Q: What is the Root-Tilden-Kern Scholarship Program?

A: The Root-Tilden-Kern Scholarship Program is the premier public service scholarship in the nation. It provides full tuition, without regard to financial need, for JD applicants with a demonstrated commitment to public interest work. For more information on the scholarships available through the Root-Tilden-Kern Scholarship Program, click here.

Q: What counts as public service law?

A: The Root-Tilden-Kern Program views public service as broadly encompassing government policy and legal positions (including judicial clerkships), electoral politics, nonprofit organizations, academia, social enterprise (an organization or venture that advances a social mission through entrepreneurial, earned income strategies) community and economic development, community empowerment, international law, and public interest law firms.

The program recognizes there is a diversity of public service careers and encourages applications that reflect that diversity. If your dream is to run for elected office or be appointed a judge; be a defense attorney or a prosecutor; work for the Justice Department or the ACLU; regulate business or labor rights; work on international human rights or local land use, and anything in between and beyond, the Root Program is for you.

Q: The obligation to work in public service for five years seems like a long time.

A: That wasn’t a question, but, yes, the Root program is for students who intend to practice public interest law as their careers after law school. Because the scholarship covers full tuition, it offers students the financial freedom to pursue the career of their choice, provided it is included within our broad definition of public service (see above). Some of the specialized scholarships within the program require only three years, but ask for a more specialized commitment. For more information, see the Program Description.

Q: What is the Root-Tilden-Kern community like?

A: The Root community is a group of individuals with highly diverse backgrounds and interests who are unified by their commitment to public service (read bios of our current scholars to learn more). At the same time, the Root Program is not an exclusive group and is part of the broader public interest community at NYU. Scholars participate in all Law School events, and the Root Program is a supplement to, not a substitute for, the Law School curriculum and experience.

Q: How do I apply for the Root-Tilden-Kern and/or Lindemann, Jacobson, Sinsheimer, and D’Agostino scholarship programs?

A: The Root-Tilden-Kern Scholarship applications are part of the law school JD application process. See How to Apply. Scholarship application materials should be submitted with your application for admission. Letters of recommendation should be sent to LSAC. Questions concerning the submission of application materials should be sent to the Office of Admissions.

Q: Do I have to submit an extra essay for the Root-Tilden-Kern Scholarship Program even if I have discussed public service in my Personal Statement?  Do I have to submit an extra letter of recommendation if one of my two already address my public service?

A: No. If your admissions statement directly addresses your public service commitment, you may choose not to submit a separate essay and instead indicate on the admissions statement that you would like it to also serve as your public service essay.  If one of your recommendations addresses your public service, you may choose to not submit an additional letter of recommendation, and instead indicate which letter you would like to be considered your public service reommendation.

Q: Can I apply to more than one public service scholarship?

A: Yes. Applicants are encouraged to apply to all the scholarships that fit their area of interest. Applicants should check off the names of all the scholarships that they wish to be considered for when they fill out their application. Although you may apply to multiple scholarships, you will only receive one.

Q: Do I have to submit all of the scholarship application materials through the LSDAS system or can I mail my letters of recommendation and essay separately?

A: We require candidates to apply through the Law School’s online application via LSAC. Essays and letters of recommendation should be submitted through the LSAC system as well.

QI’m taking the December LSAT and my score won’t be released until after the January 1st deadline – can I still apply?

A: Yes! Applicants taking the December LSAT will be considered for the Root-Tilden-Kern Scholarship Public Interest Scholarship Program as long as the online JD application and all supplemental scholarship materials are submitted by the January 1st deadline.  LSAC will update your application with your December LSAT score once it is released. Please keep in mind that we require at least one LSAT score on file in order for an application to be considered complete. Applications are reviewed in the order in which they are completed.

Q: Should I apply if my grades and LSAT score are not as high as I would like?

A: Yes. The committee looks at the applicant as a whole person; decisions are not based on one factor, but rather on the individual’s strengths, demonstrated commitment to public service, and potential for leadership. Factors such as previous life experiences or professional work are also taken into consideration.

Q: What role does diversity play in the selection process?

A: The program values diversity and strives to select a Root-Tilden-Kern class that is diverse in terms of race, sex, class, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identify and expression,  geographic origins, and ideology. We consider personal/family history of educational or socio-economic disadvantage and we seek to enroll a student body from a broad spectrum of society including members of all groups underrepresented in the profession.

Q: I am still in college and have not had a public interest job yet. Do I still have a shot at getting a Root-Tilden-Kern Scholarship?

A: Yes. We accept students who come straight from college provided they are able to show a demonstrated commitment to public service. Internships, participation in student organizations, and other activities during high school and college can all serve to demonstrate your commitment. Students who are still in college are not at any disadvantage in the selection process. Scholars have included students who were just out of undergraduate as well as students who had been out of school for ten years or more.

Q: In college I had to work extensively to support myself and did not have time for as many public service activities as my peers. How will that affect my application?

A: We are mindful that not everyone has the same opportunities (such as to do unpaid internships in the summer). You should explain your circumstances in your essays.

Q: When will I find out if I have been invited for an interview?

A: Applications are forwarded to the Root-Tilden-Kern Scholarship Program office once an applicant has been admitted to the School of Law. Candidates who are selected for interviews will be notified by email between February and mid-March.

Q: What happens if I am not admitted until after the interview date?

A: Only students admitted to the School of Law prior to the interview date of Saturday, April 7, 2018, are eligible for the scholarships.

Q: I will not be available for the interview on Saturday, April 7, 2018. Is it possible to do a telephone interview?

A: No. All finalists must be present for an interview at NYU Law on April 7, 2018. Skype interviews may be extended to those with extenuating circumstances only, such as for religious observances. 

Q: I am unable to pay for a trip to New York if I am invited for an interview. What can I do?

A: If you are invited for an interview, the Root-Tilden-Kern Scholarship Program will pay for your economy-class travel costs up to $500.

Q: Who is on the interview panel?

A: Each interview panel is chaired by a federal judge, and consists of a faculty member, distinguished alumni, and current Root-Tilden-Kern Scholars.

Q: When will I find out if I am selected for a scholarship?

A: Scholarship offers will be made within a few days after the interviews. Finalists will be expected to respond within three business days to these offers, as early as Wednesday, April 11, 2018. Applicants therefore should plan to attend other schools’ admitted students’ days, and gather whatever other information they need, in order make a decision about the scholarship as early as Wednesday, April 11, 2018.

Q: Can I talk to a current Root-Tilden-Kern Scholar about the application process and what the program is like?

A: If you are selected for an interview, you will receive a call from a current scholar to answer any questions you may have. If you would like more information before you are selected for an interview, please contact the program at law.rtk@nyu.edu.