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Prospective Students

The Ph.D. Program in Law and Economics is unique. It combines analytical training in economic theory and methodology with the study of law. While one can separately earn a J.D. and a Ph.D. in economics at many other universities, our program is distinctive in that training in economics is fully integrated with training in law. Upon completion of the program, you will receive a Ph.D. in Law and Economics and a J.D.

Preparing for the program requires thought and planning. First, the study of economics at the Ph.D. level requires a high level of competence in mathematics. Admitted students usually major in economics or mathematics. In addition to completing one year of undergraduate level calculus, students should pursue additional coursework in mathematics and economics.

Because an in-depth understanding of law is required, students in the Ph.D. Program in Law and Economics must either hold a Juris Doctor (J.D.) at the time of matriculation or complete the requirements for a J.D. at Vanderbilt Law School. In the former case, students should be able to satisfy all requirements for the Ph.D. in Law and Economics within 4 to 5 years. In the latter case, students must complete a concurrent degree program, usually finishing requirements for both the J.D. and the Ph.D. within 6 years.

The Ph.D. Program in Law and Economics will begin accepting applications for Fall 2018 on August 1.


1. Standardized testing

(a) GRE: The Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is offered year round. You can learn about the GRE and register at www.ets.org/gre. Students admitted to the program usually score above the 90th percentile on the Quantitative Reasoning portion of the GRE. The average undergraduate grade point average for law and economics students is 3.86.

(b) LSAT (for individuals applying without their J.D.): The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is offered four times per year. You must register in advance and can do so at www.lsac.org. Applicants with a J.D. need not submit LSAT scores. The Vanderbilt J.D. class of 2019 obtained a median LSAT score of 167 (94th percentile) and a median undergraduate grade point average of 3.70.

(c) TOEFL: The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is only required for international students who do not hold a degree from an English-speaking institution.

2. A minimum of one year of undergraduate level calculus is required for an application to be considered.

3. Statement of Purpose for Graduate School application and a Personal Statement for Law School application.

4. Letters of recommendations: The graduate school requires 3 letters and the law school requires 2 letters. You may use the same recommenders for both sets of letters.

Highly recommended courses:

› linear algebra
› real analysis
› statistics
› intermediate microeconomic theory

Because they are so indicative of performance in graduate school and in law school, competitive scores on the GRE and the LSAT are required for all students admitted to the Ph.D. program.

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is provided by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), and official GRE test scores are required to apply for this program. Your scores should be sent to institution code 1871. The GRE department code for this program is 1801. GRE scores must have been taken within five years of the date that ETS will send out your scores. ETS will not send scores that have expired.

The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is provided by the Law School Admission Council (LSAC), and an official score is required to apply for this program unless you have already completed your J.D. or are currently enrolled in a J.D. program.

For international students

Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) scores are required only for those international applicants who completed neither an undergraduate nor a graduate degree at an English-speaking institution. The TOEFL is provided by Educational Testing Service (ETS). TOEFL scores are valid for two years after the test date. ETS will not send scores that have expired. International applicants should note that they will not be eligible for admission without official scores on file, unless undergraduate or graduate education was successfully completed at an English-speaking institution.

Please note that applicants to the Ph.D. Program in Law and Economics holding foreign law degrees must take the LSAT and must satisfy J.D. program requirements during their course of study at Vanderbilt, receiving Ph.D. and J.D. degrees upon completion of the program. In some cases, applicants admitted to the Ph.D. program with foreign law degrees may qualify for up to one year advanced standing in J.D. program requirements. Decisions on advanced standing are made after admission to the Ph.D. program, and these applicants are not exempt from the LSAT application requirement.

The Ph.D. Program in Law and Economics will begin accepting applications for Fall 2018 on August 1.

Applicants are admitted for the Fall semester only. Applications received by January 15, 2018 will receive priority consideration for review and funding.

Applying to the Graduate School

Initiate the Law and Economics application with the Vanderbilt University Graduate Program Online Application. Under "Program/Area of Study," choose "Social Science." Then choose "Law and Economics."

About the "Statement of Purpose" Section:

Please use this space to provide a statement of purpose of no more than 600 words, including:

(a) your reasons for wishing to pursue a Ph.D. in Law and Economics,
(b) your specific research interests, and
(c) how this program relates to your previous educational and work experience and your future career plans.

Please note that the statement of purpose is meant to show how your research interests relate to the aims and scope of the Ph.D. Program in Law and Economics. The statement of purpose is not meant to be a personal statement.

Letters of Recommendation (3) are to be submitted electronically by your recommenders.

Transcripts should be sent to the address below directly from your institution. Official transcripts are required; however, unofficial copies are sufficient until the official transcripts arrive. International applicants should note that they will not be eligible for admission without official transcripts on file. All are encouraged to provide official transcripts as soon as possible.

Center for Data Management
Vanderbilt University
PMB 407833, 2301 Vanderbilt Place
Nashville, TN 37240-7833

Applying to the Law School

If you do not have a J.D. at the time you apply to the Ph.D. Program in Law and Economics, you must register with the Law School Admission Council (LSAC), take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), and file an application for admission to the Vanderbilt Law School J.D. program in addition to the separate Vanderbilt Graduate School Application. The two applications will be considered as one in a unified Ph.D. Program in Law and Economics selection process. Please visit the Law School Admissions website for complete instructions on the application process.

If you have questions about applying to Vanderbilt Law School as a Law and Economics applicant, please contact Sandra Weinstein at sandra.weinstein@vanderbilt.edu.

For specific questions about the Ph.D. Program in Law and Economics, please write to phd.lawecon@vanderbilt.edu.

Questions about the J.D. program may be directed to the Vanderbilt Law School Admissions Office at 615-322-6452 or admissions@law.vanderbilt.edu.

For technical questions regarding the Graduate School electronic application process, please call 615-343-2727 or write to apply@vanderbilt.edu.