Introducing the Chicago Law Scholar's Program

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By: Alida Miranda-Wolff

On April 30, Debbie Chizewer, Program Director of Chicago Careers in Law, and Ann Perry, Associate Dean for Admissions for the University of Chicago Law School, discussed the new Chicago Law Scholars Program with interested students. The program allows current University of Chicago students and alumni to receive an expedited admissions response by November 1st, and promises “substantial” merit scholarships to successful applicants. However, admission to the program is binding and Perry explained that “scholarships are very likely, but I can’t give you an exact amount or promise that every single person will get one,” demonstrating that while there are benefits to the program, there is a significant risk. Consequently, applicants should only apply to the Chicago Law Scholars Program if the University of Chicago is their first choice. Perry emphasized this point throughout the discussion, informing prospective students that admission “is still binding if scholarships are not awarded,” though there always extenuating circumstances and exceptions.

In order to be eligible for the Chicago Law Scholars program, applicants must be University of Chicago students or alums and have taken the LSAT before the September 1st application deadline. Perry and Chizewer also encouraged interested students to compile their application materials as soon as possible, especially letters of recommendation and transcripts, which can take several weeks or even months to obtain. If applicants cannot take the LSAT or gather their materials together before September 1st, they are encouraged to apply for the Law School’s Early Decision Program, which is also binding, but sets its deadline at December 1st. The Early Decision Program may also provide “substantial” scholarship funding to successful applicants, but once again, the exact amount of funding is not available. Chizewer also warned students “don’t rush out to take the LSAT if you’re not ready” because a sub-par LSAT score will unnecessarily hurt chances at admission, especially because both the Early Decision and Regular Decision cycles are viable options.

After discussing the benefits and requirements of the Chicago Law Scholars Program, Chizewer and Perry answered questions about the program, admissions, and the Law School. Attendees were especially interested in whether the program would continue into later years. Perry confirmed by saying “It’s for sure happening in the following years...unless no one applies,” indicating that a healthy applicant pool is necessary for the livelihood of the program. In response to questions about deferral, Perry explained that while admission to the program was binding, she could not force students to go to law school if they changed their minds and no longer wanted to go. Applicants who defer will lose their deposit, but are free to pursue other interests. However, Perry suggested that applicants who are unsure about law school should take a gap year to avoid deferral and also strengthen their applications. She offered this same advice to applicants who are rejected, encouraging them to wait a year to reapply. Chizewer added that applicants who are rejected from the Chicago Law Scholars program should “take consolation in the fact that everything is ready and organized” for other schools, eliminating the stress of scrambling to complete multiple, pending applications.

For students interested in a joint degree program involving the Law School, Perry clarified certain misconceptions. First of all, applicants must submit two separate applications in order to qualify for a joint degree program: one to the Law School and the other to the specific graduate program in which they are interested. Second, applicants interested in a joint degree are eligible for the Chicago Law Scholars program and can apply to graduate programs as 1L’s at the Law School. However, by choosing a joint-degree program, applicants are taken out of a three year JD program and must accept a longer, more customized program of study.

Chizewer and Perry ended the discussion by fielding questions about the competitiveness of the program. Perry anticipates that the program will be very competitive because high caliber University of Chicago students with definitive goals will be vying for a limited number of spots. She added that the Law School is a unique environment that offers “a lot of mentoring” and small class sizes, rendering it extremely appealing to the strongest applicants. She warned that while the percentage in applications received by the Law School has decreased by six percent since last year, the median GPA has risen and the median LSAT score has stayed the same, which demonstrates that applicants must work hard to be appealing candidates.

For more information about the University of Chicago Law School, consult its viewbook.