On today's episode, you will hear a law school admissions Q&A with our admissions consultant, David Busis.
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J.Y.: Hello and welcome to the 7Sage podcast. I'm J.Y. Ping, and today's episode will be different from the five episodes we've already released. For one, I'm not going to be in today's episode at all, rather, you're going to hear an hour long Q&A with David Busis, who heads up 7Sage's Admissions Consulting Services. In the Q&A, David answers a wide variety of questions ranging from super general questions like, "Who should write a diversity statement?" "How do I prepare for interview?" to super narrow and specific questions like, "Do I need to explain why one semester my GPA dropped to a 3.6 from my average of 3.9?"
Given that the original format of the audio content was a participatory online Q&A, there will be some parts that, unfortunately, didn't translate so well over to a podcast. For example, during the Q&A, David was doing a screen share the whole time, so the participants were able to see what was on his screen. There will be times when he references words or diagrams on his screen like, "This thing over here." And of course, we, podcast listeners won't be able to tell what he's talking about. But don't worry, he only does it like two or three times. So I promise it doesn't detract much from the content.
David does, however, frequently reference the admissions course that he created on 7Sage since it contains the answers to some of the most frequently recurring questions we get. When he says, "We have a lesson on that," the admissions courses is what he's referring to. A big chunk of that course is free on 7sage.com/admissions, so please do check it out. And one last thing I want to say ahead of time is that we are releasing this audio on to the podcast partially so that you know this Q&A is something that we do. It's a resource for you.
We're in the thick of admissions, and until at least the end of 2018, David will be hosting these Q&As on a regular basis on 7Sage. So if you think this is something you can take advantage of, if you have questions about your applications, please join us. You're absolutely welcome. To find out more information, just go to 7sage.com/discussion and there you'll see the announcements for future Q&As.
That's all I've got to say. Without further ado, please enjoy.
David: You know why I'm here, so I just see no reason not to get started. So I'm just doing a Q&A in this session, and it's basically office hours, so if you guys have questions about your application, I am more than happy to answer them. It's small, and you guys are here early, so hopefully I'll get to talk to each one of you.
Welcome here. If you don't know me, by the way, I'm David. I'm the admissions guy at 7Sage, and I'm one of many. So anyway, if you have a question, just go ahead and raise your hand. I prefer that to a Q&A because it's easier to talk to people, Marge just going to call on you.
[Name]: You talked about underrepresented minorities versus being historically underrepresented. I'm an Arab Muslim person, and I was wondering since I'm not like the technical term of underrepresented, is that not good enough to speak about on my diversity statement?
David: You should definitely speak about that in your diversity statement, if you want to.
David: There's just no question about that.
[Name]: Okay, I just want to make sure.
David: I wouldn't, for example, call schools that would normally be a reach, a target, or a safety because of that. It's hard to say how much that's going to affect your cycle. But definitely, that's your identity, and you should embrace and talk about it in your personal statement, if you want or in your diversity statement.
[Name]: That actually brings me to my diversity statement. I don't know how much should be spoken about, like, if I'm going to be redundant or repetitive, and going from personal statement to diversity statement. Is it bad to speak about those things twice? Because obviously, these aspects of what makes me diverse also have an impact, and they're going to be brought up in my personal statement. So, to what extent is it too repetitive? I guess, that's my question.
David: It's a great question. It is a little bit hard to answer in general terms, without looking at the essays. But I will say this, I think it is definitely okay if both your personal statement and your diversity statement bring up the fact or depend on the fact that you're an Arab Muslim woman. I don't think it's okay to tell the same story. So it's basically the same rules that go for anyone. You want to make sure that every component of your application is saying something new, and if it's not, it's not worth writing. As Isaac Babel said, "Turn the key once." So once you say something, you should trust that they're smart cookies who are reading your application and they'll get it. Now, if you wanted to tell, for example, like two different stories and both of them had something to do with your identity, I think that would be totally fine.
[Name]: Okay, thank you. Also, I had a dropped semester and I have currently on my application, like an addendum I guess, just one line about hospitalization and illness. And I was forced to drop that semester. That obviously affected my GPA which is why I'm including it. I was wondering, like, in terms of diversity/personal statement, how much do you recommend that we talk about, perhaps, mental health issues that we had to overcome while we were in school, or life in general, if that really, like, affected us? If it's a good story to tell, would it damn me? I'm sorry, excuse my language. Would it be more damning to me, kind of raises red flags about my ability to perform as a student? Or would they be less or more reluctant to accept me if I were to disclose that I have this thing that I struggle with or struggled with? It's something that I have under control, something that I overcame, but it's still something that could potentially cause me grief in the future.
David: That's a great question. First of all, I just want to highlight this lesson. I think that we actually, sort of, talked about that specifically in this lesson about when to write a non-required addendum. Actually, in your case, it might be required on some schools, because some schools asked you to explain why there's a gap in your education.
