Law School Admissions

When is delaying your application to law school a good idea?

Today I received an email from one of my higher-scoring students in my San Francisco class and she has a very valid question on delaying her application to law school. She has just received a job offer from a company in her industry that she'd love to work for, but taking the job means less time to study and possibly not being ready to take the November LSAT.

Are you making this major mistake on your personal statement?

On this week's episode of the Thinking LSAT podcast we reviewed one of the worst personal statements I've ever read. It's a real shame because it was from an amazing student who would be a great candidate.

So this week I want to ask you if you're making these major mistakes on your personal statement too?

Don't Let Your Ego Pay for Law School

Law schools will use your own ego against you when selling you a ridiculously overpriced piece of paper. Trust me: I’ve got an ego bigger than anybody’s, and it’s the main reason why I paid $150,000 unnecessarily for my own worthless J.D. Here, I’ll embarrass myself by sharing my own ego-driven blunder.

Million dollar LSAT prep

Some things just need to speak for themselves:

Hey Nathan!

I wanted to write you a quick update on how my admissions cycle ended up and get your feedback on my current options.

I applied to 19 schools (b/c they were free, so why not...) and received a total of $1,070,628.00 in scholarship offers from 10 schools. I'm pretty sure I got those offers based on my 174 LSAT score so thanks "a million" for the help and guidance - I really doubt I could have been as successful with you!

Why you should take the June/July LSATs instead of waiting for September

Why you should take the June/July LSATs instead of waiting for September

Every spring, I start hearing from the next year's crop of premium law school applicants—those very prepared, very lawyerly types who plan to apply early in the 2018-2019 application cycle. That's a very smart plan, because early applications (before Halloween of each cycle) give students the best chance of admissions and scholarships. Frequently, these hard-chargers want to prep for the entire spring and summer before taking the September LSAT. While it's true that the September test would allow for pre-Halloween applications, I think it's a mistake to wait that long. Here's why:

When Should I Take the LSAT?

Most people should start studying for the LSAT as soon as possible. A slightly different–but no less common–question is “When should I take the test?” That's a much tougher question. I can't really answer it offhand, but I can definitely give you some factors to consider.

1. The LSAT is only offered four times per year (February, June, late September or early October, and December).

2. It takes three weeks to get your score back.

3. Law schools start accepting applications for next year in fall of THIS year. As soon as they start accepting applications, they start admitting students and giving away all their scholarship money. This is known as “rolling admissions.”

4. Because law schools use rolling admissions, it's in your best interest to have your applications ready to go at the beginning of the admissions cycle. If you wait until late in the cycle, there will be many less seats available, and little to no scholarship money. I know you don't want to hear this, but this means many students are better served by waiting an extra year before starting law school.

Think about this: Would you rather start now and pay full price at a shitty school? Or would you rather wait a year and go to a better school and/or on a scholarship? The choice is yours.

5. The LSAT preparation process can take as little as a month for some lucky students, but averages more like three months for most students, and can commonly take as much as six months to a year. You'll only really know that you are personally ready to take the test after you've taken a ton of practice tests, gotten some professional help, and seen your scores improve, then level off.

Everybody eventually reaches a plateau. When you're at that plateau, if you're not going to do something different with your preparation to break out to a new plateau (like a different teacher, different books, etc.) then it's probably time to take the LSAT.

6. Many (or most) schools only count your highest LSAT score, which means that taking the test more than once might be advantageous. (Please take that link with a huge grain of salt, and call the admissions offices if you want the latest and most reliable information.) You should schedule one real test date and one backup date, in case you don't have your best day the first time out. (If you score way worse than your practice test average, then you should definitely take it again.)

Bottom line: When you add all that up, most students who are just starting out should probably go ahead and register for a test that is two or three months from now. You may or may not be ready by then, but signing up will help motivate you to study. If you're not ready, you can always move your test date back (with a few weeks notice and a small LSAC fee, of course). Here's a list of upcoming LSAT deadlines.

Need help preparing for the LSAT? Read why Fox LSAT stands out and how it will help you conquer the LSAT.

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Should I Retake the LSAT?

go-slow-1088027-mEvery time scores come out, I get a few emails that sound something like this: "Hi Nathan. Scores just came out, and I got a 158. Should I retake the LSAT?"

The answer, as usual, is "it depends." It depends primarily on whether that 158 is a good score, or a bad score, for you. And there are a couple other considerations as well.

What's the average of your past three timed practice test scores?

