Admission Information

Admission into the SJD program is highly competitive. AUWCL selects candidates who have a strong, demonstrated intellectual commitment to advanced legal study and are prepared to write a doctoral dissertation that will make an original, valuable contribution to the legal literature.

The 2023-24 application cycle will run from September 1, 2023 - February 1, 2024. The Law School will NOT accept any late applications at this time. 

  • All applications must be complete by February 1. No applications will be considered after the deadline. The SJD Program accepts applicants only for the fall semester.
  • Applicants must hold an advanced law degree (LL.M. or equivalent) from a U.S. law school accredited by the American Bar Association, or from a non-U.S. law school with equivalent standards.
  • Demonstrate distinguished academic performance in prior legal study. Most applicants have at least a 3.3 grade average on a 4.0 scale in prior legal study. 
  • Submit a completed application form, with supporting materials, before the application deadline.

Application Procedure

To be considered for admission to the SJD Program, applicants must submit the following documents by the application deadline:

Application Information

Applicants must complete and submit the SJD application form. We strongly encourage applicants to complete and submit the application online through the LSAC (Law School Admission Council) website. Please visit the LSAC website to create an account and submit the application, application fee, and all supporting documents.

Each application for admission must be accompanied by a non-refundable $75 application fee, which is payable through the LSAC online application service via credit card.

Applicants must submit official transcripts or notarized full-sized copies of all law, graduate, and undergraduate schools attended, including a record of all your courses, examinations, and marks, and an official certification of the law degree received from a U.S. law school or from a recognized international institution. "Official" means a copy of your original document certified by an officer of your school or by a notary public. Faxed copies and photocopies of academic records will not be accepted.

Transcripts must be written in the native language of the school. If this language is not English, the documents must be accompanied by a certified translation. All academic records should be sent through the LSAC Credential Assembly Service. AUWCL students and alumni should complete the Internal Transcript Request Form to allow the admissions committee access to an applicant's student record. AUWCL students and alumni do not need to submit transcripts again, only the Internal Transcript Request Form.

Applicants must submit two letters of recommendation from law professors, employers, or other persons familiar with the applicant’s academic and professional qualifications. If the applicant attended an LL.M. program in the US, one letter of recommendation must be from a professor that taught a substantive course in that LL.M. program. 

The applicant should explain to references that the committee gives considerable weight to recommendation letters and thus thoughtful, candid evaluations of an applicant’s research and writing abilities, English proficiency, and any notable achievements that the reference deems significant are especially helpful. All letters should be sent through the LSAC Credential Assembly Service.

Applicants must submit a one-page single-spaced essay explaining why he or she is seeking the SJD degree and how it will advance his or her professional objectives. This essay can include reference to a specific position that the applicant seeks to attain or to an area of law where the applicant plans to make a novel contribution.

Applicant must upload a résumé or curriculum vitae to the LSAC online application service.

Applicants must submit a dissertation proposal incorporating the four sections below. Each section must be separately marked. The proposal must be 10-15 pages in length, double-spaced, with Times New Roman 12-point font, and 1 inch margins on all sides. A dissertation proposal that does not follow these guidelines will not be considered by the committee. 

Dissertation proposals must be original, must not have been previously used for other academic work, and must meet the requirements of
the Honor Code.

The proposal must consist of the following sections:

Section One (maximum length: one paragraph)
A statement of the problem that you seek to solve and your tentative solution of how you will solve it (the “thesis statement”). For additional guidance, consider reading Chapter 1 of Eugene Volokh, Academic Legal Writing (5th ed., 2016). The thesis statement is similar to an abstract in a research paper.

Section Two (length: four to seven pages)
Building upon the thesis statement identified in Section One, discuss in greater detail the topic of the dissertation, which will be further developed in the course of research and writing. The statement should not simply say you want to investigate a topic, study an area, or summarize a field. Rather, this section requires you to present a developed perspective that takes a particular approach or analyzes a specific theme in the desired topic of study. This section is akin to an introduction in a research paper.

Section Three (length: four to seven pages)
A preliminary literature review, including:

  • a discussion of the existing literature on the subject and an overview of what other scholars have already addressed; and
  • an explanation of how the applicant’s dissertation will differ from, and add to, the existing literature.

Section Four (maximum length: ½ page)
A list of up to five Law School faculty members who you believe would be a suitable Faculty Advisor based on your chosen field of study. You should not contact potential faculty members directly, but rather should base this list on your review of the WCL Faculty Biographies. Only faculty under the Tenured & Tenure Track and Special Faculty Appointments categories are allowed to supervise SJD candidates.

Applicants who are accepted into the SJD Program will be assigned a Faculty Advisor in the candidate’s field of study. Faculty Advisor determinations are made solely by the Law School Faculty and Administration. Applicants should not contact faculty members requesting that they serve as a faculty advisor. Instead, applicants may list up to five faculty members in their dissertation proposal. The Law School will take these lists into account when pairing admitted SJD candidates and Faculty Advisors but cannot guarantee that any of the listed faculty members ultimately will be appointed to serve as a candidate’s Faculty Advisor.

Applicants whose first language is not English must take a test for English competency, as described below. It is not necessary to take more than one.