But in any case, the answer, as it so often is, is that it depends. You're right, that it's tricky. You don't want to write an essay or an addendum that raises questions about your ability to complete law school. If it seems like you haven't recovered or if you're still struggling with this, certainly, admissions officers are probably not consciously going to discriminate you, and it might, in fact, be illegal for them to do that. But nevertheless, you really just don't want to raise the specter of you not being able to complete school because you can handle it. That said, I certainly don't think that it's something that you have to hide or stay away from.
One of the best personal statements I have ever read was about the author's depression. She talked about how she had depression when she was a teenager. She struggled with it, and it helped her see the world in a new way. It just sort of shaped her identity. That author got in everywhere, and now she's going to Stanford. Clearly, it didn't damn her.
So I just think, like most things, it depends how you handle it. You just have to make sure that you show them that it didn't and it's not going to—well, I guess in your case, maybe it did make you drop a semester—but you just have to show them that it's not going to imperil your studies at law school. There's sort of a formula for that, if you're writing it in an addendum. You just tell them what changed—maybe you adjusted your medication, maybe you adjusted your lifestyle—and you say, "I was able to achieve such a GPA after my stay. For these reasons, I'm healthy and I'm happy, and I don't think it's going to be an issue in law school."
[Name]: Okay, thank you.
David: You're welcome. Okay, Matt, I'm going to call on you.
Matt: Hey, David, can you hear me?
David: I sure can.
Matt: Well, first of all, thanks for hosting this webinar. I've always found these to be incredibly helpful.
David: Oh, good.
Matt: Okay, let me get to my question. I've been studying full time for the LSAT since mid-August of this year, and I plan on applying in September of 2019. Will it look bad to admissions counselors if I have a gap in my résumé from August of 2018 to September of 2019, worst case scenario? I have recently transitioned back to civilian life from the military, so my résumé does have four years of unique and challenging working experience with volunteer events. I'm just concerned about the gap for when I'm studying full time, do you foresee that being a problem?
David: Well, the short answer is no, but I'll expand on a little bit. I will say that like, look, is the gap ideal? You already know that it's not ideal, you wouldn't be asking the question, but it is getting more and more common. We see it all the time with people who graduated college. People take a year off.
Now, Matt, in your case in particular, I would worry about it even less than I would for someone else, because if you served in the military for four years, well, I guess I won't put words into somebody else's mouth, but what I can say is that if I were an admissions officer reading your application, I really wouldn't think twice about it. I would say, "Okay, he just served in the military for four years, I can understand why he would want to take a little bit of time off for law school." You know, if you're worried about it, I think that you can and maybe should just write a short addendum explaining how you've used the time. I probably wouldn't say I spent the entire time setting for the LSAT. Although, you know, if we're going to sort of talk realpolitik, that's definitely the right move. Your LSAT score is the most important factor, and so certainly, it's worth having a gap in your résumé. But you can't study for the LSAT 24 hours a day, or even 16 hours a day when you're awake, so maybe you can still find time to just do something that you find worthwhile this year—whether that's volunteering, getting a part time job, learning a new language, or spending more time with your family. All of that's totally legitimate, not just in the real world, but also on an addendum and you could just mention that you did that.
Matt: Oh, that sounds great. I was under the impression I end up hard working experience the whole time, and they would have not wanted to see anything else besides that. But if that's the case, then definitely I can find something to fill that gap. I was just curious. Thank you.
David: Yeah, you're welcome. Good luck.
Matt: Thank you.
David: Robbie, I see that you got your hand raised. How's it going?
Robbie: Hi, David. Thanks for hosting this. So my few questions. In looking at Yale's application, their college activities and post college activity sections, I read Asha's blog, and it sounded like Yale does not have, or at least doesn't mention, a preference for the formatting of these sections. I was wondering if you had an inclination toward what you think would look best. My current graphs are in bulleted format with some short descriptions for each activity. And then also, I noticed that the post college activities section is optional, as is the résumé, which is unusual, most schools seem to require the résumé, so I don't want to be redundant. So my question with the post college activity section is—should I omit that section and just submit my résumé, or should I highlight activities that are not on my résumé? And with the post college activity section, would the best format be a narrative or bullet list, or combination of both?
David: Robbie, I think that you just shouldn't worry about whether or not this overlaps with your résumé, because it's just a different format. UVA, actually, I think they copied it from Yale. I'm pretty sure Yale did this long before UVA did. The major difference is that you're listing these in order of importance. I happen to think that, like, beyond that, résumé-ish formatting is still maybe a good way to go. I just think that you want to make sure that it's very well organized and easy to understand what you're doing. So, you know, significant extracurricular activities—we did the sunbathing club—maybe, list that in bold, but I'm just making this up. I'm just trying to show you something that looks neat. Make this very prominent, maybe you do bullets here.
