Mailbag Volume 1 – Of College and Grades…

You have questions. We have answers. Every year, we receive a LOT of emails; a great many of which puzzle over the very same points. While we could just direct you to our Frequently Asked Questions page, that just seems so un-W&L. After all, we’re still writing handwritten notes. Illegible handwritten notes, sure, but handwritten notes nonetheless. Perhaps our historic setting explains these antiquarian impulses. Maybe it’s just the simple idea that, at our law school, people and relationships still matter. Either way, we value your questions, and we want to make sure you have the information you need to choose the law school that is right for you.

Consequently, we felt it might be helpful to respond to a few of these common queries in a slightly more public forum. And here it is: the first installment of our weekly mailbag feature. Answering applicants’ burning and semi-universal questions one post at a time. If you have a question you would like answered, simply email LawAdm@wlu.edu. Be sure to include “Mail Bag” in the title. As we have noted many, many times, we are happy to help in any way we can.

Let’s get it:

While I did well in college, I am concerned the school I attended (a small, private college) may not be as prestigious as those attended by other applicants. How will this be viewed by the Admissions Committee?

First and foremost, we value educational diversity. The 144 members of our current first-year class attended 95 different undergraduate institutions, and no more than eight attended the same college/university (in case you’re curious, the number of total undergraduate institutions was the same for the Law Class of 2012). As these figures should suggest to you, we appreciate the range of perspectives a diverse array of educational backgrounds can offer.

This is not a law school for those who relish anonymity. Because of W&L Law’s small size (total enrollment of 410), you are going to interact with your classmates. There’s no getting around it. You will collaborate and exchange ideas in small classes in which lively debate and discussion are the norm, not the exception. You will work together in extracurricular organizations, socialize with one another on the weekends, and go head-to-head in our many law school-wide intramural sports leagues. Consequently, we want as many different kinds of people on campus as possible, and educational background is one such factor we consider when working towards such diversity.

Furthermore, for our office, how you performed in college is far more important than where you went to college. While GPA and LSAT are not the only factors we consider when assessing an applicant’s potential for success at W&L Law, they are nevertheless important components of this analysis. Our faculty will expect a lot of you during your three years on campus. You will be challenged in distinct and innovative ways throughout your law school career. Consequently, we want to know you have the intellect, work-ethic and drive necessary to manage the workload of a law school the caliber of Washington and Lee. For us, LSAT and GPA are two important variables in the evaluation of these qualities.

However, these more quantitative aspects of your file are but parts of a much broader file review process that also takes into account your personal statement, resume, letters of recommendation and any other documentation you choose to submit, and we are firmly committed to this holistic approach. At W&L Law, our students are actively engaged in the intellectual and extracurricular life of our campus. Consequently, we are looking for students capable of making an impact both in and out of the classroom, and numbers alone cannot predict such potential. Only by reading the entire file are we able to identify a candidate of the quality, character, values and intelligence we seek.

Good luck and remember, no good question should go unanswered. Send it our way. Puzzlement and confusion are not essential to the applicant condition.

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