24 MAR / 2015 0

I’ve Been Waitlisted – Now What?

The following article is a guest post from Christina Taber-Kewane, Director, Law Admissions at Admit.me, a new social network for law school applicants.

Enter Christina . . .

There may be nothing more aggravating for a hopeful law applicant than a letter informing her that she has been put on the wait list for her dream school. At least a rejection letter closes the door, but a wait list letter seems to leave the door open indefinitely, or at least until August. But don’t despair! Many an applicant has successfully launched off of the wait list and into the classroom. And you can too! Here are our tried-and-true tips for shaking off the wait list shackles:

1) Read Your Wait List Letter Carefully

We know you really just want to throw it in the incinerator, but your wait list letter often gives clear instructions for what to do next, so after you punch a pillow a few times, read the letter again and put it in your wait list file (yes, you should create a wait list file just as you created application files for your applications).

law school wait list

Photo by Stuart Miles

Some schools strictly inform applicants not to contact them for any reason. If that is the case, then you must follow the instructions. Admissions committees are drowning in paper by this time in the admissions cycle, so if they say they don’t want anything else from you, then they mean it. That applies even if you have a new LSAT score, better grades second semester of senior year, or have won the Nobel Prize for Peace (don’t worry, if that happens, they’ll hear about it anyway). Don’t pester.

But more commonly, schools either give a vague “Update us with any relevant information” or they request a specific action, such as sending a one-time letter of continued interest (“LOCI”) or asking you to indicate your continued interest every month. When given the opportunity to write a LOCI, then do! Be clear, be persuasive, and, most of all, do it! And if this school is your first choice and you would DEFINITELY accept an offer, then say that. But don’t say that to more than one school. No one likes to be stood up for the prom, and admissions committees like it even less if you say you will come and then you don’t.

If a school offers you an even broader opening, then take it, but use sound judgment in determining what additional information to send. More on that below:

2) Do Everything You Can to Get Off the Wait List, But Don’t Be a Pest

For schools that allow you to contact them, take advantage of the opportunity, but be careful not to become a chore for the admissions committee. How do you know when you’ve gone too far? Think about it this way: an admissions officer uses the wait list to bring on applicants when the school has a spot to fill. Clearly, some applicants are more attractive than others, but the differences among applicants are often marginal at this point. What an officer wants to know is that, if he offers you a spot in the class, you will take it and show up.

law school waitlist

Photo by KROMKRATHOG

So, your goal is to demonstrate great interest without becoming a problem for the office. Here is when and how to contact the office after you have sent the LOCI:

-Schedule a visit to the law school if you can (but don’t demand an interview) and request a tour. Stop by to say hi to the admissions office. Cheerfully indicate how interested you are in attending the school.

-As stated above, if you would accept an offer from the school, let them know in no uncertain terms that this is the case. And then when you get the offer, accept it right away.

-Update your file with positive information, including second semester grades, a significant job promotion, a higher LSAT score, or a glowing letter of recommendation.

-Review your application carefully and identify any weaknesses you can mitigate and then address them (see point above).

-If your problem is your LSAT score, and if you can put in serious study time before June, then take the LSAT again. But don’t do this without preparation, because a lower score will create a bigger hindrance than before.

-Don’t let your grades slip – no senioritis allowed for law school applicants!

-Keep expressing interest all the way through the end of the summer with at least monthly communications to the law school in the spring and weekly towards the end of the summer.

-Don’t try gimmicks- we told you not to employ them on your applications, and the same applies here. If you think sending a video Valentine to the admissions office is a fun way to get their attention, then think again.

-Finally, if you don’t plan to accept an offer, then take yourself off of the wait list and make it a happy day for some other lucky applicant.

3) Be Patient and Stay Positive!

Those wait lists start moving in earnest once the seat deposits are in and continue to make room even up to the first day of classes. We know an applicant who was driving across the country to attend school on the east coast. When he got a call letting him in off of the wait list, he just drove north right to his first choice school in New York City.

Christina Taber-Kewene is Director, Law Admissions at www.Admit.me, a new social network for law school applicants.