Robbie: But dates as well, right?
Robbie: Also, the good thing is for the college activities. All that information is going to be new, because I graduated five years ago. I think that will serve as a secondary résumé, if you will.
David: That's exactly right because these significant extracurricular activities and unpaid internships in college are probably not going to go on your résumé, or maybe they're not all going to go on your résumé, if you graduated five years ago. The longer you've been out of college, the less room you tend to have for stuff like this. I'm not saying that you can't put them on your résumé, you certainly can, if you leave some of them out, they can all go here.
David: I don't know if that answers your questions, but I think the takeaways are just, you know, you want to make sure that it's very legible and scannable. So, I would not just write a narrative, I wouldn't make them read through a block of text. And I would say, just take them literally, and don't worry too much about overlapping with your résumé.
Robbie: And then also with the post college activity section, they don't mention to list things in order of importance, would you still do that? Or would do it chronologically or reverse chronologically?
David: Describe what you've been doing in the interval. You know, since they don't specify, I think it's totally up to you. I would probably default to reverse chronological unless there's something you want to highlight and put at the top.
Robbie: Okay, and you would still say a bulleted format would be preferable?
David: I would stick to the same format for A, B, and C, whatever you would, you know.
Robbie: Replicate, okay. Awesome.
David: All right.
Robbie: Thank you for the help.
David: Good luck on Yale.
Robbie: Thank you.
David: Michael, I'm going to call on you.
Michael: So here's my situation: I graduated from graduate school, May 12, 2018, and I didn't start working until August 23, 2018. Now, my question is this: At what point is a gap significant? Like, what's your definition of a significant gap?
David: It's much longer than your gap.
Michael: Oh, okay.
David: So you just didn't work for a couple months, right?
Michael: Yeah, from May 14 until August 22, I wasn't working.
David: Completely not even a little bit of an issue.
David: Doesn't need an addendum. Obviously, the instructions on the application always supersede my advice, so if they say something like, if you were ever out of work, which I don't really think any of them say, but if they do, you have to write about it. But if they don't specifically call for an explanation for this, you are totally fine.
Michael: Oh, okay. Cool. I also plan on applying on fall of 2019.
David: So, you've got some time.
Michael: Yeah, definitely. I'm just wondering how much graduate school information I should put compared to my time here at Purdue. What would be more significant?
David: I'm not sure that I understand. Are you asking how much information to put on your résumé or where?
Michael: On the personal statement.
David: So, the personal statement. Maybe about something that happened to you or something you did at graduate school. It might be about something that happened to you or something that you did in college, but I don't think that the best way to approach it is, you know, what do I need to talk about, because you don't actually need to talk about either one. When you're figuring out a personal statement, the questions that you should ask yourself are things like, "What's the best story I can tell?" "What do I want the admissions committee to know about me/What wouldn't they know about?" And probably the third primary question is, "Why am I going to law school?" I think if you approach it from the framework of these questions, you may find that you end up talking more about graduate school than college, but not because you necessarily have to. Does that make sense?
Michael: That makes perfect sense. Thank you for doing this. By the way, we all really appreciate it.
David: Yeah, you're totally welcome. All right. Good luck.
Michael: Thank you.
David: Zack Pizazz. Zack, is that your real name?
Zack: No, that is not my real name. If anybody watches The Good Place on NBC, they will understand the reference.
David: Okay, it went right over my head.
Zack: Yeah. Well, I have a very specific first world problem type question about a GPA addendum. I was hoping to ask you, and apologies to anyone else who's listening for its sort of specificity, so I had a very good GPA in college and had 3.8 range, yet in just span of about two semesters where my grades slid, I was in the 3.9 range, and those two semesters I'll probably in the 3.6 or 3.7 range because my parents were going through a separation at the time. So I was wondering if it's worth writing an addendum for that because I didn't completely fall apart in a mile, my overall record was good. I graduated with the highest honors in the college, yet anyone looking at my transcript will see a sort of downward trend. And without an explanation or context, I'm wondering if I need to explain some sort of context for that.
David: That's a really good question. So I'll tell you, my first instinct is no, don't write one. But I can also tell you that I feel maybe less confident about this answer than I do about some of the other answers I've already given. I just think, at least on the face of things, the risk of looking whiny or something like, "Well, I could have gotten a 3.9, but instead I only ended up with this cruddy 3.85." I think the risk of that looking kind of grubby maybe outweighs the contextualizing or explanatory power of that addendum.
Zack: That makes total sense. That was what I was concerned about and that was why I asked, if I was reaching too much.
David: Yeah, I mean, I guess it's just another way that you should always be thinking about these questions as well—what's the upside and what's the downside. In your case, the upside just isn't that high, right? Because you don't have that much to gain by making them think that, in an alternate universe, you could have been a little bit better.
Zack: And it would draw attention to it when it may not be something they're all at.
