The BriefA Blog about the LSAT, Law School and Beyond
Scott: I would say that the single best thing I can think of for you to do in preparing for the LSAT is make sure you're ready before you sign up for the test. Don't create an arbitrary deadline for yourself.
J.Y.: Hello and welcome to the 7Sage podcast. I'm J.Y. Ping, and on today's episode, we're presenting a webinar about how to deal with test anxiety. 7Sage tutor Brittney discusses strategies that can help prevent and cope with anxiety on test day. Then she and 7Sage tutor Scott take questions from the audience. Please enjoy.
Scott: Well, good evening. My name is Scott Milam, and I'm one of the managers of the 7Stage tutoring program. Tonight I'm joined by Brittney Ajaj. Brittney is one of our many talented tutors at 7Sage and is here tonight to discuss combating test anxiety on the LSAT. So without any further ado, Brittney, go ahead and take it away.
Brittney: Hello, everyone. Thank you so much for coming. I'm very excited to talk to you all. Actually, I'm very calm to talk to you all about test anxiety, because it's all about keeping the calmness as we take the LSAT exam.
So today we're just going to talk about how test anxiety can impact your performance on test day and how to combat it. I personally experience test anxiety. I think everyone here probably experiences test anxiety. So this is a very important topic and I'm hoping that it'll be very helpful to you all today.
Scott: Do you want to clarify before we get any further into this topic that we are not psychiatrists. We are not psychologists. We are not therapists. We are LSAT tutors, so please don't construe anything that we're about to say as medical advice or how to treat any condition that you may or may not have. We are not here to diagnose you with any particular condition.
We're just talking about how to deal with that feeling of worry and anxiety that comes with taking tests like the LSAT, and just some strategies that we, not as medical professionals but just as other former test-takers and tutors, like to share with our clients on how they can really kind of maximize their performance.
So please, though, if you feel in the end of this talk that you might be suffering from something more than just kind of everyday average anxiety, if the LSAT is significantly harming your mental health or your life, please seek out actual professionals. And again, our tips here are merely to kind of help you maximize performance, not to ensure your mental wellbeing during this or any other test.
Brittney: Exactly. So what I'm going to do to start is I'm going to share my screen really quick. This is basically a little test that some psychiatrists came up with in 1991 to diagnose people with test anxiety. Of course, it might not be the most accurate test now that it's 2022, but nonetheless, I think it is really important to see how we all suffer from it.
So just take a moment and look through some of the common signs of test anxiety. If you want, you can count what numbers you add up to based on 1 being never, that you never get any of these issues when you're taking a test. If that is true, I'm very jealous of you. And then 5 is always, so if you always, when you take a test, have butterflies. So I'll just leave this up for a minute if anybody wants to see how they perform.
All right. So I'm going to go to the next slide. It kind of just explains how each person would measure. So I personally got a 37, which is an unhealthy level of test anxiety. I'm not sure how anybody else did, but lower scores actually indicate that you don't have much test anxiety. And if your score is extremely low, it actually symbolizes that you might need to kind of pump up your adrenaline while you're taking a test, because a little bit of adrenaline is a good thing.
Scores between 20 and 35 are usually normal, and then scores over 35, which I'm sure most people experience, are a sign of an unhealthy level of test anxiety. So I am going to now just kind of share with you all why we are talking about test anxiety and kind of defining it.
So, chances are, if you're here, you have test anxiety and you absolutely do know what it feels like. Test anxiety is just a performance-based anxiety when you feel some type of psychological distress when it comes to academic failure, and you worry about succeeding academically. And it's not always like a mental thing. You might have a stomachache or your head might hurt.
And a lot of people have this because they have a fear of failure, they don't feel prepared, they have a poor test history, they associate their grades with personal worth, and it comes from a lack of control, a fear of lack of control, because you can't control how the test is going to go for yourself unless you put in the work.
So I wanted to come on here today, and I had some debates on what I should do today for my webinar topic. But I thought that talking about test anxiety would be one of the greatest things, because the LSAT is a test that basically encourages you to have anxiety. It's a test that times you in a very short period of time, and it asks you to do some pretty hard tasks within that short period of time.
Plus, there's a lot of things that ride on the LSAT, which makes your anxiety even higher. You're worried about getting admitted to schools based on your LSAT score. You're worried about your scholarship and you're worried about your future. And when I was researching, trying to figure out why should I do test anxiety or should I do a different topic, I found that the UCLA actually recently did a study and found that 60% of test-takers do suffer from test anxiety.
So if 7Sage users are anywhere near accurate of the general population, if anything, I bet most 7Sage users are high achievers and probably do experience a little bit more test anxiety, I thought it was a very fitting topic. Plus, it can just negatively impact your performance on an exam because you might be distracted, you might be feeling miserable, you're getting slowed down by all these intrusive thoughts, you feel defeated, and your self-doubt leads to a poor performance.
So the first thing I just want to talk about is dispelling some myths about test anxiety. So you may hear some people say, oh, anxiety is good for you, it helps you do better. I've heard that so many times in my life, and I'm like, oh, okay, anxiety is great. But that just is not the case. So I'm actually going to show you guys a chart that I have pulled up here, and it is the performance curve.
So you can see here performance is on this axis and arousal is on this access, and you can see that the peak performance kind of comes at a point where you're not like dead asleep without any stress in the world, but you're not panicking. The perfect spot for performance is when you're in a creative, calm mode. So what I like to say is you just have that good amount of adrenaline. You have that push, but you don't have too much anxiety hampering you.
And you can see here how test anxiety does affect people negatively. You can see on these two exams that people took when they had the low anxiety levels, their score was higher; when they had medium, it was in the middle; and when they had high test anxiety, it was very low. And too much anxiety can make you almost feel like you're not even there, that you are disappeared from the room, and there's just a bunch of words going on in your head, and that you can't focus.
So the first myth is, absolutely, anxiety will not help you do better. A little bit of anxiety, sometimes a good thing, but it's not going to help you do better. The next thing that I wanted to dispel is that some people say doing nothing about test anxiety or ignoring it will make it go away. If that was the truth, we wouldn't be here today, and there's absolutely so many different ways to minimize it, which we will go over today.
And lastly, some people will say that test anxiety cannot be reduced, but obviously, it can be reduced, and we're going to show you how.
So the next part of the discussion, we're going to talk about how to deal with test anxiety, which will, in turn, improve your performance and your focus on the exam. But I want to split it into three parts. The reason why I'm doing this is because I want to talk about before the exam, during the exam, and after the exam.
It's definitely very important to keep these little distinctions in mind, because a lot of this is going to be you putting in the work before you take the exam. You can't just walk into the test, sit down at your computer, and just be like, okay, I'm not going to have anxiety today. It doesn't work like that, unfortunately. I wish it did. It's a process that you have to go through, and a lot of it will come from practicing before you take the test.
Your mind is a muscle and its concentration ability can be trained to maximize how well you do. Remember that your concentration and your anxiety levels, they're not static and you can train yourself to feel less anxious and, in turn, focus more. So today, we're just going to talk about how you can do that.
I want to give a little anecdote really quick. When I was in high school, I was always like the most anxious human ever. I don't know why. If I had a test, I would somehow have an ear infection that day. Just wouldn't be there. And my one teacher always said to me, proper planning prevents piss-poor performance, the six Ps. I'll say it again. Proper planning prevents piss-poor performance. And the reason why I'm saying that is because I want to emphasize, once again, how important it is to work on this stuff before you take the exam.
So the first thing I'm going to talk about is effective studying. So the first thing is to be extremely organized with your studying. One of the ways that you can do that is create a study schedule. So if you go on 7Sage, you can actually put in like how many weeks you have left of studying and they'll actually organize a schedule for you.
Another thing is you could just go through and look at what types of things the LSAT tests you on and make your own schedule. 7Sage also has an opportunity where you can meet with someone, one of the tutors, and talk about what they think would be a good study schedule for you based on your analytics. So know you're not alone. Talk to your peers, look at what's on the LSAT, and create an organized study schedule to just keep you on track.
Scott: So Brittney, I have a question. This is one of the questions that I get a lot in consults or from clients. About how long should people prepare for the LSAT? I know there are a lot of people coming off spring break, and they're planning on taking it here in the next few months. How long should they give themselves to be ready?
Brittney: Definitely. I always tell people that the more is usually the better. I would say that people should take at least six months to eight months to study for the LSAT. I would say six months is the minimum. I don't really know if there's a maximum, but definitely, like, you need to be studying for a good period of time.
Scott: Yeah, I'd just go ahead and second that, and of course there's a wide range. I'm on record as having only studied for 10 weeks before I made a 180 on the LSAT last year, so obviously there's a continuum here. But that said, probably the greatest single source of anxiety that I have seen in clients that I have worked with largely is kind of self-imposed. It's because they have set an unrealistic deadline for themselves for when they are going to take the LSAT, when they're going to start studying for it.
And we get almost every week some client who comes to us and says, okay, well, I'm just now starting to study and I'm taking the test in April or June, and we're looking at them, okay, so you're taking this thing in like six weeks and you are like three lessons into the core curriculum and you want to get ready?
Well, that by itself is a recipe for anxiety because, ultimately, it's an anxiety built on unpreparedness, that people legitimately aren't ready to take the test. And so when they get to the test, they feel like they're not ready, because they are able to accurately assess their own preparedness and their own performance.
I would say that, I mean, the single best thing I can think of for you to do in preparing for the LSAT is make sure you're ready before you sign up for the test. Don't create an arbitrary deadline for yourself. Be realistic in terms of your expectations, and know that if you are going to set a really close deadline, if you are just now starting studying and you are bound and determined you have to take in June, know that by setting that very quick deadline, you're obviously setting yourself up for one more stressful ride of it.
But also you're probably lowering the maximum score you're probably going to be able to get, because you haven't given yourself time to really get there. I always tell clients, let's worry about registering for a specific test date once your PT average is where it ought to be.
Brittney: Yeah, I think that's a really good point. I remember saying that I was going to take my LSAT in February and I ended up taking it in June, and that February deadline I set for myself actually just put a pit in my stomach and increased my anxiety because I was trying so hard to improve my PT score for that February deadline that I just made up in my head, and it ended up just being something that enhanced my anxiety.
So definitely give yourself plenty of time, and like Scott said, worry about the date you're going to take the test once you hit your goal score on several practice tests.
Scott: That brings up a really good point. So kind of tell everybody else, because I know within tutoring instinctively or just through repetition, know why February to June probably doesn't make that big of a difference, but tell everybody else why they shouldn't be stressing, for instance, to take an April test as opposed to June or August.
Brittney: Yeah, definitely. So I would just say don't stress about the timeline, because it's basically, I like to say the LSATs are the same fluff, or different fluff, same structure every time. The test is not going to be different in itself, and if you're rushing yourself, you're just not going to be able to hit the target that you want. I'm not sure if there's a different point that you were going for.
Scott: Yeah, no, I was going more with the, as it turns out, there's basically no difference from an admissions perspective between taking in January, February, April, or June. If you're applying for next cycle, well, it doesn't matter when you took the LSAT, it just matters what score you got. And yet, so many people tie themselves in knots getting so committed to a February test date when it's often we find ourselves having to kind of persuade clients, look, there's no reason to take in February if you're not ready. April is just good enough. You're still going to have months and months to work on all of your application materials.
So again, some deadlines are actually, if you're applying for next cycle and you haven't taken and it's the middle of December, okay, we don't have a lot of time left to take. You're going to have to take that January, or you're going to have to push back your start date of law school. But for the most part, a lot of these deadlines are kind of self-imposed and only serve to kind of drive up the anxiety of the entire thing.
Brittney: Definitely. Yeah, I've had so many people take the October exam and have all their applications in by Thanksgiving, so there's really no rush. There's no increase in your chances, depending on if you take it in January or in June, so that's not something to worry about.
The next thing I'll touch upon, and I think this goes along with organization, is I always kept a studying diary, which may sound a little dumb, but I always had this self-doubt in my head, wondering if I studied enough. Even though the practice test scores showed that I did study enough, I always had this issue going on in my head, but what if I didn't study this enough? What if I didn't do this enough?
So I always used this diary to prove to myself that I was ready. So I would take notes on what my plans were, what my scores were, my successes, my failures, and how I was feeling during the studying process, just to look back at it and feel better about myself. I think that actually improved my anxiety, just knowing, hey, look at this diary for reassurance. You did everything you can, and you're going to do great on this exam.
The next thing is, and I think Scott explains this very well, so maybe you could do the analogy. I love how you explain this. But always study where you take your exam. Your practice tests are a thermometer, and I'm going to let Scott take over for this because the way he explains it is just great.
Scott: Okay. Yeah, so this analogy that we end up using a lot, but essentially, so many people seem to think that taking PTs, and just taking lots of PTs, is somehow some sort of magical way to improve your LSAT score, that they just take them two times a week, three times a week, four times a week, and they just think that if I just take enough PTs, somehow my score improves. And that's simply not the case.
The PTs are a valuable tool, but they don't by themselves raise your actual score. And the analogy I like today is that a PT is essentially like a thermometer, your cooking thermometer when you're making a roast. You can stick the thermometer in as many times as you want, but it actually isn't going to raise the temperature of the meat. The only thing it does is it tells you what else you need to do in order to get the roast to the desired temperature, to get it where you want it to go.
In the same way, PTs are a diagnostic tool. They tell you where your score is currently at. What raises your score is what you do with the information from the PT. It's the blind reviewing. It's the reviewing your wrong answers. It's the foolproofing Logic Games that comes out of that. And if you're not using the full PT in review, if you're not taking the time to go over all of that, actually taking the PT probably does nothing other than to exhaust a limited resource, namely the number of fresh PTs that you have.
As a result, we always recommend clients never take more PTs in a given time period than you have time to adequately review, because the review's what really is going to raise your score.
Brittney: Definitely. The next thing I'll say about effective studying is practicing under mild stress. As we said a million times, the LSAT is a test that enhances your anxiety. There's deadlines in terms of when you want to take the test, there's deadlines in terms of how long you have for the section. It is an anxiety-provoking test.
The way that you can practice under mild stress may sound a little bit funny, but what I always did is I would look through my test, and I would put a quarter in a jar every time I missed a Logic Game section, or maybe I was just feeling really lazy that day. And when I would miss a Logical Reasoning section, I'd have to do five pushups. Just doing these little trivial things, even though it's so silly, I kind of was like, okay, my performance on this does have consequences, which is exactly what I will feel on the actual test day.