This is the most important question. If you've been averaging 158 or lower on your practice tests, and you got a 158 on the real thing, then you're not a very good candidate for major improvement on a retake. Did you study hard this time? Did you take a class? Did you do the homework? If you did all that, and you're not planning on doing anything differently next time, then you shouldn't expect to get a score that's wildly better than your practice test average. In fact, you're even money (or better) to do worse if you retake the test.

If, on the other hand, you averaged 164 on your last three practice tests, and scored 158 on your actual test, then you're a terrific candidate for improvement on a retake. I'm always surprised at students who decide not to retake the test in this situation; I really think they're selling themselves short. If you can do it on a timed practice test, then you can do it on the real thing. Sure, it might take you multiple tries.

We all have good days and bad days on practice tests, so why wouldn't this same thing happen on the real test? If your score is way worse than your actual level of ability, as indicated by your practice test scores, then by all means retake the test. I hate to see students rush into law school applications with an LSAT score that I know they can beat. There's a huge difference between a 158 and a 164. Take your time, retake the test, and apply when you're ready.

Where are you applying?

Most schools (except for the very, very top ones) only care about your highest LSAT score. This is certainly the case at UC Hastings, for example. Here's a list of what law school admissions folks have said on the topic. If the schools you're applying to only take the highest score, then why wouldn't you retake the test if you think you can do better? The only downsides are the registration fee and a lost Saturday. The potential upside is huge.

When are you applying?

To give yourself the best chances of admission and scholarships, you need to apply early in the rolling admissions cycle. I try to tell my students that their applications, ideally, would be done by September of the year prior to the year they want to go to school. This always shocks some people, but the best scholarship offers and the best placements result from applying broadly (~30 schools) at the very beginning of the admissions window.

This is where many students make their biggest mistake--everybody seems to be in an awful goddamn hurry. Many 20-somethings think that if they don't go to law school now they are going to significantly delay their progress in life. This is nonsense. If you wait an additional year, and end up going to a better school and/or with a scholarship, you're going to be way further along in life than you'd be if you rushed into a shitty school and $150,000 of debt. This is the biggest investment you'll ever make, other than possibly a house. Take your time and do it right.

I'm happy to entertain specific questions on this topic, from existing students or random strangers. Leave a comment or send me an email. I'm here to help.

Learn more about my LSAT prep class and how they can help you conquer the LSAT.

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22 Rules of Writing Your Law School Personal Statement

ruled-notebook-1148339If you're thinking of applying to law school (which I'm guessing you are if you're reading this blog), most admissions experts say that your personal statement is one of the most important components of your application. I came up with 22 rules (albeit a bit humorous) for writing your law school personal statement.  Join me over at The Girl's Guide to Law School where I share the rules with you:

What did you think? Were the rules helpful?

Need help preparing for the LSAT? Read why Fox LSAT stands out and how it will help you conquer the LSAT.

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The Law School Expert Has a New Website

Ann LevineMany of you know I'm a big fan of Ann Levine, the Law School Expert. I include her book in my LSAT prep class and she's taken the time to answer my students' law school admission questions. She just launched a new website with lots of great features and a really informative blog. Ann is dedicated to not only helping students get into law school by making the admission experience an easy step-by-step process. If you're applying to law school, I highly encourage you to check out The Law School Expert and see how Ann can help you.

Need help preparing for the December LSAT? Read why Fox LSAT stands out and how it will help you conquer the LSAT.

What You Need to Know About Applying to Law School

study-table-1275249-mA student asked me about the process of applying to law school, and how to register for the Credential Assembly Service (CAS). Here's some guidance to those of you wondering about law school applications and letters of recommendations. Student: So I am trying to figure out how to register for the CAS, and am a little stuck. Do I need to have all of my letters of recommendation and law school choices (that I am going to be applying to) ready to go before I register for CAS?

I have my letter contacts, and their approval, but I'm not set on which schools I want to apply to yet. Also, I haven't yet requested my transcripts—but I think that happens after I register for CAS, right? 

Nathan: You'll need to register for the LSAC's Credential Assembly Service (CAS) before you can officially request law school letters of recommendation and transcripts. The CAS has very particular procedures for making these requests; you'll trigger the requests via the CAS website, and the recommendations and transcripts must then be returned to the CAS without you ever touching them. So you may as well go ahead and register for the service now, or whenever you have the $165 fee. (Don't forget that the LSAT, the CAS, and most law school applications can be free for those who qualify for the LSAC fee waiver.) Once you're registered for the CAS, you can request transcripts immediately.