David: I would assume they'll notice it. But again, I don't think that they'll be like, "Oh, you only got a 3.6 this semester. You know, we were all set to admit them." If I were an admissions officer, I would probably assume something close to the truth. I would say, "Well, maybe he was going through something." So I guess in this case, it just seems to me, like, the downside is maybe a little bit higher. The risk of looking like someone but they just don't want in their law school is real, and there's just not that much that you need to explain.
Zack: That makes total sense. Thank you so much.
David: Yeah, you're welcome. Hey, Jackie.
David: Hi. How's it going?
Jackie: Good. How are you doing?
David: Really well. Thanks.
Jackie: So I have a question in regards to maybe classes that I took that were out of my major that I didn't do so well on, which I mean, overall, then kind of lowered my overall GPA. I don't know if I should write an addendum for those. Do law schools look at major GPAs or more so on cumulative?
David: They'll see both, and I would assume that they'll look at your transcript, and then they'll look at your academic summary which you can see yourself by logging on to LSAC. I can't remember the exact steps to get there but it's not that hard to find. I think you go to credentials and then something else. So of course, you should look at what they're going to see, you should look at your transcript, and then you should look at your academic summary. And yeah, I would assume that they'll notice that. I think the only question is whether or not you want to write an addendum about it.
This builds nicely on Zack Pizazz's question. I think that it just depends on what kind of swing we're talking about. If you are getting As, I mean just to take an extreme, in every subject in your major and then you got a D in that whatever econ class because it's just wasn't up your alley, yeah sure, that probably is worth writing an addendum, that's very notable. If it's more like you are getting, to take the other extreme, B pluses, and then in one class you got a B, that's definitely not worth writing an addendum about.
Jackie: Okay. And I have just one more question, if that's okay.
Jackie: So I got a graduate degree this year, but right after college I started another graduate degree that I actually didn't enjoy very much so I withdrew from the program, do I have to explain that? I am just afraid that the admissions committee is going to think, "Oh, no, she's so quick to withdraw just because she didn't think it was a good fit." So I don't really want to frame the narrative that way.
David: Yeah, that probably is worth writing an addendum about. Just explain what happened. And obviously, you're right to write about that. The goal is to show them you're not a dilettante, you're not just messing around, and this is not what you're going to do in law school. You know, another piece of solving that liability, maybe making the why law part of your personal statement just a little bit more robust than it otherwise would have been. If you have to BS them, it just means like you, perhaps more than some other applicants have to explain why you're applying to law school, and just show them that this is a considered decision.
Jackie: Great. Thank you so much.
David: You're welcome. Good luck.
David: Hey, Julie. How's it going?
Julie: Hi, thank you. I just have a really quick question. So, for the 7Sage's Admissions Predictor—I've been using it pretty religiously, but I was just wondering, what are the different percentage ranges that determine if a school is a reach or safety, or in the middle?
David: Good question. I'll tell you what I think of as a reach or safety, but I will also just tell you it doesn't matter if you're actually looking at percentages. I tend to think of anything from here up probably as like a super reach, 20% or lower. I tend to think of like, 20 to 40% as a reach. So we're here, I tend to think of like, 40 to 60% as a target, 60 to 80% as a probable target, and 80 to 100% as a safety. But in some ways, these percentages are maybe more relevant than the category of reach, target or safety, or maybe not.
As I've said before, this is not meant to be taken literally. This is a tool to help you gauge your chances, and it's only one input source. I think it's pretty good, but it's certainly blind to a lot. I'm not 100% confident that there are, like, zero flaws in our methodology. I'm not positive that the data is the best. So, maybe I'll take it back, maybe those sort of broad categories are better than these actual percentages because I do think of all of these numbers as a little fudgy.
Julie: That makes perfect sense. Thanks so much.
David: You're welcome. Good luck.
Julie: Good night.
David: Jerry. Did we call you yet? I don't think we did.
Jerry: Ah, no.
David: Hey, how's it going?
Jerry: Good. Okay, the question I have—I think I know what you're going to say, but I just want to get your feedback. So on filling out the résumé and my personal experiences, we're talking about, like, what we've done, accomplishments, and stuff like that. They say, don't talk about anything controversial, or, you know, that could put off the person reading your statement. One of the things I did that I'm happy about, but maybe not the people who are going to read it, is that I was the official representative for the Trump campaign at the college I was at. And, you know, Republican, I've worked on a lot of different campaigns and stuff. But knowing the schools I want to target, and kind of more of a reality, my brain is saying, like, "Leave that out." I've read before, like, don't talk about controversial positions, like abortion or something. In my mind, I'm thinking—because most of the schools that I want to apply, I guess have a culture, I guess they lean the opposites away—I'm thinking maybe you would just be safe to leave that out.