11 MAR / 2015 0

5 LSAT Logic Lessons I Learned From Spock

Topics: LSAT Tips

As many people are aware, Leonard Nimoy, who starred as Spock on Star Trek, passed away late last month. Nimoy’s famous character earned a large following as the ever-logical human/alien character. The pointy-eared Spock was a cerebral, composed, brainy, and often infuriating character, but his human side helped him develop a long-lasting friendship with the Enterprise’s captain, James T. Kirk. As he explained so poignantly to his younger self in the 2009 Star Trek reboot, “Because you needed each other. I could not deprive you of the revelation of all that you could accomplish together, of a friendship that will define you both in ways you cannot yet realize.”

Life not only imitates art, but art can also teach us a few things. In this case, Spock can teach us a lot about the LSAT. During his many years onboard the Enterprise, Spock uttered many lines of often incomprehensible logic. The stuff that drove Kirk and McCoy crazy.

That logic, however, contained many lessons that you can apply in your LSAT preparation. Here are five LSAT logic lessons that you never knew Spock imparted as a Starfleet officer:

5 LSAT Logic Lessons I Learned From Spock

LSAT Logic

Photo by CBS

1) “Insufficient facts always invite danger.”

-Star Trek: The Original Series, “Space Seed”

One of the greatest episodes from The Original Series (which eventually set up the best movie involving the original crew, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan) also provided one of the more helpful LSAT lessons you could ever take away from Mr. Spock.

In any situation – whether as an LSAT student, a lawyer, or just a casual observer in human existence – not having all the facts in front of you can compromise decisions you make. You should always strive to have as many facts as possible about the issue or problem you are addressing before rendering a decision.

On the LSAT, a single missing fact – such as a missing assumption – can lead you astray. You should be able to recognize when an argument on the LSAT is missing a critical fact. If/when it does, you should identify that flaw and answer the question accordingly. That flaw is one of the most common logical flaws tested on the LSAT. If an argument makes an inferential leap (based on an assumption that isn’t stated), you need to understand how that occurred and identify the fact or assumption that is missing. This skill will ensure that you correctly answer a healthy number of questions on the LSAT.

2) “Once you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

-Star Trek (2009)

-Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

The 2009 movie reboot reached into the archives and pulled out one of the more revealing lines from Star Trek VI. Spock utters the same line in crucial scenes in both movies, and, in doing so, he provides a carefully-crafted, eternally-beneficial LSAT logic lesson and life lesson.  

LSAT Spock

Photo by CBS

One of most important things NOT to do on the LSAT is speculate about facts or assumptions that are not included in the question. You should, instead, ignore outside knowledge about a given topic.

This issue usually rears its ugly head in LSAT Reading Comprehension. Once in a while, you might come across a reading passage that covers a topic with which you are familiar. If this occurs, you might be tempted to inject your own knowledge about the topic into your understanding of the passage. This is dangerous because the information in the passage might be inconsistent with your understanding of the topic. In LSAT Reading Comprehension, questions are always based on information that is presented to you in the passage. Thus, if you answer a question based on your knowledge, and that knowledge is not consistent with the passage, you might answer it incorrectly.

On the LSAT, you must ignore outside knowledge, or – as Spock might advise – eliminate the impossible. Once you do that, what remains (whether in an LSAT Reading Comprehension passage or a Logical Reasoning question) are the facts on which you need to focus. It doesn’t matter how “improbable” that information might be. It’s what you have to work with. Do not deviate from it.

3) “Has it occurred to you that there is a certain inefficiency in constantly questioning me on things you’ve already made up your mind about?”

-Star Trek: The Original Series, “The Corbomite Maneuver”

Spock knew a thing or two about not wasting time on decision-making. Once a decision is made, Spock believed it was inefficient to continue to dwell on it, whether in a conversation with someone else or in your own internal deliberations.

The LSAT is a lot like life: Once you have determined the correct answer, it is inefficient to question it or deliberate over it further. Mark it, and move on. You have very little time – precious minutes – per question. Once you find the correct answer, spend no further time on that question, and proceed to the next one.

4) “Logic is the beginning of wisdom . . . not the end.”

-Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

Some students preparing for the LSAT might think that the logic they learn for the LSAT won’t be useful when practicing as an attorney. As we’ve written before, this is a myth – and a common excuse students raise when studying for the LSAT. The logical principles you learn and apply on the LSAT all have value in the legal field.

LSAT Lessons

Photo by CBS

As Spock might say, it is just the “beginning” of a journey, not a one-stop experience. Learning and applying logic on the LSAT will establish an effective foundation for your law school experience and eventual transition into practicing law.

5) “Superior ability breeds superior ambition.”

-Star Trek: The Original Series, “Space Seed”

Another great quote from the Space Seed episode emphasizes that ambition and goals are often directly tied to one’s ability. If you do not have or do not believe you have the ability to accomplish great things, you will not strive for lofty goals. In contrast, if you have or are able to develop the ability to accomplish great things, you will raise your goals.

The same principle applies on the LSAT. When you first take a practice exam, your lack of preparation may lead you to think that you cannot get a good score on the LSAT. With time, however, you will improve your ability. Learning the logic, for one, will expand your ability to perform well on the LSAT. Once you begin understanding the LSAT’s logical principles, you should not hesitate to begin raising the bar – and your expectations – for a better score. The more improved your ability, the higher your ambition should be.

Spock would agree.

2 MAR / 2015 0

6 Reasons You Should STILL Take the LSAT – Even if Some Law Schools Are Dropping It

It was bound to happen: Last month, two law schools – the State University of New York-Buffalo Law School and the University of Iowa College of Law – announced they would admit students without requiring an LSAT score; instead, they stated they would admit students based on their undergraduate grade point average and scores on standardized tests other than the LSAT.

Not surprisingly, many pre-law students erupted in euphoria. The LSAT understandably causes a lot of pain for students. The thought that these two law schools were just the beginning of a “snowball” trend of schools dropping the LSAT requirement led many to begin speculating they could forego the exam altogether.

Students should not be so quick, however, to jump on that bandwagon. As Mark Twain once said, “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”

Even if a few more law schools drop the LSAT as a requirement for admission, students should still prepare for and take the exam.

Admittedly, it might be difficult to take our word for it. After all, we are an LSAT prep course, and our business is premised on the existence of – and requirement to take – the LSAT. Nevertheless, here are 6 compelling reasons (that have nothing to do with the preservation of any LSAT prep course) for why students should take the exam despite this new developing trend.

1) The LSAT Can Help You Determine if You Will Perform Well in Law School

Pursing a legal career is a decision that shapes your future and locks you into a certain path – at least for some time. Like any career decision, you should not pursue a specific career if either you don’t like the area or are not good at it. Most people would agree with that advice. For example, if you failed that biology exam or just don’t like the subject, perhaps a medical career isn’t your cup of tea.

take the lsat

Photo by ddpavumba

The same principle should apply with a legal career. The Law School Admission Council (the company that writes the LSAT) has released data demonstrating that LSAT scores are a good indicator of how students will perform their first year of law school and on the bar exam. Therefore, the LSAT can help you decide if a legal career is right for you. If you understand the logic on the exam and get a good LSAT score, you will likely perform well in law school and beyond. If you don’t do well on the LSAT and can’t grasp the logic, then perhaps you need to reconsider a legal career.

That isn’t meant to be harsh; the legal world is competitive, and you should ensure you have some chance of success before jumping in. The LSAT – while (still) being an important requirement for admission to law school – represents a valuable tool for understanding whether you will perform well in law school and in areas that you will use when practicing law. It costs just $170 to take the LSAT (compared with the $150,000+ it will cost you to go to law school). Even if you hate the exam or might not need it for a few law schools, you should embrace it – and take it – for this purpose.

2) Don’t Base a Personal Decision on a Law School’s Business Decision

James Gardner, the dean of SUNY Buffalo’s law school, hinted that the decision to drop his school’s LSAT requirement was designed to allow the school to increase its enrollment. First-year enrollments have declined by approximately 20% since 2011 at SUNY Buffalo. Like any business, SUNY Buffalo and the University of Iowa College of Law must take steps to maintain or increase revenue. The principal way to achieve that goal is to increase enrollment. Dropping the LSAT, as described by Gardner, “address[es] that problem to the extent that [it] remove[s] what is, for some students, an obstacle for applying to law school.” In other words, these law schools’ decisions are business decisions bred from a desire for self-preservation.

