5 Things I’ve Learned about Applying to Law School

May 6, 2011 at 4:06 pm (Applying to Law School)

1) Hard work pays. I may not have had a competitive LSAT score, but my high GPA and lengthy resume carried me through.

2) Proof reading (obsessively) is worthwhile.  I’ve heard horror stories from other applicants who submitted their applications only to later find a glaring typo or gramatical error.  I am sure this feeling is daunting – asking to supplement (replace) the erred document with a new one doesn’t make a good impression.

3) Remember that you aren’t given the opportunity to interview with the admissions committee so all of your written materials serve as the “interview” and must convey who you are, why law, why their law school, and why you should be admitted.

4) Timing is everything.  Submit well-written application materials early. Ask for letters of recommendation well in advance.

5). It is not over until it is over. Don’t “sell” yourself on any one school until you are sure you know and can consider all variables.

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If you don’t reject them, they’ll reject you!

April 14, 2011 at 12:39 pm (Applying to Law School)

Most seat deposits were due on April 1st (a few are not due until April 15th). Around April 5th, I started receiving short, cold emails from the schools where I did not pay a seat deposit.  They all went along the lines of:

“The seat deposit deadline has passed.  You did not pay your seat deposit. Your offer of admission is no longer valid.  Your file is closed.”

Cold, right?  Though I essentially rejected these schools, they made me feel as though they were the one that was rejecting me! Oooh the bruised egos!  I suppose I should have typed up a nice, concise email prior to the seat deposit deadline letting them know that I have chosen another school but by the time I made the final decision, I was so close to the seat deposit deadline anyway.  So, word of caution, if you don’t formally reject them, they will reject you.

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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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Part-Time Law Programs

December 27, 2010 at 5:39 pm (Applying to Law School, Choosing a law school, full/part time)

The PreLaw Winter 2011 edition is out and one article I thought would interest some of my readers is on part-time law programs. More specifically, the difficulty in juggling part or full time employment while pursuing a J.D. part-time.  The article can be read here.

According to USN&WR, there are 84 law schools which offer part-time law programs.  This number is down 3 from 2009.  Some part time programs are exclusively evening classes and others are integrated in to the daytime courses with no evening classes scheduled.  A 2009 article, “The Attractions of Part-Time Law School” notes some of the challenges and pitfalls of juggling work and school.  Not surprisingly, many of the schools offering part time programs are within 40 miles of the U.S. Capitol; five of the six top-ranked schools to be exact.  This is because many working professionals are seeking a law degree as a way to enhance their resume in their current fields or have already gotten their feet wet in the legal profession. Other part timers are seeking a law degree as a complete career change but want to maintain their steady employment to help cover the cost of law school and maintain current living expenses. In the current state of the economy, it makes sense to be leery of leaving secure employment and taking on student debt.

The trouble with balancing work and school, aside from time constraints, decreased time with family and friends, and of course added stress is that opportunities to participate in clinics, journals, or moot court may pose a challenge to students who are restricted in time and do not have the flexibile schedules to attend and participate in extracurricular activities. Not only does this hinder the overall law school experience but this can mean fewer networking opportunities and a skinnier resume than full time classmates.

U.S. News & World Report now ranks part time law programs. The rankings can be viewed here.  Before U.S. News & World Report began including part-time admissions into overall law school rankings, part-time admissions tended to be less stringent than any given’s full time program. In other words, a 155 may have been the median for a part-time program at a particular school but a 165 was required for admission to the same school’s full time program. Now with the new incorporation of part time into full time rankings consideration, this seems to no longer be the case.  For more on this, see the part-time law school ranking methodology.

While it may seem financially advantageous to pursue law school part time, fewer scholarships are available for part-time students.  Since there is an expectation that a part time student is maintaining full time employment, less financial consideration is made for part time applicants.  One school I applied to explicitly told me that if I was looking for scholarship consideration then I must apply to the full time program because part time applicants are not considered for scholarships at all.  Many external scholarships also specify applicants must be enrolled in a full-time program.  For example, the American Judges Association scholarships are all for full-time law students.  Further, one’s income will affect the eligibility for subsidized interest loans as the law students financial need will not appear as great as if they were working part time or not at all.  Additionally, scholarships that can be applied for independently (aside from the law school) tend to specify eligibility as enrollment in a full time program.  AdmissionsDean.com has done a nice job of compiling a comprehensive list of scholarships available for law schools.

