USC Law admissions director: “Your personal statement is your interview”

“I’ve come across many statements that do not showcase who they are but instead use a lot of the available space to tell me about Gould than themselves,” says David Vasquez, Assistant Director of Admissions at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law, a top 20 law school. In our latest interview, David talks about the little-known aspects of his job, the implications of Covid-19 on law school hopefuls, his biggest regrets and surprises, and advice for parents encouraging a pre-law path for their kids.

Thanks so much for joining us, David. To start, tell us about your professional background.

I’m currently is an Assistant Director of Admissions at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law and serve as a counselor for prospective and admitted students, informing them about the University and its Juris Doctor program. Additionally, I manage the development and implementation of communication strategies with prospective and admitted students. Previously, I held positions at the University of California, Santa Barbara as a Graduate Admissions Coordinator in their Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, Retention Advisor at Antioch University, Santa Barbara, and Career Advisor at Long Beach City College. I recently earned a Doctorate in Education from the University of New England, where I conducted national research on the retention of Hispanic students in online higher education institutions. My other academic achievements include a Master of Public Administration from California State University, Long Beach, a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from California State University, Dominguez Hills, and an Associate of Arts from Allan Hancock College.

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What is something most people don’t know about your job as an assistant admissions director at USC Gould?

I believe most people don’t know that as an admissions director, we collectively and meticulously review the JD applications and make those admissions decisions. Also, the misconception of admissions committees solely making decisions based on only a GPA and LSAT/GRE score is a misnomer. We spend quality time on each application.

Among the thousands of law school applications you’ve reviewed, can you tell us about one you still remember to this day?

This one is tough. One application that comes to mind is one that showcased their determination to succeed in all facets (academic, professional, and personal) and conveyed their unequivocal drive and passion for law. From homelessness, societal, and familial discrimination, to a thriving business owner. One who also soared to the top of their class in the same time frame. It is proof that nothing is impossible if you believe in yourself and work hard.

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Since Covid, what’s a new challenge in your job that you find difficult to overcome?

I think the challenge now is being able to recruit and connect with new students effectively. The law school world has always conducted extensive in-person recruitment, and now with Covid, that will hinder those one-on-one interactions or those in-person counseling sessions that you can’t replicate virtually. From a handshake to showcasing your law school in-person, it will be challenging this coming admissions cycle. But USC has a lot of resources and a phenomenal admissions team, so I’m sure we’ll be just fine.

What about something that’s gotten easier since?

Something that has gotten easier since Covid would be building events online expeditiously. When we received the news that all on-campus events would be suspended, we had to convert all our events to a virtual capacity. It was challenging and a learning experience for all of us using Zoom and all its features, but I’d say we knocked it out of the park.

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What’s something prospective law students would be surprised to learn can prevent them from getting a favorable review from you?

Something that prospective law students would be surprised to learn that can prevent them from getting a favorable review from me would be not carefully reviewing their application and, more importantly, personal statement. At USC, we do not hold in-person interviews, so the personal statement is, in fact, “your interview.” I’ve come across many statements that do not showcase who they are but instead use a lot of the available space to tell me about Gould than themselves.

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