DeLoggio Achievement Program

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Graduating Early

Richard Geiger

Former Associate Dean, Communications & Enrollment
Cornell University Law School

"Do You See Graduating in Less than Four Years as an Advantage?"

One common problem is that of overloading courses to finish school early.  Applicants usually consider this to be an accomplishment, while admissions officers often feel differently. Associate Dean Richard Geiger of Cornell Law School kindly agreed to explain why early completion of an undergraduate program can be seen as a drawback. 

Until his retirement in 2015, Dean Geiger served as the law school's dean of admissions and financial aid, and oversaw the law school's communications department.

Richard Geiger His professional activities have included two year terms as Chair of the Test Development and Research Committee and as Chair of the LSAC Board of Trustees. He has also been Chair of the Association of American Law Schools Section on Pre-Legal Education and Admission to Law School, and has been a member of the AALS Committee on the Recruitment and Retention of Minority Law Teachers and Students.

Dean Geiger, when you see that an applicant has taken extra courses and enrolled during the summer so as to graduate in three years or less, what are your concerns?

This is a great question. First, let me say that no answer I can give will absolutely apply to everyone. The variables are many and the circumstances sometimes are unique. Nevertheless, my general view is that rushing through college just so you can speed up the move to law school is not a good idea. I understand that it might save you some money. But this is about a career that will potentially span in excess of 50 years, so a year or so of acceleration is really not meaningful in that context. The other thing to remember is that this isn’t like “playing up” in sports. Just because you were able to impress coaches by playing on a U12 soccer team when you were 10 doesn’t mean that this is a good approach to law school. The legal profession doesn’t have age groups. They judge you based on whether you have the tools to perform or not, period.  

Success in law school and the profession isn’t about precociousness or raw intellectual ability. It requires the ability to connect abstract ideas to real life. It calls for an ability to make intellectual connections. It recognizes the ability to grasp multiple perspectives and to understand that reasonable people sometimes disagree. This kind of intellectual nimbleness doesn’t come easily, and almost always benefits from experience. Rushing through college distribution requirements isn’t an approach that’s likely to lead to the kind of receptive and flexible intellectualism that law school and the legal profession value. This is why most experienced admissions professionals will be cautious when they look at an applicant who has hurried through their college experience and wants to go straight to law school.

Thank you, Dean Geiger!


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