Friday, March 12, 2004

Introduction of the Top 7 - Tips for The Admissions Season

In the interest of helping you out... here are my Top 7 Tips For Surviving the Admissions Season. Why Top 7, you ask? Well, Top 5 seems too small (plus I would like to avoid copying the whole High Fidelity John Cusack thing), and I'm too lazy to sit around and think of a whole Top 10. So without further ado...

Top 7 Tips For Surviving The Admissions Season
1. Start Early - a little too late for those of you this year, but for next year the earlier the better. Almost every school is on a rolling admissions (even if they say they aren't), so the earlier you get your application in, the earlier you hear back AND the more likely you are to get in. Most people apply in November (like I did), December, or January. If you are one of those people, your application is one of hundreds or even thousands that are being reviewed at the same time. If you get in earlier, you are one of only a few (or at most one of a few dozen)... and your file will probably get more time. Plus, early in the process they haven't given out any acceptances yet, so there are more spots available. Later on, when the spots have started to fill up, your application starts to look less and less good. Just for proof, a co-worker and I had identical LSAT scores and nearly the same GPA (although from different schools)... there were a few differences, he has a Ph.D. (which sure looks impressive), but I had nearly 3 years experience in the legal field, which he didn't have... so they kind of cancelled out. He got his applications in in October, I got mine in in November. For the schools we each applied to he has been accepted to Michigan (I'm still waiting to hear from them), accepted to Northwestern (I got waitlisted), waitlisted at Chicago (I got rejected), waitlisted at Cal-Berkeley (rejected), and waitlisted at Harvard (rejected).
2. Be realistic - although it is true you should apply to 1 or 2 "reach" schools that you would like to go to, 1 or 2 "match" schools, and maybe 1 "safety" school, be realistic when you define each category. As mentioned before, I received numbers that technically placed me in the range of some really great schools (Chicago, Berkeley, Stanford, Harvard, Yale), but for those schools the people that got in with similar numbers to me probably either 1) Went to an ivy league school for undergrad or (if I may allow some cynicism in) the same undergraduate school as the dean of admissions at the particular school, 2) Had connections (i.e. Mommy or Daddy is a Senator who made a call) or 3) Had a really compelling story to tell (which, sadly, my middle-class, white male son of non-divorced life in the suburbs did not provide for me). Therefore, although I still think a couple reach school applications are a good idea, remember, a reach still means you should be able to get in with your numbers alone, and that you shouldn't apply to more than 2 reach schools, and you better want to go there. Just as an example, I should have limited my reaches to Chicago, which is where I live and would love to stay here, and maybe Harvard just because it's worth a shot at Harvard in case you actually get in... but I went a little overboard and applied at not only Chicago, Harvard, Yale, Stanford (where I didn't particularly want to go even if I did get in), and Berkeley (ditto).
3. Have a Good Attitude - Unless you got a 172 or higher on your LSAT and/or have a 3.95 GPA, you're going to get rejected or waitlist from somewhere. Just let it go. You don't know the reasons for the rejection, and there's nothing you can do about it now. If it was a place you were dying to go to, either wait a year and reapply, or go somewhere else and get kick ass grades so you can transfer there.
4. Visit - I've only been on two visits, but I can tell it will make a big difference in the process. There are so many factors to consider for law school that it can be easy to forget the "feel" of the school (which for me was a big part of my choice for undergrad), but if you end up going somewhere you didn't visit, and you hate the facilities and the atmosphere, you have no one to blame but yourself.
5. Get your Financial Aid Stuff in ASAP - If finances are a concern for you (and unless you are independently wealthy, or have independently wealthy parents who are going to support you, it is) than get your FAFSA and other financial aid stuff in early. The earlier it gets in, the earlier you will hear about scholarships (both merit and need based), loans, etc., and the earlier you will have a better picture of how financial aid will affect your decision.
6. Don't Sweat Finances Too Much - OK, this may seem contrary to #5... but no matter what you get for financial aid, more than likely you are going into the hole for law school anyway. I have a couple full tuition scholarship offers... but even with that I will be taking out loans because I won't be working while in law school (at least not as a 1L), and you can't eat tuition. Law school is an investment, and if you worry too much about being too far in debt, you may avoid the place that is best for you, and will get you the best job when you're out. Finances should be a factor, but not the only one.
7. Have Fun - Although applying and going to law school is a huge decision that could affect the rest of your life... it's still you're decision, so have fun with it. Remember, it may be a professional school, but it's still school, and its you're chance to make new friends, and prolong your childhood a little longer, or return to your childhood for a little bit.

Wow, I felt a little bit like Dr. Phil there at the end. I hope you enjoyed it. Later

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