grad school Graduate Admissions Stanford Top Tips

Stanford Law School Admissions: What To Know

Post by: Dr. Kristen Willmott

November 2020 is a busy month for LSAT test takers and there are four LSAT flex online options: November 7th, 8th, 10th, and 11th. If you’re taking the LSAT, be sure you utilize LSAC’s free LSAT prep package and read up on the complexities of the new online LSAT flex.

Many students are at the tail end of their law school admissions pathway and they’re now wrapping up their personal statement and sitting for the LSAT, and then their applications are off and running.

One of the most popular law schools to target this fall?… Stanford Law of course! Read on for key data and frequently asked questions on Stanford Law School (SLS).


How can I research key data on Stanford Law? Where do I look?

It’s common for applicants to skip reviewing the current student profile before they apply and yet it’s so important! We walk our students through it, of course, but here’s Stanford’s info (not always easy to find –the direct link is here):

2019 First Year Class, 2018-2019 (most recent data they’ve posted) =

  • 3,908 completed applications and 380 offers of admission, so that’s a 9.72% acceptance rate.
  • 157 enrolled, which means 223 turned Stanford down, so that’s a 4.02% enrollment rate.
  • 23 other first year enrollees (aka deferrals), so 180 were in the class
  • LSAT Percentiles: 25th percentile 169; 50th percentile 171; 75th percentile 174
  • Undergrad GPA: 25th percentile 3.79; 50th percentile 3.91; 75th percentile 3.96 (meaning SKY HIGH!)

What programs does Stanford Law offer? Is a JD the only degree program I can consider? 

Many applicants are unaware that SLS offers several different programs, the JD is not the only SLS option. We’ve worked with many international students where SLS’ advanced degree options are appealing. They have the Master of Laws LLM program, Master of the Science of Law JSM degree (via the Stanford Program in International Legal Studies), the Master of Legal Studies degree, and the Doctor of the Science of Law (JSD) degree.

What are the components of the SLS application, and are they weighted differently?

The 10 pieces of the SLS JD app are outlined here. Note that you’ve got some hefty writing to do for items 3, 4, 5 and 6 (let us help!). It’s interesting that the last two they mention, the LSAT and transcripts to date (submitted as part of the needed Credential Assembly Service Report —via LSAC) are the last two stated in the list of ten, though those carry a great amount of weight in an admissions review. SLS is seeking unique students who have broken the mold in what they’ve pursued and accomplished before the time of their application and who therefore will continue to be changemakers on campus and post-degree. The quantitative data (LSAT, GPA) allows for a round 1 initial slice of thousands of applicants, but an applicant’s story, diverse background, relevant and rigorous work experiences, massive community impact and evidence of leadership to date push him into the pool.

What makes a Stanford Law School applicant stand out in a good way? What about in a bad way?

Hopefully, the above addresses ways to stand out in a good way. A mistake that law school applicants can make is thinking that when a program states something in the application is optional, it’s really optional. It’s not; it’s unofficially strongly urged. I often work with students who believe something like Stanford’s (and many other schools’) “optional diversity essay” is something they can or should skip. They might feel they are not diverse, that they don’t belong to a unique community, etc.  I try to gently urge applicants to think more deeply on this prompt. The prompt interprets the word ‘diversity’ very broadly, so the applicant should as well.

Everyone is DiVeRsE in some way —if you feel you’re not diverse at all and you have nothing unique to bring them, why are you applying to SLS?… When I have a student tell me he’s not diverse, I urge him to try to expand his definition of diversity and reflect on the following list –and THAT allows for this “optional” essay to be prepared/submitted and hopefully stand out:

Diversity factors for students to consider writing about include, but are not limited to, the following: 

  • Ethnic minority
  • Low-income childhood
  • Low-income now
  • First generation in your family to graduate from college
  • LGBTQX community
  • Non-traditional student (i.e., older student)
  • Single parent while attending college
  • Disabilities (learning, physical, mental)
  • Underrepresented religious affiliation
  • Immigrant
  • Foster child
  • Grew up in an unusual neighborhood, town/city, or country
  • Grew up with unique circumstances that are underrepresented in the school’s student body 

How can an applicant ‘overcome’ things like poor test scores or a lack of career experience? 

