly involved only the numbers, then the admission procedure would be an extremely easy process for my colleagues and me. Admissions professionals take their jobs seriously and strive to give each applicant a fair chance of gaining admission to their school while striving to enroll students who are well suited for their program. Admissions professionals do read the personal statements, resumes, addenda and letters of recommendation along with any other information that is submitted with an applicant’s application.
Q: What advice would you give to an applicant with below-average test scores but significant work experience?
A: Law schools seek to enroll applicants who will bring diversity and different backgrounds to their schools. An applicant who has significant work experience should highlight the work experience in his/her resume and should consider promoting in an addendum why the admissions committee should strongly consider his/her work experience as a plus factor.
Q: Do you frequently have to turn away applicants whom you wish you could admit? If so, what could those applicants do to be admitted?
A: Absolutely, and this is probably the only aspect of my job that I don’t enjoy. It breaks my heart when I have to deny an applicant whom I wish we could admit. Oftentimes, Baylor Law School is not the best fit for them and in this particular situation, there isn’t much applicants can do to enhance their chances of gaining admission. That said, there are situations when applicants could re-craft their personal statement so that it better promotes their positive attributes and/or communication skills.
Q: How much faith do you have in the ability of an LSAT to predict success in law school?
A: The LSAT is one of the important factors in the admissions process that most admission professionals consider. It is a standardized test that is designed to assess how an applicant will perform in law school. It is not the only factor that admission professionals look out, but it is one that is given significant weight. That said, applicants should prepare for the LSAT and take it at a time that is conducive with their schedule.
Q: What do you look for in a recommendation letter?
A: In selecting a person to write a letter of recommendation, the applicant should carefully select someone who knows him/her very well. More importantly, the recommender should feel comfortable with writing a letter of recommendation that will provide the admission committee with substantive information about the applicant. A letter from a professor that gives examples of how the applicant was a stand out in his/her class is extremely beneficial. Additionally, a letter from an employer that attests to an applicant’s work ethic, drive, and character also is beneficial. The most effective letter of recommendation is one that enhances an application by providing new information about the applicant.
Applicants should never underestimate the importance of letters of recommendation. Letters of recommendations and personal statements oftentimes can tip the scales for those applicants who fall within the gray area.
Q: What can that applicant do to distinguish himself or herself in your eyes as a good candidate for your program?
A: We are always striving to enroll classes that are rich in diversity. Substantial life experiences gained in the legal profession or other fields enhances an applicant’s application for admission.
Bio: Miriam is originally from the San Francisco Bay Area and graduated from Stanford University with a BA in Philosophy and Religion. She worked as a private tutor in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut before joining the Parliament team. She is now Parliament's Chief Academic Advisor.