So that mild stress that I exposed myself to while taking the test made the actual test day feel like nothing, because the five pushups and the anxiety from the actual getting the score, it just kind of evened out for me because I was used to performing under some sort of stress.
Scott: The other thing I'll throw out there is probably the single best thing you can do in terms of using PTs or how you take PTs to help not only your actual performance but also dealing with anxiety is to take the practice test under the exact same conditions you plan on taking the real test. Take tests that are four sections long, because you're going to be taking a four-section test. Take them with the same time conditions, take them at the same table on the same computer.
If you can arrange it, do it at the same time of day and have the same breakfast in your stomach as you're going to take on the actual day. Part of that is just because, one, again analogy of PT as a thermometer, the thermometer does its best work, it gives you the most reliable results, when you actually put it in the right place. Taking a PT under something other than test condition, giving yourself extra time, it's like trying to measure the temperature of the roast by laying the thermometer on the counter. I mean, it might give some sort of indication, but it's not going to give you a really accurate read.
But more than that, with regard to the topic we're talking about today, the goal with taking the practice test under the same conditions you'll take the real test is that with any luck, you'll actually habituate yourself to knowing, okay, I've done this same routine over and over and over again to the point where it simply becomes routine. I have my same pad of paper and my same pencils, and it feels like just another practice test.
And hopefully then on the day that you take the real test in the same place, in the same chair, with the same pencils, on the same computer, then hopefully the real test will feel a little bit more like a practice test, and that just the sheer muscle memory of it will hopefully kind of keep your anxiety at bay.
Brittney: Definitely. And this is interesting. I'm not sure if this explains it. I actually took the LSAT twice. I took once in a June sitting and then once in an August. In the June one, I decided to sit in a new spot different from where I was actually taking my test. It was upstairs instead of downstairs, and on my June test, I actually underperformed compared to my practice test average.
But when I took it in August, I actually was slightly over my average. And I got a 178 in August and I took it in my normal studying spot. So what Scott is saying does have very good merit and it really does work, just practicing under the same conditions.
The last thing we'll say about effective studying is having goals, writing down, today, I'm going to master X. Today, I'm going to master sequencing games that have conditionals. Today, I'm going to master games that are circular, something like that. Really understanding what your goal is for that day or that week or that period of time and mastering it is a really good way to study effectively.
The next thing I'll say very quickly is, another way to get your anxiety lower before you're taking the exam is just self-care. So you want to have meals that are made as performance meals. So like Scott said, the same thing that you're going to have on the day of the LSAT you kind of want to have when you are taking practice tests, but you want to have high protein, low carbs. You want to have proper sleep. You want to minimize your alcohol intake and your caffeine intake.
You want to do some relaxation exercises, which I will touch on in a few minutes, and you always want to do positive affirmations. Your expectations impact your actual performance, so always tell yourself that you're doing great and that you're going to do great.
The next point, I will say, going off of that, is visualizing your success. So I used to dance growing up, and the judges used to always tell us, close your eyes and imagine yourself doing your dance on stage perfectly. It'll help you the day of. And I always thought that was interesting, and for this webinar, I did some research on it. And visualization is actually a clinical technique to assist athletes and performers with overcoming anxiety.
So this does apply to test anxiety. And by going through that mental rehearsal of your performance, it will sharpen your focus and restore your confidence in your ability to follow through. So if you're ever like awake at night and you can't sleep, close your eyes and visualize yourself doing amazing on the LSAT, and then hopefully on the day of, it'll just sharpen your focus and restore your confidence.
And the next thing I'll say, and this is before you take the LSAT, is to prepare some sort of mindfulness plan. So you want to anticipate the problems that might happen and make a specific plan for what you will do if those happen.
So what am I going to do if the first game takes me 12 minutes and I'm behind on my target time? What am I going to do if my proctor unmutes herself during the exam and speaks a different language, which is what happened to me? What am I going to do if blah, blah, blah. You want to have those plans in place because then, if they happen, you have the plan and you're going to feel great about it. You're going to have the plan, you're going to execute it, and you're not going to have as much anxiety as you would if this was just random and you didn't prepare for it.
Scott: Those are, by the way, great questions. What were your answers for them when you took the test? What was Brittney's plan for proctor problems? I'm sure people would be interested in that.
Brittney: My plan for proctor problems, and again, I had proctor problems in June, so I went into August knowing that I had to have a plan for this. What I said to my proctor, very politely, before we began, is I said, if you need something from me, please pause the test and then unmute yourself and say whatever you need to say. And you almost, everybody here wants to be lawyers, that's why you're taking the LSAT, so you have to learn how to be an advocate for yourself.
So you need to know how to stick up for yourself. You're paying like $200 to take this exam. You should have this exam in the best setting possible with the best-case scenario possible. You don't want your proctor interrupting you. So just being a good advocate right from the start is a great way. That was my plan.
Another thing, if I was behind on games, if I spent 12 minutes on my first game and I felt myself getting anxious, I'd tell myself, you know what? Maybe they just somehow gave me a hard game to begin with. I'll make it up on the rest. Or maybe I missed an inference in this game. Let me be smarter for the next game and catch that inference.
Another thing I would say to myself, because I'm somebody that gets very, very anxious, I'd say, okay, I'm still going to care a lot, but maybe that game was experimental, just because that would lower my anxiety so much. And that's actually what happened on my August test. I had a very, very hard experimental section, my first section, and I rely on the games to be my perfect score, and I was like, all right, I'm screwed. And it ended up being the experimental. Just have a plan to tell yourself, to make yourself relax, and these plans should help you. I don't know if Scott had any little plans in your head.
Scott: Mainly the one for the proctor, and I had a very similar situation to what you did. I only took the test the one time. I had heard from other people on Reddit and on the 7Sage forums about the proctor problems and had told the proctor essentially the same thing. Like, look, I understand if you need to interrupt me, I'm completely okay with that, but please pause the time because, you know, I know in some of these sections, I can just barely make all the questions in time.
And sure enough, I got interrupted, they didn't stop the time. But then I was able to just remind them, hey, well, hold on, I'll do whatever you want, I'll do a room scan, but I need you to stop the time. And sure enough, they actually did. I think you'll generally find all sorts of problems with proctors every time test day rolls around. We see slews of them in the forum and on Reddit.
That said, you know, you'd be amazed the results you can get from just telling the proctor, hey, this is what I need you to do. Because I, at least from my observations, it seems like they've got quite a few things going on at the same time, so sometimes they just need to be reminded of how the rules and the systems are supposed to work.
Brittney: Definitely. The next thing I'm just going to go over really quick is there's a couple of different exercises that you can do to make yourself a mindfulness plan. So one of the first ones that I really like is called a body scan. So basically what it is is you just try to relax your body, sit in a chair, you lay in your bed, whatever it is. And the first thing you want to do is just relax and focus on your breathing. Then you can start with whatever body part. I always start with like my feet and then go to my head.
You'll just feel like you'll just relax your feet and just focus on that, and you'll go through your whole body just doing that, taking one body part, focusing on it, and then letting go. What I always did was if I wanted to do a body scan, I would like scrunch that body part and then let it go. So I'd like point my feet really, really hard, get out all the anxiety, and then just let it go. And it actually just feels like you're just losing so much tension. So that's definitely something I did.
And you can have a modified version of that on the LSAT. For me, mine was always my toes, because I didn't want my proctor to be like, what is this weird girl doing? So I would scrunch my toes really, really hard for like three seconds and then just let them go, and just got all my anxiety out.
Another thing is the five senses drill. So it's about noticing five things you see in the room. So like I have a mouse, I have a water bottle, I have AirPods, I have other things. Then you notice four things you feel, then you notice three things you hear, you notice two things you smell, and you notice one thing you taste.
On the LSAT, for me, I didn't have time to go through the whole drill, which nobody really would. If there's one thing that you find lowers your anxiety the most, for me, it was just feeling something in my environment and focusing on that for two seconds instead of the exam, just two little seconds, that really helped me. So if you have a modified plan for how you're going to relax yourself, using either a body scan, or some type of mantra in your head, or one of the five senses drills, that's definitely a great way to lower your anxiety.
Scott: And I would encourage you, by the way, if you're going to try anything on the LSAT, practice them before you actually take the test. LSAT's a relatively expensive way to experiment on anxiety-lowering techniques, so use other tests. Use other situations in your life that might be causes for anxiety and see which ones of these work. Because I significantly doubt that these are "one size fits all" solutions.
Brittney: Definitely. And then one of my major last points for before the exam is just know when to recharge, in general. When you're studying, recognize that you are feeling burnt out and tell yourself, okay, I need to step away from studying for a minute. And then just some other brief, little random things for before you take your exam.
Learn how to actively read. So you kind of want to visualize what you're reading. What I always say to my clients is pretend what you read you're going to go teach a class on. You don't really need to know those little, little details in Reading Comprehension. You need to understand the structure and the main ideas. So that's what I always tell my clients for active reading and Reading Comprehension.
Another thing is just keeping your paper in a really organized fashion. If anyone here has ever worked with me before, you know I am crazy when it comes to game board setup. You need to set up your board in an effective way because clutter leads to anxiety, which leads to scattered thoughts.
Another thing I found helped me was, in order to improve my focus and lessen my anxiety, I would give myself a task. So for games, I'm going to play a fun game and try to find all of the hidden inferences. That was my task. For Logical Reasoning, I'm going to analyze an argument and pick it apart, and I'm going to engage with the stimulus, act like it matters to me. And for Reading Comprehension, I'm going to read a passage and look for what I just say MAVOT to shorten it: main idea, author's perspective, viewpoints, organization, and tone.
And the last thing I will say is just focus on what you can control when you're studying. Do these things now, don't do them during the test, like Scott just said. Don't go try to do a body scan in the middle of the LSAT. You want to focus on doing these before you take the test, because these are the things you can control. And briefly, during the test, just always have that modified mindfulness exercise, so for me, again, it was like feeling some things in the room.
Remember the beauty of flagging. If you feel anxious and you can't get through a question, flag it and move on and come back. Another thing is to accept what is given. Determine if it's worth skipping or powering through based on what you know, and move on. And remember, it's okay to get a question wrong. Even if you're shooting for a 180, you can get a question wrong. So just relax and know that it's okay if you miss a question.
And then lastly, this one is definitely harder to come up with ideas for, because it's very different. But after your exam is a time where a lot of people have anxiety. Scott, I think you said this was the one that really bugged you, right?
Scott: I've never really had really strong test anxiety. I've had anxiety for public speaking and other areas of my life, but with the LSAT, got blessed in the fact that when I actually sat down to take the test, I was calm as anything and was able to really just kind of focus on my performance. But the anxiety hit pretty much the next morning and for the next three weeks, as I waited for the score, and I had numerous sleepless nights and had myself convinced that I made crazy scores that were way off of my score average.
And almost further I went from the actual day of the test, just, I don't know, I had kind of a cognitive distortion of thinking that my test went differently than it did, and all of these sorts of bizarre things that were kind of intrusive thoughts leading up to the actual score release day. I remember actually my wife and I took a vacation, we went to Hawaii during that time, and like, it was, I actually had to resist one week out, like checking have they released the score yet?
No, they haven't released the score yet. So, I mean, this is actually where I would say it actually had life-impacting ability for a short period of time, anxiety for me right after the test.
Brittney: Yeah, I definitely understand that. I had that in my June, so when I had my August one, I knew I had to come up with a strategy to combat that. What I did is I literally just took my phone, opened up like the notes app, and took notes on how I thought I did right after the exam. Logical Reasoning, oh, I felt really, really good. Maybe I missed like two questions. Just notes about how I felt. I screenshot the notes. I had time receipt and everything.
And then when I had one of those intrusive thoughts, like, oh, what about this? What about this? I would pull up that screenshot, look at it, and be like, okay, this is how I felt exactly after the exam, and that's when I had the test the most fresh in my mind, so that is the most accurate reading of how I think I did. Don't let your anxiety control your thoughts.
I definitely think that's a really good strategy because it kind of just reminds you like, hey, you knew what you were doing in that moment, so read how you actually did. Don't make up all these scenarios in your head. Another thing, I feel like you going to Hawaii was a good thing because keeping busy is definitely a good thing to do.
And then the last thing I'll say, and it's kind of silly and everybody's probably heard it before, is that you can't control the past. So when you try to control the past, you actually lose control of the past because you lose control of your own mind, you lose control of your own thoughts. Don't try to control it. Whatever will be, will be. That's definitely the toughie, though, after the exam.
Scott: All right, do you have anything else?
Brittney: No, I think I'm good unless you do.
Scott: All right. Well, let's go ahead and turn it over for questions. I know this is kind of a different topic than we normally cover, but we'd certainly be happy to answer any questions that we are qualified to answer. This is where I will again remind you of my caveat from the beginning that we are not therapists, we are not psychologists or psychiatrists. We are not capable of dealing with actual medical issues.
But if you have any questions specific to the LSAT, and things, just tips that might be able to help you on the actual exam itself, we'd be happy to answer them. So here's how this works. If you have a question, hit the "raise hand" button. I will try to get to you in more or less the order that you raise your hands, and then I will unmute you, and then you'll be able to ask your question and then we'll give an answer. So for instance, I just saw Hannah. So Hannah, what is your question?
New Speaker: So this is my being in anxiety during the workshop. Let's just talk about that. I was just going to ask, like for, if you guys can give us some tips about how to avoid anxiety and stress for during the study for the LSAT, not during the test, because it's just like, as much as we get closer to the test date, I'm just realizing I'm getting more like panic attacks here and there and just like thinking that I'm not, maybe I'm not ready enough, or still, like I have three, four months to go, but it's just too much stress to deal with. If you guys have any tip or again, during preparation for the test.
Brittney: Yeah, definitely. If you're worrying if you don't feel prepared enough, look at your practice test scores. See how you are doing on your average practice tests. Would you feel comfortable getting that score on test day? Like we were saying in the beginning of the session, don't sign up for the exam if you don't feel ready yet. Don't rush yourself into doing anything.