The best ways to combat a low LSAT are to prep and tutor more and retake it, allow yourself more time to apply, bump out your timeline, etc. However, the LSAT is not the only factor in SLS admissions. A lack of career experience or massive resume gaps can also be red flags as the goal is to show the admissions office you are deeply committed to your work/academics, likely to succeed in the program and post degree. They already believe, as does every top law school, that they have a fantastic program with unparalleled academic offerings, internationally renowned faculty, etc. They want to know what you will bring to THEM and how that makes you stand out from the pack. Perhaps that’s added grad level coursework, conference presentations, publications, nonprofit work that links to your professional background, etc. We’ve also worked with past students who struggled a bit in college but then had stellar professional experiences post degree and now want a way to first, be certain that they want to commit to three years of law school and a law career, and secondly, offer evidence on a transcript that shows they are fully capable of getting A grades.

One thing that accomplishes both, for example, is a graduate level credit-bearing course in your preferred field of study —not necessarily with the hopes of transferring those 4 credits into law school when you matriculate (as it’s unlikely), but to ensure you want a law school pathway, and ensure you show transcript evidence that A grades are in your wheelhouse.

Here’s one to show what I mean: Harvard Extension School online course for 4 graduate level credits called International Human Rights Law. Starts 1-27-21.  I’ve also had past students tell me that an Intro to Logic course (in college or a post college grad level one like the one linked here, at the Harvard Extension School) for credit has been a boost to their law school admissions application process, since it links to the logic that is actually needed in year one of law school as well as the logic questions on the LSAT, and also the framing of the law school app overall.

How can I become a ‘standout applicant’ from the pack at Stanford Law?

We’ve had past students: publish research papers or old finals papers in journals (such as Yale’s Undergraduate Journal of Economics and Politics), dive into an artificial intelligence research internship that links to patent law, climb the career ladder at an international startup focused on international women business owners, teach virtual coding classes to middle schoolers, work in DC as a policy analyst, and obtain a full time job as law office administrative assistant.

The trick is to authentically present as a compelling applicant with a unique story and insightful evidence of success in the program –and post degree as well as ideally as an active alum.


Looking for more personalized ideas on ways to you can stand out in your law school applications and essays?  We’d love to propose targeted ideas for you! Let’s chat.

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Grad School Admissions Changes due to COVID-19

Post by: Dr. Kristen Willmott

September 23, 2020: UPDATE

As we dive deeper into the month of September, we’re tracking even more info RE the below. Round 1 MBA application deadlines are here, but some schools are working to lighten application requirements and extend deadlines:

  • For example, UC Berkeley Haas still wants the GRE or GMAT from applicants but for those targeting their round 1 deadline this week on 9/24, they now have more time to take the test, given an unprecedented round 1 test extension to Oct. 15.
  • For some schools not offering testing extensions, they’re going one step further –a good amount of MBA programs have gone test optional. Some top MBA programs that are now test optional (not test blind though!) are: Georgia Tech, MIT, Northeastern, Northwestern, Rutgers, Southern Methodist U, UMaryland, URochester, UT Austin and UWisconsin.


It is arguably the best year in history to apply to grad school, and not just grad school but med school, law school, and business school. We’ve posted already about how admissions rates are up, university fears about enrollments are up, international applicant worries are up, university funds are low, application deadlines are later and testing and course expectations within applications have been lessened.


Here’s a sampling of some historical and impactful grade school admissions changes in the midst (and wake) of COVID-19:

  • Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management closed its MBA program for the 2021 year.
  • Many top business schools (University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, for example) have gone score optional as they’re mindful of tough GMAT testing options and want to boost applications. Darden is an interesting one because they moved their round 3 application all the way to July 15th. That worked quite well for all parties because their round 3 applications were up 364% (!) (as Poets & Quants reported) compared to last year. And, yet there are just 338 seats for all of those applicants. So, they took their previous requirement where instead of the GMAT or GRE, they’d take the SAT, ACT, LSAT, MCAT or Executive Assessment scores, and dropped it all and went score optional. I’d say that admissions office was pretty happy with their triple-digit percentage boost in applications in round 3!
  • At home GMAT’s are still possible and offered until August 14th (and all GMAT reschedule fees are waived) and at-home GRE’s will be offered until Sept. 30. It’s a win-win situation to sign up for one of these, and it’s an opportunity that will likely vanish soon, even as testing centers continue to close in the final hour before a test is set to begin.
  • Stanford’s School of Medicine went MCAT optional for 2021. That’s right. STANFORD.
  • Harvard Medical School isn’t being quite so accommodating as they are stating they will accept MCAT scores at a later time.
  • UCLA is similar but they are a bit noncommittal in stating the will hold out for a score before reviewing an applicant’s file. Then again, they also issued a joint statement with Stanford stating applications could be submitted by the October 15 deadline without an MCAT.


We are closely monitoring changes in grad school admissions to ensure we have the most up to date information for our current students and for potential clients that weren’t previously considering grad school but now are.

Similar to our assisting grad school applicants in getting a research foundation in place and finding stellar publishing outlets, we do the same in our own field of higher education. That’s why when the National Council on Measurement in Education’s peer reviewed journal Educational Measurement Issues and Practice published a July 23rd article entitled “Never Let a Crisis Go to Waste: Large Scale Assessment and the Response to Covid-19,” we soaked it in. As the author, Dr. Camera, noted, “The current pandemic has required adaptation and innovations . . . These changes may be viewed positively by test takers and consumers, but we should expect skepticism. The answer will come after COVID‐19 is mitigated and we take a long hard look at how we responded and the impact to students, institutions and learning.”

We completely agree and we’re all over it for you, working to ensure you’re in the know on fall 2020 grad school admissions trends, tips and application strategies. If you’re considering graduate school admissions this fall, “never let a crisis go to waste;” now’s the time  –let us help.

grad school Graduate Admissions Top Tips

Grad School Game Plan

Post by: Dr. Kristen Willmott

I know many of you are using this summer to prep your fall graduate school applications, and I’m here to offer some tips and tricks on where to begin, AKA sort your grad school game plan and sort yourself.

Creating your grad school admissions tracking file is key. Guidance on how to create a ‘grad school admissions tracking file’ is included in our graduate school admissions consulting programs, but if you’re seeking insider tips on how you can craft, refine, sort, manage, and assess your plan, I’ve got those right here!

Having this information in one spot will save you TONS of time and heartache across the graduate school admissions process from start to acceptance.

Items to include:

  • Top 3 reasons you’re targeting the program
  • Top 3 reasons the program is a good fit for you
  • Ranking of programs in order of your preference
  • Ranking of programs in order of your acceptance odds (based on the school’s admit stats from the previous year)
  • Your campus (or virtual) visit notes including notes on program offerings, faculty, students, campus, location, research, other opportunities, career tracks of recent graduates, etc.
  • Admissions stats from previous admitted classes including testing and GPA averages
  • Transcripts requested and sent
  • Test scores requested and sent
  • Letters of recommendation –who, when asked, how, date requested, date needed, preferred “fed topics” to be discussed, etc.
  • Essay topics, word limits, content focus, layout, submission process required by the admissions website, etc.
  • Resume or curriculum vitae, often different versions depending on program and school
  • Writing samples
  • Interview notes
  • Campus contacts and alumni connections, including names, dates, and contact info
  • Communications tracker with anyone you know who has an affiliation with the school
  • Deadlines, ideal time to submit, actual dates of submission confirmations received, etc.


The item that many struggle with is the “reasons the program is a perfect fit for YOU.” I am often asked where to begin when it comes to researching programs (and how to best ensure it fits with your career goals), and that can be tricky.  I’ve had several calls in recent weeks from students who are toying with law school OR a Master’s degree; an MBA OR an M.S. in Entrepreneurship, etc. It used to be that you couldn’t really gain intel on a program or faculty until you were on site, but now you have the ability to take a class online with faculty from the department you aim to gain entry into, before you’re even there.