The fact that there are fewer schools who offer part time programs can seriously limit an applicants ability to select a law school that is truly a good fit. If your limited to a very small region that you can commute to while still maintaining your household and employment then you may find your stuck with a school less desirable than one farther away. I understand that law school is not intended to be a particularly fun experience, but I think its also important that the law school offer programs of interest and a high potential for post-graduate success. For a listing of part time law schools and their admissions standards, click here.

You may also find that a fewer percent of part time applicants are admitted to a particular school than full time applicants. For example, law schools accept 200 to 400 students for their 1L incoming full time law class but only 50 for their one part time section. Depending on the number of applicants received for the part time class, admission as a part time law student may actually be more competitive than for the full time class.

Additionally, adding an extra year of law school can mean an additional year of stress, one year farther away from attaining your goals, and in some cases another year of earning a reduced income.  Some fees calculated by each school under the total cost of attendance are not per credit hour, but rather, are per year. So attending a part-time program can mean an additional year of those required fees, making it actually more expensive over the law school career than attending a 3-year full time program.  If as a part time student you are unable to cover the entire costs of both tuition and living expenses or if (heaven forbid) the employment you relied on terminates, you may find your taking out loans anyway and instead of three years, for four years. Further, part time students are almost always required to take courses in the summer – a time when your full time classmates are securing essential externships, clerkships, and networking for future employment.

These are just some things to consider.  Part time programs offer an excellent way for non traditional students to pursue a law degree. Additionally, individuals with financial constraints may find it best to enroll in a part-time program. Just be certain the decision you make is the best possible and most sound decision for you.

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Dear Disgruntled Co-Applicants:

December 2, 2010 at 8:10 pm (Applying to Law School)

Recently, it has come to my attention that some of my co-applicants for the entering fall 2011 class are upset that despite holding higher LSAT scores than myself, are receiving waitlists or acceptances without scholarship offers to the same schools I have applied to.  While I appreciate your concern, there is nothing I can do about this. Contacting me on lawschoolnumbers.com and top-law-schools.com won’t do any good. I won’t be calling any admissions offices telling them to rescind my offer and to grant it to “sillygirl 228” or whoever the heck you people are in real life.

My explanation/analysis/guesstimation: Some of you have mentioned you only applied to a given school because you received a fee waiver. Others have indicated being so disgruntled at the alleged “unfair” application cycle (which by the way only begun 3 months ago) that you no longer want to wait for your application response and withdraw. One of you said you were asked to supply a supplemental “Why X School of Law” essay.  My guess is that schools really want to first extend offers to applicants who clearly are serious about attending. Afterall, extended offers vs. admitted/matriculated students goes into USN&WR rankings. I think that a lot of these law schools are probably looking for several things:

1) A Why X School of Law essay or at least a paragraph that is specific to the various programs and reasons why you want to attend;

2) Some indication that you have attempted to make contact either at an LSAC forum, formally visiting the school, by signing up on their email list, tuning in to a webinar, etc.;

3) If the app asks you to list other schools you applied to, and this school is the lowest rank of your list, the school may realize they were really just a safety and that your an applicant simply taking advantage of a fee waiver.

Hope this helps.

Best wishes,

LawSchoolDreamer

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More Good News (Again!)

November 19, 2010 at 8:28 pm (Applying to Law School)

Okay, I realize how completely unbelievable this is – in fact, I do not believe it myself.  I just got off the phone with Small Town School of Law and they are offering me a full-tuition scholarship! I am a little embarrassed that I teared up a bit and my voice crackled while on the phone with the assistant director of admissions but I think she was touched at my emotion.  I am very blessed. This law school has been, for a very long time, one of my top choice schools. The requirements to keep the scholarship are less strict than the other two, and the atmosphere is very laid back (no curve, ranking, etc. among students).  I am shocked (again).

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More Good News!!!

