UI changes law school admission program

By Silver Damsen

After months of preparation, the University law school is announcing its Illinois Law Early Admission Program, a groundbreaking admissions program that will not require the Law School Admission Test, commonly referred to as the LSAT, for select University undergraduates.

“We want the very best Illinois undergrads to come here for graduate school,” said Paul Pless, the law school’s assistant dean for Admissions and Financial Aid. “Our program helps to select the very best Illinois students.”

Jamie Thomas, director of Pre-Law Services, said the only other school to institute an optional LSAT admissions program is the University of Michigan.

“It reflects well on the College of Law to be implementing such an innovative program,” Thomas said.

The biggest differences between the two programs involve GPA and additional requirements. Applicants to the University of Michigan will require a 3.8 GPA, while applicants to the University of Illinois will need at least a 3.0 GPA.

However, the University of Michigan will not have separate additional requirements, while the University of Illinois will require additional essays and interviews.

Pless said that the 3.0 requirement is a huge advantage to students because a grade point average in isolation does not accuately reflect a student’s abilities.

“Not all GPAs are created equally,” he said. “Even at U of I not all GPA is created equal. A 3.4 in electrical engineering is a good GPA. However, in my own major of political science, 3.4 is not towards the high end.”

The biggest similarity between the programs is that both are exclusively for their own undergraduates. Because the University’s program uses early admissions, juniors will know of their acceptance almost a year before other undergraduates.

“To know as a junior where you are going to be is a huge advantage. You can determine your future,” said Christina Cullom, a first-year law student. “I didn’t know until April as a senior.”

Amber Rudolphi, senior in LAS, said she is impressed with the program and has conducted several course projects on its theoretical implications.

“There will be a ripple effect, and it may eventually diminish the effect of the LSAT,” she said.

Despite optimism about the new program, some are more cautious.

Joe Hinchliffe, attorney and professor of political science, said he was concerned that undergraduates who wanted to pursue a law degree now might think they no longer need to take the LSAT. This would be a serious mistake, he added.

“If they are strong enough for an early admissions program, then they are probably strong enough for scholarships and other opportunities that they won’t know about unless they take the LSAT,” Hinchliffe said.