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Q&A with Assistant Dean of Admissions Amanda DiPolvere

What type of student does Penn State Law look for?

We are seeking to recruit a class of students with diverse backgrounds and experience. Strong academic performance is paramount. One thing I love to see is volunteer experience. It's important to remember that lawyers are servants. We serve our clients, whether they are corporations, individuals, or causes that we believe in. Seeing that someone has done volunteer work is usually a good sign that the applicant knows what it is to serve someone else’s interests. I also love a good personal statement that tells me why an applicant wants a law degree, what he or she hopes to do with it, and why that applicant wants to study at Penn State Law.  

You have been in your role for three years. What changes has Penn State Law implemented in scholarship aid since your arrival?  

This year we are working hard to offer very competitive scholarships. Our accepted students will have a lot of great choices, and being able to help with their ultimate debt load is something we work to do as much as possible.

What percent of students receive financial aid?

It varies from year to year.  

What are the chances of retaining merit-based scholarships?

We award scholarship aid with the expectation that everyone will be able to renew, and will adjust the retention GPA so that everyone can renew. For example, if we awarded scholarship aid to 80% of the incoming first-year class, the retention GPA would be adjusted so that the top 80% of the class can retain their scholarship aid.  

What do you think are the key benefits of getting a law degree from Penn State versus other similarly ranked or higher ranked schools?

Our faculty is fantastic. We attract professors with diverse scholarship interests and who have joint appointments with the university in areas like technology and communications, labor and employment, international affairs, and other relevant areas of study. We encourage anyone who is interested in our program to visit us and sit in on a class to see these talented professors in action.

“Hands-on” learning and experiential skills training are strong suits here. Our goal is for students to leave here able to hit the ground running on the first day of their first job. We’ve had students serve as first-chair attorneys on jury and bench trials (and win!) before finishing their last year of law school, which is an incredible feat. We have a wide array of clinics where students can work with real clients on issues in energy law and fracking, international development projects, appellate civil rights cases being heard before the U.S. Supreme Court, and immigration matters, among others. 

What are the most popular joint-degree programs at Penn State Law? 

The most popular joint degrees are the JD/MBA with the nationally ranked Smeal College of Business, and the JD/MIA with the Penn State School of International Affairs, which is actually housed inside the Lewis Katz Building.  

Why would someone want to earn a joint degree? 

Our joint degree programs can be tailored very specifically to a student's particular area of interest. Depending on what a student’s background is, a joint degree can supplement an undergraduate degree in a similar discipline or demonstrate an interest and knowledge in a particular area of practice, like business, human resources, labor, education, and so on. A joint degree can also make someone more marketable. For example, several of our JD/MBA students have pursued work in corporate law firms where an MBA helped them understand clients' business interests and thus made them desirable summer associates. 

What do students most enjoy about Penn State Law and campus life?

I think what students enjoy most is the camaraderie and community engagement that they find here. Law school is by nature competitive, but you’ll always find students studying in groups and trying to support each other through what is undoubtedly a rigorous intellectual experience. Our students are also incredibly involved in the law school and university community. Our student government and other student organizations are very active, and are always hosting all sorts of events like socials, golf outings, 5K races, and fundraisers. They’ve participated in THON, Penn State’s student-run philanthropy that raises millions of dollars every year to fight pediatric cancer. 

Both State College and Carlisle are great places to live. State College (the town in which University Park is located) is always popping up in one ranking or another for being a great, safe, and affordable place to live. Students in Carlisle enjoy a college town experience as well, with lots of outdoor activities like hiking, skiing, biking, and kayaking, as well as cultural events in nearby Harrisburg, PA, which is the state capital. 

What is your advice for students applying to Penn State Law? What about admitted students who are preparing for their first year?

Students who are planning to apply to Penn State Law should explore our website and contact us at to ask questions or set up a time to visit. We welcome any questions. I would also encourage them to talk with faculty, alumni, and students, and gather as much information as possible about Penn State Law.

Students preparing for their first year should read, read, and read some more. Our faculty compiled a great list of books that made an impact on them, and I encourage incoming students to read some of those books. If they haven’t done so already, they should start thinking about living arrangements and joining our class of 2016 Facebook page to connect with their future classmates – a ton of last year’s 1Ls got connected with their roommates that way. That would be my first priority. Then relaxing, reading, and getting ready for a true intellectual challenge.


Amanda DiPolvere
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