On the letters of recommendation, you probably want to give your recommenders a warning before triggering the official CAS request. You can get the ball rolling with either an email or a phone call.  It's a nice touch to say something like, "I'm not asking you now, but I'm applying to law school this fall and I'm asking if, in the near future, you'd be willing to write a letter of recommendation." This approach shows that you are professional, proactive, and respectful of the recommender's time ... which might very well lead to a more positive (and timely) recommendation.

Finally, even if you haven't yet finalized the list of schools to which you will be applying, I strongly recommend that you start an application for at least one or two schools that you're sure you will apply to. Obviously you won't submit these applications until you have an LSAT score you're happy with, but in the meantime you can at least start looking at the kinds of questions that will be asked. For example, you can see what type of prompts schools use for the personal statement, and what kinds of diversity statements and other addenda you'll need to draft.

Studying for the LSAT must remain your number one priority, since LSAT score is the primary determinant of both where you'll get in and how much, if any, scholarship money you'll be offered. But when you're out of gas on LSAT studying, and it doesn't feel like anything is sinking in, this is a great time to start ticking off some boxes on your law school applications. These things take time, so it's better to start now.

Learn more about how my LSAT test prep books and courses can help you on the road to law school.

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Is Law School the Right Path?

river-stones-series-1-812652-mI recently had a great conversation with a prospective law student and LSAT test-taker. Since many of his questions are relevant to so many of you, I thought I'd share some of our conversation. 

Scores and Aptitude

Student: I am a recent computer science graduate from Temple University with a 3.5 GPA. Is it true that SAT reflects LSAT scores?

Also, I love reading politics, I enjoyed watching a few trials and applying principles to arguments. I cannot say I am a world-class debater, but I can say I have no fear of a good debate, and I enjoy it. I was the "annoying" guy who argued with everyone's claims in the elective courses I had to take.

Nathan: Yes, SAT scores do correlate with LSAT scores. Also, those who excelled in majors as rigorous as computer science tend to perform well above average on the exam.

These are all good signs. I worry about folks who (like me) enter law school with the, "I am not a litigator ... I don't like to be confrontational" attitude. If you don't want to argue, then DON'T go to law school. Simple as that.

Why Law

Student: People keep asking me what kind of law I want to practice, and I really don't know. Are we supposed to know exactly what we want to do before entering law school?

I have a serious problem with justice. I want the innocent free and the guilty punished. If I could devote my life to that, great.

Are these good enough reasons? Law school is a grind, and I don't want to get there and flake out. But many people tell me that I am certainly one to keep pushing forward, and I have to agree. However, getting through doesn't mean it is for the right reason.

Nathan: You absolutely do not need to know what type of law you want to practice before you enter law school. Most people switch anyway.

The problem isn't getting to law school and flaking out. The problem is getting to law school, not really liking it, not finding an area of interest, continuing anyway, incurring $150,000 in debt, then deciding not to practice law. That's exactly what I did, and it was the worst financial decision of my life. I'm not looking for sympathy btw... everything has worked out quite well in Fox LSAT land.

I attribute no part of my success to law school. I shouldn't have started, and I should have dropped out after my 1L year when I wasn't excelling or enjoying it. I also should have dropped out during my 2L year when I was in therapy due to hating law school so much and beginning to find some success as an LSAT teacher.

DO WHAT YOU LOVE. It's cliche, but sometimes things are cliche for a reason.

Finances and Debt

Student: I'm currently trying to find entry-level employment in software engineering because I need to pay off some bills. Given the salaries for developers these days, I have been told pursuing law school would be an expensive endeavor and a loss of money. I am 28-years-old now, still poor, and have no family to really rely on. If I undertake this journey, the financial burden of this falls on me.

Does it make financial sense to go to law school? People keep telling me law salaries are low and jobs hard to find. It is concerning that some lawyers do not break $100,000. If I ended up happier it would be worth it, though.

Can I even afford to survive while at law school? If I have to suck it up and beg to live with mom to save rent, so be it. But I have no idea if law school gives you enough loans to cover the bills and actually eat.

Nathan: Since "some," on the LSAT, means "anywhere between 1 dude and 100% of all dudes," it is technically correct to say "some lawyers do not break 100k." But it is far more precise to say, "The vast majority of those who attend law school in the United States do not break 100k." There is a bimodal distribution of salaries for lawyers, with very few starting at $160,000/year and almost everyone else making $50,000.

