Public Interest Law Center


QWhat 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.

QWhat counts as public service law?

A: The Root-Tilden-Kern Program views public service as broadly encompassing government policy and legal positions, electoral politics, nonprofit organizations, academia, social entrepreneurship (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.

QThe obligation to work in public service for five years seems like a long time.

A: 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.

QWhat 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.

QHow 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.

QCan I apply to more than one public service scholarship?

A: Yes. Applicants who check the box to apply for the Root Tilden Kern Scholarship will automatically be considered for the Filomen D’Agostino Scholarship for Women's and Children's Rights, the Filomen D’Agostino Scholarship in Civil Rights, Civil Liberties, and/or Criminal Justice, the Jacobson Public Service Scholarship for Women, Children and Families, and the Lindemann Family Public Service Scholarship. Applicants may also apply for the Sinsheimer Service Scholarship.

QDo 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.

QShould 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.

QI 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.

QIn 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.

QWhen 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.

QWhat 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 are eligible for the scholarships.

Q: Are interviews conducted in person or virtually?

A:  Interviews will be conducted virtually via Zoom for all applicants in 2024. 

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

A: When interviews are held in person, the Root-Tilden-Kern Scholarship Program will pay for your economy-class travel costs up to $600. We can also provide a shared hotel room for finalists who do not have a place to stay in New York City.

Q: Who will be evaluating my application?

A: Preliminary screening of applications is done by current scholars and the directors of the Root-Tilden Kern scholarship program.  Final interview invitation decisions are made by a selections committee comprised of Root-Tilden-Kern 3Ls and the program directors.

QWho 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.  You will get biographical information for your panelists prior to your interview.

QWhen 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 days to these offers. 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 within three days of receiving an offer.

Q: Does the Root-Tilden-Kern Scholarship Program provide additional financial benefits?

A: The Root-Tilden-Kern scholarship provides the cost of tuition only; students are responsible for the cost of all other items in the expense budget including housing and student fees. Additionally, accepted Root-Tilden-Kern scholars are required to submit their NYU Law deposit in order to enroll. Please note that the enrollment deposit will be applied to student fees.

QCan 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