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100 percent of Emory pre-law students were admitted to top law schools in 2017: How Career Center leveraged relationships for student success

April 12, 2018

By John Baker Brown, Campus Life Communications

As graduation approaches, Emory’s pre-law students in the Class of 2018 are setting their sights on the mark established by their immediate predecessors. In 2017, the university saw 100 percent of its 43 graduating pre-law students admitted to law schools, an impressive accomplishment for any institution. Graduating seniors and Emory alumni garnered 135 offers of admission from the nation’s top 15 law schools.

Of course, one might argue that hitting 100 percent was not entirely unexpected. After all, the annual law school admissions rate for Emory pre-law students averaged nearly 94 percent annually from 2013 through 2017. That’s compared with a nationwide average of less than 77 percent during the same period.

Reaching this landmark is the product of a longstanding partnership that includes Emory students, a range of academic departments, and the university’s Career Center, according to Paul Fowler, executive director of the center, a department of Campus Life.

“The fact that Emory ranks so well with admission of its pre-law students to law schools is a testimony to the talent and hard work of Emory students themselves and certainly the quality and rigor of the university’s undergraduate academic programs,” says Fowler, who joined the university in 2008. “Add the Career Center’s director of pre-law advising, Rodia Vance, and you have a team that’s bound to succeed.”

Vance (left) meets with one of more than 400 pre-law students, Aiyanna Sanders C19, majoring in political science and African American studies and looking forward to a law school focus on corporate or civil law.

Vance (left) meets with one of more than 400 pre-law students, Aiyanna Sanders C19, majoring in political
science and African American studies and looking forward to a career in corporate or civil law.
(Photo: Tina Chang)


After joining the center as a graduate student in 2001, Vance transitioned to regular staff in 2002 as the center’s first full-time pre-law advisor. She holds a bachelors in psychology from the University of Florida, a masters in professional counseling from Georgia State University, and a Juris Masters from the Emory School of Law.

In addition to advising undergraduates, the pre-law program also assists Emory alumni who have decided to apply to law schools. "Our mission is to educate Emory’s pre-law students and alumni about their career options, how to apply to law school, and what to expect from life when they get there,” says Vance.

The support has been invaluable to Katherine Frisbie, a graduating senior majoring in political science and interdisciplinary studies and planning to pursue a career in public interest law.

“The pre-law services from the Career Center made me feel so much more confident and prepared going into my applications,” says Frisbie. “After attending the pre-law information sessions, I knew what I needed to do for every step of the process – what a relief.”

Equally important was one-on-one mentoring from Vance, according to Frisbie. “Rodia encouraged me to pursue my dream law schools and helped me create my application strategy,” she says. “I was so grateful for the support and guidance that the Career Center provided.”

Since Vance took the helm, she has substantially expanded the number of programs. The center’s services today include individual pre-law advising, curriculum guidelines, document critique services, workshops on the application process, and networking opportunities with law school recruiters and law professionals.

A Campus Life and Academic Affairs collaboration

Because Emory does not offer an undergraduate pre-law major or minor and because law schools accept students from a variety of academic backgrounds, Vance’s students span many disciplines. Among her more than 400 advisees, the most numerous are political science, history, and international studies.

With the range of majors that pre-law students represent, the Career Center collaborates with faculty to serve students across a variety of undergraduate academic programs at Emory College, Oxford College, and Goizueta Business School.

Vance also works closely with the Emory School of Law to host an annual program for pre-law students that features a panel of Emory law students who were also Emory undergraduates, along with presentations by the law school admissions and career services offices to showcase professional opportunities after law school.

Collaboration is a key to the success that Emory students are achieving in matriculating to the law school of choice, according to Ethan Rosenzweig, senior assistant dean for admission, financial aid, and student life for the School of Law. “Rodia has dedicated her career to ensuring our undergraduates receive the most valued prelaw advising in the nation,” he says. “She is a valued partner not only to Emory Law but also to law schools throughout the country. “

Vance agrees that partnerships are essential. “A big part of our job is building professional relationships with law school admissions officers,” she says. “We’ve cultivated such relationships for years and that enables us to better prepare our students for admission to the nation’s law schools.”

Fowler underscores Vance’s vital role in the process. “She has worked with some of these admissions officers for more than 15 years,” he says. “And, as a law school graduate, she offers an insider’s perspective when she’s advising our students and representing them to admissions officers.”

Fowler also describes the director of pre-law advising as a consummate team player on a staff that excels at collaboration. Currently, 10 Career Center professionals advise thousands of undergraduate students across many career fields, with each advisor managing a caseload of up to 600 students.

When 100 percent is a starting point

“Placing 100 percent of pre-law students in law school is just our first goal,” says Fowler. “Our ultimate goal is for 100 percent of all Emory graduating seniors to be headed for the next opportunity of their choice after graduation, and we have an outstanding Career Center team to help them do just that.”

Fowler envisions each student in each graduating class “resolved,” a term that means the student has selected and committed to a constructive and desired next step after graduation. Such steps include continuing education or fellowships, employment, post-graduate internships, gap years or volunteer service, military service, or returning to one’s home country for international students who choose to leave the country after graduation.

Since his arrival in 2008, Fowler and his Career Center team have made steady progress toward their destination of 100 percent resolution. In 2009, 77 percent of graduating seniors were resolved, having embraced opportunities in one of the categories described earlier. The numbers have improved dramatically since then.

In 2017, with 91 percent of all Emory graduating seniors resolved, it looks like Emory is on the way to achieving the goal of 100 percent resolution for all Emory graduating seniors – thanks in large part to the untiring commitment and professional excellence of the university’s Career Center team and its faculty partners across academic disciplines.

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