November 17, 2010 at 2:57 am (Applying to Law School)

I’m 2 for 2! And I’m not just referring to acceptances . . . I got another FULL RIDE scholarship! I’m elated. At a loss for words. Can’t process. I still want to keep things anonymous but I can tell you that this school is in a higher tier in the ranks from my first school (which by the way, I’m still seriously considering). I honestly couldn’t say at this point which school I’m looking more seriously at. Both are highly desirable, offer programs I’m very interested in, and I would be very happy at either one. Decisions, decision. My what a predicament to be in. I am feeling so blessed. Just 6 months ago I questioned whether I would get in anywhere at all! And even then, how I would pay for law school. I even considered whether the first acceptance was a fluke! This second acceptance and offer really validate my worth, hard work, and competitiveness as a candidate.

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LSAC Forums – Invaluable Resouce for L.S. Applicants

November 10, 2010 at 4:23 pm ($, Applying to Law School, Choosing a law school)

See full size imageI recently attended a LSAC Forum and was very impressed with the multitude of resources available all in one place! There were over 100 ABA-approved law schools on-site with knowledgeable representatives eager to answer my questions (and load me up with pamphlets and other leaflets).  Many of the law schools sent not only a rep (who is generally the director or assistant director of admissions) but also a current student of the law school to respond to questions on student life, professor availability, overall atmosphere, etc. 

Though LSAC has all attendees wear name tags with a specific number for use by law schools, I never felt that any of the reps I spoke to were taking mental notes on whether to admit me. I would introduce myself and shake their hand, but I felt they had forgotten my name two seconds after I spoke it.  While this certainly took the pressure off, I was a tad disappointed. I had hoped that by speaking with the reps, they would be able to put a face to the application.  Additionally, there were so many attendees speaking to reps that it was necessary to speak louder than normal in order for the rep to understand what I was talking about.

 In addition to the opportunity to speak to representatives, LSAC organized seminars scheduled throughout the day. I sat-in on a financial aid forum led by a school’s director of financial aid. She broke down all the different ways of obtaining financial aid and weighed the pros and cons of each.  Sitting through that seminar, though helpful, made me even more thankful that I have the option of not having to worry about taking out loans for law school.  I also sat through a seminar that broke down the entire application process. Since I have already submitted all of my apps already, I didn’t find a lot of the information particularly helpful – but for an applicant who is just beginning this process, the seminar would be invaluable! 

In all – I would encourage all law school hopefuls, applicants, and even people who are trying to decide whether law school is in their future, to attend a LSAC Forum.  It is very worthwhile.  To find out if LSAC has planned a forum near you, click here.

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AdmissionsDean Investigates: Do Adcomms Search Applicants’ Online Activity?

November 2, 2010 at 5:01 pm (Applying to Law School)

Several months back, I posted about my concern over remaining anonymous and fears that admissions committees search applicants’ online activity. The original post can be read here.  www.AdmissionsDean.com President and Founder, Don Macaulay digs to the bottom of this seemingly secretive tactic in his interview with Duke Law’s Associate Dean for Admissions & Student Affairs, Bill Hoye.   According to Mr. Hoye, Duke’s admissions committee reads over 8,000 applicants each year, leaving them with very little time to search out applicants’ online affairs.  Read the entire insightful interview here.

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Attack of the Law School Spammers!

October 27, 2010 at 2:25 pm (Applying to Law School, Choosing a law school)

“Sickofit.” Definition: One word used to describe an annoyance that one is sick of. Example: “These law schools keep spamming my email and I’m sickofit!”

Yesterday alone I received 15 emails from various law schools, some of which I’ve never even heard of. (Oh yeah, and one from Harvard).

Receiving these emails while I’m *still* in review at 5 law schools has been especially anxiety-inducing. On my blackberry, the sender typically reads “law school” and my heart sinks.

The bulk of these spam emails are sent to me because I am registered to attend a LSAC law school forum in the coming weeks.  The schools are inviting me to stop by their booth and are making it easy for me to find them by providing turn by turn directions to their forum-day location. (As if there isn’t an exhibit map with law school directory available for me anyway).

I am looking forward to attending the forum.  In addition to the opportunity to meet and speak with law school representatives from almost every ABA-approved law school, workshops are offered throughout the day. Some won’t pertain to me (ie. LSAT 101) but the financial aid workshop should be worthwhile. For a listing of all the LSAC forums taking place around the country, click hereHere is a isting of the times for the various workshops at each LSAC forum.  To learn how to get the most out of an LSAC Law School Forum, click here.

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