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Top Application Tips for Academic Programs

July 21, 2021

Christine Briggs

Applying for graduate studies can seem daunting, especially if you’ve been away from the academic setting for a while or if you don’t have a previous law degree. Each year the Admissions Committee reviews hundreds of applications to OsgoodePD’s Professional LLM and Graduate Diploma programs. Based on their experience, we’ve compiled some tips for each of the application requirements.

Writing Sample

The Committee will use your writing sample to evaluate your preparedness for graduate-level academic research and writing. While what you choose to use as a writing sample is up to you, there are some samples that we recommend and some samples that we discourage.

We recommend that you submit one of the following:

  • An academic paper – a good choice if you have recently been, or are currently enrolled, in an academic program
  • A memorandum or factum – a good choice if you have been out of school for several years

If you don’t have either of the above, you may need to write something new for the purposes of the application. In this case, we’d recommend a 5-10-page research paper on a legal subject you’re interested in. We’ve compiled a list of suggested topics by specialization on our blog, here.

The following are not suitable to be used for your writing sample:

  • Unresearched opinion piece
  • Co-authored papers/documents
  • Non-analytical summary of law
  • Court pleading or form
  • Other legal documents


Applicants are required to include contact information for two references. Applicants are often unsure of who they should ask, but really, there’s no hard and fast rule, for it depends on your background! A former professor (a good choice if you’re a recent graduate or current student), a direct manager, and/or senior work colleague (if you’ve been out of school for some time) are all good choices. A good practice is to ask yourself, “Why would the committee find the referee’s comments credible?” or “Why would the committee give the referee’s comments weight?”

Look at the questions that referees are asked. What qualities are we looking for? Can your referee provide examples of how you embody at least some of these qualities?

Referees are asked to provide a qualitative assessment of your strengths and weaknesses as well as a rating of your:

  • Demonstrated academic ability
  • Ability to express yourself orally
  • Ability to express yourself by writing
  • Initiative
  • Perseverance
  • Ability to work independently
  • Likelihood of completing the program

Referees are also granted the opportunity to provide additional comments.


Advice for Non-Legal Professionals: Tailor your CV! The connection between your experience and the specialization may not always be as obvious to the Committee as it is to you, so connect the dots for them. The Committee is going to be looking at the duties described in your CV –not just your title – and they’ll want to see in what ways you’ve dealt with legal issues in your current and previous roles.

Advice for International Students: CV/Resume writing standards vary widely across jurisdictions. The Committee is familiar with many different styles, so you don’t need to worry too much about adhering to a North American format. However, you should ensure that your CV/resume clearly states:

  • Your job titles
  • Dates of employment
  • Description of your job duties


Missing transcripts can halt the admissions review process.

As part of your application, you will be required to submit university-level transcripts from every institution that you have attended where a grade was received for your course(s) and/or a degree was awarded.

Make sure you collect these documents early; in many cases, we cannot make an offer of admission to an applicant (even a conditional offer) if they haven’t submitted a copy of their transcript.  We strongly encourage you to submit electronic (unofficial) copies of transcripts as part of your application, as unofficial transcripts are typically sufficient for our initial evaluation.

Program Objective

You’ll be asked to select your primary program objective:

  • Personal Interest
  • Career Development
  • Career Change
  • Seeking NCA Accreditation / to Become Licensed to Practice Law in Canada

On the application form, you will be asked to ‘Please tell us how this program will help you achieve this objective’.  Treat this as an opportunity to give your application a personality. This is an important section of the application that the Committee uses to establish an understanding of why you’re applying for the program and whether the program is a good fit.

Additional Contextual Questions for Applicants without a JD/LLB
If you don’t have a JD/LLB you’ll be presented with two additional questions, asking you to give some context to your experience with and knowledge of legal concepts. This section is your opportunity to give the Committee context that might not be immediately clear from your CV.

One final piece of advice: complete your application early! Each application is reviewed thoroughly at least once. Generally, the earlier the application is completed, the earlier it is reviewed – especially for our full-time programs.

Submitting a thorough and complete application early increases your chances of moving forward to the next round of the admission process.

Still have questions? Get in touch with us. We’re here to help.