And then another thing is, as we discussed with effective studying, one of the big things I'll say is keeping that studying diary I think would be really good for you because it sounds like you're having a lot of self-doubt if you studied enough, which is totally something that I experienced too.
So use that diary to write down, this is what I did today to get closer to my goal score. These are my scores right now. These are how I'm doing. These are my successes, these are my failures, and this is how I feel. I think you being able to look back at that will definitely be good for you. And I'm sure Scott might have some ideas too.
Scott: The one thing I'd throw out there is I have probably more experience of this, having spent the past eight years coaching competitive high school debate, as anything else, but one thing I've often remarked on in being in that competitive environment is that students' ability to self-assess their own performance is basically nonexistent. And I've noticed that with a lot of our clients too.
In debate, students come out, they will have one of two reactions about the debate round. Either they will know that they did fantastic and they did awesome, and if they lost that round, then it was obviously the judge, the judge was crooked or there was some cheating or something going on. Or they have the exact opposite where they just can focus only on their own mistakes and all the things that they did wrong, and oh my goodness, we definitely lost, and if we didn't lose, it was just sheer luck.
And what I came to realize after about a year of doing debate is that neither of those reactions has really anything to do with reality. People's own self-assessments guided by a lot of other things but rarely an attention to detail and the facts. So I would encourage you, don't rely too much on your self-assessment of your readiness.
Have someone in your life who hopefully knows something about the LSAT and who can kind of be that second pair of eyes who can tell you, well, no, look, based on the data, you are ready, you should be able to do this and excel at it, because often our own self-assessments are just, are so caught up in our own self-image and all of our background and everything else that they can rarely be relied upon as kind of an accurate and objective measure. Does that help, Hannah?
New Speaker: It did. Thank you so much.
Scott: All right. Now, Alison.
New Speaker: So I know like, and also I have tried before, so I tried to take prep tests in the exact location I'm going to take the actual test, but just like, according to my current schedule, I may need to move our apartments or find a hotel to take the test due to like wi-fi connection and everything. So I'd like to know, do you have any advice to people like me who, like, who can't really take prep test, or can't really always take prep test in the exact location they're going to take the actual test?
Brittney: Definitely. I think this is good life advice, but focus on the things that you can control. Like Scott said, if you're going to take a practice test, eat the meal that you're going to eat on the day of the LSAT before you take the practice test.
Another thing like we talked about, I don't know if you remember, but I was saying always practice under mild stress. So like, if you miss a Logic Game question, you're going to put a quarter in a jar or do two pushups. Those are things that you can control and that you're going to experience regardless of where you take your test. So I think focusing on those things is definitely going to help you. I don't know, Scott, do you have any others to add?
Scott: Sure. Here's what I would say. In an ideal world, you'd be sitting in the same chair at the same desk and using the same wi-fi. Obviously, that's not going to be possible for everyone. So set it up as close as you can. Try to not give yourself a huge, expansive table if that's not what you're going to have on the day of the test.
Something I did, because Logic Games was the thing I really struggled with, it sounds really simple, but I had just a pad of paper and I had a set of pencils that I kept sharpened, and I used the same stupid pencil every single time, I bought like in bulk, I bought like 300 of the things.
Brittney: I got to say, that's a good point. When I change my pen color, it throws me off. Definitely focus on like things like that. Yeah.
Scott: I mean, even if you can't control every single detail, control the details that you can, and certainly, I would say, if you are going to be taking it in a relatively unfamiliar environment on the actual day of the test, for instance, if you're going to be taking it in a hotel room, make sure, check in the day before, and then that evening, make sure the wi-fi is working. Make sure that you've set out the "do not disturb" sign.
Just, in other words, kind of try to anticipate the different ways that that situation can go wrong and try to do something about it, because, one, actually doing something about it will hopefully prevent the things going wrong, but also I think it'll just give you some peace of mind that, okay, well, I've checked all the boxes and I've thought through the different possibilities, and it just kind of gives a sense of calm that, okay, yeah, I have this. I'm ready for this because I've thought through the different things that can go wrong and I have a plan for what's going to happen.
Often in life, and of course, in the LSAT, we can't prevent the things that are going to go wrong, but if we can anticipate them and make a plan for them, often that'll help a lot with our anxiety.
All right, next up, Dale.
New Speaker: Hi, thank you so much for holding this chat. It's been really helpful so far and I've been taking a lot of notes. I have two questions. My first is about not being able to sleep the night before. I've taken the test before, I took it actually in June of 2020, and I couldn't sleep. I couldn't get to bed the whole night, and lately, kind of, it's been, the anxiety's all, it's kind of creeping, it's not just the night before. Like, I'm taking the test again in June and I've had a lot of sleep issues because of it. So I was just wondering if you have any suggestions about that.
And then my second question has to do with the point that Brittany made about, or the suggestion of like putting a quarter in the jar, like doing push-ups if you miss something on the test. I just had a question because, when taking practice tests, I already have kind of test anxiety, so I don't know. Do you think it's still helpful to introduce that extra element of stress when you're already stressed about taking the test? Yeah, so those are my two questions. Thank you both so much.
Scott: As someone who's suffered from insomnia, I'll jump in on that first one. Here's the big thing I would say. I think there are some really good tools that can help for that, but I'd be remiss for me or Brittney to recommend them. I would really encourage you to talk to your general practitioner, talk to a doctor, because often there are things that they can prescribe or recommend, over the counter or otherwise, that can really help with that.
And one thing I will say without naming medications or anything like that, I would encourage you if you use any of those, and I have in the past, make sure you don't try them out for the first time the night before the test. You don't want to take something that's going to make you excessively groggy the next morning. Make sure that you know how you're going to handle any medicine that your doctor gives you. Test day is a poor day for experimentation. But, you know, please feel free, go talk to your doctor about these things, because they really do have quite a few tools that can help you.
Brittney: Yeah, definitely. I go off of everything Scott said. Definitely go to your doctor for that. Little things that I found helped me before I go to sleep is I will play a game in my head. My thing is Tetris. I don't know why. I close my eyes and I picture like all the blocks lining up on top of each other. I'm not sure why that's my thing.
Another thing is, like I said, you can visualize your success and that will help you do better. So if you rest and you just start closing your eyes and thinking about how great you're going to do and how you're going to excel on test day, that might be something that almost helps you look forward to the exam the next day.
And then touching on your next point, the whole point of people taking a quarter in the jar, doing a pushup, is just so they learn how to operate under stress. So if you're already feeling like you're operating under a level of stress that's so high, I would definitely focus on other ways that you can lower it. As we talked about, self-care techniques, improving your way of studying to be a little bit more effective.
I don't think you necessarily need to go for the 80 pushup realm because you're already definitely operating under stress. So I would just take it easy on yourself and just see if this amount of stress that you're having while you're taking the practice test, just make sure that's the same amount that you kind of have on the real thing. I know you said you've taken it before. If it's a lot less than on the real thing, maybe throw a pushup in there, but don't do anything too crazy.
New Speaker: Thank you both so much.
Scott: Of course. And then Aroshi?
New Speaker: Hi. Awesome. Thanks so much. And yes, you pronounced it correctly. It's Aroshi. My question is about anxiety regarding taking fresh PTs, because, so I've been at the LSAT for a couple of years now. I took it once last summer and once in the winter, and I have about 13 or 14 absolutely fresh PTs left, and they're all from the late seventies and eighties, and meaning like PT number 80, et cetera.
And I have had a really hard time just kind of biting the bullet and starting to take them, because I don't feel like I'm ready to take them yet, because I have this thought that, okay, well, I need to be performing at a certain level to, like, be able to deserve to take the last PTs almost. And I'm wondering if you have any advice about that, aside from, I guess, just, you know, going back and cycling through old PTs, which is probably, you know, the intuitive thing to do. But, yeah.
Scott: So one thing that I do with clients who are really short on PTs and don't have very many left is we actually kind of create a PT budget for, are we going to use these remaining PTs in the days leading up to the test? Because, again, they are a scarce resource, and luckily, you haven't run them all the way down, 13, I think you said 13 or 14, which is, you can do a lot with that many.
But I would definitely space out your use of those and make sure that you're getting the full use of it. And I guess really, in terms of, you know, dealing with the anxiety of that, I would just say, make a plan. For me, at least, when dealing with a scarce resource, whether money or practice tests, coming up with a plan for how I'm going to spend it is often helpful.
Then when I know that I'm following the plan, I'm not just splurging, I'm not just spending whatever makes sense to my gut. Well, it eases the anxiety because, okay, well, I know I've set aside that I have this many PTs and I am taking the exam here, and even if I need to take a second exam, I would only need this many. And, okay, so I'm taking them according to schedule and it makes sense to use them.
And of course there's a lot of different ways you can make the most out of previously used PTs. So I would certainly be drilling off of those. If there's anything you haven't foolproofed off of those, make sure you're using it. Oftentimes, if people studied for earlier tests during the time of the Flex, there are entire LG sections or LR sections, for instance, that they had just never looked at, so those are an invaluable resource, especially if that's an area of the test that you struggle with.
So make sure you go back through all of the stuff that you've seen before and make the most out of that. Missed questions can be fantastic for drill sets and for review. So go back through and make sure you've used the, all of the previous material and make a plan for how you can use the new stuff. Do you have anything to throw in there, Brittney?
Brittney: No, I think you hit it. I think the idea of going back to old questions too that you missed is definitely a good idea, so definitely keep a wrong answer journal and be updating that because I think that's a very good point too.
Scott: All right. We've got a couple of questions. Feel free, by the way, if anyone else wants to raise their hand, we'd be glad to take more of your questions. But then I also have a couple that apparently they don't have access to audio and so they've asked in chat. So we have one person who asked, how many months did you study for the test and how do you balance/fit in studying for school and the LSAT? So Brittney, you go ahead and tackle this one since I think I partially answered it already.
Brittney: Yeah, no worries. I think we kind of hit on it in the beginning. To be honest, I studied about six months for the LSAT exam, which is probably not the best amount of time. I'm a, I was a philosophy major in college, so I definitely had a preexisting idea of logic and things like that. My studying process might not be the same as others.
But as we discussed before, really take as much time as you can to study, and don't worry about signing up for the LSAT on X day. It doesn't really matter when you take the LSAT. Don't sign up for the LSAT until you feel like your studying is adequate, and until you're scoring the scores that you want on your practice exams. The answer is like TBD, to be determined, on how many months that you need to study. I'd say it's probably more than six months, but don't rush yourself through it.
Scott: Yeah, let me jump in there with one other point on that, and that is that the length of time that you're going to need to study for the LSAT is going to depend a lot on how much time you can study per day for the LSAT. So there are people who, for various life situations, are able to make studying for the LSAT their full-time gig. They can apply, you know, four, six, eight hours a day to that. They're going to progress through the material a lot faster than someone who can only give 30 minutes or an hour a day.
And to be clear, both of those people have the potential to do fantastic on the LSAT and to get to their goal score. The difference is the person who only has 30 minutes or an hour, they're going to need more months because they're spending less time per day, but that's okay. So just make sure that you plan accordingly.
I would say that six months is a good general average, but if you're, as you kind of pointed out, if you're having to balance fitting in studying with the school, or in my case, I had a full-time teaching job while I was studying for the LSAT, many people that we tutor are kind of in a similar situation where they have just a lot of other things happening in their life. That's okay.
Study, devote as much time as you can, and just be comfortable with the fact, or be flexible with the idea of, well, it might take me, if I can only study 30 minutes a day, it might take me nine months instead of six months, and let that be okay.
I'll also throw out that finding an expert who can help you, whether that be a tutor with our program or someone who's in your life who's just knowledgeable with the LSAT, can also save you a lot of time in studying. I think that's one of the biggest values of you getting some expert help. I think people studying on their own can do wonders in getting their goal score, but often having an expert who can advise you can really kind of help you to avoid a lot of dead ends and a lot of wasted time studying for the LSAT.
In my case, I studied for six hours a day for 10 weeks. Looking back on it, I realize that a lot of the stuff that I did in the six hours a day was absolutely worthless. It did nothing to improve my score in any way. And I get that from a lot of our clients as well, that they realize when they start working, it's, oh, well, now that I see the drills and the study habits that actually improve my LSAT score, I realize that, my goodness, I could have done this with half the effort if I would've just actually had good advisors who could have told me, do these things and don't worry about these other unnecessary things.
Brittney: Yeah, and then the second part of that question is how do you balance/fit in studying for school and the LSAT? I'll say that when I was studying for the LSAT, I was an undergrad, so it definitely is something challenging to do. What I always did is my thing is PowerPoint slides. You don't have to do PowerPoint slides, but always planning out your day in a visual way.
So like maybe you take a piece of paper and divide it into seven rows and kind of time out, okay, this is when I'm going to study for school, and this is when I'm going to study for LSAT. For me, it just happened to be slide shows because I thought it was more visually fun for me. The second part that I was going to say is make sure that you kind of separate where you're doing your LSAT and where you're doing your school stuff, just so you kind of have a break when you're doing each thing and that you're not combining both of them.
And then as Scott said, remember, if you're not studying, like Scott was studying six hours a week, you must have been on your summer break. Is that what it was, from school or something?
Scott: No, I just wasn't sleeping very much.
Brittney: Oh, okay. So Scott was not sleeping very much.
Scott: I'm not recommending that as a healthy study strategy. I want to be clear on that point.
Brittney: Yeah, yeah, yeah. But just remember, if you're trying to study while you're in school, maybe you can only do two hours a day, you might just need a longer period of time to study. So just remember all that and it will all work out.
Scott: Right. I noticed that there are several more questions. We're actually at the end of our time, but here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to give just a quick little talk on, let anyone who doesn't have a question go ahead and go, and then we will answer questions from anyone who remains for as long as there are people who do that.
So first, if you heard this and thought it was brilliant, and you would like to spend more time with us and with people like us, please see the link that I just posted. That's a link to our tutoring page. You can essentially hire people just like Brittney or, in fact, literally Britteny, if you would like to, and she would be glad to help you with your LSAT study.
And if you're curious about our tutoring program, and you're just not sure if it's the right thing for you, the second link I just posted is a link that you can use to schedule a consult with several of our tutors. Essentially, you get 30 minutes where you can ask any questions about our program, they can explain to you how the process actually works, and we'll even glance over your analytics and kind of tell you whether we think that tutoring would be a good fit for you.
