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The Scoop on Joint Degrees

 Dear Asha,

             I'm interested in designing a joint JD/PhD program with Yale's Department of English. Can you tell me anything about whether Yale encourages individually designed programs? Does my unusual profile make me a more or less desirable candidate?


Dear A.M.,

            I’ve received a number of variations on the question of joint degrees, so I hope my response to this one will answer most of them.

            First, let me explain how our joint degrees work.  If you would like to do a joint degree with Yale Law School and another program, you must apply and be admitted to each program separately.  During your first year or second year at Yale, you can petition the Faculty Committee on Special Courses of Study to do your joint degree with the other program.  If you are approved, you will be allowed to use up to 12 units of coursework (about one term) from the other program towards your JD.  This thus reduces your total in-residence time requirement at the Law School to five semesters, rather than the usual six.

            The other program may, at your request, allow you to credit Law School coursework towards its program.  In such a case, your total time required to complete that degree would be reduced as well.  Certain programs, such as the Graduate, Divinity, Forestry, Management, and Medicine schools at Yale, as well as the Woodrow Wilson School for International and Public Affairs, have in practice approved such an arrangement.  However, you may also pursue a joint degree with other programs and institutions; the caveat is that Yale Law School can only approve and grant credit for work completed for your JD; we have no control over whether the joint program will reciprocate.  So, always check with the program or institution with which you are considering a joint degree to find out what their policy and requirements are and whether they will give you credit for Yale Law School coursework.

            In considering a joint degree, you should think about a few things.  First, as I mentioned previously, you must be enrolled at Yale to petition to do a joint degree, and at the time you petition, you must be accepted into the other program.  This means that you either need to apply to the other program at the same time you apply to law school (or already be enrolled), or apply no later than your second year at Yale.  The second thing to keep in mind is that you may only receive Law School credit for coursework completed prospectively, i.e., you cannot receive credit for any work you completed before you matriculated at the Law School.  In this vein, if you are a PhD candidate who has reached ABD status, you cannot pursue a joint degree, and if you defer your entrance to Yale Law School to begin another program, you cannot use any of the work completed during your deferral towards your JD.

            With respect to individually-designed programs, Yale encourages coursework outside the Law School within the parameters described above, if you are a joint degree candidate.  If you are not a joint degree candidate, you can still take up to 12 units of class outside the Law School at the undergraduate, graduate, or professional schools (including up to two semesters of language courses!).  There are also numerous courses cross-listed between other programs and the Law School each semester.  So there are ample opportunities to get an interdisciplinary legal education without doing a joint degree.

            Finally, an intention of doing a joint degree will have no impact on your chances for admission.  We do ask on the application whether you are considering a joint degree – this is mainly for us to get a sense of students’ interests.  However, at the point of admission, you will be evaluated solely for the JD program, so keep that in mind as you put together your application! 

-- Asha

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