While there is nothing wrong with that, students should not follow suit and dispense with taking the LSAT. Law school folks want you to enroll in law school not because they think you will be a good lawyer, but because they want you to pay them tuition. They may not be as concerned about you and your career as they might be with getting you in the door.

taking the lsat

Photo by Stuart Miles

Attending law school, and becoming a lawyer, is a deeply personal decision. As demonstrated above, the LSAT can help you determine if law school is right for you. Accordingly, simply because two law schools (and perhaps others) are removing a significant barrier of entry should not mean students should decide on a law career without taking the LSAT. Instead, use the LSAT as a tool to make the best personal decision for yourself.

3) The LSAT Can Help You Get Into a Better Law School

This year, the University of Iowa and SUNY Buffalo were ranked #27 and #100, respectively. Nothing against either school, but, if you aspire to being admitted to a top-10 or top-20 law school (or just one of 99 law schools that were ranked higher than SUNY Buffalo), you need to take the LSAT because these other schools (with few exceptions) require the LSAT for admission and consideration.

law school admissions

Photo by Stuart Miles

Some students might counter (or rationalize) by arguing, “Well, I’ve always wanted to go to [School X That Doesn’t Require the LSAT].” Our answer to that: Why would you place a ceiling on your career prospects? If you take the LSAT and get a good score, you automatically broaden your opportunities because you will have the ability to get admitted to a very good law school and increase your chances of landing a great job upon graduation. Sure, you can always go ahead and attend School X, but at least now you know that you can do better (if you want to). There is tremendous upside in taking the LSAT.

4) The LSAT Can Help You Get Into Other Law Schools

Have you ever been to Buffalo? What about Iowa? If you are from the northeast, were you dreaming of heading towards some warmer weather for law school?

Even if a few more law schools drop the LSAT, foregoing the exam severely limits your options only to those schools that have dispensed with the exam as an admissions requirement.

take the lsat

Photo by nuttakit

Later in your career, you will learn that having options is never a bad thing. Options give you choices. Choices, in turn, give you the freedom to pave your own destiny. Therefore, although a few law schools do not require the LSAT, you should never limit yourself just to those schools. Create options for yourself. You may be happy you did. In some cases, you may even need them.

5) You Can Still Get Admitted to Law School with a Bad LSAT Score

Photo by ambro

Photo by ambro

Thankfully, if you take our advice and take the LSAT but get a bad score, the world is not over. As Elie Mystal recently wrote on Above the Law, law school is ALREADY the easiest professional school to get into.” Indeed, there are many law schools that accept average and below-average LSAT scores, especially if you have a reasonably good GPA. So if your life’s dream is to be a lawyer (despite the bad LSAT score), you will still have options for law school. Further, if you really stink up the place and bomb the exam, you will – as we all know – have options at schools that don’t require the LSAT for admission. Thus, there is nothing to lose by taking the LSAT.

6) The Trend Towards Dropping the LSAT May Reverse

Just like dropping the LSAT may signal a business decision by law schools to increase enrollment, the opposite may hold true when the economy inevitably rebounds, and law school admission numbers ultimately increase. Trends are cyclical. If and when this occurs, law schools may need to control their enrollment and re-introduce barriers (such as the LSAT) that some of them are now removing. Thus, you should not assume this trend is permanent, or that it may not reverse.

—————

The LSAT may send many students running for the hills. Although a new trend may be forming among law schools who are dropping the LSAT as an admissions requirement, students should continue to take the LSAT. Taking the exam provides a huge upside and little, if any, downside. If you perform well on the exam, you have a great indication that you will likewise perform well in law school, and you will have the credentials to get admitted to a top law school. On the other hand, if you do not perform well on the LSAT, you can still get into law school or try your chances (and rely on your GPA) at a law school that doesn’t require an LSAT score.

18 FEB / 2015 0

Law School Application Timeline – How to Prepare for Law School During Your First Years in College: Grades, Extra-curriculars, and More

The following article is a guest post from Christina Taber-Kewene, Director, Law Admissions at Admit.me and the admissions consulting company, Admit Advantage

Enter Christina . . .