  • For example, let’s say you’re drawn to the field of genetics, not necessarily because you want to head to medical school, but because lab work is your thing and you’re looking at the University of Michigan’s M.S. program in Human Genetics.
    • As their site notes, “Human Genetics interfaces with multiple research and clinical disciplines, with new opportunities for those with advanced training in basic science, clinical diagnostics and industry.”
    • But, you’re on the fence, you’re not sure if you’ll like UMichigan; you’re not sure if you’ll like their method of teaching or the content –or the faculty. These are all things you need to know if you’re trying to create a file in which you’ll pinpoint the ‘top 3 reasons the program is a fit for you.’
    • SO —you could consider registering for the noncredit online EdX course (via UMichigan) called Anatomy: Human Neuroanatomy this summer. Then, you get a free intro to the content and to the method of teaching from their faculty.
    • It’s free to enroll in this class and $49 for the optional course certificate. Nothing to lose (other than the time taking it, of course) and everything to gain (as it’s a great resume entry too).


See if this kind of a grad school game plan offers you added intel into a program and the extent to which it’s a great match for you. Then, add the university to your list of targeted schools. Perhaps the added information you glean from the course puts that university even higher up in your grad school admissions tracking file.

If you’d like personalized advice for your graduate school process Top Tier Admissions is here for you.

Let me help!

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Master Your Graduate School Interviews

Post by: Dr. Kristen Willmott

“What will they ask me?” “How can I leverage a Zoom interview?” “What if they offer an in-person interview?” “Do I meet with a graduate school admissions rep or a faculty member, or both?” “How big is a ‘panel?’” “Is this a true ‘admissions interview’ or more of an ‘informational interview’ offer, and what’s the difference?” These are all common questions we receive from our graduate school admissions consulting clients who are targeting some of the best Master’s, PhD, law school and MBA programs in the nation and overseas.


The bottom line is that graduate school interviewing can be intimidating even for the most prepared candidates, and most top schools have so many applicants each year that they don’t even offer interviews beyond a casual sit-down alumni interview once an application has been submitted.  So, college seniors and working professionals could easily have their first ever admissions interview at the grad school level, NOT college.

I urge graduate school applicants to head into the interview process informed and in the know so remember the following:

  • First, congratulations on securing an interview! Not everyone gets that option and it shows that you’ve done something very right so far. The competition amongst top applicants is fierce, even as enrollment numbers dwindle at some programs, and it’s a win to be offered an interview.
  • Second, it’s a two-way street. They are interviewing you to assess your fit with the program and what you will bring to them. BUT, you have every right to pose questions and go into the process assessing the program’s fit for YOU at this point in your life.
  • Third, all top graduate school programs think highly of their offerings; they have to, they should. They know/believe they offer a great program, have unparalleled facilities and resources, and renowned faculty who are at the height of their fields, so they don’t need you to tell them in an interview how great they are. They already know that; it’s on the website, they put it there. They want to know why YOU are great, why this program is the only one for you, and what you’ll uniquely add to their already-impressive program and department and curricular/research/on-campus offerings.


With that in mind, the main questions that any interviewer likely wants to know are super simple. In fact, they are SO simple that across almost every graduate school program, in almost every field, I can streamline them into 4 core questions that boil down to the following:





Simple, right?… Of course, they won’t likely be phrased in this specific manner, and there are always going to be more long-winded questions that admissions reps and faculty will toss out to you in your graduate school interviews. Given that, here are some questions for you to practice if you have been offered an interview OR if you are planning for graduate school admissions and you want to know what to expect in the interview process.


  1. Tell me about yourself. (VERY open ended… this one can be tough.)
  2. What do you believe your greatest challenge will be if you are accepted into this program?
  3. In what ways do you think your previous experience and coursework have prepared you for succeeding in our program?
  4. What do you know about our school/program?
  5. What is your philosophy regarding this profession?
  6. Explain a situation in which you had a conflict and how you resolved it. What did you learn?
  7. Describe a group project you’ve worked on and the role you took.
  8. How will you be able to make a contribution to this field?
  9. What can you offer this program that other applicants cannot?
  10. Tell me about your last X experience (internship, research, job, volunteer, etc.). What was a challenge? What was a key contribution you made?

At the end of the interview –you’ll be asked if you have questions for your interviewer. Don’t say you have none. You don’t know everything about the program, the faculty, the interviewer himself/herself, the student experience, etc. Jump on this opportunity to assess fit with the program AND give them even more information about you by what you are asking.