So please avail yourself of those resources. If you guys would like to hang around for at least a few more minutes while we answer these last few questions, also feel free to do that. With that in mind, we have one from Yehune, hope I said that right, basically asking, how do you make the best out of the week of the LSAT?
So a couple of things I would say on that one is know that the week before the LSAT, you are not going to dramatically improve your score. You're not suddenly going to learn how to do Logic Games in the seven days before you take the LSAT. But what you can absolutely do by studying improperly is really tank your score in that last week. So I would encourage you, the week before the LSAT, lower your study time down pretty dramatically.
I didn't take any practice tests the week before the LSAT. I took timed sections, but it was on a much reduced schedule. I went from studying six hours to studying no more than an hour a day leading into the day of the test. I also encourage you, if you get a chance, if about a week before you take and get a really good practice test score, let that be your last practice test. Kind of end on a good note, because I think that will kind of carry through your confidence into the day of the test.
An analogy I make often, if you were a marathon runner and you were constantly training for the day of the big race, I mean, you might be doing some really long runs leading up to that, but the week before, you're going to let your body and your muscles recharge and heal before you really go make that big epic run at the very end of it.
Same is true with the LSAT. There's a period of training where you're working yourself incredibly hard and you're exhausting yourself getting there, and then the week before, you really need to kind of let you and your body and your mind unwind a little bit, because that's really what's going to help you get your perfect score. Don't wear yourself out in that last week. Do you have something to add there, Brittney?
Brittney: Really briefly, I will say that one of the big things is keeping your confidence up in the last week. As Scott said, if you get that really, really good practice score a week out, don't take another one. It's all about improving your confidence and also just keeping your mind sharp.
Scott: All right. And looks like we have one more question here from Janet. She asks, this is my question. What if you messed up in your first exam so much that you constantly worry if you're not going to achieve a better score next time?
Brittney: Yeah, definitely. I feel like I can kind of sympathize with that because I felt similarly. I think the good thing is, though, you made mistakes in the past, and now you kind of know what those mistakes are. At least try to figure out what those mistakes are and have a plan for how to combat those mistakes on your next exam and how to avoid having those mistakes again.
In a way, just look at it as a trial run. You noticed all the little errors, like if it's a car driving down the road, at least you've figured out what was wrong with your engine before you drove across the country or something like that. Look at it as a positive thing. Again, I'm an optimist, so some of my stuff may be too positive, but look at it as a positive thing, notice the issues, write them down, and have plans on how you're going to fix those issues and not have them be an issue in the future.
Scott: All right. And one last thing I'll kind of throw in on that is remember that the past performance does not necessarily indicate how you're going to do next time. It's easy for us to think that. There's entire fallacies devoted to that. But really, just the fact that you did badly next time, all that means is that you did bad last time just means that you did bad last time. It doesn't make any predictions about your future performance. The best thing that you can do is learn from it.
I see this with people taking PTs a lot as well, that they're worried about taking hard PTs because they don't want to see a low score, when the reality is, no, you want to take the really hard PTs. If there's a PT out there that is going to cause your average score to tank, you need to take that so that you can figure out what about it makes your score tank so that on the day of the exam, that's not going to happen again.
Don't be afraid to screw up on this thing. Everyone screws up on this thing. Everybody has bad tests. But the difference between people who truly master the LSAT and people who just muddle along are the people who master it get good at recognizing those mistakes, diagnosing those mistakes, and fixing those mistakes.
Everyone has bad test days, but the true masters learn to turn those bad test days into long-term success. And I think that's probably as good a place as we're going to find to end this. Thank you guys so much for showing up today. Again, please feel free to book a consult or to purchase some tutoring time if you're interested in that. And otherwise, I'll be seeing you on the forums. Good luck and good luck in your studying and on your future LSATs. Take care.
Brittney: Bye, everyone.
J.Y.: Hey, it's J.Y. again. Thanks for listening, and I hope you got some good advice that you can implement in your own studies. If you are thinking about working with a tutor, get in touch. We'll do a free consultation. You can reach us on 7Sage.com.
That's it for this episode. Take care of yourself, and see you next time.
J.Y.: Hello and welcome to the 7Sage podcast. I'm J.Y. Ping, and on today's episode, we present a webinar with Jacob Baska, the former director of admissions at Notre Dame Law. Jacob gives us a glimpse of Notre Dame's admissions process, talks about how he would choose candidates from the waitlist, speculates about why last cycle was so competitive, and gives great advice to future applicants. Here's the webinar.
David: Thank you for coming. We're really excited. I'm excited to host Jacob Baska. Jacob is, I was going to say our newest, but you're not anymore, Jacob. You're one of our newest 7Sage consultants, and extremely pedigreed. Jacob has worked in undergraduate and law admissions for over a decade. He has reviewed tens of thousands of applications. That is incredible, when you think about it.
He most recently served as the director of admissions and financial aid at Notre Dame Law School, and in that role, he was responsible for all matters related to recruitment strategy, file reading and decision making, yield programming, scholarship modeling, and connecting admitted students with faculty, alumni, and current students.
Jacob has also been active in the law admissions community. He's served on panels and subcommittees for the Law School Admissions Council, and despite a great deal of experience working on macrostrategy for law schools, his most rewarding moments have always been connecting directly with students to help them achieve their goals.
When Jacob is not working, he spends a great deal of time with his family. He's coaching one daughter's Girls on the Run team, and he's serving as the cookie manager of another's Girl Scout troop. Jacob, I didn't know that cookies needed managing. What does this position entail?
Jacob: That is a whole thing. We can leave that for the end of the webinar, but I'll put it as, it was great training to be a law school enrollment manager in order to be the Girl Scout troop cookie manager.
David: Okay. So you think your time at Notre Dame maybe just barely prepared you for the cookie manager role.
Jacob: You know, when I submitted my application to be the cookie manager, I think they looked at it and said, you know, maybe you can do it, maybe, but let's see how you are with Excel. And then I blew them away with my skills.
David: Nice. All right. Well, speaking of cookies, sort of, let's talk about waitlist movement right now. That's what's happening, or maybe it's what's not happening. So Jacob, I know that you still keep your finger on the pulse. Can you give us a little cycle update and tell us what's happening and what we might expect?
Jacob: It seems like everyone is still reacting to the craziness of last year, where applications just rose extraordinarily, as well as LSAT test scores. And that was an environment that, I had been in law school admissions for seven years, and I had not seen that. I came in to law school admissions in 2014, which was at the bottom of the decline of applications. So this was the biggest increase in applications since 2007, 2006.
Not a lot of us had been around at that time, and so last year caught a lot of us unawares, and it seems like a lot of schools were more cautious this year because of last year, either because of other classes this year being overenrolled in wanting to be more cautious in order to keep more towards their target class size, or just to see if any other craziness would ensue.
So, for example, in the previous cycle, there was a, typically, if you see an increase in applications, it comes early in the cycle, but in the 2020/21 cycle, it started to accelerate a little bit more in January, which was very unexpected, at least on the notary side of things. So it seems like folks were more cautious, that would seem to lead to more of a waitlist activity, but that's also been pretty quiet.
So I know in the last couple of days now that the T14 deposit deadlines passed over the weekend on May 1, it looks like Michigan took a couple, it looks like Duke has said they are full and Penn has said they are full. So, you know, it looks like it may be a little slow.
There have been other years in the recent past, though, for anyone who's saying, oh gosh, it's just not going to happen, there've been years where things have been super slow until June 5th or June 15th or June 20th, and then all of a sudden you see the schools at the top end of the rankings lists, Yale, Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, Chicago, et cetera, take students off their waitlist, and then there is a trickle-down effect to that.
And it would hit us at Notre Dame at the end of June because we wouldn't lose students to Harvard, but Harvard would take from Michigan, Michigan would take from Notre Dame, and then all of a sudden we have a couple open seats. So I know it's really hard to preach patience, but it seems like it may just be a slow cycle.
And so hopefully students who are riding waitlists have made their, I don't want to say alternate plans, but their plans based on their offers, and not only admission offers, but scholarship offers at present. And I also recognize it can be a little bit of a game of chicken to decide, gosh, I'm happy deposited where I am, but when should I get my apartment? When should I get the moving van? When should I get my roommate? Because I really want to go to this other school.
You know, maybe give that another couple of weeks, but probably by June 1st, if you haven't heard, it's time to start making those plans, making those arrangements, because if there was going to be a ton of activity, those big players probably would have moved significantly by now, unless they're just really biding their time.
David: When you find yourself or found yourself with openings, what was your process for taking people from the waitlist?
Jacob: Yeah, good question. So you hit the nail on the head with the first question, which is, do we have open seats? First and foremost, you know, what's our target enrollment and are there any available seats thereof? The secondary questions then become, are we missing anything in the class? And I think the easiest things for students to latch onto are the hard stats.
So, for example, are we close to bumping up our LSAT median? Are we close to losing our LSAT median? Can we bump our GPA median up? And not to say those are the exclusive drivers, but those are the easiest things to latch onto.
Other examples could be, gosh, how's our diversity looking? Is that a little low? How's our geographic diversity looking? For a school like Notre Dame, how's the percentage of Catholic students looking? That's a thing that a university cares about, and for another school, it could be, what's the percentage of in-state students looking like? Is that a little high? Is that a little low?
Those factors will likely then drive the decisions that an admissions office makes from the waitlists. So if they find that, gosh, you know, our LSAT median is a little soft, we probably want to boost that up, and, you know, our male/female percentage, we're a little bit lower on women than we're usually at. Hey, do we have any high LSAT women who are on the waitlist, especially those who've been in touch with us to show interest so that if we reach out to them, they're likely to accept this offer, and the resume also really fits the class. They'd really add to the class in that regard.
I see a lot of chatter from students at this time of year, gosh, you know, it'd be nice if they could tell us the ranking of the waitlist at school X or school Y, but it's hard to quantify those things. You know, you don't know what you need until the deposits come in, and also that can be a moving target, because right now the target could be high LSAT women, but a month from now, you could lose five African American students off your deposit roster, in which case maybe you then seek out some students who can help you boost those numbers a little bit.
Maybe your GPA goes down a little bit when your graduating seniors send in their final transcripts and they caught a little case of senioritis for their final semester. Those things can shift depending on the next couple of weeks.
David: So it sounds like even though the strength of somebody's letter of continued interest is not your first consideration, it can move the needle a little bit.
Jacob: Oh, absolutely. And I don't mean to dismiss that, because, to speak from our experience, I think this is going to be the same for a lot of schools, at this point in the process, there are a lot of students who, if you just look at their statistics and the little Excel line for them on the spreadsheet, they can look really similar. But people are far more complex than one line on an Excel spreadsheet. They're far more complex and diverse than just an LSAT or a GPA. So what else can they bring to the class regarding their professional experience, their background?
But then also, if we are their top choice school, that's something that I think every school cares about in the sense of, we want students who want to be here. They're going to probably be a little happier here, they're going to be a little more successful if they're a little happier here, they're going to be that much more of a contributing alum if they're a little happier here. It's a good thing to know about. So those letters of continued interest and that demonstrated interest are important and are things that we did take into account.
David: And when is it too late to send one?
Jacob: Never. So I know students complain about the timeline of the waitlist, that gosh, you know, I hear from the admissions office that this could be up through orientation. That wouldn't be any of our preference, though. In an ideal world, we all have families, we all have summer vacation plans that we would like to attend to.
It'd be great to be done with the waitlist process by, say, June 1st, which is a common second deposit deadline. That way, we can go on with our summer plans, students can make their moving plans. But the reality of matters is that every year, we would have a student who would have, who'd get pulled off the waitlist at another school on August 3rd, or a family incident would happen on August 4th. Or, I kid you not, at Notre Dame, we had two students who won their state competition for Miss America and had to pull out of the incoming class in order to go compete for Miss America.
Stuff happens, and so openings can occur up to orientation, and so the last day would be right before orientation occurs. Realistically, though, I think for the vast majority of students, this is the prime time of year. It's May 5th. The majority of waitlist activity is likely to happen in May through mid-June. So now's a good time to be in touch with your top choice or top choices if you're still riding the waitlist for a few of those schools.
David: I want to turn back to what you said about how this cycle was historically competitive or, you know, more competitive than it's been in decades. In retrospect, can you understand why it was so competitive? What do you think led to that?
Jacob: Gosh, you know, in the admissions community, we all have our theories. So I think the big elephant in the room being COVID lockdowns and combined with the recession, so with the lockdown and with LSAC offering the LSAT-Flex, that just made it far more convenient to take the LSAT. People had far more free time to study for the LSAT.
When you remove restrictions to take the entrance to a professional opportunity, more people are going to take you up on that opportunity, as opposed to, this may seem quaint in the same way that, you know, David and I can riff on how when we were kids, we actually had to pick up a phone that was attached to a cord attached to a wall, you know, to make a call to our friends.
Hey kids, guess what? Back in the day, five years ago, when you registered for the LSAT, you may have found that your home university's test center was full. So you had to get in a car and drive to another university or to another test center to take the LSAT. And that hasn't been relevant for the last two years, because you could take it from the comfort of your home. And so removing those barriers, I think, has certainly allowed more students to take the LSAT, that's increased the applicant pool.
Additionally, with COVID, typically applications to grad school increased during recession eras, so if you're a student who graduated in 2020 when the pandemic first hit, when lockdowns first hit, it wasn't probably the best time to look for an initial job, so grad school looked a lot more attractive, and so more people were applying. Additionally, and this was the case for us and I think for other law schools as well, we certainly saw a bump in applications following the 2016 election.
I think more students became a bit more politically engaged and involved in the aftermath of 2016. I wouldn't be surprised if there was a similar phenomenon with the lead-up to the 2020 election, the aftermath of the 2020 election, the January 6th insurrection, et cetera, that it just highlighted to more and more students that there is an importance to the legal field, to politics, to governance, and there's service that you can provide to the greater good through pursuing a legal education, and we all are the entry for that in the law school admissions world.
David: So how did the swell of applicants change the process from your perspective?
Jacob: So at first, I'll admit that, let's go back to September 2020, if we can all jump back into our wayback machines, our first thought was, this is probably just an initial surge from students who have been in, this initial application surge is just an initial surge. Here are all these students who've probably been in lockdown and they're just ready to go with their applications. And so I think a lot of us collectively just treated that initial wave as, eh, it's just greater than usual number, but it's probably going to die down a little bit.