I don't know, there's already me, in my heart, saying, "Don't," because I'm also like a Mormon, I went like on a mission. So, I'm just wondering how much of...you know what I mean, because I want to play it safe. I don't know if you run into these types of questions a lot. But, you know, kind of you want either feeling, like they say, "Just tell who you are." But being realistic, I feel like my chances are better if I just say that I worked for the presidential campaign and not being specific about who it was, because in reality, it's either a hate-love relationship, and I don't want to jeopardize that.
David: Well, I think you largely answered your own question. I think if we step back, obviously if you want to play it safe, you just don't talk about it. That is safer. But that doesn't mean that you shouldn't talk about it. I think this question probably just sort of boils down to your stance, and if your stance is risk averse, which makes a lot of sense, I just wouldn't talk about it because we don't know how risky it is, or not. And we know that there are probably essays that you could write that just aren't risky at all. By the way, I wouldn't talk about a presidential candidate if you're not going to name it, because I just think that's going to lead to a bad essay. It's going to look evasive, which in fact it will be. It's going to be nonspecific and I think it's going to end up being soggy. So, again, if you want to play it safe, choose a new topic.
You know, I really feel two ways about this. On the one hand, I do think that people should be able to write what they care about, and I think that they should explain why they want to go to law school. And if you have strong political convictions, that's a really legitimate reason to want to go to law school, it makes a lot of sense. I also want to say that I hope the admissions readers are going to be impartial, and try not to let their bias filter in. And finally, I'll say there is definitely also a chance that this would work for you. I would bet that admissions officers want to put together a class that is diverse in all ways, including politically and intellectually. So you never know, it's certainly a possibility that this works in your favor, but I think that sort of brings us back to where we began. Like I said, it's a risk. In some ways, it's high reward, it could work in your favor just because it will probably be memorable, unique, and different from any other essays, and it may be more honest. But it could also certainly work against you.
Jerry: Well, yeah. Part of my thinking was that just, especially in the political climate we live in now, it could be someone reading it thinking, "Oh, great. He worked for Hitler." I follow the ..., I'm deep into politics, so I seem a lot of these professors and teachers are kind of active out there in opposition, not saying that's wrong or anything, I'm just worried about not just the personal statement, but also my résumé, because that's what I was doing for a long period of time.
David: I don't really think you can leave it off your résumé. I'm not sure there's any question there. I actually just feel like it would be dishonest if you did. That's a different kind of risk and it's not one that you want to take. That may just be something you can't hide on your résumé. I'm not sure, I've actually never thought much about this, and I've never had someone asked me this. But my instinct is that you don't want to try to hide anything from them because that's just more likely to backfire than it is to help you.
Jerry: Would they be, kind of, too misleading if I just said I worked for a presidential campaign?
David: Again, I don't know. I want to say that I might be wrong. I don't have a high degree of confidence in this answer, but my gut is yes, that would be misleading and wrong. And just sort of, like, it would make for a bad résumé. I mean, if I were an admissions officer, I'd be like, "This is ridiculous. You worked for a presidential campaign, which one, buddy?
Jerry: Yeah, I don't want to be duplicitous.
David: I don't think you have a choice about what you put on the résumé.
Jerry: All right. I'll take your advice to heart. Thanks, appreciate it.
David: Okay. Hey, Suzanne.
Suzanne: Hi, David. Are you there?
David: I am.
Suzanne: How are you?
Suzanne: Thank you for taking my question. So, I would say after hearing your percentages, Stanford is a super reach, but I like their Education Law Clinic so I'm going to apply anyway.
Suzanne: I have just been working on their optional essays, and I'm doing the one about what three books would you donate. I guess I'm just kind of trying to figure out how to format that and what the tone of it is. They asked for three. I don't have numbers, I do say, like, first, second, third. I'm just not really sure how to format it.
David: This might not be really what you're asking, but I don't think there's any question about the formatting. It's a narrative so I would format it the way you format your personal statement, which is double spaced with a header, but that's probably not what you mean, right?
Suzanne: Yes, I think I must be using the wrong word. I'm really not sure—
David: How to organize it?
Suzanne: Yeah, how to organize it. Thank you. There's the lesson on the Yale 250 but I feel like this isn't exactly that.
David: I think you can organize it in a really straightforward way. You know, the first book I would donate would be Fear of Flying.
Suzanne: That's kind of how I have it now. I just wasn't sure if that was, I don't know, that sounds like it's the right thing.
David: I think it's fine, because this sentence is actually, sort of, not the important part. This sentence is like, "Okay, fine. Here's what I care about why this book meant so much to me when I was touring Europe on a bicycle, whatever."
Suzanne: And that's the 'why' is really the meat of it.
David: Yes. I wouldn't take any of those Stanford essay questions literally. I mean, you always follow the directions, but I would just go beyond them. I think, if you just tell them three books, if your response to Stanford was like Fear of Flying, Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban, and the Bible, and you just sent them that, that's not...it's an interesting list but it doesn't really flesh out who you are. There's the reason that it's like that, if they only wanted this, then it would be like 500 characters or something, right?