As someone who already qualifies for an entry-level computer science job making $50,000 per year, you should think long and hard about the hordes of law school grads currently fighting for low-paying and even temporary work in the legal field. Recently, I've heard of law firms posting jobs as receptionists and immediately receiving multiple applications with J.D.s on them. Long story short: If you're considering law for the money, you are in it for the wrong reason.

This is actually the scary part, but not for the reason you think. When I was in law school, my loans comfortably covered my tuition and fees. Each semester, I would get a check from the school, giving me plenty of money for books, rent, food, beer, etcetera. I didn't live like a king, but I wasn't uncomfortable either. But remember: This is scary because you are borrowing this money from your future self. When I got out of law school, my loans immediately came due and the monthly payment was more than my rent in San Francisco. These loans are not easily discharged via bankruptcy, so you will pay this money back, with interest, for a very long time. Think carefully about how much debt you incur.

Preparation

Student: While reading your "Quick and Dirty" book, I stumbled over many of the questions when reading for the first time. It could be my innate fear of failure making me panic - but is that itself a bad sign? I have heard (and cannot verify) that some people can take the LSAT cold and ace it because the answers appear so clear to them.

I have your books, and a book of practice LSAT tests. As of this writing I am only halfway done with your "Quick and Dirty" book. What should my next steps be?

Keeping in mind I cannot devote all of my hours to studying law, I must study Computer Science as well to keep my job once I get one. However, I don't waste much time with TV, Facebook, video games, the bar, etc. My only time-sink is my girlfriend. How many total hours are needed to really boost someone's score? And if you were to give me a timeline of a year (gotta pay them medical bills), what would it look like?

Nathan: As long as I'm giving you advice, maybe don't refer to your girlfriend as a "time-sink," unless you'd like to regain a whole lot of time in your schedule. ;) Don't believe what you hear. There are 1,000 people who claim to have been at Woodstock for every one who was actually there, and there are 1,000 people on the forums claiming to score a 179 for every one who actually did. (Pics, or it didn't happen.)

Finish "Introducing the LSAT," then do the test in "Cheating the LSAT" and review every single question (even the ones you got right) with my explanations in that book.

Choosing a School

Student: I was told that unless I get into a "top 20" law school I would not secure a decent enough job to make it financially worth it. I was looking at Temple because it is close (can't leave the long-time girlfriend, and gotta be able to survive cheaply), and because it is highly ranked in trial advocacy, which I believe in good for defense/prosecution, the two things I think I would be most interested in. Is this true? And can you help me get into law school with a scholarship?

Nathan: "Can't leave the long-time girlfriend" might not be the best way to put this.  Consider "She's my everything" or "I'd die without her by my side."

Temple is a fine choice, but it's not such an elite school that you will be guaranteed a big fancy law firm job upon graduation.  So, you need to think long and hard about how much debt you're willing to incur.  If Temple offers you a scholarship, then that's great!  But if not, then you should probably consider going to another good but not great law school that will offer you a scholarship.

This kind of one-size-fits-all advice fits everyone poorly. The false dichotomy between "top 20" and everything else is an especially ridiculous example. Who picked the number 20? I'm guessing it was somebody at the school currently ranked 19th. Some folks say "only the top 14," while others say "only Harvard, Stanford, or Yale." Others say "only Tier 1," and others say "only Tier 2 and above." Don't buy into this hierarchical bullshit. There are a spectrum of schools offering a spectrum of opportunities, and every school, at every level, is perfect for somebody.

Also, what about scholarships? If we're talking about return on investment, what's a better bet? Paying $150,000 to go to a school ranked 20th, or going on a full ride to a school ranked 40th? Don't listen to those who ignore the gray areas, because most of the realities are gray.

I can't guarantee anybody a scholarship, but I've helped hundreds of students get (literally) millions of dollars in scholarships. LSAT score is the primary determinant, and the LSAT is a very learnable test. With your computer science background, I think your chances are quite good.

By the way, when you get scholarship offers from more than one  school, you can use the competing offers as leverage for renegotiation. Schools can, and do, match competing offers from other schools. And yes, before you ask, this is a totally acceptable, even expected, part of the game.

Good luck!

Learn more about how my LSAT test prep books and courses can help you conquer the LSAT.

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Which GPA will law schools look at?

Quick question from one of my readers:

Before I transferred into a 4 year school, my GPA at a community college was 2.5. However, at my 4 year school, my GPA is a 3.6. Which GPA will law schools look at?

The short answer is "neither." When you apply to law school, you will submit transcripts from both your community college and your 4-year school to the LSAC's Credential Assembly Service. The LSAC will then aggregate the two. Keep in mind that even if you have only one transcript, your "LSAC GPA" might not match the GPA on your transcript.  The LSAC makes some adjustments to certain grades in order to account for things like honors classes, pass-fail classes, and differing school policies on how a class that's retaken should affect GPA.