I think a lot of us started to treat it a lot more seriously once that wave continued in December, and we started to then change our targets for, our statistical targets for admission, as well as to jump ahead and consider, well, what should this mean vis-a-vis scholarship? This is a simple supply-and-demand curve.
If all of a sudden we see far more students applying, and they have higher LSAT scores and higher GPAs, and we're seeing more and more of all different demographics and different students, do we need to offer the same merit awards as we were last year or the year before? So really around December is when we, I think, collectively changed some strategies.
And then it seems like for this year, a lot of that's continued. If you look at, for example, the law school data.org charts for a lot of schools, it seems like a lot of schools were hoping to bump their LSAT medians up another point or two this year, probably with the game plan of, heck, if we don't get this, we're kind of playing with house money. We can fall back pretty easily because there's still this surplus of applications.
David: And when you say that you changed your strategy in December, does that mean that you stopped offering less scholarship money or you started gunning for a higher LSAT median or something else?
Jacob: Adjusted targets and started having those conversations about, well, hey, you know, this is the scholarship model we've been having the last few years. Ooh, but is it relevant now if all of a sudden we're seeing far more applications, and not just far more applications, but far more applications in these specific LSAT target areas? Woof, man, maybe we can actually, we should tamp this down a little bit, because if we offer the same awards, we risk overenrolling those classes, which actually ended up happening at a lot of law schools last year anyway.
David: Was there anything that applicants could have or should have done differently, given how competitive the cycle was?
Jacob: Sure. I try to take the zen approach of, don't worry about other applicants, worry about your own application. There are so many things that are outside of your control, and it's probably beneficial not to worry too much about them. With that said, this was certainly not the year, again, to apply later in the process.
So the old rule of thumb that I would provide students is that, or would be that if you're applying by Christmas or New Year's, that's really the beginning of the wave of applications. The wave is going to show up in January. You want to avoid that wave if at all possible. And so let's work backwards. That means that if you're applying by Thanksgiving, you're applying early. If you're applying by Halloween, you're applying very early.
So if you can get your ducks in a row by Halloween or Thanksgiving, you're really in a good range. It seems like that window has progressively moved up the last couple of years. So now, if you are someone who is looking ahead to the coming cycle and applying, if you can get your ducks in a row, if you can get your applications in in October, that's probably to your benefit, unless you have an extenuating circumstance regarding retaking the LSAT or doing further research on law school, you had a rough start to your undergrad education but now you're really coming on strong and you want to show us one more semester's worth of grades. You know, those types of factors.
But otherwise, those dates have probably moved up. That's really the only thing I think most students can control, because they can't control if, all of a sudden, 3,000 other friends have decided to apply to this particular law school, or 10,000 more have decided to take the LSAT. You can worry about that, and I know applicants do, but I'd really encourage them, hey, just take that out of your mind, worry about what you can control and about what you want to achieve personally, professionally, and now go seek those things.
David: That's good advice. Can you give us a glimpse into the admissions office when all of these applications are piling in?
Jacob: It's, yeah, it's always humbling and exciting and a little harrowing because you realize, oh gosh, yeah, the tidal wave has shown up. And so our process, I'm sure it's very similar with other law school admissions offices, we have years of data and we track things along certain ways to let us know, hey, on October 1st, we typically have this many applications with this type of LSAT/GPA breakdown and this type of other demographic breakdown, et cetera.
So, hey, this year, we're a little high here, we're a little low there, et cetera. And we're tracking those things. September/October, though, for the most part, is really dedicated to fall recruitment, traveling to law fairs, going to visit with pre-law societies, et cetera. We are evaluating applications, but it's then not until November 1st that that dies down and we can dive much more fully into the evaluation process.
And that's when I would always tell our staff, for the first week or so, it is almost like getting in the swimming pool or getting in the ocean where the water first feels really cold and you just need to splash around a little bit. The first couple of applications you read, everyone seems like a really great applicant, because they are, but because you haven't gotten used to the applicant pool again, and to get a sense of, hey, here's what we're seeing with the applications, here's probably what's going to be competitive this year, versus where it was last year.
So it takes a little bit of a calibration period in early November, but then it really starts rolling. November, December, you get your admissions committee together and bring them up to speed on things, and then you just try to keep as best you can with those benchmarks.
Another perhaps clumsy metaphor that could be useful for some students is that when I first started in admissions, one of my trainers, the senior pros in the admissions office at Notre Dame, told me it's a lot like marathon training. So if you just keep up with the little charts, so if you have trained for a marathon, you can find any number of really handy charts that will let you know that over the month before the race or two months or three months, here's what you should be running: three miles on this day, five miles on this day, take a break, run three miles, run five miles, run seven miles.
You can miss one day, you can miss two days, but if you miss three days, you really can't catch up on that. You can't go from running three miles to running 10 miles the next day. You can't go from evaluating X files to X times three. That's just not possible. There aren't enough hours in the day and you can't do diligence to the students who've applied by reading things faster or reading files late into the night. You just got to keep up with it. You need to set the right pace based on past experience, based on the number of applications that you've received, and all that good stuff.
And then you just need to keep up with it through the cold, lonely hours of January and February. So I always joke with our staff that, you know, a benefit of being in the South Bend area is it's not like you can do anything outside anyway in January. So why not stay in with, you know, a cup of coffee or a cup of tea and read some applications, and then have faith that come March, we're going to have this amazing group of admitted students who then come to campus when the snow has melted, the flowers are blooming, and it's really going to be a great reminder of all the hard work that you've done from November through February, March.
David: Yeah, it's fun to think of you guys holed up and sipping your tea and poring over the applications. To the extent possible, can you give us any insight into Notre Dame's specific process in terms of who reads it first, how many people read it, how are they evaluated?
Jacob: Sure. So, and I'll admit, there may be a difference between when I was in the office versus what they're doing now. New administrations can change things. But for our purposes, so we had two assistant directors, me as director. We also had a couple of folks who were outside readers. And for those of you who may not have heard that term before, these are people who may not be fully employed by your office, but assist with reading applications.
And so for us, we had a couple folks who had been former admissions officers at Notre Dame Law School or former admissions officers at the university who just pitched in to help us read applications on a part-time basis and were part of our evaluation process. So we would have an initial evaluator and then a second reader to kind of just make sure that they caught everything, and then the file would be reviewed by the admissions committee.
Sometimes there would be more evaluators along the way, just in case there was something off with the application, and by off, I mean that in the most polite of ways, but maybe there was something complicated. To use one example, you can think of the student who perhaps really, really struggled initially as an undergraduate student, maybe even had a character and fitness issue, but then left college, maybe worked for a little bit of time.
Oftentimes we would see this with military veterans. College just wasn't the right fit, they joined the military, they really put together an amazing professional career, they then came back to college, were a far different student when they came back, but those first grades still count, the character and fitness issue is still there. So, hey, it's helpful to get another set of eyes on this application, right?
And what we're keeping an eye on is not just the academic merits of the application, but also, how do we think the student is going to contribute to the best class possible at the law school? How are they going to add to the dialogue and the conversation? It's in a law school environment, it's all Socratic lectures, it's all discussion-based. A running gag with law school is that, you know, the answer that you should always give to a cold call is, well, it depends, and then just ramble from there. But, well, it depends.
How are you going to add to the "well, it depends" because of your professional background, your personal background? How are you going to help flesh out those shades of gray for your classmates? And that takes a lot of discussion to really bring that to the forefront. With that, though, we're also keeping an eye on, are you a good fit for us? Are we a good fit for you?
So, for example, the student who writes a Why Notre Dame statement about how they hate lake-effect snow, college football is ridiculous, and the last thing they ever want to do is spend more than three seconds in Indiana, okay, I'm not sure you've done a lot of research on Notre Dame. I'm not sure we're going to be a good fit for you. Are you going to be, if we admit you, are you going to be happy here? Are you going to be successful here, et cetera.
And I've chosen a very hyperbolic example. But the student who then makes the argument about, hey, here's why I want to go to Notre Dame, and either makes the argument explicitly because of these classes, this faculty, because of professional outcomes, or also the student who makes the implicit argument.
So, for example, there are a lot of students who would not submit a Why Notre Dame statement, but through the context of their personal statement, their resume, et cetera, we could see a sense of wanting to serve the greater good, wanting to use their talents to bring, you know, as a Catholic school, we could talk about such things, you know, bring the glory of God's kingdom to earth. The sense of you see yourself as serving others and using the law as that conduit.
Even if you're not Catholic, even if you haven't expressly said that, we can see that through your service with Teach for America, or the way that you've been involved in local governments, or the way that you have started up some nonprofits in your community. And now we're, if we admit you, we are going to make the argument to you as to why we're a good fit for you. But we've seen that in your application, that sense of fit.
And I imagine that's going to be pretty similar with a lot of other law schools, that yeah, the academic statistics are important. Those are the best indicators of whether or not you're going to be academically successful in law school, but that's not telling us about your dreams, hopes, desires, and what you're going to contribute to those classroom discussions. That's what we're trying to flesh out in those committee discussions.
David: It sounds like a very involved process. So what I'm hearing is that there are at least three readers of every applicant, two initial readers, and then it gets kicked up to you or a colleague. Wow, that is a lot of scrutiny. How are the initial readers doing their evaluation? You know, are they giving a thumbs-up sticker on it, or they just writing a paragraph?
Jacob: Sure thing. So we came up with a set of just basic review guidelines. If any of you have been in education before, you're familiar with grading rubrics. This is to ensure that not only can you kind of inform your students, hey, here are the things I'm looking for, and here's what separates an A from a B, a B from a C, et cetera, but also if there are multiple graders for a class, if it's a college class with TAs, for example, or in a law school environment, if you have three sections of con law and you want to have reasonable consistency among those professors, you have to have a grading rubric.
And so we would have a review rubric, so, effectively, it says, hey, what are we looking for academically? What are we looking for resume-wise? What are the things that we can do to make common parlance, so that way, if reviewer 1 is saying X, Y, and Z, reviewer 2 can read those notes and immediately go, oh, she caught on to X, Y, and Z. Got it. I know what she means by that. But, oh, hey, wait a second. I see that she missed Z1, and now let me add that to the notes field just so that way, when the file goes to the admissions committee, we have this full picture.
Because mistakes happen, right? We're all human beings and all that good stuff. So we would have a common rubric and a common language so that we could speak effectively to each other and catch a lot of those things. If that was what you were going at with that question, David.
David: Yeah, this might be completely classified, so feel free to just make a zipper sign with your fingers. You know, what kind of thing is on the rubric? Is it like leadership interest in Notre Dame? You know, life experience?
Jacob: I mean, everything, frankly, and I don't mean that in an opaque way, like, oh, it's all important, but there are so many avenues to law school, and so there are going to be those students who have significant leadership experience in different ways.
So, for example, significant leadership experience in student government at their undergraduate institution, and that has a certain cachet, a certain importance, et cetera. It's hard to compare that, though, directly to, we would have students who serve as legislative aids for United States senators or governors, or, you know, congressional representatives. They worked in the White House. Well, that's pretty significant too, right? You were in the room when these discussions were happening. That's going to be a real interesting conversation starter in your con law class.
But now let's take the, to use the parlance of admissions, let's take the KJD student who maybe is a first-gen student. They had to work 40 hours a week during undergrad, and so they didn't have the opportunity to seek out those leadership positions, or they may not have had the opportunity to seek out those leadership positions or have the time to do those. We're also taking that into account too.
That contextualizes what they were doing during their undergrad education, and we want to take that into account. We can't change their GPA, we can't change their resume, but we can sure take a look at that. Those are also things that occasionally would come through via the letters of recommendation as well, that perhaps the student didn't want to tell us that they were working 40 hours a week and then also commuting a half hour each way to school, but their professor would, and that would really change the way potentially that we would review that application.
So on this rubric, we would make note of, here are the different things that you may see, and here are the ways that we want to refer to those things, so that way, we all know what those terms mean very quickly. So that way, the first reviewer is almost like the trailblazer, catching the vast majority of the material on the application. Second reviewer's just double-checking things, making sure nothing was missed, et cetera. And then as an admissions committee, we have the full notes together to really talk about the applicant fully.
David: Given that you are responsible for maintaining these medians, how much leeway do you have when you're selecting students who are falling short of those targets?
Jacob: Yeah, I think that comes back to rolling admission, that earlier in the year, there's more leeway, right? Because you know, going into the year, that not everyone is going to meet or exceed your medians. If everyone would, your medians would be 4.0 GPA and 180 LSAT. So there are going to be students who fall short, and probably, realistically, you only have X number of seats for them, okay?
Because you know, on the other end of the spectrum, through years and years of data, there are probably only going to be X number of students who are going to exceed both of your median stats who are going to enroll. So, you know, as you start to review applications, do you want to wait until the end of the cycle to start admitting those students, or if you find a really great one early on, gosh, you know, do you want to wait on that student?
My thought was always, if they've applied early, if they're amazing and they're great, and we think they'd really add to the class, let's take them in November, let's take them in December, and let us be in a position come February, March where we say, oh gosh, I wish you had applied earlier, and in some cases reaching out to that student who may then be on the waitlist to say, hey, if you're still interested in Notre Dame, would you consider applying earlier next year? Would you consider possibly transferring to Notre Dame, because we think you'd be amazing here. So, yeah.
David: Can you talk more about recommendation letters? What are you looking for and how do you use them in your process?
Jacob: Yeah, so, you know, what's funny about that is I actually, I was speaking with a student today who had been considering a PhD program and now has switched gears and was thinking about law. So he asked me about those because, in his mind, he's still thinking of a letter of recommendation from a PhD standpoint, wherein for our audience who may not know the difference, so for PhD programs, you really are hoping to study something really specific.
The ideal PhD candidate in a science or a liberal art field is someone who can not just say, hey, I want to be a PhD student in philosophy, but you can really drill down and say, not just philosophy, but how Nietzsche really transitioned from early career to mid-career to late career. That's what I want to look at. Really drill down. Or history, not just history, not just colonial American history, but the way in which different societal classes interacted on issues of race in colonial Massachusetts. Okay, really drill down.