Suzanne: That makes sense. I feel better now about being like, "First, I would donate this one and then..." Okay, the other question, quickly. So I had held a job for three months in a school and then I ended up leaving that job. Honestly, that experience is kind of what has prompted me to go to law school and I kind of alluded to it in my personal statement. Is that something that would require an addendum? It's kind of sketchy that I was at a job for three months and quit, or is it okay?
David: I think it's okay. My gut is that you don't need an addendum, but this is one of those cases where I don't feel adamant about it. I'm not sure that, like, a shorter addendum would be terrible, but I just think probably in general, like, staying at a job for a short amount of time doesn't necessarily require an addendum. So I guess I'll say a hard maybe.
Suzanne: A hard maybe. Okay, I can decide from there. Thank you so much.
David: You're welcome, bye bye.
David: Hey, Ben.
David: Hey, how's it going?
Ben: Good. How are you?
Ben: So I graduated with a degree in medicine, and I'm going to go to law school via the public policy route. My main question was: My CV is kind of extensive, I guess it's kind of like, I have our research and presentations, etc., and I was wondering, how do I condense to a two-page document? It's quite extensive—publications, presentations, etc.
David: First of all, look at the application requirements for the schools and look beyond them. Look to see if they say anything on their website about this. This goes for everyone. It's okay to reach out to admissions officers—call them, email them—as long as you're polite and gracious, and as long as you thank them for your time. This is what they do, this is their job, and they're happy to answer questions like this. But, my first instinct is, like, for your publications, you don't list all of them. You say selected publications or whatever, selected presentations, and maybe you only select two of them—that's sort of the first thing that jumps to mind without seeing your CV, it's hard to give you more.
Ben: Okay. I guess my second question was pretty fast. Would it look weird going from an MD? Would it seem like, "Oh, he's like jumping fields," or anything like that during the application process?
David: It might. Yours is definitely a case where you don't want to write a personal statement about how learning to juggle as a nine-year-old taught you persistence. I think you probably want to write a personal statement about why you got an MD and now you want a JD. It doesn't mean that it can't have any anecdotes, it can, but I just think that you should probably be professionally focused, and perhaps more like a statement of purpose than a personal statement written by a college senior might be.
Ben: Cool. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.
David: You're welcome. Hey, Monica, how's it going?
Monica: Okay. All right. I have two quick questions on what was going off from an earlier question. It's in regards to a GPA addendum. My undergrad GPA is fairly low at a 3.2. At the same token, I got married young and was doing a 3.2 GPA with a newborn. Do you suggest adding an addendum for that?
David: I do. As somebody with an eight month old baby, I understand why that might have been a little bit difficult to study now and then. It is specially be good if, obviously you can't control this anymore, your GPA showed like a rising trend.
Monica: It did.
David: Well, you could also point that out.
Monica: Okay. My second question is the résumé. I've been out in the workforce for quite some time. My résumé is kind of lengthy just because of promotions. Actually, hold on, let me be a little bit more specific. Here's my résumé question. Currently, apart from my regular profession, I'm also part of a real estate investment group, which I am majority managing operator, and then I'm majority managing operator of a construction group. So I have these two, and I'm not too sure if I should even add them to the résumé. My concern is that when you're looking at the paper, it seems like I'm all over the place, but it really is just where our family makes money from, if that makes sense.
David: Yeah, then put it on the résumé. By the way, I heard like 80% of what you said, but I think you're asking if you should put something entrepreneurial on your résumé. You own a real estate investment? You're part of the group?
Monica: Yes, investment group.
David: Definitely put that. I mean, that's awesome. That's cool. It shows that you take initiative. It's interesting, it's adjacent to law. Well, I suppose you know it.
Monica: It is, because there's a lot of contracts. Okay, so that was my now, and then also for my husband's construction company. I'm majority managing operator as well on that, but I have nothing really to do with it. It's just a paper situation.
David: I would say you don't need to put it on if you don't actually do anything.
Monica: Okay, perfect.
David: If it takes up your time, put it on the résumé. If it doesn't, don't.
Monica: Great. All right, well, thank you so much. I really appreciate it.
David: You're welcome. Good luck. Hi, Mindy.
Mindy: So I have a question about writing effective 'Why x' essays for particular law schools. Beyond stating whatever reason I could find on the website or like on the internet, I am not located in the US right now so I'm unable to visit the law school forums or the school itself. I wanted to be more personal so I tried contacting alumni or student alumni, particularly on LinkedIn, to see someone whose career path was aspirational. Unfortunately, I didn't get any responses. So, would it be okay to ask the school to get me in touch with somebody who is currently in the school or some alumni so that I have something more to work with, other than whatever information they have on their website or the brochure or something?