Please don't overthink this. Just go ahead and submit your transcripts to LSAC, and let them do the work of figuring out your official LSAC GPA. There's not a lot you can do about it anyway, so save the brain cells and get back to studying the LSAT... which is a much more powerful factor than GPA in any case.

Only your highest LSAT score counts

It's amazing how persistent bad information can be. Hardly a week goes by where I don't get an email like the following:

I've heard from other students that if you take the LSAT more than twice, law schools won't consider you a candidate. Is that true? I've heard from others that they average both of your scores.

Maybe this was true in the past, but it has NOT been true as long as I've been teaching LSAT (that is, since 2007.) Most schools explicitly say "we only consider your highest LSAT score." UC Hastings, here in San Francisco, is an example of that. Call them up and ask them if you're not sure; they'll say the exact same thing.

But even the fancy top-14 schools, despite what they might say publicly, only care about your highest score (and certainly don't auto-disqualify anybody with multiple scores on record.) Let me put it to you this way: Last cycle, I had a student get into Harvard who took the LSAT three times. I also had a student get into Stanford who took the LSAT three times. Would you be happy with Harvard or Stanford? Yes? Then taking the test multiple times is perfectly OK.

Now, I'm not telling you that you should take the test multiple times. But I am telling you 1) that you're allowed to take the test multiple times (three times in any two-year period) and 2) you won't be discriminated against if you do, and 3) your competition is taking the test multiple times (if necessary) and so should you (if necessary.)

Baseball analogy time? You get three strikes in baseball. It would be stupid to step to the plate unprepared, because if you do, you're gonna burn through all of those strikes pretty quickly. When you see your first pitch, you want to be fully prepared. That is, you've done tons of practice tests, you've studied with a professional, you've improved your score on your practice tests to a point where you'd be fully happy with that same score on the actual test... you're ready for that first pitch. You swing and... home run? If so, fantastic. You're done.

But sometimes, even when you're ready, you might swing and miss on that first pitch. So what happens next? Do you sulk back to the dugout, maybe retire from baseball forever? Of course not. You swing again. Home run? Maybe! But even if you miss your second time, you still have one final chance.

By all means, I want you to hope for the best, and prepare for the best... but I also want you to be realistic and plan for the worst. For most students, this means putting THREE test dates on their calendar at the beginning of their LSAT studies. Hopefully you won't need all three. But you might, and it would be foolish to let one bad day determine the course of your entire future.

Call me! 415-518-0630. I'm here to help.

 

 

Apply to law school for free? Just ask!

Just a quick note from one of my LSAT students who asked for (and received!) several application fee waivers this cycle:

Thanks for the help with my fee waiver memo. I got waivers at Duke, Georgetown, Boston University, Cornell, University of Virginia, American, and Columbia. I also got a few more fee waivers after my LSAT scores posted. Definitely saved me over $1000. Got snubbed by NYU, Fordham, Stanford, UC Berkeley. They all encouraged me to apply for a need based fee waiver through their website. 

As noted previously on this site, law schools are desperate for your applications (especially this year!) and many will let you apply for free if you simply ask them. Read this post if you want to know more.

Have you asked for fee waivers? What have you heard?

LSAC Law School Recruitment Forums: Ten DOs and DON'Ts

The LSAC Bay Area Law School Recruitment Forum is coming up on Saturday, June 29 (register online... you can't just show up). Last year when I was in your shoes, I emailed Nathan and was like... “WTF am I supposed to do at this thing?!” If that's you right now, I'm here to help.

It's at the Marriott in Oakland, and you can park at a nearby lot for about $10 cash. Once inside, go to the “Registration” area, get your super cool LSAC tote bag, and you're off! You'll spend most of your time in a huge room with tables from different schools. Stand in line for the tables you're interested in, talk to Admissions Staff, and ask questions. This room is open from 9am - 4pm. There are also workshops you can attend, at scheduled times in scheduled rooms. I found a few of the workshops interesting, others not so much.

Having attending this forum and other recruiting events (e.g. UC Berkeley Law School Fair), I compiled a list of Ten DO's & DON'Ts that I hope will be helpful.

Here goes:

1. DO read Ann Levine's book, if you haven't already done so.

I think her book should actually be titled, The Law School Admissions Bible, because it was my most sacred and authoritative guide at every step. She never led me wrong or wasted my time. There's a section about law school recruitment events. Read it!