We often talk to young undergrads who want to know our secret formula for success – should they join 15 clubs in college?  Major in Philosophy to demonstrate logical thinking and writing skills?  Take that prestigious internship on Capitol Hill?  Study abroad to learn a second language?  The right response to all these questions is: What do you want to do?

Study

Because law schools, unlike medical schools, don’t require any specific undergraduate courses to qualify for entrance, you have a lot of leeway in your undergraduate studies.  Many students think they need to major in Political Science, Philosophy, or other supposedly law-related areas, and they are wrong.  Feel free to major, double major, major and two minors (we know how those interests vary) in whatever you are most interested.

Photo by imagerymajestic

Photo by imagerymajestic

The one caveat is that grades do matter for admission.  So be careful to challenge yourself while still remaining sensitive to your overall GPA.  Should you take “fluff” classes to boost your GPA?  Absolutely not.  But don’t be completely haphazard in your course selections.  Bombing Organic Chemistry three times just because you (the English major) wanted to see if you could figure it out for fun will do you no favors.

The exception to this advice is for those students who plan to specialize in certain areas as lawyers.  Patent lawyers, for example, also possess at least an undergraduate degree in a relevant scientific field, if not a graduate degree, and study to join the patent bar. 

And, of course, many others come to law having already practiced in a different field or obtained advanced degrees in another area, and this influences their choices as a lawyer.  A JD/MD typically will have a very different path from a JD who majored in Cultural Anthropology.

Finally, remember to begin cultivating relationships with professors now.  You will need two academic recommendations for your law school applications, and having a strong relationship with several professors beginning in your first years will be a great boon when it comes time to apply.

Extracurriculars

Build a life that matters to you outside the classroom.  If you are the type of person who enjoys playing in the school orchestra, running for student government, playing lacrosse, AND trying out for the spring drama production, then go for it!  But if you are a serious musician focused on honing your musical craft to the exclusion of other activities, then that is just as useful.  What schools care about is that you commit yourself to your activities and grow in them.

Photo by Stuart Miles

Photo by Stuart Miles

Leadership – that much-sought-after attribute on school applications– can mean many things in this context. You can show that you rose through the ranks of student government over the course of four years, or that, after barely making the women’s rugby team as a freshman, you emerged as co-captain your senior year despite a lack of innate physical prowess.  Just remember that schools see right through resume padding, so do what you like, but go deep more than you go broad.

Work

You want to show a law school admissions committee that you have a strong work ethic and have challenged yourself throughout your college years.  This can look very different for different people. 

One student may have supported herself through school with two part-time jobs during the academic year and more than full-time work during the breaks.  Another student may have taken on no paid work but have garnered prestigious internships in the breaks.  Both candidates are attractive for different reasons to schools. 

So if you have the economic means to take on those interesting unpaid internships, then do it!  But if you don’t, work hard, earn the money you need, and know that this too is very attractive to schools.  Whatever you do, don’t sit idle.  If you can’t find an internship or opportunity you want, then create one.

Photo by Stuart Miles

Photo by Stuart Miles

A word on paralegal work, which many students seek out before applying to law school.  This can be very good experience for deciding whether you want to be a lawyer.  But lots (and lots!) of applicants come to law school with this background.  It will not provide you with a better chance for admission in and of itself.  Again, take on this work because it is the experience you want, not because it is going to be an advantage in law school admissions.

Conclusion

In sum, the classes you take and experiences you gain in college matter a lot for your personal development.  Always choose substance over form and pursue what interests you most.  Your passion and engagement will shine through to an admissions committee.  Grades matter, scores matter, but your overall package matters most of all.  And if you are serious about applying to law school, seek out activities and work that will give you a sense for what working as a lawyer is like.  As you get further into your college career, you will seek out the pre-law advisor at your school and start preparing for the LSAT.  But in your first years, focus on figuring out who you are and who you want to be.

Christina Taber-Kewene is Director, Law Admissions at Admit.me and the admissions consulting company, Admit Advantage. Create a free profile on Admit.me to connect with other applicants and get a free evaluation of your law school application.

