Changing the Scene
I am interested in transferring from my current law school to Yale. Do you have any comments for those of us who are willing to make the jump and apply to transfer to YLS? In particular, what are you looking for in a transfer applicant that you would not look for in a regular applicant (I know law school GPA/class rank is a big part of the process)? Any help would be greatly appreciated.
You ask a great question, since our transfer application process is somewhat different than our process for first-year students.
First, as background, we accept transfer applications from May 1 to July 1 of each calendar year, for matriculation in August of the same year as a second-year student. In order to be eligible for transfer you must have completed the equivalent of one year of law school at an ABA-accredited law school.
Unlike our regular admissions process, our transfer admissions process has one centralized Admissions Committee that reviews all of the applications together. We release all of our decisions around the third week of July; there are no rolling admissions. In order to complete a transfer application, you must submit a $75 application fee, the transfer application, a transcript with your grades for your full first year of law school, and two letters of recommendation (and yes, the application still includes the 250-word essay). Note that since often spring grades do not make it on to your transcript by our application deadline, we will accept an unofficial version of your grades (e.g., computer printout/email) for purposes of review; these will be verified through an official transcript in the event you are offered admission.
You are correct that in reviewing transfer applications, we put a lot of weight on your first term grades and GPA. Your LSAT and undergraduate GPA are not particularly relevant: this is because these are predictors of your performance in your first year of law school, and in the case of transfers we actually have your first year grades in front of us. We also place a great deal of weight on your recommendations from your law school professors; more than wanting to know the grade you received in the class (which we can obviously see from your transcript), we are interested in knowing how you performed in class discussions, the quality of your writing, and how you compared with other students in the class and in the professor's experience teaching. To this end, it is important to try to get to know at least a couple of professors personally during your first year, in order to submit the strongest transfer application possible.
We do not have a fixed number of transfers that we take in any given year. Rather, we admit the strongest applications we receive each year, space permitting, which has in recent years ranged from 5 to 15 students from institutions such as Georgetown, Harvard, Pepperdine, Stanford, Tulane, and Washington University. Generally speaking, these students were in the top 5-10% of their first year class.
As with students taken off of our wait list, students who have been accepted for transfer will have a limited window of time in which to make a decision (usually about a week to ten days). We encourage transfer applicants to visit Yale early if seeing the campus will be critical to the decision whether to accept the offer. Unfortunately, we do not have classes over the summer and most students and professors are gone, but the building and library are open to visitors. Self-guided tours are available through the Admissions Office.
Lastly, transfer students who are interested in being on the Yale Law Journal can "try out" (i.e., take a Bluebook exam and complete a writing exercise) in the first few weeks of class. Only the Yale Law Journal has a competitive process; all of our other journals are open to any interested student, including transfers.
I hope this is helpful, and I look forward to reading your application this summer!