This requirement cannot be waived unless applicants have received a bachelors or masters degree (including an LL.M.) from an accredited institution in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, or New Zealand. To request the waiver, please include your most recent TOEFL or IELTS score on the application and submit the transcript from the degree program that meets the above criteria. If a waiver is granted, applicants will not need to re-take the TOEFL or IELTS or submit an official score.

SJD Tuition Costs

(2023-2024 Costs)
Year of Study Number of Credits
(Per Semester)
Cost/Credit: $2,294
Total Cost
First Year 9 Credits/Semester $41,292
Second Year 2 Credits/Semester  $9,176
Third Year and beyond 1 Credit/Semester  $4,588

Living Expenses

In addition to tuition costs, students will be responsible for additional living expenses. Please see the chart below for an estimate of other expenses you may incur during your time in the SJD Program.

SJD Estimated Living Expenses
Expenses Cost
Mandatory Fees  $440
Housing @ $1,657 Per Month $14,914
Board/Food @ $405 per month $3,645
Books/Supplies $1,200
Transportation $1,400
Personal/Misc $2,386
Health Insurance*  $1,952
(tuition + expenses 1st year)

* Health Insurance fee of $1,952 assessed fall term only. Health insurance is mandatory for all F-1 and J-1 visa holders. The health insurance charge can be waived if candidate can provide proof of coverage.

Financial Aid & Scholarships 

The SJD Program is proud to announce the SJD Merit Scholarship. This scholarship offers a partial tuition scholarship for the first year of the SJD program to a limited number of newly admitted SJD candidates who have proven excellence in their field of study, the desire to contribute to the academic community at AUWCL, and a demonstrated financial need.

Scholarship applications must be submitted with a completed SJD application. Applicants who submit a scholarship application with an incomplete SJD application will not be considered. All materials MUST be submitted by the deadline below.

To Apply:

Complete the scholarship application


Please write a response to the following question:

How will you contribute to AUWCL as an SJD candidate and future alum? (no more than 250 words)

Upload the scholarship application and your essay response through the LSAC application system along with your personal statement. Hard copy submissions will not be considered. You may also email the document to before the deadline. Please be sure to include your full name on each document that you send.


11:59 pm EST on February 1st 

Review and Notification of Awards:

All scholarship applications are reviewed along with the SJD program application. No application can be reviewed before the February 1st deadline. Awards are announced along with the SJD admissions decisions at the end of March/beginning of April. Incomplete or late applications will not be considered.

If you have any questions about these regulations, please contact the Office of Graduate Admissions directly at 202-274-4110 or

All financial aid for U.S. citizens and Permanent Residents will be processed through the WCL Financial Aid Office and is subject to the rules and regulations of that office. For information regarding financial aid applications and deadlines, contact the Office of Financial Aid. The payment of all tuition and fees for students is handled through the University's Office of Student Accounts and is subject to the rules and regulations of that office. For more information regarding payments and tuition cancellation, contact the Office of Student Accounts.

Financial Aid for U.S. Citizens & Permanent Residents

U.S. citizens and permanent residents may apply for federal financial aid by filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) by the March 1 priority deadline with the AU Federal Title IV Code: 001434. Do not wait until you are admitted to apply for financial aid. Your total financial aid for one year may not exceed the established cost of attendance, which includes tuition, fees, books, and living expenses. International students who can obtain a U.S. citizen to co-sign their loans may be able to receive education loans from private lenders. For information and applications, contact the Office of Financial Aid.

Financial Aid & Other Information for International Students

In order to satisfy F-1 visa requirements, students must be registered for a minimum or eight credit hours per semester.  Enrollment in the SJD Program automatically satisfies the eight credit requirement. Other visa statuses may have other requirements.

    For assistance in locating sponsoring organizations, contact the U.S. embassy, consulate, or information agency in your country. Education USA also provides an extensive listing of scholarships and grants directed towards international students.

    Students applying for F-1 or J-1 visas must show sufficient funds for educational and personal expenses for each year they plan to study in the U.S. before the university will issue the necessary immigration forms. F-1 or J- 1 visas holders are not eligible for employment. For complete information on regulations and exceptions, visit AU's Office of International Student & Scholar Services website.

    Students must be able to meet the following costs as they apply to their particular situation.

    1. Travel expenses between home country and United States during vacation periods
    2. Large purchases (such as computers, furniture, etc.)
    3. Medical expenses not covered by the University health insurance (eye care, dental care, medical problems developed before arriving at the university.)
    4. Additional summer expenses (if any) including tuition and fees, room and board, and books
    5. Additional expenses such as travel during vacation periods and off-campus transportation
    6. Other personal expenses (such as entertainment, social outings, etc.)
    Married students who plan to bring their families should add at least $5,500 for their spouse and $4,000 for each child per year to their annual living expenses.

    If you intend to apply for an F-1 (student) visa, you will be required by a U.S. consular officer to present a Form I-20 and supporting financial documents to demonstrate your ability to meet financial obligations for the first year of your academic program. Financial documents, such as bank statements, scholarship letters and/or a U.S. Department of Justice form I-134 "Affidavit of Support" showing your total program cost as designated on your I-20 must be presented. In order to obtain a Form I-20 from American University, the university must first accept students. Students are requested to submit their CIFS and financial documents with their application to the SJD program. Admitted students will be sent the I-20 with their admissions package. Failure to return the CFIS with the application will result in a delay in the issuance of the I-20.