27 JAN / 2015 0

4 Reasons Speed Reading Won’t Help on LSAT Reading Comprehension

We’ve encountered students who have wondered whether speed reading, or in general learning to read faster, will help them perform better on the LSAT Reading Comprehension section.  This question often comes from foreign students who have difficulty with English: they generally wonder if their difficulties on LSAT Reading Comprehension stem from their inability to read the language faster.

LSAT Reading Comprehension

Speed reading or just reading faster, however, will not help you on LSAT Reading Comprehension.  Here are four reasons for this inescapable truth:

4 Reasons Speed Reading Won’t Help on LSAT Reading Comprehension

1) Speed reading is more like skimming

Chances are you weren’t a speed reader before you started preparing for the LSAT.  If you began learning how to speed read as a matter of coincidence, or for the specific purpose of reading LSAT Reading Comprehension passages, you will still be a beginner.  Assuming you’re a rookie, speed reading will likely become more like skimming when you apply it on the LSAT.  This is especially true in a pressure-packed situation such as LSAT test day. 

If you are skimming LSAT Reading Comprehension passages, you are bound to miss important details.  For example, try speed reading these publications, and see if you can grasp important facts contained in them.  Missing these details will either force you to spend too much time on a given question (as you dive back into the passage to find the information you need), or cause you to answer one or more questions incorrectly (because you missed an important detail or fact).

2) You will not comprehend important aspects of an LSAT Reading Comprehension passage

There are crucial items of information in LSAT Reading Comprehension passages that you not only need to locate, but comprehend as well.  If you are skimming a passage, however, you will miss this critical information altogether, let alone comprehend it.

LSAT Reading Comprehension

For example, one crucial item in any LSAT Reading Comprehension passage is the main idea.  Almost every set of questions that corresponds to a passage will include a question asking you to identify the author’s main idea.  This information can usually be found in a sentence or two in the passage where the author chimes in and provides his or her own opinion about the content of the passage.  This is information you should recognize and underline as you are reading the passage.

If you are skimming a passage, however, you will miss this critical piece of information.  Recognizing and comprehending when an author offers commentary, whether that commentary is or relates to the main idea of the passage, and how that information relates to the rest of the passage requires that you read the text at a normal rate of speed.  Speed reading (or what it may become: skimming) will short-change this process.

3) It will prevent you from setting up guideposts in the passage

The key to doing well on LSAT Reading Comprehension is not to speed read at all.  Rather, you need to read the passage carefully and set up guideposts or markers along the way. 

The questions will usually focus on one or more important pieces of information.  These items include, among other things, the main idea (see above), important people, important concepts, and groups or people with opinions.  Other sections of the passage will prompt you or prepare you for important pieces of important, such as time frames, specific clauses (like “but,” “because,” “as a result,” etc.), and opinion-related words (like “argue,” “propose,” “support,” etc.). 

As you read a passage, you must underline the pieces of information above.  Then, when you answer questions, you can refer back to the passage as necessary and use the underlined information as guideposts to find the information you need.

Speed reading makes it impossible to apply this methodical approach.  Although the urge to read fast will be overpowering, the more effective (and counter-intuitive) method for doing well on LSAT Reading Comprehension is to read carefully and set up these markers or guideposts for your benefit when you answer the questions.  (You should also follow these general LSAT Reading Comprehension tips.)

4) You will sound like a pretentious jerk

If you go around claiming you can speed read, and you can burn through an LSAT Reading Comprehension passage in half a minute, you won’t make any friends.  Rather, you will just seem smarter and only might be more interesting.  And you’ll also sound like an irritating, pretentious jerk. 

This is a general rule you should follow regarding any skill or accomplishment: Don’t brag about it.  Especially when it comes to an exam like the LSAT, where things aren’t always what they seem.  Even if you can speed read a passage and comprehend it and answer 6-7 questions about it correctly, no one wants to know that because it reminds them of the shortcomings they may be experiencing with this exam. 

Keep your successes to yourself.  People will like you more.

Or you can just ditch the speed-reading (or reserve it for some other non-LSAT related reading activity), and approach LSAT Reading Comprehension the way we recommend.

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