5 Stages of Grief and Applying to Law School

January 26, 2011 at 12:06 am (Applying to Law School, Choosing a law school)

Now that I have heard from all of the schools that I applied to, (including one very exciting surprise acceptance from a Top 25 school) its time for me to make a decision.  I am the least decisive person I know.  I evaluate both sides of the argument, weigh the pros and cons, envision what the decision may mean in terms of financial consideration, stress, or even what opportunities may later open up based on any given choice.  I follow this process for the tiniest of things, what toothpaste to purchase, whether it is worth driving another mile to the next gas station in the event their gas is cheaper, and yes of course – what law school to attend. 

Nevertheless, I am struggling.  I’ve narrowed it down to two law schools; one which I have been offered a full-tuition scholarship (which was also my original first-choice) and the one which is a Top 25 school that I have dreamed about attending since I was a little girl but have only received a 50% scholarship to. The trouble with both of these is that  I would be equally happy attending, but each school would provide dramatically different (but not necessarily more desirable) opportunities. 

Throughout this entire process, many feelings and hopes have changed. But one that has remained is anxiety.  First, I was anxious about studying for the LSAT, taking the LSAT, and waiting for my score.  Second, I was anxious about my personal statement, letters of recommendation, resume, and getting everything out to schools early but still flawlessly.  Third, I was anxious about hearing back from schools I applied to and constantly checking status checkers.  Of course, the anxiety grew incredibly once the status checker indicated a decision had been made.  Fourth (and presently), I am anxious about making the right decision. I don’t want any regret.

Applying to law school is not for the faint of heart or emotionally unstable. Which brings me to my final point: this process is similar to the 5 Stages of Grief. Allow me to further explain:

  1. Denial.  Denial that I aced the LSAT, that the law school adcomms will like me.  Denial that I am worthy or good enough.
  2. Anger.  Angry at the LSAC for taking so long to run my scantron sheet through the machine. I mean really!? How long does that take!?  Of course, there is also anger that law school committee decisions are not made within 24 hours of submitting an application.  That’s not unreasonable, right?
  3. Bargaining. You bargain with yourself; “If I scored a 155, there is no way I’m going to retake – but I doubt I scored that high.” Or, “Dear Capitol City School of Law, pleeeeeeeze consider my other offers because I reeeeeeally want to attend your school.”
  4. Depression. Offers come in and weighing the pros and cons, etc. of each is depressing. Of course, receiving a bad LSAT score can be as equally depressing, too.
  5. Acceptance. You accept things the way they are and realize that though this decision has the ability to greatly impact the rest of your life, your husband’s life, your non-existing children’s lives, your grandchildren’s lives, etc., you accept the fact that April 1 (seat deposit deadline) is around the corner and time is ticking.  
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Last, But Certainly Not Least

January 21, 2011 at 1:57 am (Choosing a law school, Personal Thoughts)

The day of my Grandma’s funeral had been bittersweet.  I was truly mourning her death but also celebrating her life.  I was able to spend many hours with her before she passed. I thought to myself how fortunate I was that I had no regrets about my last moments with her.  When I returned home from the funeral, I became regretful. 

I had received my final law school response.

There is just one law school in this nation that my Grandma would have been particularly delighted if I was admitted.  I applied really to spare myself the “what if?” question. But I knew there was no chance I would get in. While my GPA is above the 75th percentile for “Prestigious School of Law,” my LSAT is about 10 points below their 25th.  Getting waitlisted would have been an honor.  It is afterall, a top 25 law school. Because I grew up just 2 miles away, I always admired from afar but always knew (or so I thought) that I would never feel what it would be like to be a part of that institution.   And, I’m in. . . With a 50% scholarship.

I just wish that this could have come just one week before, so I could tell Grandma.  Whether I will go, I am unsure. On several visits I have felt inferior, out-of-place, and in comparison – poor. I also do not know how I would ever come up with the other $25,000 per year needed to cover tuition, books, and fees.  I am still committed to doing the work I feel I am called to do and do not want to lose sight of this by crippling debt.  On the other hand, a degree from this school may open many more doors than any other school to which I have been accepted. The question is, are those doors anything I want to walk through anyway?