2. DO dress professionally.

The Admissions Staff you meet at a law school fair include people who will be reading your application and deciding where you fit in their applicant pool. They may or may not remember if you wore cut-off shorts with a tank top and flip-flops, but it's better to play it safe. A suit isn't necessary, but slacks with a nice shirt and closed-toed shoes is a good bet.

3. DO introduce yourself.

“Hi, my name is _____________ and I'm applying for Fall 2014,” and shake their hand.

“I have a question about _________.”

Make sure you have those blanks filled in before you approach a table.

4. DON'T ask stupid questions.

There is absolutely such a thing as a stupid question. Anything about LSAT or GPA averages, application due dates, tuition, etc... don't ask them. All this information is readily available online, and also probably listed in a brochure on the table. You will sound like someone who hasn't done their homework (see #6) and isn't serious about law school. Speaking of those brochures, that brings me to #5.

5. DON'T take all the glossy ish.

Law schools have websites. If you can think of a use for these print materials, please let me know.

6. DO do your homework.

Haha, I said do do. But seriously, come prepared. Look at the workshop schedule and decide which you plan to go to. Make a list of schools you're interested in. Have their LSAT, GPA, tuition, dates, etc. figures already printed out. When you go to a school's table, be ready with good questions. Write down answers that seem useful.

7. DO ask good questions.

Ask about things you can't otherwise find online, and that you're actually interested in. Here are a few I used:

  • Did you go to law school? Where did you go? Where else were you considering? What made you choose that school?
  • How did you finance law school? Were scholarships a high priority for you?
  • What approximate percent of your 1Ls are on scholarship over 50%?  How many 2Ls or 3Ls retain their scholarships? What is the average LSAT score of a student who received a Dean's Merit Scholarship (meaning a LOT of money)?
  • How substantially have your applications decreased over the last few years? What changes have you noticed in the applicant pool?

Nathan encouraged me to ask more hard-hitting questions, like these:

  • How much of the graduating class is hired through On-Campus Interviews (OCIs)?
  • Is law school a terrible investment, given the current job climate?
  • Could you provide me with a recent alum's contact info so I can ask about their experiences finding employment?
  • Do you have an alumni in ________ field of law I could be put into contact with?

8. DO eavesdrop.

While you're in line, listen to the rep talk to the person in front of you and pay attention to the topics they're discussing. They might bring up good points you didn't think of, or answer questions you already had.

9. DON'T sell yourself short.

I didn't think I would be competitive at schools like Stanford and Harvard, and I wish I would have at the very least visited their tables. Dream big!

10. DO ask for fee waivers.

I wouldn't open up conversation with, “hey, can I have one of them fee waivers?!” But after chatting for a few minutes, it doesn't hurt to ask. The reps expect you to ask. Many schools have them pre-printed and are just waiting to give them out.

 In summary, do your homework, be professional, ask good questions (see #7), and get some fee waivers.  And remember this (something Nathan told me),

“Don't be rude, but remember that one primary role of an admissions rep is to sell. Their job is to get you to apply to their school, so they are selling you a veryexpensive product. If they want a shot at your $150,000 tuition, they should be more than willing to answer all of your questions. If not, screw 'em... there are hundreds of schools out there. Be polite by all means, but definitely don't be shy.”

I hope this info is helpful. If you have any questions about law school fairs (e.g. which workshops I liked/disliked), email me! (banks.LSAT@gmail.com)

- Annie

About the Author:

Hi! My name is Annie. I started studying for the October 2012 LSAT in mid-July of the same year. I started as many of us did: my first score was a 152, I only wanted to apply to top-ranked schools in California, and my dream was to get a big scholarship.

On the October LSAT, I got a 163, which was lower than I'd been averaging, and Nathan encouraged me to take the test again. Thankfully, I was fully drinking the Fox Test Prep Kool-Aid by then, and I followed his advice. I ended up with a 174 on the December 2012 LSAT, and applied to over 30 schools across the country, ranging from unranked “regional” law schools to Top-20's. I negotiated a scholarship at my dream school, UCLA, and I start in the Fall.

I moved to Los Angeles earlier this summer and I'm spending my time doing LSAT tutoring, trying to share what I learned from Fox Test Prep. Since you're reading Nathan's blog, you're already on a good path to law school. If you have any questions regarding the law school application process, or are interested in tutoring, please feel free to email me at banks.LSAT@gmail.com.