And so letters of recommendation, in that case, you really have specific scholars and specific professors who you had classes with speaking to colleagues who they probably know and have talked with at conferences and they can really talk turkey effectively. Here's who the student is, here's their background, here's what they want to study, here's why I would vouch for them.
In a law school and also in an MBA environment, you just have so many students coming from so many backgrounds that I don't think the expectation of faculty writing letters of rec or managers writing letters of rec is that they're speaking to a direct academic peer in that regard.
The most equivalent situation, I think, would be the student who maybe has worked for a paralegal or a legislative aide, a legal research assistant for a couple of years, and now are coming to law school, and we get a letter of rec from the lawyer they worked with, the politician they worked with, et cetera, who can very clearly say, here's how the student contributed to this legislative program, our legal office, et cetera, and here's what I think they'd do in law school, et cetera.
So for letters of recommendation, once we put that aside, what we're really hoping to get is almost like a cross-reference. So here's the image that we've created in our minds of the student from reading their application, going through their academic papers. I typically review that side first. I want the student to have the first word in creating their image in my mind. And now I'm going to read the letters of recommendation last, just as a cross-reference.
Here's the image I've created. Now, let me go through the letters of rec to see if that corroborates the image I've created, and if it hasn't, why do I think that is? So, for example, and I should say, the vast majority of letters of recommendation corroborate. I have an image in my head of the applicant, I read the letters of rec, and I go, yup, that makes sense. The ones that wouldn't corroborate, maybe only about 5% of the time, it would be the letter writer who would really add something substantial to the file.
So let me take that first-gen student again, who maybe is working their way through college. Maybe they didn't say it, but the letter writer said it, and that changes the way I perceive that student now. Okay, that adds a really significant piece of the puzzle. On the flip side, there could be that student, to create a hypothetical, let's say it's a student who had a very low GPA during undergrad, like a 2.8, a 2.9 or so, and then a very high LSAT, and there are any number of reasons why this could be the case, that they have this discrepancy.
But then if we read the letter of recommendation and three faculty say, this kid is super bright, they're wonderful, they're nice, I could tell they just weren't focused during class, that is then telling us, gosh, probably the reason for this discrepancy is that they kind of goofed around for two, three, four years, but now they turned it on for the LSAT. Okay, from our standpoint, how do we feel about that? Do we feel confident that they're going to come in here and really apply themselves?
Maybe that we can see that, based on their professional resume, what they've done since undergrad, that we're not worried about that anymore. Or, even if we think that they're going to perform close to that GPA because of other factors in their application, we're still confident they're going to contribute to the class, we're still confident that they're going to pass the bar, we're still confident they're going to get a job afterwards because of all of these other things we're seeing professionally and personally from them.
But that's where the letters of rec come into play. But that's, it's really a cross-check for us. And in most cases, it's a great cross-reference, that it does corroborate with what you've already seen from the earlier parts of the application.
David: Well, we love to hear everybody's voices, so if you have a question, please raise your hand and I'll call on you. We like to interact with you. You can also use the Question and Answer widget, but we prefer to talk to you. As you work up the courage to do that, another question for you, Jacob. How often did you read the LSAT writing?
Jacob: Oh, man. Rarely, because my thought was, you know, you've given me enough other writing samples. You know, do I really want to read about your, man, what are some classic LSAT writing topics, why you think this person should open a restaurant instead of open a cafe. But I will say this. So who are the students for whom I would read that? It would be students where the written pieces seem to be written by different people.
So the personal statement maybe was really polished, really well written, but then they submitted a Why Notre Dame statement, and there were a lot of little grammatical issues. Well, did they just somehow mistakenly submit a rough draft instead of their final draft? Or maybe did they get significant help on their personal statement, and then now this is really who they are on their Why Notre Dame statement? Let me take a look at the LSAT writing sample, just to corroborate matters.
To that end too, students for whom English is their second language, it's another check for those guys, because we want to make sure that, law school is a really intense academic environment, we want to make sure they're ready to rock and roll and be academically successful. So, hey, that's a case where that additional writing sample can be really useful, just to make sure that they're ready to come into this environment.
David: Kenya, we'd love to hear your voice and take your question.
New Speaker: I'm curious for, when you say you look at the rubric, you look for everything. Is it more like diverse experience in college, or is it more like overall diverse experience that's combined with academic success and also like working experience? And if working experience, do you prefer to look at people who work in one company, or do you prefer people like, you know, people graduate from college and they don't know what they're doing, they kind of try different things. Would you like that better, or is there just really no certain answer?
Jacob: Yeah, and that's a really great question. And I think, again, I mention this, you know, this moment of zen, that hopefully you just focus on yourself, because this may be a frustrating answer, but I hope you find the zen here. The first answer is that when you're building a law school class, you want people with different backgrounds. And so you may find that student who is just a little off kilter, so to speak, and has had interesting life experiences beyond the professional realm.
But I think for the majority of students, this is a professional school. We are interested in, what is your professional background? Why do you view this as the next logical step in your professional development? And so what are you going to bring to the discussion? What are you going to bring to the field? And that could be your academic background, that could be your professional background, it could be your personal background.
On the personal front, I mean, to use an example that I think most people can latch onto pretty easily, you know, I think it'd be really hard to have a class, a crim law class that discusses disparities in incarceration among socioeconomic lines or racial demographic lines without any students of color in there, without any students who are first-gen.
Similarly, I think it'd be really problematic to have a class discussing firearms if you don't have any kids who may have a background in hunting or in rural environments where they can't rely on law enforcement to be at their home in case of an emergency within a half hour or an hour, et cetera, because they live so far away.
Having students with different backgrounds and different life experiences enriches that discussion, and really it helps their classmates to become better lawyers. And so that's something that we're attuned to. We're not just trying to check boxes along the way. We're trying to figure out how can we not just build the best class for us, but how can we build the best class for our students so that you learn from each other, you have a great network, a great community, and that when you graduate, you're prepared to be the best lawyer possible. So hopefully that answers your question.
David: Yeah, okay. Well, thanks so much for your question and good luck. I'm going to call on D.B.
New Speaker: Hey Jacob, I have a question about the letters of rec. So in the fall, I did like a few info sessions for masters and grad programs, and something really interesting that I heard, they said, get your writers of your letters of rec to focus on different aspects of your life. So ask one writer to focus on your academics, another writer to focus on your personality, your experience, someone else to focus on your professional career. I'm wondering if you think that's a good strategy for law school, or if you, if you guys look for it to be specifically like, this is why he will succeed in law school.
Jacob: Yeah. And you may have noticed me making faces like this, because I think that on the one hand, that's, so that's a great question. If that can happen, that's wonderful. I'm guessing the reality of matters is that most recommenders, most faculty who've had you in a class, probably they all know you in roughly the same way, as a student, but maybe with a little twist, because maybe you were a TA for this professor, this other professor was the chair of the department so maybe they knew you a little bit better through that context, or this professor was also a faculty advisor for a club you were in. That's all great.
I don't think, from an admissions perspective, we're expecting that. If we get that, that's awesome. But at the heart of the matter is what we're trying to ascertain through the letters of rec are who is this student on an academic level on an everyday basis? What do they bring to the classroom? And if it's a professional letter of rec because it's an applicant who's been working for, say, two plus years, who are they as an employee? What have they added to their team? What have they added to their field? So what are they going to bring to the class?
And so again, if you want to be strategic and divvy up kind of those different aspects of your personality, work backgrounds with different letters, different recommenders, that's great. That's why I made this face. But if you don't feel like you can do that, or if you feel kind of awkward asking one professor, actually, I'd like you to focus on my personality, my favorite CDs are, my favorite albums are bing, bing, bing, books, you know, I'm more of this person than that person, that's okay. Don't worry about going down that road, because we're still going to get really useful information out of that.
New Speaker: Okay, awesome. Thank you.
David: Thanks for the great question. Good luck. Hi, Sarah.
New Speaker: Hi there. I was just kind of curious and to clear up some things that you said in regards to military members, was that if they can excel in the Socratic method way of learning. I think there's some sort of negative connotation to service members and the fact that it's always like a yes, sir, yes, ma'am sort of attitude. But I think as the military is evolving, that has become much more politicized and there's a lot of things that you do in a leadership realm that would reflect things such as participating in student government and things of that nature. And I'm just curious if admissions kinda know the evolution that is occurring.
Jacob: Well, Sarah, thank you for that question, and I'm very sorry if I gave that impression. That was not what I meant to convey with any of my comments. So with veterans and with active duty military, typically, it's such a hard comparison because how do you compare someone who is working artillery for the army versus the student who's a regular old senior in college and the most challenging thing they do in their day is setting up their Madden League for their friends?
That isn't an apples to oranges comparison. That's just so drastically different, and that's something that we would take into account. As far as how we would view, we typically view veterans in the classroom and what they would bring.
There's just such a dynamic, real-life experience and perspective that they bring pound for pound, and that they have seen, many of our veterans, through their application materials and then through talking with them, if they were student ambassadors for our office, would convey that they simply, through their engagement around the world, they saw when the law was respected and was acted upon, and they would see the breakdowns thereof, and they wanted to serve more towards ensuring the success of legal systems and political systems, et cetera.
So we never had a worry of their contributions to Socratic discussions. Instead, we viewed it as, gosh, you know, this student or this applicant, based on what they've accomplished, based on what they've done, can you imagine what they would contribute to that discussion in Socratic environment, because they can talk about rule of law from their time in Afghanistan. They can talk about, they're not talking about, gosh, you know, a lot of students would mention in their applications they're really interested in international human rights issues.
It's almost like the running joke that as a parent of small children, every little kid wants to be a zoologist, they want to be a paleontologist, and some of them will be, and some of those law students will be international human rights lawyers, but active duty military, a lot of them have seen things, they've experienced things, and having that direct contribution to the discussion in the classroom is absolutely invaluable. And we would seek that in our applications.
And so I hope I didn't didn't give the impression that we didn't view that as a valuable contribution because we think they'd be, yes, sir; no, sir; yes, ma'am; no, ma'am. We were never worried about that in any way, shape, or form, so I'm glad you brought up that question so I could clarify matters and clear up that misconception. So thank you, Sarah.
New Speaker: Thank you.
David: Thanks, Sarah. Good luck. Hi, Kieran.
New Speaker: Hello. Thank you so much for both of you for being here and taking the time to share with us. I was wondering, if you had three years out of undergrad, do you still like to see and expect to see letters of rec from professors, and how important are those academic letters versus professional letters?
Jacob: Yeah. Hey, good question, Kieran. And once you get to that three-year-out mark, you're kind of on a sliding scale. So if there have been some professors that you've been, you've maintained good contact with, it doesn't hurt to have one from a professor or two from a professor, but if you've now been working for three years, and let's say it's been at the same organization or the same company, I think our expectation is we're probably going to see a manager letter as well.
So we wouldn't be shocked if we saw two or three from faculty, we wouldn't be shocked if we saw two or three from management, but likely we're going to see a mix of those. And then once you really get past that three-, four-year mark, I think we'd be surprised to see an academic letter just because you're so far out of that experience, unless you've really maintained close contact with those faculty.
And as a brief note on the professional letters of recommendation, I think I mentioned this earlier, what we're really hoping to get out of that is what you've done project-wise, what you've brought to your teams, what you've brought to your organization. And if your recommender can give us a sense of maybe your professional goals and how law school may contribute to that, that's great too. But that's what we're hoping to get out of that, and that's kind of different from what you bring to an academic classroom setting on an everyday basis, similar in some ways but distinct.
New Speaker: Gotcha. Thank you so much.
Jacob: Yeah, you're welcome.
David: All right. Thanks, Kieran. H, we'd love to talk to you.
New Speaker: Hey, Jacob, thank you so much for being here with us, and all of the information. I just have a quick question about international applicants. Could you maybe elaborate a little bit more, like what you're looking exactly, because I know a lot of international applicants, they even don't have like standardized GPA.
Jacob: Yeah, sure thing. So, and thank you for that question because international applicants really are kind of a different, there are some similarities. So again, this larger sense of who is this person? What do they want to achieve? What are they going to bring to the classroom? Are they a good fit for us? Are we a good fit for them? All of those questions still apply, but on the evaluation side of things, there's some drastic differences.
So for those of you who may not be aware, LSAC will only provide a reportable GPA for students who attend either an American or a Canadian undergraduate institution. So if you're an American who attends St. Andrew's in the UK, but if you're a Chinese national who attends Emory University, you will have a reportable GPA. So for students who attend universities outside of the US and Canada, you know, if you stick in admissions long enough, you get to learn a lot of the universities.
So, for example, prior to entering the law school, I actually worked in, when I worked in undergrad admissions, I was responsible for a lot of our international admission. So just kind of by proxy, although I was working with high school students, I learned a lot about different university systems, especially in my territory, I was responsible for east Asia, so a lot of the top universities in China, Korea, Taiwan.
And so when I would see students applying from those undergraduate institutions to Notre Dame Law School, I'd go, oh, wow, they're coming from Korea University, they're coming from Seoul National. Oh yeah, that is one of the finest universities in Korea. I'm very familiar with those institutions, et cetera. The GPA field would be nonreportable, it doesn't factor into your medians, but we are trying to get a sense of what's the grading scale, what should we expect?
Different colleges, different university systems around the world have different grading systems. And so in the States, it's very common to see students get between a B and an A average, but in other countries, it's rare to see a B average. If you get a B-plus average, that's graduating with honors, et cetera. We would try to educate ourselves so that we could factor that into our evaluation.
Another difference is that we would typically see among many of our foreign, or students who attended foreign universities, not as many undergraduate organizations and activities. It seems like perhaps it's just a difference in what's an expectation of going to a school in a country outside of the States versus what you do at a college inside the States. So we wouldn't worry as much about that with our foreign national students.
I do think, though, going back to those larger questions of who are they, what do they want to do, the fit, I think for a lot of our foreign nationals, and I think this may be specific to Notre Dame, perhaps other institutions, I know from my experience recruiting internationally for Notre Dame, Notre Dame just is not as much on the radar for foreign nationals as they are for domestic students. Notre Dame has a very broad domestic name recognition appeal that wasn't the same abroad.
So if you're applying from abroad to Notre Dame, why do you think we're a good fit for you? That question of fit and why us is really important, but that may be less so for a school on the coast or one of the T14, where again, just anecdotally, I would find that they would just have far more name recognition overseas, or, you know, there are direct flights between that student's home city and Los Angeles or New York or Chicago, so it makes more sense for them to look at those opportunities.
