Columbia University Law School Personal Statement

Application Components FAQ

How long should my personal statement/essay be?
How many letters of recommendation should I submit and from whom?
I have been out of school for awhile and am no longer in contact with any of my professors. Do I still need academic letters of recommendation?
Does Columbia require the submission of a dean’s certification?
Are there any instances in which I need to submit a dean’s certification with my initial application?
I completed a study abroad program while I was in college. Do I need to submit a dean’s appraisal/certification form from the institution abroad?
Can I submit an addendum or additional written materials along with my application?
How do I submit a request for a deferral?

Does the Admissions Committee conduct interviews as a part of the admissions process?

How long should my personal statement/essay be?

While there is no official page limit, a good guideline is two double-spaced pages, using readable fonts and margins. Your personal statement/essay should be a clear and concise example of your best writing. It should also be free from spelling and grammatical errors.

How many letters of recommendation should I submit and from whom?

Columbia requires two letters of recommendation to complete your application. We expect applicants currently in school or recently graduated (i.e., applying within less than approximately one year of receiving their degree) to submit two academic letters from faculty who can provide insight about their candidacy. Academic letters should come from individuals who have taught applicants in the classroom or have evaluated applicants in a significant academic capacity. Applicants with substantive work experience who are not recent graduates must submit one professional letter and at least one academic letter of recommendation. While the Committee will accept more than two letters of recommendation, we suggest that applicants use discretion when determining the appropriate number of letters to submit.

Please be advised that, unless we are otherwise notified in response to Question 9.2 of the application, we will complete your application upon receipt of two letters of recommendation.

I have been out of school for a while and am no longer in contact with any of my professors. Do I still need academic letters of recommendation?

You may submit letters of recommendation from professional references (e.g., former supervisors) if you are unable to locate former professors. However, the Committee does prefer academic letters of recommendation, so please make every attempt to obtain at least one.

Does Columbia require the submission of a dean’s certification?

Columbia will require admitted applicants to submit a dean’s appraisal/certification form, or an equivalent certification, from every educational institution at which he/she has been matriculated toward a degree (regardless of whether a degree was conferred) throughout his/her educational career. Matriculation at the Law School is contingent upon the satisfactory completion of the dean’s appraisal/certification form(s), which will be made available once an applicant has been notified of acceptance into Columbia Law School.

Withholding information regarding disciplinary history from your initial application will be considered by the Admissions Committee as a violation of the Law School’s principles of academic integrity. If you answer yes to questions 8.1—8.2 on the application, then you will need to furnish a statement from the administration at your school regarding your disciplinary history.

Are there any instances in which I need to submit a dean’s certification with my initial application?

Yes. If you have been subject to disciplinary censure by any educational institution you attended or if there are any disciplinary charges pending against you, then you will need to submit a dean’s certification or letter that includes an explanation of the incident, as well as a statement of current standing at that academic institution at the time of your initial application. If you have ever been convicted of a crime other than a minor parking violation or if there are any criminal charges pending or expected to be brought against you, then you must provide a detailed, complete, and truthful written explanation with your initial application, irrespective of advice you may have received to the contrary.

I completed a study abroad program while I was in college. Do I need to submit a dean’s appraisal/certification Form from the institution abroad?

The dean’s appraisal/certification form is required only from institutions at which you were matriculated toward a degree. Since during most study abroad programs students continue to be matriculated at their home institutions, a dean’s appraisal/certification form is generally not required from the institution abroad. This rule of thumb also extends to summer classes, continuing education courses, evening courses, and/or any other classes taken for a reason other than the completion of a degree (e.g., personal interest, professional development).

Can I submit an addendum or additional written materials along with my application?

Yes. The Admissions Committee believes that candidates should be able to expand upon aspects of their candidacy that are otherwise not represented in the required materials. Some examples include diversity statements, statements of strong interest in Columbia Law School, explanations of undergraduate and/or LSAT performance, etc. We strongly suggest that applicants use their best judgment, in terms of content and length, when considering the submission of supplemental materials.

How do I submit a request for a deferral?

Columbia Law School maintains a liberal deferral policy—one to two years after admission. Admitted students who have submitted a seat deposit must notify the Office of Admissions of their wish to defer no later than June 1, 2018.

Admitted students who have been granted deferred admission are required to:

  1. Submit an additional, nonrefundable deposit that will be applied to tuition at the time of matriculation; and
  2. Sign an agreement that indicates the individual has withdrawn all prior applications to other law schools, does not currently hold deferred status at another law school, and will not submit new applications to other law schools.