How to make $3,000 while waiting for your June 2013 LSAT score

You took the June 2013 LSAT, yay! As congratulations, I'd like to give you $3,000.

Ok, I'm not going to give you the cash. Instead, I'll tell you three magic words that are worth even more than that. They were passed down to me from a fellow student (thanks Liz!) in my Fox Test Prep class... “Application Fee Waiver.”

(Source: Flickr)

Here's the deal: Each school's application fee is about $100, and since you're taking Nathan's advice and applying to 30 schools (to maximize your chances of admission and scholarships) the total for your apps will add up fast. But you can avoid having to pay these fees* if you simply email law schools and ask for application fee waivers. Some of them will say yes, just because you asked. Others will want you to provide evidence as to why they should give you a waiver. Weird, right? Someone applying to law school being asked to show evidence?

Different schools offer fee waivers for different reasons, so when you email a school and ask for a fee waiver, you'll want to say which of the three main types you're asking for: merit-based, service-based, and/or need-based. You can list one, two, or all three types, but you'll have to provide evidence for each, which I'll explain in more depth later.

Here's what your email should basically look like:

Dear XYZ University Admissions, 

I'm very interested in applying for admission for Fall 2014, and I'm emailing to ask for a XXX- based fee waiver(s).

Here is why you should give me a fee waiver:  (insert evidence here)

Thank you for your time,

Jane Doe

L1234567

You want to be nice, professional, and to-the-point in your email. Mine was about 300 words long. Don't whine, beg, or have a pity-party, just present your evidence.

THREE TYPES OF FEE WAIVERS:

#1.  MERIT-BASED

You have to provide evidence that you are a strong applicant, meaning you will help the school raise their GPA and/or LSAT numbers.

If your GPA is above their median, tell them your GPA. If you already have an LSAT score, and it's above their median, tell them your LSAT score. I sent out emails to schools before I had my LSAT score, and I included a line like “I'm awaiting my October 2012 LSAT score, but have consistently been scoring XXX on previously administered LSATs proctored through Fox Test Prep in San Francisco.” Some schools might say no, but a lot of schools told me yes, and many others told me to try back again when I had an official score.

#2.  SERVICE-BASED

You have to provide evidence that you did some type of commendable service.

Many schools list this explicitly on their admissions websites. Some common examples include AmeriCorps, Teach for America, Peace Corps, or the military. I didn't do any of those, but I did complete a teaching program, and included this line in my emails: “I noticed that several law schools automatically waive the application fee for alumni of the Teach for America program. I completed the UCLA Teacher Education Program, which has similar service requirements to Teach for America, and I'm hoping this could qualify me for a Service-Based Fee Waiver.”

#3.  NEED-BASED

You have to provide evidence that you “need” the waiver because you can't afford to pay for it, but you have to do it without ending up looking like this:

(Source: evolsyawla.tumblr.com)

My email included a blurb about how, as a teacher, I wasn't getting paid very much, and that my monthly student loan payments were quite sizeable, having paid for my undergraduate education on my own. Presenting your evidence as to why you are unable to pay will help you from sounding like Mrs. Iglesias above.


There might be even more types of fee-waivers out there, but this is the gist of what I learned from my application process.  I received fee waivers to over 25 schools (including many Top-20s), and only had to pay to apply to 5 of my 30 schools.  Oh by the way, you still have to pay $21 per application to the CAS, even if you get a fee waiver.

So since you've already done the hard part (taking the June 2013 LSAT), use this time while you're waiting for your score to get as many fee waivers as you can. Most schools will say yes, and even when they say no, you've opened communication with the Admissions Staff and introduced yourself as a budding super-lawyer.

-- Annie

* You can also shortcut this process and get fee waiver in two other ways. The first way is to apply for the LSAC's fee waiver (under MyAccount at lsac.org) - if you get it, almost all schools honor it, and won't charge you an application fee.  However, they're really strict on who qualifies and I've never talked to anyone who did. (Here's a somewhat helpful article that explains more about the LSAC's fee waiver and the CRS fee waiver system, in addition to what I already covered.) The second way is to get a fee waiver in person by attending a law school recruiting event and talking with an Admissions Staff directly.  Spend a few minutes chatting, be nice, professional, and ask meaningful questions (more to come on this in a future post), and then ask for a fee waiver.  Lots of times they have fee waiver codes pre-printed and ready to give out.

About the Author:

Hi! My name is Annie.  I started studying for the October 2012 LSAT in mid-July of the same year. I started as many of us did: my first score was a 152, I only wanted to apply to top-ranked schools in California, and my dream was to get a big scholarship.