David: Yes, I think it is okay. And as always, the rule is just to be concise, gracious, and polite. But yeah, I think that's fine.
Mindy: If so, who should I be asking for, the admissions or—
David: If they have a general admissions office email, I would just send it to that. And most schools do. You can also call. I don't know if you want to call internationally. Sometimes people feel a little more comfortable about that because there's less of a paper trail, obviously, but I don't think this is something to worry about. I think it's okay to email them and ask about that. I was just going to point out this lesson in the admissions course, also, just has more information about.
Mindy: Okay, thank you.
David: This is the one I wanted to show how to research. So here, just more ideas about that.
Mindy: Okay, thank you. I have another question about the PS. Currently in my career, there is nothing that kind of points to any experience with law or any experience at all because I am a computer science major. I got a graduate degree in computer science and I have been working as a software developer. So should my SAP majorly alluding to why I'm choosing to go to law school?
David: I think that should be in there. Yes, I don't know if you know, it has to be like, "Here are the five reasons why I'm going to law school." Certainly, by the end of the essay, I would want to know why you're going to law school and maybe how you might connect this experience/knowledge that you have to a career in law.
Mindy: But should that be the major focus of it?
David: I would say that you should start with a brainstorm and lay out all the options. I think it's really hard to decide what your statement should be, deductively. There's rarely like a decision tree where it's like, "If factors x, y, and z are true, then you have to write a statement about this." I would just think about the options. Check out how to choose a personal statement topic, watch the video, but you can also just look through at some of these prompts. And maybe do a little free writing, think about if there's anything else you want to tell them, think about maybe if there any anecdotes that sort of helped you thread the needle and take you from computer science and software engineering to law, and see how it shapes up.
Mindy: Okay, thank you.
David: You're welcome. Good luck.
Mindy: Thank you.
David: Hi, Jenny.
Jenny: My question is: I attended one college first and then transferred to another, I wonder if I should list the activities from my first college in my résumé, at all? Those were a little more far back.
David: I think it's fine. I think you can. I don't think you necessarily have to if you're running out of room and if you have a lot of great activities from your newer college.
Jenny: Okay. And also, I just have a general question on the personal statement, especially for schools that simply say, like, specifically your statement to two pages, because it's actually really short, so I just wonder, like, what are the key points I must hit for the PS. I'm actually not so sure whether I should focus on telling my story and telling them who I am, or focus a little bit more on why law and why that school.
David: I would try to do both. The very, very broad model of the personal statement that we see most often, which is often very successful is sort of, like, part one of something a little more personal and something that tells us a moment that you learn something or grew as a person, and then it pivots to why law. So, your essay can definitely do both. I think that it probably should, or at least, it's a great way to write an essay. I just think that sometimes statements that only hit this are dry and end up being less memorable, and there are exceptions, you know.
I worked with a client who literally knew from the moment of the great recession and the housing crisis that he wanted to be a lawyer. He was in college at that time, so he formed a plan and he decided that he wanted to understand the finance industry that sort of enabled this crisis from the inside first, and so he got a job in iBanking, went into private equity, and now he's leaving for law school. It was literally a 10-year plan. And that's a pretty extraordinary degree of self-knowledge and commitment, so it was just obvious what he should write about. But most people don't know that they want to go to law school and then plan it for 10 years. It's okay if you don't, and so if you're not in that world, then maybe you're in this world.
Jenny: How specifically do I need to talk about my future plans? What if I'm not so sure?
David: That's totally fine. So again, the overriding rule is read the prompt. If the law school doesn't ask you to talk about what you plan to do with your career, you don't have to talk about it. I would say most of them don't. Certainly, most top schools might suggest that you talk about it, but if you're not sure, that's totally okay. You don't have to make something up. The admissions officers know that many people enter law school with a hunch that this is the right career for them but without enough knowledge of the industry to know exactly what they're going to do, and that's totally okay.
Jenny: Okay, and about diversity statement, what are the important things I need to know about writing a diversity statement?
David: Funny that you should ask, so there's a whole lesson about that—diversity statements. The first one is, "Should I write a diversity statement?" I think one thing that you should know is this: A lot of people think that you have to write a diversity statement because they don't totally know what it is, you don't have to write a diversity statement. I don't think that you should write a diversity statement unless you have something to say.
Now, that doesn't mean that I want to limit diversity statements to people who have very traditional diversity factors, but, you're aware that diversity statement prompts come in two flavors, and some of them are pretty narrow. They'll say like, if you overcame obstacles because of your background or something like that, write a diversity statement. So if that's the case, you really only want to write that if you overcame obstacles. Others, like Stanford or Berkeley, are just sort of much more welcoming to people who just want to say something else that they haven't yet touched on. And so many times, people who don't have traditional diversity factors—those being race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, and maybe religion—will end up sending a diversity statements to some schools with the sort of more welcoming looser diversity statement prompts and not sending it to other schools.