Applicants admitted from our Reserve category cannot defer admission.

Does the Admissions Committee conduct interviews as a part of the admissions process?

While we are unable to interview all candidates that submit an application for admission, some candidates may be contacted for interviews during the admissions process. Please note that we are unable to consider requests for interviews. For more information, we encourage you to review the Frequently Asked Questions regarding the Interview Program.

Top   |   FAQ Home

Application Components

All application components must be submitted electronically through this online application and LSAC’s Credential Assembly Service (CAS). We urge you to familiarize yourself with LSAC's requirements for the submission of official documents through the Credential Assembly Service, including the length of time they estimate for processing those documents.

We will not accept any application materials by mail should you miss a deadline with LSAC. No exceptions will be made. Any application materials or supporting documents we receive by mail (or email) will be discarded.

Application Fee

You must submit an application fee of $85 (USD) with your application. This fee is nonrefundable and will not be credited against your tuition. The fee must be paid by credit card (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover) before you can submit your application online through LSAC.

Components Submitted Online through LSAC

  1. Personal Statement
    Your Personal Statement should describe your background, academic interests, the program of study you wish to follow and your reasons for doing so. You should prepare this statement without assistance from others. The format of the statement should not exceed three double-spaced pages using a 12-point font with standard margins. We will not accept a résumé or curriculum vitae in place of the statement.
  2. Résumé or Curriculum Vitae
    You must submit a résumé or curriculum vitae for consideration as part of your application.
  3. Application for Financial Assistance(Optional)
    LL.M. applicants who wish to be considered for financial assistance from Columbia Law School must complete the Financial Aid section of this application. All applicants who complete this section will be automatically considered for award of all funds for which they are eligible. 

    Because our financial aid funds are limited, applicants who will require financial assistance to attend Columbia Law School should also seek assistance from other sources, as we cannot guarantee an award. Awards are generally in the form of partial waivers of tuition and, in some cases, loans. Full waivers of tuition are almost never granted.

    If you are applying for Columbia Law School's Appel Fellowship, Jagdish Bhagwati Fellowship, or Human Rights Fellowship, you must complete the Financial Aid section.

    If you do not submit an application for financial assistance with your application for admission, you will not be considered for financial aid, even if you request it after the application deadline. If you think you may need financial assistance, you must complete the Financial Aid section of this application. If you later decide you do not need financial assistance, you may withdraw your financial aid application by sending an email to

    It is your obligation to notify the Office of Graduate Legal Studies should other funds become available to you within seven (7) days of learning of such an award. Since Columbia Law School offers financial assistance mostly on the basis of need, the Law School reserves the right to reduce the amount of any financial assistance it has awarded if other funds become available to you.
  4. Appel, Jagdish Bhagwati, or Human Rights Fellowship Essays (Optional)
    For additional information on the Human Rights and Appel Fellowships, visit Tuition, Fees, and Financial Aid.  If you are applying for a fellowship, upload your essay to the Attachments section of the online application.  If you submit a fellowship essay, you must also complete the Financial Aid section of the online application in its entirety. Only successful applicants will be notified.

Components Submitted through LSAC’s Credential Assembly Service (CAS)

  1. Transcripts and Diplomas

    You must submit an official transcript and, where applicable, a diploma or proof of degree from all postsecondary (university level) institutions you have attended, whether or not you earned a degree. If you are unable to submit original documents to LSAC, you may submit certified copies. If the originals are not in English, you must submit an official, certified translation of each document in addition to the original document. If you are in school at the time you submit your application, submit your most recent transcript, and send an updated one to LSAC once your fall grades are available. 

    We strongly prefer but do not require the International Transcript Authentication and Evaluation Service in addition to the basic CAS service; it is up to you whether you select the evaluation service.
  2. Statement of Rank

    If your official transcripts for your first law degree do not include your class rank, you must include a separate statement of rank issued by your University. If your University does not provide official class rankings, you must include a statement from your University that students are not provided with an official class rank upon graduation. Either statement should be sent to LSAC and included in your official CAS report. If your school refuses to issue a statement that they do not rank candidates, please email gls@law.columbia.eduwith a copy of your CV/résumé prior to submitting your application.    
  3. Letters of Recommendation

    We require two original letters of recommendation from your law school professors, employers, supervisors, or other persons qualified to appraise your academic potential for graduate legal studies. If you have work experience, one letter should come from a law school professor and one letter should come from a work supervisor. Letters from family friends and letters from prominent persons who have not taught you or supervised your work are not helpful. If your recommenders cannot write in English, please submit certified translations together with the original letters. We reserve the right to disqualify letters written or translated, in part or whole, by the applicant.