So that's the only thing I'd offer specifically is, hey, if you're looking outside of schools, if you're a foreign national looking at schools in the States, you probably then have to do a little more research, and maybe that Why School X statement is a little more important for you because we may just be a little more naturally curious.
Gosh, if you're coming from India and looking at us, why? What about us? There are no direct flights from Delhi to South Bend. It's going to take a little more effort to get here, so why do you think we'd help you get to where you want to be? So does that answer your question, though, H?
New Speaker: Yeah. Thank you so much.
David: Good luck on your applications, and we'll go to Hawthorne.
New Speaker: Hi, thank you both so much for this very informative evening. I want to ask about the addendum or a diversity letter for people who, for instance, who have graduated a couple of years back, have had different experiences in life and the professional world. Do these letters, like, are you seeking for a complete story like that you would see in a personal statement, or could it be like kind of, you know, many stories combined together because of diversion to where like different experiences that people are trying to put into one statement?
Jacob: Yeah, that's a good question. So, to take a step back, over the course of your application, we're trying to get a composite picture of you, who are you, and we can get different information about you from different pieces of your application, but then we're bringing it all together to form this composite whole.
With that information in mind, I always encourage students that you don't need to accomplish everything. You don't need to tell us everything about yourself in every statement, right? Because you have a lot of ground where you can spread out this information, that it can all communicate to each other. So on the diversity statement, we want to give students the opportunity to let us know, what is the unique voice that you would bring to a law school setting, based on your background, professional experiences, who you are, what you want to achieve, et cetera?
The addenda or addendum is really more a catchall. So, hey, is there anything else you want to tell us about yourself or your background that you haven't had a chance to before? Maybe because we didn't ask about it, maybe because it just didn't fit cleanly into any of your other statements. But now we just want to give you the chance, before you wrap up your application, to let us know about everything. And so that's what's appropriate on the addenda.
Now, specifically regarding your question, so is it better to write a coherent whole or to kind of give these little vignettes? I guess it depends on where you believe it would be best to, what you want to communicate to us throughout the course of your application and where you think would be most appropriate to include that information.
So if you take that step back, you may realize, gosh, you know, part of what I would normally put in a diversity statement is really what I'm going to reflect on in my personal statement. So, really, I don't need to go over that same information in my diversity statement. But if they're giving me the opportunity to give them some more information, gosh, I'll tell them a little bit more about my professional background instead, because that'll be a little different.
And now on the addenda, what I really want to tell you about is, hey, I'm, you know, I served in the military. I want to give you a little more information about that. Hey, I'm a foreign national, I went to a school outside of the States. Here's how the grading system goes over here. That kind of information on all the addenda, which really doesn't fit cleanly into some other parts of the application. So does that answer your question, Hawthorne?
New Speaker: Yes, my head was running through a lot of things while you were describing all this. Yeah, so I think, yeah, I think you answered my question. Thank you.
Jacob: Okay, great.
David: Good luck, Hawthorne. I'm so sorry, everybody. We're out of time, and I know that there are a lot more questions. Why don't you post them on the forum and we'll do our best to answer them.
Jacob, I want to thank you for sharing your insight. You know, you're funny, you're specific, you're compassionate. It's always reassuring to know that people like you are reading the files that students like those who attended this webinar and those who are listening worked so hard over. So thanks for sharing.
For anyone who is tuning in, if you might want to work with Jacob, we are running a special for admissions consulting. We have about 10 packages left at a discounted rate, so I'll just put in the details there. And if you just want to do a free consultation, talk about the cycle, talk about what the process looks like, no pressure, let me just send you the link.
Okay, well, everyone, thanks for coming. If you're preparing for the upcoming cycle, then godspeed. I hope you do well on your LSAT. I hope you start writing, you heard Jacob, because it's really never too early to start. And if you are on a waitlist, well, I hope you get some good news this month, but I urge you to do what Jacob said and send another letter of continued interest. So thanks, everyone. And thank you, Jacob.
Jacob: Happy to chat with everyone. Good luck with your applications, everyone.
J.Y.: Hi, it's J.Y. again. Thank you for listening. As always, if you're studying for the LSAT, applying to law school, studying for your law school exams, or studying for the bar, come visit us at 7Sage. com. We can help.
That's it for this episode. Take care of yourself, and see you next time.
David Brown: There's a lot of really good resources we have that can help you through it and, like, get that thing done so you're not burning the midnight oil.
J.Y.: Hello, and welcome to the 7Sage podcast. I'm J.Y. Ping, and on today's episode, we present a webinar with former 7Sager David Brown. David was first featured in episode 2 of this podcast. Back then, he was just a 1L at Harvard, and hard as it may be for me to believe, he's already a full-time associate. And that's just what he speaks to us about today, and very candidly, I might add.
What is life in Big Law like? How do you manage between so many competing demands? And when should you start thinking about exit strategies? It's a great webinar, so let's get to it.
David Busis: Hello, everyone. Welcome to the webinar. Thank you for coming. I'm here with David Brown, better known as Accounts Playable, a longtime 7Sage alum. And we've hosted you for at least one podcast, right, David? Maybe two podcasts already?
David Brown: Yeah, one or two, one or two. Definitely at least one.
David Busis: And so now we're checking in with you to see how it's going. So first of all, David, just give us a little summary. When did you start law school? When did you start working?
David Brown: Yeah, so first thing, thank you for everybody attending, and thank you, David, for setting up everything logistically, and everybody at the back end of 7Sage. Really happy to be here, to answer questions about everything.
So I'll give everybody a high-level timeline of when I did everything. It seems like it was yesterday, but the more I think about it, the more it's a long time ago. So I took the June 2016 LSAT. With the help of 7Sage, I did very well on that exam. I applied to some law schools. I didn't really have a lot of, you know, decent work experience. I think that kind of hurt me in my application, so I decided to reapply the following year.
So I started law school at Harvard Law School in 2018. We went remote because of COVID in March 2020 when everything shut down. During the shutdown and remote coursework, I moved to Texas to complete my 3L year in Houston. That was where my job offer was, and I'll get to that in a second. I finished up my 3L year in May 2021 in Houston. I had taken the February bar exam in Texas. I had passed that, so I began work a little bit earlier than my class peers.
So I began at Vinson & Elkins out of the Houston office, practicing mergers and acquisitions and capital markets, and just kind of general corporate work in early June 2021. So I'd been there 9, 10 months, not quite a year, but it's kind of getting close there. Kind of, also kind of hard to believe that that's been almost a year. But that's sort of a high-level timeline of law school to job and where I'm at today.
David Busis: And David, can you give us a high-level description of your firm and your work and compare it to some of the alternatives, some things that your peers are doing?
David Brown: Yeah. So I would say there's a few options that I've seen a lot of people from my friends and colleagues, like at Harvard, when they graduated, quite a few clerk, whether they clerk at the district court or they clerk at the circuit court. Clerking is a very popular option, especially for those that want to do litigation.
I've seen some people, particularly those who were getting JD/PhDs, you know, try their hand into going into legal academia. I don't know the ins and outs of clerking, I don't know the ins and outs of legal academia. That wasn't something I went to law school to do. I went to law school, really, to go to a firm.
You don't see a ton of people start in-house legal department at a company, that sort of comes later, so you don't see a lot of that. There's quite a few I know that went into government, whether that's state and local government or federal government. There's a pretty large contingency that did that.
But I'd say most people at HLS, they go to a firm, and a firm typically does sort of oversimplify it. You have your litigation practice and you have your corporate practice, corporate transactional practice. And like I said, people who do the litigation side, it's not at all uncommon to clerk for a year and they get hired in as a second-year.
I work on the transactional side of a Big Law firm called Vinson & Elkins. It's headquartered in Houston. We have offices in New York, San Francisco, Dallas. Also we have a London office, so we have some international, I have some international colleagues. My work being transactional, it's not really what law school sort of prepares you for. Law school really more prepares you for the litigation side of things, at least in my experience.
But I would say the majority, if I'm going to throw out a figure, 60% or so HLS go to a firm, and I'd say the majority of that 60% probably do transactional practice. There aren't as many HLS people doing litigation. I'd have to double-check that, but that would be about what my gut would tell me.
David Busis: Is Vinson & Elkins a big firm?
David Brown: Yeah. So it's considered, it's considered a Big Law firm. Typically there's something called the Am 100 that are, I believe it's by revenue. It's the largest 100 firms by revenue. And Vinson & Elkins is, I think it's something like middle in there, like 50, 40s, 50s, something like that by revenue. It's sort of squarely into what's considered a Big Law firm.
Big Law is not only defined by the size of the firm, by revenue. It's also typically defined by, you know, to put it bluntly, the salaries. So Big Law firms pay typically a lockstep salary scale from your first year until about your eighth year, when you're either up for partner or you go to counsel or you're made of counsel or something.
So, typically, if you pay that top scale, you're sort of what's qualified in the just everyday parlance, you know, a Big Law firm. Also, what sort of makes not just the Big Law distinction, but maybe a distinction from firms that are not Big Law, you might call them Mid-Law or something, are the hours requirements.
So, typically, firms, there is some variability on this, but typically, if you're going into Big Law, you have 2,000 hours of billable requirement to meet your bonus criteria. Mid-Law firms, those sort of outside that salary scale, those sort of outside that top 100, you might see something like 1,700 hours, 1,500 hours. It just kind of depends. But I'd say that's what really sort of defines Big Law. You're sort of sized by revenue. Do you pay the big bucks, and what's your, what's your hours?
David Busis: Well, I want to hear all about the actual job, but first I want to hear how you got the job.
David Brown: Yeah. So interesting sort of stuff. So I am working out of the Houston office, I should say, working out of my home. I very rarely go in the office. I'm remote. I've been in the office like, you know, maybe 10 times or so over the last year. But I'm not from Texas, I'm not a Texas native, my wife is not a Texas native. I had pretty much no ties to Texas. I'm from Illinois, originally. I lived in Indiana, I met my wife in Indiana.
So when I was interviewing for jobs, like, you know, one of the first questions I get was, why do you want to work in Texas? You know, Vinson & Elkins is a great, you know, it was founded in Texas. It's a great Texas firm. It sort of struggles nationally brand-wise, I'd say. I'd say like in New York, you know, Vinson & Elkins is not, it's peers with, you know, a lot of New York firms, but it's a Texas firm through and through.
So the only questions I get was, why do you want to work in Texas? And so I would, I'd have a story. I'd go, you know, I was tired of cold weather, was part of my answer. Illinois to Indiana to Massachusetts, I was tired of cold weather, but then, you know, the year I moved down, we had the shutdown and we had a week with no power, and it was 40 degrees in the apartment.
So, and whether that panned out or not is yet to be seen. But yeah, you know, you just try to, you try to answer, you know, some questions, personal and professional. The weather was big for me, no state income tax, the partners that I interviewed with really liked that answer, you know, it's much cheaper cost of living than New York City.
But I'd say the primary thing that I said that really helped was I knew about the Texas market. I had done my research. I had looked up Vinson & Elkins. I knew they were an established Texas firm. I knew what they did. I had a CPA, I have a CPA, so I was able to sort of really play up that I want to work in the M&A transactions practice, doing that sort of stuff. And that's what Vinson & Elkins, that's their moneymaker practice.
And I talked about some of the deals that they were a part of and why I think I'd be a good fit at the firm. And that was what I found was really helpful, that high-level, firm-specific professional answer on top of, hey, personally, you know, my wife and I, we want to be in Texas. Because I think there is some skepticism when 70% of the class, you know, ends up going to work at a firm in New York and 5% of the Harvard class wants to work in Texas. Like, why would you, why would you come to Texas? And if you have a very good answer for that, it's not a hindrance, at least in my experience.
David Busis: David, I'm actually curious about the preamble to that job interview, because I get the sense that you didn't graduate law school and then send out a bunch of applications and get some people responding and then do a bunch of interviews. Is that the case?
David Brown: Yeah. So, good question. So how I started the job search, I summered at a firm. I had, I was a summer associate at a different firm in between my 1L and 2L year. That was in Houston. And that was kind of my first in to Texas, and how I got that job, the rules around when firms can reach out and directly like kind of solicit applications has like changed since I was in law school.
It used to be before like December 1st, firms could not actively like try to recruit 1Ls. There actually were like guidelines around that, and those have been since relaxed. But as a 1L, yeah, I mass applied. I went to, there's something called the NALP, I forget what it stands for. It's like the National Association of Legal Practice, something like that.
There's a website. I filtered it by Big Law because I knew I wanted to work at a Big Law firm, filtered it by cities I was comfortable working in my 1L summer. I had a cover letter that I had sort of drafted that was very easy to sort of sub in and out firms. It was generic enough but specific enough to where it didn't really require a ton of work. I had my resume ready to go, and I would reach out to HR people who are listed on NALP, and I got a couple of bites and I got a couple of interviews.
Other ways that really helped was when those firms would come and actively recruit. They already knew sort of who I was because I had talked with them on the phone. I'd say, "Hey, XYZ firm, you have an office in Boston. Can I go grab lunch or coffee with an associate at your office?" And so, kind of being very proactive about that.
I think I was able to pull a little bit above my weight grade-wise. I was probably middle of the road at Harvard. I wasn't top-tier, I wasn't bottom of my class. I was probably in the middle, but I pulled above my weight, I think, in some of the interviews, because I was very proactive with the search.
And then once I had a summer associate position at a firm that had a Houston office and I worked in the Houston office, it really wasn't, and I knew my 2L year that my wife and I wanted to move to Texas and I focused my search essentially on Texas. It really was pretty easy from there to really think, hey, I've worked in Texas before. I understand the market firsthand. I could do a much more tailored search.
David Busis: Okay, as a 1L, you are applying to a bunch of summer positions, and then you got one, you worked at a different firm over the summer after your 1L year, and then as a 2L, you applied to a bunch of other positions, and then you got your position at Vinson & Elkins?
David Brown: Yes, that's right. Yes. So I had an offer to return to my firm in Houston. It's a great firm. It's another Big Law Am 100 firm. I can't speak highly enough of the people I met there. Why I chose Vinson & Elkins over that firm is Vinson & Elkins, it had a more, you know, kind of growing practice for the stuff I wanted it [unclear] more deals, it's on, it has a stronger M&A presence, I think.