Jenny: I see. Would you recommend writing out the optional essays?
David: Yes, I would recommend writing at least one optional essay, in most cases. Just for example, Michigan, they offer one of six. I do think that you should probably write one of those. I guess my feeling is that, and this also comes from talking to admissions officer, optional statements often do end up as a way to signal your interest and your effort. Diversity statements don't. So if you don't write a diversity statement, it doesn't look like you're not trying. On the other hand, it might sort of look like you're not trying if you don't write an optional essay.
Jenny: I see. If I would hope to get scholarships, do I need to mention that or I don't need to talk about it at all?
David: You don't need to talk about it at all. Admissions offices award merit aid largely based on your numbers and other factors, basically how much diversity you'll add to the class. The process of applying for need-based aid is separate and it happens after you're already admitted.
Jenny: I see. One last question: How do you prepare for schools that require interviews?
David: You do a practice interview. I can't remember if we have a lesson about this now. But basically, you know, you're always ready to answer certain questions. You're always prepared answer for, like, "Why you want to be a lawyer?" "Why your law school?" You always prepare a couple questions for them. You always prepare to talk about your résumé. And, I would usually think about maybe lots of people tend to ask questions about, sort of, like your work on a team or a mistake, sort of general interviewing questions. As part of why law, by the way, you might be thinking about your career plans if you have them or just sort of subjects of interest.
Jenny: I see. Okay, thank you so much.
David: You're welcome. I'm afraid I'm only going to take one more question, sorry. Hey, John.
John: Hey there, David.
David: How's it going?
John: Good. Thanks for hosting the Q&A. So I had two questions. I know we're pressed on time, so maybe we can just do one. For personal statement, I'm kind of struggling with which topic to pick because I know you mentioned, not the last person but two people ago, kind of blending that personal story and then why law, and for me, I'm kind of struggling with one like the kind of college athlete story. I know you've probably seen a few of those so I was curious if you had any suggestions on what's a good college athlete personal statement, and then also trying to tie it into the graduate work that I did last year, as well. So, what are your thoughts?
David: I guess I would start by rejecting the notion that there is a college athlete story.
David: I've certainly read and helped people with essays about athletics and college, but actually, the essays were all quite different. They don't, at least in my mind, sort of fit a template in the way that, like, a Teach for America essay sort of does. And by the way, I still think that if you did Teach for America and it was super meaningful, you can write an essay about it.
John: Right, but it's more diverse.
David: Yeah, they're kind of is, the TFA essay. I think that it's certainly a great topic and it doesn't excuse you from doing the hard work of figuring out a story. Finding out a topic is really only the beginning of anyone's journey, then you have to figure out what you're trying to say, and how you're going to say it. I will also say, like, not seeing the essay or your brainstorm or knowing more like, I don't know if you can tie it to graduate work. It's certainly possible. Essays are allowed to make leaps. So it just depends on what story you end up telling and whether what's that about.
John: Yeah, it's kind of hard without getting into specific, so that's okay. And then if you have time, I just had a quick addendum question. First semester of my freshman year, I got mono, and that kind of impacted my academic performance, but I don't know if I should do an addendum just because I feel like a ton of people get mono and so it's not really like addendum worthy, if that makes sense.
David: No, I don't think it's addendum worthy. When you're writing an addendum, you're not really concerned about being unique or standing out, because the purpose of an addendum is not to show off who you are or impress them. The purpose of an addendum is just to explain anything that happened.
John: Okay. No, I didn't mean like if it was a diverse-enough addendum. I meant more of like, "Is this enough of a problem?" Because it did impact my grades.
David: Then, yeah. It definitely is, no question about it. No one would say like, "What's this was complaining about mono for?" or like, "This is ridiculous. This and back to this grades, please. What's next?" I don't think anyone will think that.
John: Great. Thank you very much.
David: You're welcome. All right. I'm sorry if I didn't call on you. We're out of time, but I'm going to do another one. I think I might make this a regular thing through the crush of the application season. So just stay tuned on the forum and I will announce the next one, probably be as soon as next week. All right. Thank you for coming, everyone. This was fun, and I wish you all good luck.
J.Y.: J.Y. here. Thank you for listening to the episode. I know some of the questions were highly specific, maybe a little too narrow, but even so I hope you were able to draw some lessons that you can put to use in your own applications. And like I said in the beginning of the episode, if this is something you want to take advantage of, by all means, join us until the end of the year, that is 2018. David will be doing this on a very regular basis, and you're absolutely welcome. If you want to find out more just go to 7sage.com/discussion. Or if you like to get email notifications, just sign up for a free account on 7Sage. And finally, if you enjoy this podcast, please leave us a review on iTunes, Google Play or wherever you get your podcasts. This is something brand new that we're doing and I want to do it right. If you have questions, comments or suggestions, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.