    Your recommenders must submit their letters of recommendation directly to LSAC. They may do so either electronically via LSAC’s new Electronic Recommendation system (also called E-LORs) or by mail to LSAC. If your recommender uses the new E-LOR system, be sure they include a work e-mail address and contact information in their letter, so we can contact them if we have any questions about the letter or to verify the authenticity of the letter. If your recommender sends the letter by mail, it must be written on official letterhead and addressed to the Office of Graduate Legal Studies. If your recommender is unable to print the letter on official letterhead, ask her to include an explanation as to why she is unable to do so.

    In the “Recommenders” section of the Columbia Law School online LL.M. Application, you must also include a work email address for each recommender so we can contact her/him should we have questions about the letter or your candidacy (please note that we cannot accept generic email addresses such as Gmail, Yahoo!, or Hotmail addresses for recommenders). Not providing an official work email for your recommender will significantly delay the review of your application, as you will be required to provide one before we review your application. If your recommender does not have an official work email address, you must explain on the online application why s/he does not have one).

    Please do not submit more than two letters. Part of compiling a strong application for admission is determining which two recommenders are best able to evaluate your ability to pursue and succeed in graduate legal studies. In very rare circumstances, applicants may feel they have a compelling reason to submit an additional letter of recommendation. If you feel you fall into this category and would like to submit a third letter, your reasons should be obvious to the Admissions Committee and you should give a detailed explanation in the Additional Recommender section below. Nevertheless, your application will be considered complete once two letters have been submitted to the Credential Assembly Service. (Please note: Letters submitted directly to the Office of Graduate Legal Studies, instead of through the Credential Assembly Service, will be automatically destroyed, and not added to your file. No exceptions will be made.)
  4. TOEFL Scores

    All applicants except those who earned their first law degree entirely in English in an English-speaking country must take the TOEFL iBT or the paper-based TOEFL and the Test of Written English (TWE) by our admission deadline (December 19, 2017). We do not accept the IELTS or any other exam in place of the TOEFL. The minimum scores required for admission are:
  • TOEFL iBT: 105 overall score, with 26 on the Reading and Listening sections and 24 on the Speaking and Writing sections;
  • Paper-based TOEFL: 620 overall score, with 59/60 on the Structure/Writing and Reading sections, 60/61 on the Listening section, and 5.0 on the TWE.

If your scores fall below these levels, your chances of admission could be adversely impacted even if other factors in your application are strong. You must decide whether to repeat the test based on how far below these scores your results fall; we cannot make this decision for you.

If you are applying for Early Review, your scores must be in your CAS report by November 1 (meaning you will need to take the exam at least a month beforehand to allow time for your scores to arrive at LSAC). Otherwise, you should register for and take the TOEFL by the December 19 deadline. We will not accept scores sent directly to us from ETS; you must submit them to LSAC for inclusion in your CAS report. All score reports we receive directly from ETS will be discarded.

You should take the TOEFL no later than our regular application deadline, December 19, 2017. TOEFL scores are valid for a maximum of two years from our application deadline (so you must have taken the TOEFL exam on or after December 19, 2015 for the scores to be considered in this application cycle). If your scores are lower than our minimum requirements, and you decide to retake the TOEFL after December 19, 2017, we cannot guarantee that the Committee will consider your late scores (and any additional scores or scores submitted after the deadline must still be submitted through LSAC).

Waivers of the TOEFL requirement are rarely granted, and are granted at the sole discretion of the Office of Graduate Legal Studies. Therefore, if you are planning to request a waiver, you should assume the request will be denied and make arrangements to take the test by the application deadline. Requests for waivers on the grounds that you have run out of time to take the exam or work primarily in the English language will not be granted. Waiver requests should be sent via email to and should include a detailed description of why you think you qualify for a waiver and your CV/résumé. In your waiver request, if you have ever previously taken the TOEFL, you should also include your prior TOEFL score(s) and the date(s) taken. If you are granted a waiver, you must upload your waiver approval email to the “Attachments” section of this application. Waiver requests sent after December 19, 2017 will be automatically denied.

Once submitted, all application materials become the property of LSAC and/or the Office of Graduate Legal Studies and as such will not be returned to you under any circumstances.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *