Top Ten Mistakes That Law School Applicants Make: #8

bowling-balls

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

The #8 Top Ten Mistake That Law School Applicants Make every year is…
THEY DON’T APPLY TO A DIVERSE SET OF SCHOOLS.

Diversification can help you with so many things: with picking a more successful investment portfolio, with achieving a higher bowling score by bowling with a diverse set of balls (different weights and styles for picking up different pins)*, and with having more success in law school admissions.

When I say “diverse” for law school applications, I mean diversity in terms of the school’s entering class GPA and LSAT. Here’s the breakdown that I recommend.

  • 10% SAFETY SCHOOLS: your LSAT/GPA are at, or a little higher, than the schools’ 75th percentile
  • 50% SOLID SCHOOLS: your LSAT/GPA are at, or very near, the schools’ median
  • 40% STRETCH SCHOOLS: your LSAT/GPA are at the schools’ 25th percentile

Unless you’re extremely limited by location, I recommend that most people apply to 6-8 schools. So, for example, if you were to apply to eight schools, you’d choose one safety school, four solid schools, and three stretch schools.

What does 25th percentile, median, and 75th percentile mean?

The 25th percentile means that 25% of the students that entered that year had a GPA or LSAT that was at that point or lower.

The median is the GPA or LSAT score that’s right smack dab in the middle. It does not mean the mean or average GPA or LSAT score, just what’s in the middle.

The 75th percentile means that 25% of the students that entered that year had a GPA or LSAT that was at that point or higher.

What if I have a high GPA and low LSAT? Or a high LSAT and low GPA?

You’re what we call a “splitter.” Don’t worry. It’s more common than you think. If you’re in this situation, I recommend choosing schools based on your LSAT score. It’s not an exact science and it’s hard to know how each school will assess your numbers (some may value the GPA more than the LSAT and vice versa); thus, I recommend applying to 10-15 schools instead of 6-8. Also, choose two safety schools, rather than just one.

How do I find these stats?

To see a school’s stats for GPA and LSAT, go to each school’s website and/or visit the ABA Standard 509 Reports site. I use this site all the time. Pick the school you want, the year (select the most recent), and then click on “Generate Report.” You can then view or save a handy PDF report that lists the school’s 25th percentile, median, and 75th percentile for GPA and LSAT, as well as other helpful data for that entering class.

Law school admissions is partially objective and partially subjective. You don’t know all the people on each admissions committee and you don’t know who is going to react more favorably to your application. Don’t shut yourself out of having more viable choices by only applying to one or two schools or only applying to your very top schools.

Diversify your list and you’ll thank yourself later when you’re admitted to a good mix of schools, hopefully some with scholarships as well.

* My parents are big bowlers so I know more about the kinds of balls you’d use to hit a strike or pick up a spare than the average prelaw adviser.

Photo Credit: tom.leuzi via Compfight cc

The Predictably Irrational Way of Choosing Law Schools

price-is-rightSomething that I’ve learned over the last 12 years is that prelaw students are predictably irrational when it comes to choosing law schools.

Here are some of the reasons I’ve heard over the years.

I’m applying to Duke Law because I like their basketball team.

I’m applying to Pepperdine Law because I want to live by the beach.

I’ll never apply to USC Law because I’m a UCLA football fan.

{Sigh}

Why don’t they look at the employment stats for the school?

Why don’t they compare the bar passage rates?

Why don’t they evaluate the ROI (Return on Investment) of attending that school?

Why? Why? Why? I could keep asking rational questions until I run out of breath.

But you know what?

I’m going to stop. That’s right.

I’m no longer trying to get prelaw students to be rational and logical. Doesn’t matter that they are entering a profession where it really helps to be rational and logical. Sometimes, you have to just let people spin their proverbial wheel of fortune and let it land where it may.

Speaking of being rational, I like to think I need to be the “voice of reason” for my students. Thus, when I started this blog, I fully intended to review all the law schools that I’d visited over the years.

Month after month, I kept telling myself, review a law school. Just do it. You have a lot to say about each one. But, I resisted. I avoided it. I procrastinated.

After two years of writing this blog, I’ve only reviewed three schools: Georgetown, Penn, and Temple. Fact is, I don’t like them any more than other schools. Somehow, these three lucked out and received my attention very soon after I visited them. It puzzled me why I could not get myself to write more reviews.

So, I finally figured it out.

{Sigh}

I point the finger at my students for being predictably irrational when really…I am too.

The more I like the people at a law school, the more I like the school.

Doesn’t matter if the school is uglier than a World War II bunker, or has a U.S. News ranking that exceeds the average weight of a prelaw student, or God forbid, has rock-bottom employment stats, if I meet the admissions officers and/or students at a school and I really like them, then I really like the school.

Why?

Because I’m ruled by relationships. I’m also ruled by aesthetics, but really, relationships take top priority for me. So much so that when I heard one of my favorite admissions deans was leaving a Bay Area law school for a school in the Midwest, that California school automatically dropped like a rock in my mind, despite having visited it before and having really liked it.