On the October LSAT, I got a 163, which was lower than I'd been averaging, and Nathan encouraged me to take the test again. Thankfully, I was fully drinking the Fox Test Prep Kool-Aid by then, and I followed his advice. I ended up with a 174 on the December 2012 LSAT, and applied to over 30 schools across the country, ranging from unranked “regional” law schools to Top-20's. I negotiated a scholarship at my dream school, UCLA, and I start in the Fall.

I moved to Los Angeles earlier this summer and I'm spending my time doing private LSAT tutoring, trying to share what I learned from Fox Test Prep.  If you're reading this blog, you're already on a good path to law school.  If you have additional questions regarding the law school application process, or are interested in private tutoring, please feel free to email me at banks.LSAT@gmail.com.

Law school rankings are stupid

Apparently, the University of San Francisco dropped 38 places in the newest US News law school rankings. The fact that this is even possible illustrates the colossal stupidity of the law school rankings game. Every year, I have a student who says something like "Well, I am going to choose School X because they are ranked 10 spots higher than School Y." A student will do this even when school Y was offering him scholarship money, and school X wasn't. But next year, as this student is studying for his final 1L exams, an entirely new set of rankings will be published. How's that going to feel, paying full price at a school that has now dropped below the school that was offering him a full ride? The rankings will readjust again when he's a 2L. And again during when he's a 3L. And again and again, every single year of his legal career. Every spring, the Internet goes all giddy with posts about "winners and losers" in the new law school rankings. I thought about linking to one such article, to illustrate the silliness, but I thought better of it. Dear students: Please stop making decisions about where to invest $200,000 based on a set of arbitrary rankings. Yes, there's a major difference between Harvard and USF. But you already knew that, before looking at the rankings. And the "fact" that USF used to be ranked higher than McGeorge, and is now ranked lower than McGeorge, means absolutely nothing. Odds are, those rankings will reverse themselves next year.

Is my law school personal statement too controversial?

I've got a great new crop of LSAT students grinding away on their preparation for the June LSAT. Some of them are also working on their personal statements and sending me drafts. One draft came accompanied by this question: My long term goals include advocating for medical professionals who have assisted in "comfort care," deemed as "euthanasia," as well as working on "right to die" legislation. It is something that I believe in fully. The estate planning will be rewarding and also the way I pay my bills, but this other work is what I really care about. The reason I left it out is because right-to-die, physician's assisted suicide, etc. is controversial. I worry that if I mention that in my essay and then get a really religious person reading my personal statement I am screwed. What do you think about this? 

Thanks for your question! Perhaps I'm biased because I, too, feel strongly that there should be a right to die. (My lovely fiancee and I have already made plans to move to Oregon, or the Netherlands, or some other civilized place when the time comes.) But, setting my personal feelings aside, I think you should absolutely go ahead and write your statement on this topic, and write it honestly. I can tell how earnestly you believe in this cause, even from the way you put your question. This passion is going to shine through in your personal statement. Since admissions committees are looking for passionate students who will become passionate advocates upon graduation, I think you have found your ideal theme. Congratulations!

Regarding "I worry that if I mention that in my essay and then get a really religious person reading my personal statement I am screwed"... Well, unless you're applying to the Pat Robertson School of Southern Baptist Law, this concern seems far-fetched. Academics tend to skew atheist/agnostic, and even those academics who are religious tend to lean toward the more open-minded varieties of religion. (I imagine, and I take comfort in the idea, that it must be very difficult to garner respect in academia if you base your analyses and worldviews on faith rather than on reason.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Respect for diverse opinions might be doubly true in legal academia. All lawyers, both Republican and Democrat, understand that everyone deserves a passionate advocate in court, even those who are accused of our most heinous crimes. Now, if your passion was overturning our statutes against having sex with minors, I would certainly recommend that you choose another topic... that's a position that would shock the conscience of most readers. But a belief in legal euthanasia is going to strike a chord with many; academics do also tend to skew politically progressive. At the very least, your position will be considered earnest and reasonable by all but the most zealous and insane. Fortunately, the Pat Robertsons of the world are too busy fleecing old folks to have a say on your law school candidacy.

As always, keep your statement honest and straightforward. Tell your story plainly, and let the reader arrive at her own conclusions. Don't TELL the reader that you're passionate, using adjectives and adverbs. Instead, SHOW the reader that you're passionate with true stories about your experiences, and how those experiences have shaped your law school goals.

Thanks for your question! I'm always here to help, at 415-518-0630 and fox.edit@gmail.com.