Graduate School Question

Do graduate schools give preference for admission to students who attended that same university as undergrads? I am wondering if transferring to George Mason as a Junior would give me an advantage in getting accepted to George Mason’s school of law.

Mine did. No idea if that’s universal.

Why don’t you hop on over to the grad admissions office and ask?

Or better yet, just call them on the phone or send them an e-mail. It’s such a simple query that I’m sure your question can be answered in a few seconds.

A general answer can’t be given because policies vary, but a typical reply for a typical school would probably be that, officially, no such preference exists but that, de facto, some advantage for undergrads from that university exist. This is because the people in the admissions office simply know their own institution; they know the grading conventions and practices of examiners and can assess the relative value of grades more precisely than those from other universities - is a particularly good grade really indicative of an outstanding student or is there some grade inflation, for instance? Of course, some schools simply have a reputation for being tough of soft as far as marking is concerned, but I think admission offices value the precision with which they know their own systems and customs.

It’s hard to quantify how much of an advantage this gives applicants, but I’m sure the effect exists to some extent, even in schools where the official policy is that internal and external candidates are treated equally.

When I was an undergrad we were actively discouraged from applying to our own school’s graduate program. They told us that since most of the graduate professors also taught undergraduate courses, we had already been exposed to their teaching styles and fundamentals, and would be better off by moving to an entirely different set of instructors.

Back then my state had a reciprocal tuition agreement with several surrounding states, so there ended up being a sort of shuttle between undergraduate and graduate programs among those universities.

A letter of recommendation from a well respected preofessor within the university certainly could not hurt.

I was told that law schools actively discourage it, and it’s a mark against your application, being, essentially, a symptom that you are going to law school for the wrong reasons (escape from the big bad world by staying in your comfort zone).

At my school’s transfer fair last October, I asked the UCONN rep that question about going from UCONN for undergrad to UCONN for medical school. He said that they tend to prefer their undergrad students go elsewhere for medical school because they need to get out and experience more (different professors, different community, etc.)

I attended George Mason as an undergrad and I got preference as a graduate student. In fact, I was all but told I was automatically accepted. I had also specifically made a point of taking courses with some of the more important people in the department, so I think having recommendations from people like the assistant chair and such probably went pretty far. Hell, I didn’t even have to take GREs, where they’re required for applicants from other schools.

The thing is, though, I was studying Computer Science, not law, and the law school is considerably more prestigious and difficult to get into, so the experience may be different. That said, taking some classes there and trying to get to know some of the faculty beforehand probably wouldn’t hurt.

MIT was like this. You could get in as an MIT student, but it was harder. This was in EE/CS - it might have been different in other departments.

They were right, by the way.

You can call the George Mason Law Admissions office and ask them their opinion, if you really want to know.

However, if you currently attend a university which is far less academically rigorous in the Undergraduate division, you might gain some benefit from transferring. Of course, you would gain the same benefit from transferring to ANY upper tier Virginia state school, or ANY upper tier university, anywhere.

I don’t know of a law school that allows undergraduates to register for classes. You might be able to sit in on a class or two.

When I was at UCSD out here in San Diego, I was told the grad schools specifically wanted folks from outside the university from most everyone I knew. Maybe it wasn’t an official policy, and I certainly knew a few really small guys that went on to UCSD medical school, but I decided to head to Texas for grad school and didn’t even bother.

I had an ex-girlfriend who was an MIT undergrad in another department and was explicitly told that it would be more difficult for her to be accepted as a grad student at MIT. She ended up going to U-M, which is also a very good engineering school, and studying in an adjacent field in which she ended up publishing and working, so there is not only an impetus to apply to other schools, but reasons to expand your base of educational knowledge. Also, it lets you expand your range of contacts, which is critical in both academia and (to some extend) industry, which allows for more opportunities and is something I wished I’d put more consideration to.


Having been looking into graduate programs, it seems to me like it can certainly help with many programs, but is probably less a factor with law schools.

From most folks I talk to, current law school admissions are most heavily influenced by LSAT scores, followed by GPA, followed by other factors. This is because law schools are obsessed with rankings and statistics, and LSAT and GPA influence those stats more than other factors.

I went to two graduate schools, one of which is not very prestigious at all and one of which is fairly prestigious. In the not-so-fancy graduate program, almost everybody had a bachelor’s degree from the same university. In the more prestigious program, almost everybody had received their bachelor’s degrees from other institutions. Neither of the universities I attended has official policies about this matter.

Ditto the math department at MIT, but my experience was a long time ago now.