I didn’t want to write those reviews because I knew I’d be overselling some law schools that probably didn’t deserve my vote of confidence (but the people that work there are so cool), and I’d be underselling some schools that treated me badly (hell hath no wrath like a prelaw adviser scorned) on a visit.

You could argue that doing this would be okay, but the ethical side of me says, no, it isn’t. My subconscious knew all along why I was procrastinating on writing those reviews, it just took my consciousness a while to catch up.

Yep. I’m just as predictably irrational as my students.

So, what’s the solution?

First, know that it’s okay to be predictably irrational. In fact, we all are to some degree.

Second, admit that you are. Acknowledge it. Take ownership of it.

Third, use your predictably irrational preferences to choose schools that most fit your preferences.

BE YOU. Don’t try to be someone else.

Pick the schools that are right for you, no matter how irrational or illogical other people (like your prelaw adviser) think you are. Do what’s right for you.

Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned over my lifetime it is this: your happiness is intrinsically tied to you being YOU.

At least that’s what this predictably irrational prelaw adviser thinks.

Photo by CBS.

An Introduction to How I Compare, a FREE Service for Prelaw Students

How I Compare logoRecently, I had the opportunity to chat with Hayden Trepeck, Co-Founder of How I Compare, to learn more about his free service that helps prelaw students choose law schools. Hayden did an online demo of the service for me and it looked like something many of you would find helpful. Here’s what I found out.

Q: What exactly is How I Compare?

A: How I Compare (HIC) is a FREE online resource and community for students interested in going to law school.

Q: Why should I use it?

A: Our motto is “Discover Which Law Schools are in Your Future!

We are a one-stop resource helping pre-law students with the admissions process to law school. Our site has a Real Time algorithm that generates a unique list of law schools where students have a high likelihood of being accepted (called your H.I.C. List).

All 200+ U.S. law schools have a unique profile on howicompare.com where you can view detailed research and information about the school, see who is receiving scholarship opportunities, and compare yourself to other students (including students who are interested in, accepted to, rejected from, or waitlisted at a particular law school).

Also, using your unique How I Compare profile, you can keep track of each application to be sure you are keeping up with everything for the admissions process.

We also have a 100% FREE LSAT Prep Course available in partnership with Casebriefs. After you complete your profile, click the “Law School Prep” tab on the menu bar and select “LSAT Prep Course.” One of the nation’s top LSAT test-takers teaches the course, and he is an expert in LSAT Prep. The course is made up of 72 online video lectures and comes with a PDF workbook.

Q: How does your system calculate my chances of getting into a law school?

A: Our proprietary algorithm is based on each individual student’s academic and personal profile. As you update your profile, and as other students on the site update their profile, your list of schools will continue to update.

Q: What information do I need to give to get started?

A: Just visit howicompare.com and create your free account on the homepage. The registration form asks you for your Name, Email, Username, and Password, as well as your Undergraduate School, LSAT Score, and GPA.

If you have not yet taken the LSAT, you can use a practice LSAT Score or just input one to get started. You can also adjust your LSAT and/or GPA up or down to get an idea of what schools you may be accepted to based on your changes.

NOTE: It is important to fully complete your profile.

It takes most students only 3-5 minutes to do this. A complete profile ensures that the site is working to the best of its ability for your ultimate benefit. Remember, law schools look for a wide range of students. Completing your profile in full, and being completely truthful in your answers, is essential for schools to be able to identify candidates for admission and/or scholarships.

Q: Who is my personal information shared with?

A: Your Name, Email, and personal contact information will never be shared with any other student on the site. Every profile on the site uses a unique username, and your username is how you are identified on the site.

We have relationships with many law schools across the country and they do have the ability to view your profile. This is a tremendous benefit as students have the ability to learn about admissions and scholarship opportunities from schools they may not have considered or known about before.

Q: If How I Compare is FREE for me to use, how do you actually make money?

A: We have relationships with law schools across the country that advertise their programs on our site and offer How I Compare members unique opportunities, program information, admissions, scholarships, and more.

Thank you, Hayden, for taking the time to share with us the benefits of How I Compare. If you have any questions, please use the “Contact Us” form on howicompare.com to reach out to Hayden and his team. Good luck, everyone, with choosing your schools!

You Have Your LSAT Score–Now What?

agendaYou just received your LSAT score.

If you did well, congrats!

If you didn’t do so well, I’m sorry.

If you’re ready to use your score, it’s time to finalize your list of schools. It’s good to know from the get-go which schools you’re applying to so you can familiarize yourself with each school’s application, requirements and essay prompts.

To help you create and refine your list, I recommend reading Choosing Law Schools and Choosing a Law School Using ABA Data & Stats.

If you’re disappointed in your LSAT score, there are several options available to you. You can take the December test if you can commit the time and energy to prep hard for the next seven weeks. Not enough time or don’t have the energy? Consider spreading out your prep over the next seven months and taking it in June. You can spend less time on it per week and instead of prepping intensively, take your time to slowly absorb and master the test.

Taking it in June means that you won’t be applying to law school this year. That’s okay. Really. I meet so many applicants who believe that they have to apply to law school this year or else their life will end…or suck…or both. That is so not true!