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Validation

January 13, 2011 at 6:15 pm (Personal Thoughts)

I am blogging from the hospital today.  My grandma has been ill and will soon pass.  While this is of course a very sad time for me, I am at peace with what is happening.  Last evening, Grandma was able to talk to our close family members (which really consist of only three people: her two daughters and then me). I am an only child, and an only grandchild. So needless to say, my grandma and I have always been very close (read, she spoiled me senseless).  Though my mother, father, step-father, and aunt have had their doubts about my education, Grandma is the one person who always “got it.” My Grandpa died a year before I was born. So she has spent the last three decades as an independent woman. She never remarried (which was her deliberate, conscious choice). Grandma also comes from a different time. Growing up in the Great Depression left her very frugal about finances but also very worried about her two daughters’ (my aunt and mother) financial well being.  Both my aunt and mother have always been financially dependent on the men in their lives.  My mother had her first husband and then a wonderful second husband.  My aunt, however, lost her fiance just months before their wedding. My aunt never recovered (emotionally) and has lived with my Grandmother for the last 25 years.  I, on the other hand am bossy, bull-headed, and independent.  Anyway, the reason I am sharing this on my blog is not to solicit sympathy but to share with you the greatest form of validation I could have ever received. It was also the greatest gift my Grandmother could have ever given me.  Last night, my Grandmother drifted between both ‘worlds.’ One minute she would be carrying on a conversation with her late husband and the next she would be speaking to my aunt, mother, and I.  At one point she held my hand, struggled to get close to me and said, “finish school, be a lawyer.” Both my aunt and mother heard my Grandma’s directive and my aunt said to me,  “Well, you heard the woman.”

Thank you Grandma for always understanding and believing in me.  You will always be with me and I will always think of you.  I know that when I graduate from college in May that you will be looking down on me with pride.  You will be proud when I begin law school in the fall.  And Grandma, I want you to know that you played a great part in raising me to believe in myself. I am the woman I am today because of you, Grandma.

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Thank you! (After all!)

January 7, 2011 at 6:36 pm ($, Choosing a law school)

I previously said thanks, but no thanks to my first-choice school when they sent my acceptance letter with no scholarship consideration (and no indication that scholarship offers would be forthcoming).  So I compiled a well-thought-out email indicating that their law schools was and remains my top-choice school but that I would be unable to turn down the opportunity to attend another law school on a full-tuition scholarship.

This morning, I received an email with my full-tuition scholarship offer.  I am elated and couldn’t have asked for more.

The only down fall in this is that I had mentally eliminated the first-choice school from my list and began to focus on the things I really loved about my 2nd choice school, Capitol City School of Law.  I would make myself feel better by saying things like “oh so what I didn’t get in to my first-choice, second-choice offers x that first-choice doesnt’ have . . . so there!” 

Regardless, I will most likely be attending my first-choice school, free of charge, next August.

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Paralegal’s Job Ranked Above Lawyer

January 7, 2011 at 4:57 pm (Legal Professional Tips)

According to CareerCast.com, which ranked 200 jobs, the job of paralegal is ranked 12th, while lawyer is ranked 82nd.  The rankings took into consideration physical demands, work environment, income, outlook and stress.  The ABA Journal article can be read here. 

I wonder which paralegal’s income they took into consideration for this. Ha!

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the economy and its impact on the legal profession generally.  I came across a recent job posting which would typically seek paralegals, indicating a paralegal or attorney may apply.  Are recent law grads with high loan payments getting preferential treatment here? If the job would pay the same salary to either a paralegal or a lawyer, would the lawyer be seen as a bargain with necessarily higher education to bring to the table? It is certainly a trickle-down effect. However, if more lawyers could learn how to utilize paralegals, they may find it more economically advantageous to hire one-less associate and keep one more paralegal.

Of course for me, I’m “playing” for both teams: paralegal and future lawyer. Hopefully by the time I graduate law school in 2014 we will be in a very different economy and the legal market will be thriving once again. Though, I think firms and corporations have had to take a close look at “trimming the fat” and may be reluctant to sway from their newly-found thrifty ways. After all, less money spent on salaries means more money for equity partners.

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