Practice and plan to ask 2-3!

  1. What future changes do you see in this program/profession?
  2. What professional associations have you joined that you’d recommend? (question for faculty only, not an admissions officer)
  3. What can you tell me about the student culture in the on-campus academic climate?
  4. What are the defining characteristics of the program’s character and/or mission?
  5. What advice do you have for me at this stage in the admissions process?


Complete needed self-prep before the day of. Practice not in front of a mirror (we have cell phones now!), but by recording yourself and your answers to the above questions on your cell-phone or computer. Then, watch it twice. Do you love what you see and how you answered?  Or, are you just wanting the video to be over? How does that candidate appear and come off as in his/her responses? Excited and knowledgeable about the program and his/her direction, or panicked, rushed, and unprepared? Then, record it again. It’s a painful but purposeful strategy to prep, I promise!

Finally, plan for logistics. What are you wearing the day of? Have you checked your Zoom settings and background? How/when are you getting there if it’s on site vs. virtual? My advice: Dress professionally but comfortably. Get there 20 minutes early but not 60 minutes early. Bear in mind that you’re likely being watched so no cell-phone calls as you sit in a chair outside the office. No obsessive texting either, that can wait; soak up your surroundings instead. Bring your resume/CV (and know your resume/CV). Get some sleep the night before and if you’re headed to campus, allow for time to walk around/tour for a bit first. Can you see yourself living there? Are you happy as a grad student-for-a-day there? Pretend you’re headed into a meeting with your advisor vs. an admissions interview.  Is that overwhelming or exciting? Is it frustrating because you wish it were on another campus or exhilarating because you’re so glad you’re there? These are all important questions to ponder as you walk one step closer to your graduate school admissions acceptance.

Headed down that path?  Let us help!  Seeking a mock interview with guidance and coachingLet’s chat!

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MBA Admissions: LATE Deadline Extensions

By: Dr. Kristen Willmott

If you’ve been even slightly entertaining the idea of applying for an MBA program, May 2020 is THE month to do it. This is an unprecedented time. The name on your MBA diploma MATTERS. An MBA follows you on your resume for life, as do your faculty and peer contacts, the internships you land while there, and the networking opportunities you are exposed to for decades post-degree.


Some of the top MBA programs in the world are telling us they’re still eager for applicants this spring. They’re not screaming it from the rooftops, but they’re ever so quietly updating their admissions websites, and we are taking NOTICE. MBA programs are:

  • relaxing their standardized testing requirements more than has ever been done since their programs started;
  • stating that they’ll take into account the disruptions that COVID-19 has caused for all when they review your transcript (as MIT noted);
  • waiving MBA application fees (some); and
  • allowing later rounds of MBA admissions than have never existed (hello UGA’s round 5, we’re talking to you!).


  1. Dartmouth Tuck: Round 4 due June 1
  2. Duke Fuqua: Round 4 due June 1
  3. MIT Sloan: Round 4 due June 15
  4. UMichigan Ross: Round 3 due May 29
  5. Northwestern Kellogg: Round 4 due June 1
  6. Vanderbilt Owen: Round 4 due June 1
  7. UCLA Anderson: Round 3 due June 1
  8. UChicago Booth: Round 4 due May 31
  9. UGeorgia Terry: Round 5 due Aug. 1
  10. UVA Darden: Round 4 due July 15

MBA programs with late admissions deadlines


So…. you’ve got time to apply still for a fall 2020 start. Use it wisely!

Duke Fuqua’s MBA app essay # 1 wants to know 25 random things about you. Maybe 1 of those 25 is how you used 3 months of solo isolation in an 800-square foot studio apartment to re-gear not just your resume but your graduate school aims, your career track, your leadership ladder, your overall life plans.

Time to dust off that GRE or GMAT score, or book a remote GMAT or GRE in the coming weeks (you can now take it on your laptop in your bedroom wearing your PJs –that sounds like a testing advantage to us if we’ve ever heard one!), update that resume that screams of your entrepreneurial spirit, and craft some stellar MBA applications. Let us help!