Taking the time to get a good LSAT score, one that truly represents your potential for law school, will help you in the long run. A great LSAT score can help you get into your dream schools and it can also help you get scholarships. That means less or no debt and more choice when it comes to your future career (when you don’t have loans looming over you, you have the freedom to pursue the jobs that are right for you, rather than the ones that will pay the most bills). Isn’t that worth another 6-7 months of prep?

You have your whole life ahead of you to be a lawyer. Practice patience. Make smart decisions. Take the time to make sure you get into the law school that is right for you.

Have questions about choosing schools? Wondering if you should take the LSAT again? I’m here to help! Post your questions below and I’ll respond.

Photo by Charles Rondeau.

Make the Most of a Law Fair or Law Forum

business-people-B&WLaw fairs and forums are great opportunities to talk to admissions deans, directors and recruiters for various law schools. These people are the gatekeepers for their respective law schools so treat them with courtesy and respect.

Follow these step-by-step tips and you’ll learn valuable information about each of your prospective law schools at the fair, while also making a great impression on the admissions reps.

ONE WEEK BEFORE THE EVENT

  1. Check the law fair’s web site to see which schools will be at the fair and make a list of the schools you’re thinking of applying to. I recommend a diverse list of 10 schools: 2 safeties, 5-6 targets and 2-3 dreams.
  2. Get a 8.5”x11” notepad or a spiral notebook. Write the name of one school at the top of each page. Write down 2-3 questions that you want to ask each school. You usually don’t have time for more than a few questions. Leave enough space in-between each question so you have room to jot down answers.
  • DO NOT ask questions that are already answered on the law school’s web site.
  • DO NOT ask what their median LSAT and GPA are, whether they give out application fee waivers, or what kinds of classes they offer. All of these should be posted on the school’s site.
  • DO ask questions that are open-ended.
  • DO ask questions about things you researched on their site but you still aren’t clear about.

Some ideas for questions to ask:

  1. How would you describe the student culture at your school?
  2. What does your school have in place to foster collegiality between students?
  3. How does the dean communicate or meet with students? How often?
  4. What programs or services does your career center have in place to help your graduates gain an edge in the job market?
  5. What program or services does your school have to support students who are (fill-in-the-blank)…?
  6. (If the law school is located in a different city or state than where you live) What do you like most about (city)? What do you like least about (city)?

The following question can be helpful to ask if you are a “splitter”: low GPA/high LSAT or high GPA/low LSAT.

I’m majoring in _________. My GPA is ____ and my LSAT score is ____. I know you can’t tell me if I’ll get in or not but I wanted to get your advice on my situation. What do you think? Any tips?

THE DAY BEFORE THE EVENT

  1. Pick out your favorite business casual outfit and shoes.
  2. Iron your clothes. Polish your shoes. Wear nice but comfortable shoes—avoid brand-new shoes.
  3. Pack a nice-looking tote bag, large purse or messenger bag. You will want an easy-access bag to carry all your brochures and free pens. Pack your bag with your notepad with questions, a bottle of water, breath mints, phone, wallet, keys and two pens.

THE MORNING OF THE EVENT

  1. Eat breakfast and brush your teeth after. Don’t drink coffee or smoke after you brush.
  2. Leave early. Remember your tote bag! Give yourself plenty of time for arriving, parking and walking to the event. I recommend arriving about 10 minutes before the fair opens.

DURING THE EVENT

  1. Check-in at the front desk and get a map of the fair/forum. Start with your safety schools first.
  2. SMILE, shake hands with the rep, and introduce yourself. “Hi, I’m Peg. Nice to meet you.”
  3. As an ice breaker, the rep will likely ask you what you’re majoring in and what year you are in school. While you’re conversing, avoid taking too many notes. Stay in the present, engage, listen, and make eye contact.
  4. I recommend only asking your top two questions if there are people in line behind you. If no one’s in line, then feel free to ask more questions.
  5. Write down the rep’s name or get his or her business card.
  6. At the end of your conversation, shake hands, SMILE again, and thank the rep. “Thank you–you were very helpful. It was nice meeting you.”
  7. After you’re finished conversing, step away from the table. Find a spot away from the crowd and quickly jot down anything that’s memorable on your pad. Do it NOW while your thoughts are still fresh. Take time to do this! You will be glad you did.

AFTER THE EVENT

  1. Within 24 hours, send an email to each of the reps that you met. Let him or her know that you enjoyed meeting him or her. State briefly what you appreciated learning from him or her. If you have any other questions, include them in your email. If you are going to apply to this school, let the rep know that.
  2. Revise your list of schools. It’s normal to change your mind about some schools after attending a law fair or forum. Sometimes schools you didn’t consider very seriously end up being a top pick and a dream school ends up turning you off. Feel free to revise and adjust your list of schools—it’s all part of the process.

Want all of these tips in a printable check list? Click here.

Have you been to a law fair or forum? What did you think of the experience? Have questions about an upcoming fair or forum? I’d love to hear from you! I’m here to help. Post your questions below and I’ll respond.

Business people by Karen Arnold.