My Last Piece of Advice


It’s bittersweet closing down my business today. I’m excited for the adventures ahead of me, but sad to leave a profession where I got to help so many good people. Despite all this, it feels right to move on.

I’m grateful for all the people I’ve met and everything that I’ve learned over the past 18 years working in higher education student services. My mind has been blown away by so many of my students’ remarkable stories, diverse experiences, difficult challenges, hopeful dreams, and sincerity for wanting to help people. It’s something I’ve witnessed over and over again, and it’s what kept me going through it all, good days and bad.

Thinking back on all these years, I’ve been racking my brain trying to think of the last piece of advice I can give you as a professional adviser. There are so many pieces of advice I want to pass on, but here’s what I’ve chosen for today.




You don’t have to believe in yourself.

In fact, I think believing in yourself is overrated. It helps, but it’s not necessary. So much of my life has been mired in fear and self-doubt. Still, I managed to create a great life for myself and you can too. I’m not smarter than you. I’m not more brave than you. I’m just a regular person trying to live my best life. I’ve learned that fear and self-doubt don’t go away once you achieve success. They’re always there. But I’ve also learned they’re not meant to be malignant. They’re there to constantly ask you, is this what you really want?

You don’t have to know what you’re doing.

As Socrates said, “I know one thing: I know nothing.” You don’t have to know anything initially–you just have to know what you really want. Read, research, ask people for help. Try, experiment, fail, try again. I had no idea how to run a business when I quit my job at the University of Washington in 2010 and hung out my shingle as a private prelaw adviser. But every day I read, researched, experimented, asked others for help, and over the course of six years, I built a successful and nationally known law school admissions consulting business. I’m not special. I’m not smarter than you. I was just willing to try, try, try, and to learn from my mistakes.

Take it one step at a time.

There’s no such thing as an overnight success. People like to believe there is, but there isn’t. Behind every “overnight success” is a student who studied slowly and thoroughly for 16 years, a guitarist who practiced 40 hours a week for 15 years, an artist who drew every day after school and after work for 20 years, and so many more people like them who were willing to put in the time. Celebrate your wins, no matter how small. Learn from your mistakes, no matter how small. And most of all, keep moving forward one step at a time toward what you really want.

Find at least one person who will cheer you on.

People always say, “If you want to reach your goals, surround yourself with supportive, positive people.” What world do these people live in? Yes, in an ideal world, that would be wonderful. But that’s not always possible. Sometimes the people closest to you (parents, girlfriend, boyfriend, husband, wife, partner, friends, etc.) are the ones most afraid of you changing and going towards what you really want. It sure is nice to have a ton of people cheering you on, but if you don’t have that, it’s okay. You just need one person, one other voice besides your own saying, you can do this, keep going.

So, before I sign off, let me repeat myself.




Thank you for reading. Thank you for teaching me so much. It’s been a blast, y’all. Prelaw Guru OUT.

ps. To keep up with my new adventures, follow me @pegcheng and subscribe to my newsletter at

What’s Next for Prelaw Guru


Barn’s burnt down–
I can see the moon.

— Mizuta Masahide

When I first read that poem many years ago, I wasn’t sure what it meant.

Over time, its meaning sunk in.

To me, it means that even after losing something significant, there can still be something beautiful gained from that loss.

This poem is especially poignant for me now as I look back on my 18 years of working in higher education.

I thought that when I stopped working with clients in January, that I’d have plenty of time to work on my writing career and answer prelaw questions through Twitter, the Prelaw Guru Blog, and my personal statement class. But over the last four months, I’ve realized that writing is what I want to do. Full time.

I’m excited to become a fiction and nonfiction author. Last year, I published a middle-grade novel called The Contenders. This year, I’m writing a suspense novel for adults. I’m also writing a proposal for a personal finance book for college students.

It’s bittersweet to close down Prelaw Guru but the time feels right.

Last day to ask me prelaw and law school admissions questions via Twitter and the Prelaw Guru Blog is Friday, July 1, 2016.

Last day to sign up for my Write Your Personal Statement in 7 Days online class is Monday, July 11, 2016. I’ve reduced the price by 50% and it’s now just $49! If you’re wondering what you’re going to write for your personal statement and it’s causing you stress, don’t wait another minute. Register NOW.

I’m grateful for the time we had together. I hope I’ve made your path easier, less stressful, and more empowering. If I have, then I’ve done my job.

I’ve burnt down the barn, but I’m taking away with me the moon.



Meet LSAT Tutor Noah Hunter

Noah-HunterThis week, I interviewed Noah Hunter over email about his LSAT tutoring services for law school applicants.

Q: What motivated you to become a LSAT tutor?

A: Though I had success with and talent for the law and legal studies–high LSAT score, T5 law school, BigLaw job in New York City–the law did not really suit me. I decided that I needed something different and moved back to my home town of Austin, Texas. I began tutoring just to stay busy while a I plotted my new course, but quickly realized that I was suited for it and it suited me. I stumbled into my calling, but it has been great. I have been a full-time tutor for the LSAT and other standardized tests for almost six years.

Q: Why do you think tutoring suits you?

A: One of the things I love about my job is the insights it provides into the human mind and how it interacts with challenges. There are so many fascinating tidbits that I have discovered. For instance, there is a “social pressure” that many students exert upon themselves to their detriment; as humans, we default to “wanting” people to be right and that carries over to the LSAT. Just like we might not question our teachers or bosses, the test-takers give too much benefit of the doubt to statements within the passage or to potential answers rather than reading with a hyper-critical eye.

Q: So, question everything?

A: Absolutely. In life and on the test. Question what I am saying right now. We talk about the importance of “critical reasoning” all the time, but sometimes I worry that people do not pay enough attention to the “critical” part almost as if they read “critical reasoning” as “important reasoning” rather than the intention: accept nothing as accurate until you have thoroughly probed it.

Q: Is this the basis of your tutoring?

A: Well, it is more complicated than that. I teach the material on the tests, but I like to work on what I term “cognitive tutoring” as well. I do not do this to the exclusion of other tutoring methods, but it’s something that I think I focus on more than most other tutors. I am interested in helping my students become better logical reasoners and processors of information. I feel that this is key.

Q: Can you break this down for us?

A: Sure. My experience has shown me that underlying skills that have been built up can be more easily accessed and utilized in the high pressure context of the LSAT. Memorized information, be it in the form of categories, key words, or strategies designed for hyper-specific situations can easily be forgotten, muddled, or misapplied.

Students are more comfortable thinking in a manner that feels natural to them rather than trying to think like the tutor or curriculum-preparer. If they do not have the proper skills, it is better to build up those skills rather than teach them methods to “act” like they have those skills.

Also, the process of working through the development of these skills allows an astute tutor to notice and correct subtle flaws that might not otherwise be found.

Building up these skills will translate into better performance in law school and as a lawyer, which, ultimately, should be what teaching logical reasoning is really about.

Q: Can you give me an example?

A: Going back to “question everything,” the shorthand I use for my students is “be the asshole at the cocktail party.”

By that, I mean be the person that hears someone say something and says, “But, that’s not true because…” or “You can’t say that unless” or “That only matters if,” rather than sticking to the mindset of being accommodating or likeable.

I have had many students tell me that their close friends or loved ones find them harder to take after they have prepared with me. I must say these statements delight me to no end as not only are they evidence of progress, but they are evidence of practicing in different contexts. But, please, do be social in social situations! Just not in your analytical reasoning. And, yes, if you were wondering, some of my friends find me hard to take.

Q: That’s hilarious! I like how you’re teaching your students how LSAT strategies can apply to their everyday lives. Do you have a personal philosophy about how you work with students?

A: I try to unlock my students’ natural, already-present abilities. Too often with the LSAT (and frankly, any test or school subject), a student approaches the situation with the mindset of “this is a new, strange thing that is hard” and basically tries to learn from scratch rather than importing their own abilities to the new task.

One of the exercises that I try with my students is to create an argument that they might participate in wherein their “adversary” makes the same logical mistake as the passage that I am trying to explain. You’d be surprised how often they cannot see the mistake in the LSAT, but can almost instantaneously see the flaw when they are trying to “win” an argument!

Q: I’m digging your approach. Why should a student hire you over other tutors?

A: I meet the criteria that most of the elite tutoring services require (177 LSAT, 5 years experience, top law school, actual teaching ability), but I think I exceed most of those standards because I am naturally empathetic and have a gift for seeing how students’ minds work. I have an ability to read their attitudes and anticipate things that will motivate them, not to mention a sincere desire to help them.

This allows me to adapt my approach with a slightly or entirely different approach for each student. This is what a client should really be paying for in one-on-one tutoring. It should not just be a class with a class size of one.

Q: Thanks for giving us details about your experiences and approaches to working with clients. Now, down to brass tacks. How much do you charge?

A: I enjoy working with a diverse set of ages and like the thought of helping anyone that I can. My rates are $85/hour for LSAT tutoring, and $60/hour for SAT/ACT tutoring.

Q: If someone is interested in working with you, what should they do?

A: They can email me at or find me on Twitter: @lsathelp.

Thank you for taking the time to answer all my questions, Noah! It’s been great learning more about your tutoring approach and how you help students prep for the LSAT. Readers, if you want your own personal tutor to help you develop stronger analytical and  logical reasoning skills, and improve your LSAT score, check out Noah’s services.

Top Ten Mistakes That Law School Applicants Make: #1

LSAT-SuckerThis post continues our 10-part series of posts on the Top Ten Mistakes That Law School Applicants Make.

The #1 Top Ten Mistake That Law School Applicants Make every year is…

As most of you know, the LSAT is scored on a scale of 120 to 180. The average is about 150, but that will not help you get into most good law schools. A 160 is much better, but I think you should aim higher than that.

Much higher.

There is nothing stopping you from getting a 170 or higher on the LSAT.

Let me repeat that.

There is nothing stopping you from getting a 170 or higher on the LSAT.

It might take three months of prep.

Or six months.

Or 12 months.

It might even take you 24 months.

Why am I saying this crazy stuff?

Knowing how hard it can be to score a 170, why should you even shoot for this on the LSAT?

What if I told you that you’ll receive $150,000 if you get a 170 on the LSAT?

Would that change your mind?

Because that is what’s at stake here. We’re talking about major scholarship money.

So many law schools now charge $50,000 a year or more in tuition. With a 170 LSAT score, there are many quality schools that will offer you a full tuition scholarship for all three years. Believe me. I’ve seen it happen every year for the past 12 years.

You might say, “But, Peg, I don’t want to study for (fill-in-the-blank) months.”

And I’d say back to you, “Do you want to pay off your law school loans in 20 years? Or do you want to study for the LSAT for one year and have no debt when you graduate?”


Just like Blueprint’s lollipop says, the LSAT doesn’t have to suck.

It can be the tool you use to achieve excellent admittances and scholarships from quality law schools. It can also be the tool that will give you more freedom and happiness in your future legal career. JD graduates without debt are more able and apt to choose legal jobs that appeal to them the most rather than the ones that pay the most.

I have a lot of problems with the use of standardized tests for college and graduate school admissions, but as long as these tests are being used, I highly encourage you to USE THEM TO YOUR ADVANTAGE.

Getting a 170 on the LSAT is a high hoop to have to jump through but if doing so can make your future ten times less stressful by not having to think about thousands of dollars of debt upon graduation, you should train for the LSAT as if you’re training for the Olympics.

Here’s several LSAT prep companies that my students have used over the years. They offer various services and resources for different kinds of students and different ways of learning. Compare and contrast and see if one or more of them might be helpful to you.



7 Sage


Take the LSAT seriously, get help, and put in as much prep time as you need.

Don’t rush it.

Do your best to get the highest score you possibly can. You won’t regret it.

Photo Credit: Twin Group via Compfight cc

Top Ten Mistakes That Law School Applicants Make: #2

Leonardo-DiCaprioThis post continues our 10-part series of posts on the Top Ten Mistakes That Law School Applicants Make.

The #2 Top Ten Mistake That Law School Applicants Make every year is…

One of my favorite stories from a law school admissions officer was about how one of their most memorable letters of recommendation (LOR) came from Leonardo DiCaprio. The whole admissions office was excited to read that letter! But before we talk more about Leo, let’s talk about the nitty gritty of LORs.

In terms of who to ask for a LOR, which is better?

Academic LORs from professors and teaching assistants (TAs)? Or work LORs from supervisors?

It depends on your situation.

If you’re currently in college or graduate school, you should try to get two academic LORs from professors and/or TAs. Two professors or one professor and one TA is preferable.

If you’ve already graduated and have been out of school for 2-3 or more years, get work-related LORs from supervisors and work leads.

On a similar note, what’s more important to choosing your recommender? Asking someone who really knows you and your work, or asking someone with a high title?

In most cases, pick familiarity over status or prestige.

For example, perhaps you’re thinking of asking three people that teach in your major: an associate professor, the chair of the department, and a TA. Turns out the associate professor and the TA know you and your work better. In that case, it would be better to ask those two for LORs and to use those letters for most of your schools (most require two LORs). If you still want to ask the chair, you can, but just know that the LOR you receive might not be as detailed or personal as you hoped it would be.

Also, there’s nothing wrong or uncouth about asking to see a copy of the LOR after they turn it in. Some will even show you the letter before they turn it in to ask for your feedback. Your recommender might say no, but more often than not, they will say yes. It doesn’t hurt to ask, so you absolutely should.

Also, not to be confusing, but you should waive your right to see the letter when you fill out the form for LSAC. That is an “official” thing to indicate that once you apply to that law school, you won’t contact the school to try to see your LORs. However, what happens between you and your recommender is between you two.

So, I know you’re all wondering. What about that Leo letter?

Turns out an applicant to that law school had worked as an assistant for Leo, so the LOR was legit! But if the applicant hadn’t worked for Leo, this letter would have gone down in that law school’s history as the LOR penned by the most famous person that didn’t actually do any good.

So, word to the wise: unless the person knows you and your work well, do not ask that person, no matter how famous they are, for a letter of recommendation. Unless you actually worked closely with Leo, and he really knows your work performance and skills, better to stick with your supervisors, professors, and TAs.

Photo credit: Siebbi