When I was applying to firms, I initially thought I was going to be a tax attorney. So I sort of was geared towards maybe doing tax, and I found out I got there, it wasn't really my thing. So then I kind of shifted gears and I re-evaluated like, well, what firms do more so what I think I want to do? And V&E was at the top of that, especially for working in Texas.
David Busis: Is it common for students at law school to apply to summer positions, or can people just get jobs by going to on-campus interviews?
David Brown: Yeah, so I would say as a 1L, it's more of like a hustle kind of thing. At least that was my experience, where, especially at Harvard, I don't want to speak for other law schools, because Harvard's career services department's a little weird in that if you don't play by Harvard's rules, when it comes to timing and stuff like that, they won't let those firms come on campus and like interview.
So Harvard, in a lot of respects, is behind timeline-wise. You know, so when these firms are sort of hiring for their summer associate positions, they might have, say, 20 or 30 slots, but they're filling those up, and by the time Harvard lets you recruit, you might be not fighting over 20 slots, you're fighting over like five slots. So, as like a 1L at Harvard, it's a real hustle game as a 1L.
It's actually not very common for a 1L to snag, really, not just at Harvard, really anywhere, a lot of firms really only want 2Ls because they want you to accept their employment and avoid going through the rigmarole of applying to a whole bunch of, like I did, applying to places your 3L year. They want, they want to lock you in. So they hire a lot of 2Ls.
So it's very rare for a 1L to get a position. And I touted up, I had some work experience before law school. I was a CPA, you know, I could really sell that in my interview. So as a 1L, I'd say it's a real hustle. Like you've got to be fully willing to have, sending out 50 emails, make sure there's no typos in those emails, because that'll just tank you right there, but really going to town like yourself.
As a 2L, though, I find it's a much more passive process. Harvard in August, and the pandemic kind of messed up the timetable with this too, my 3L year. They shifted that to the on-campus integrating to January. But, typically, Harvard has its on-campus interviewing in August for 2Ls, and you essentially go through, they rent out a big hotel, all the firms come in for a week or two, and they just hold initial interview rounds for 20 minutes a pop.
And you can sign up for as many as you want. You're most likely, unless something is super niche or super popular, you're most likely going to get whatever you want with at least an intro interview, and then you'll get called back and they'll fly you out to whatever office you applied for and do like a second-round interview thing.
So when I was applying my 2L year, I did a ton of interviews and then I had like a week and a half of I was flying all around Texas to Dallas to Houston, trying to get everything in some reasonable timeline. But as a 2L, it's much more passive because that's really your prime hiring. But as a 1L, it's definitely much more of a hustle.
David Busis: Do most people get offers to work at the firm after a summer position?
David Brown: Yeah, that, yeah, I would say your expectation, just to put it bluntly, a hundred percent offer rate. That has been the trend in recent years. Was not always the trend, especially in more kind of precarious, although we live in precarious times, I guess, but you know, in the 2008 financial crisis, like there were, there were things where like summer associates were not getting offers to return, even though they were good summer associates.
But yeah, that stigma really reputationally, I think, hurt some firms. And so it's very, very, very rare. Like you have to cause like an HR scenario where you're not going to get like an offer. That's just very unusual.
David Busis: You mean that if a firm does not hire a summer associate, it gives the firm a stigma?
David Brown: Yeah, very much so. In fact, I was on the board of the Texas club at HLS, and we didn't outright like say we weren't interested in firms coming and speaking at eight Texas club events, because they were going to pay their airfare, they were going to give us all a bunch of money, but even, you know, think about, think about this.
I mean, this is, you know, 2019, 20, 21 when I was sort of on the board, and we were still talking about like certain firms who laid off associates or didn't hire 100% of their summer class, like from 2009, 10 years prior.
David Busis: Wow.
David Brown: You know, and it's like the people, you know, think about that. You know, typically, the attrition rate at Big Law is so high. Like the people, it's a completely different management. Almost none of the associates who were at these firms in 2008 or 2009 are there anymore. The partners have probably turned over quite a bit. But there's still that stigma remained, right? Does it make any sense? Probably not.
So firms have really tried to say like, you know what? We're just going to offer 100% of our associates something. And to be honest, like, the work is, everybody's busy. They can't be really turning down, to put it again bluntly, like warm bodies to do some of the things, like they don't have that luxury of sort of doing that when everything is blowing up.
David Busis: Okay, so if most people who get a summer associate position after their 2L year are hired, where's the funnel? Are these law firms turning away a lot of people who want to be summer associates?
David Brown: Yeah. So I think it can depend on the firm. So there are some firms that are big time in growth mode. They want to grow a practice area or from a, just a pure head count perspective, they don't have enough associates because the work is, they have more work than people to do the work. And if anything that a firm hates doing, it's turning down work, like they will work an associate to three in the morning before they will try to turn down something to work.
So if you're in some of these firms that are trying to really expand their office, like, for example, I'll just name a firm, like Kirkland & Ellis. Kirkland & Ellis, not a Big Law firm. I think they're headquartered out of Chicago. They just opened their Salt Lake City office a few months ago, so they're in big-time growth mode in Salt Lake City. So if you're at BYU or if you're interested in moving to Salt Lake City, working in a Big Law firm, I'd say apply there. They will likely not turn a whole bunch of really good qualified applicants down.
But if you're at a firm that's revenue-wise, like, pretty stagnant and it's not in growth mode, I think, or it's in a smaller, like, satellite office, they might have like a very small class, like my first firm, for example, that I summered at, that I referred to earlier, we had a small summer class. It was like maybe 10 associates. And that's because it had a larger, its main office was in New York and DC. Like those offices had a lot more summer associates.
Vinson & Elkins, on the other hand, has, I think, 40 or 50 summer associates, like every summer. You know, it's just a completely different, it's very office dependent. It's very firm dependent. It also matters what you're going into. I would say right now it's a lot easier to snag a corporate transactional job than it is a litigation job.
So if you're on the fence of like, should I be a litigator or should I be a transactional attorney at a firm, you know, first and foremost, like do what you like to do. Like don't take transactional if you hate transactional work, don't pick litigation if you really hate litigation.
But if you're really like, I really don't know, I would say your corporate side is a little bit more secure in like getting an offer than putting litigation. And that's just a margin thing. Like firms just don't make as much profit-wise on the litigation stuff than they do, what they can bill to corporate clients. That's just the economics of it.
David Busis: Well, let's turn to the job. David, what is corporate transactional law? What do you do?
David Brown: Yeah. So, like I said earlier, it's sort of a big, I think it's an oversimplification to just designate things as litigation and transactional. There are certainly things that I do that can involve the litigation team, and at the same time, there's things that litigators do that they have to get the transactional team on.
So I particularly work in the mergers and acquisitions and capital markets practice. We abbreviate it MACM at Vinson & Elkins. There are other transactional practices that are not MACM. For example, there's the fund formations practice, there's real estate transactions, intellectual property and tech transactions, there's a group focused solely on energy, there's tax transaction, there's also tax controversy, which is litigation but there's tax transactions, there's employment aspects of transactional work.
So when you say like transactions, like there's a lot, there's like a whole bunch of different subgroups of transactional stuff. The corporate governance, another big one. And same with litigation. Like when you say litigation, okay, well, there's employment litigation, there's complex commercial litigation, there's antitrust litigation, there's tax controversy. And they're all very interconnected.
So what I do as an M&A attorney, mergers and acquisitions attorney, is at a high level what in a capital markets attorney is. From a capital markets perspective, if a company wants to issue debt, or if a company wants to issue equity, it has to comply with a whole bunch of rules to do that. And that's sort of what I help the company do at the end of the day.
From a mergers and acquisitions perspective, if one company wants to acquire another company, for example, how does it do so in a, say, tax-efficient manner? How does it do so from a risk of loss manner? Like who, what liabilities are being transferred, and that's all borne out by the merger agreement.
So a lot of stuff that I do is reviewing these negotiations that are going back and forth between acquire and target to make sure, all right, there's nothing crazy here, right? Making sure that the right things are being disclosed. That's kind of at a very high level of what I do. There's a lot of nitty-gritty stuff in there. Like, I do some corporate governance advising too.
I did some shareholder activism stuff when I first started, but that's typically out of the New York office. Very different than what you might have as a transactional specialist. Like I was saying earlier, like funds formations, they really do that, or tax really does, it's, you know, tax and that's it. M&A kind of touches all of those things, so you kind of get your hands dirty with sort of every different practice group, which is good and bad.
You know, it's good because you become a very diversified attorney where it's like, okay, I've got to think of environmental issues, even though I'm not an environmental attorney. It's bad because if it's a leanly staffed deal and you're the only associate on it, you've got to manage a million different moving parts and blow up your weekend with, like, the diligence.
David Busis: How many projects are you working on at once, typically?
David Brown: Yeah, so that's kind of hard to say. I'd say like, I would say typically, you know, when things are going fast, there's maybe two or three things happening at once, but then there might be like five or six things happening in the background that you kind of do small things for, small things for, until they become like the primary focus.
So I'd say at once there's like, two, three kind of deal stuff happening at once with a handful of things like one-off things that can happen at the same time. It's sort of hard to, it also, like not every, not every matter is also as complicated. So you might be on one thing and it just monopolizes your whole time, but you also could be on like 10 things and they all like add up.
I would say the more specialist you become, like, for example, I'll say tax, tax is super specialized. You might be on like 15, 20 different deals at once, right, because you really are only needed for like that one thing. But like from an M&A perspective, if you're in charge of like the disclosure schedule and it's a hundred pages and you've got to make sure everything in there is right, you can only really handle a couple of those before your work product, like, really kind of suffers. It can vary widely.
David Busis: Can you walk us through what you did yesterday at work? Actually, walk us through what you did yesterday all day.
David Brown: Yeah. So what I did yesterday, yeah, so I'm much more of a morning person than a late-night person. I try my damnedest to not stay up late. So I turned 30 in September and I find staying up late as much harder than it was than when I was like in undergrad where I would pull all-nighters, like all the time. So I try to really avoid staying up really late.
There are some people, though, that will work until all hours of the day, and I don't know how they do it. Like I'm falling asleep at like 9:30, 10 o'clock at night. But to answer your question, so yesterday, I like to get up, I prefer to get up early. I don't go in the office, I work from home. There's a lot of reasons for that. I like it. I also am immunocompromised, and so I have a lot of, you know, doctor's reasons why I want to stay at home, but it's not a big deal.
Like, if I have a computer and internet, I can do whatever I want. But yesterday I got up at like maybe 6:45, 7 o'clock. I run, I do some things to kind of wake up, you know, I brush my teeth, I make my coffee. I try to log on by like eight. So at eight o'clock, I'm logged on. The first thing I'll do is I'll check my emails.
Did anything come through from the prior night that I haven't gotten to yet that needs to be like addressed? Yesterday, no. Nothing had blown up. Sometimes, yeah. Sometimes you get like 10 emails and it's like, oh my God, what happened? Nothing much. After that, I had some, you know, one-off requests to, hey, can you take a look at, because right now it's early March, so quarter end for financials, you know, a lot of companies are starting to go through their disclosure process.
So I'm helping some companies like through their 10Ks and 10Qs. Okay. So in all the 10Ks, it's their financial states, right? Their income statement, balance sheet, all that. Making sure, okay, can you take a look and see, are they in compliance with everything they need from a 10K? So I have the 10K instructions open, the checklists open, I'm just going through meticulously, like, okay, everything is ticking and tying, everything looks okay.
I'm also on a sort of shareholder activist matter right now, and what that entails, like, that is kind of getting into the litigation stage, because it's gotten very ugly. So our litigation counsel sent over the countersuit that the opposing counsel, when they sued our client. So I read through that. I'm looking for what are just ridiculous, you know, things that opposing counsel says in their complaint.
Again, I'm not a litigator, so I really don't know what I'm doing when I'm looking at that, because I'm like, I don't know. Should this be removed to federal court? Who knows? Litigation team, what do you do? But I'm really looking at like, okay, from a financial transactional side, where can I see, like, yeah, that's not right, or that doesn't add up right, or no, that's not really the financial position. That's very rare, anything involve a litigation.
You know, I took a look at, yesterday, there's a high-yield offering I'm sort of on, on the back burner, so I do some diligence with that, with respect to making sure that their financial, it's a private company, so making sure their financial statements, they were audited. Are the auditors going to say that those are okay?
And if that kind of doesn't sound like a lot, but it's very time-consuming, because you have to be very detail-oriented, and that can take a long time to sort of do, so that's when I say, like, how many matters am I staffed on at once? It might only be like three or four, but that can easily take up, you know, 40, 50 hours of your week, or you might be on like 10 things, and that's, that take up the same amount of time.
I will say it's been a lot slower work-wise I have found this year than last year. I think that has everything to do, not to get into politics, it has everything to do with some of the new SEC rules regarding SPAC transactions and the Biden administration's dislike of SPAC transactions. And so you're seeing a lot fewer of those types of things, and that was a lot of what I did last. So last year I did a whole bunch of that. I don't think I've done a single one this year, and that was a big chunk of my work this year. So right now it's kind of a slow time.
David Busis: What is the most fun thing, if we can even talk in terms of fun, that you get to do in a typical week, and what's the least fun thing for you?
David Brown: Well, the most fun thing is the twice-a-month paycheck. That's kind of nice. But no, but that's kind of, you know, a facetious answer, but I would say the most fun thing is everybody's like really smart, and so, I don't really, like, it's very weird, because I had a job before law school and the people at my old company were like really good too, and I still am really good friends with them, but there were, you know, there's just some people that I didn't really work with directly, but if I ever sent an email to somebody outside of my group at my old company, before I was a lawyer, you know, the quality of, like, a lot of times what you'd get back would just be not good, and I'd have to like redo it.
I don't find that at all about Vinson & Elkins. If I have, like, hey, I don't know how to do this, or I need kind of this done, but it's not like my expertise, there's a lot of really good resources we have that can help you through it and, like, get that thing done, so you're not burning the midnight oil. A lot of times when you're burning the midnight oil, it's because somebody has mismanaged their time somewhere, and not really because, oh my God, there's some deadline. It's a time management issue, and I can speak about how, in fact, I'll probably talk about that in a second.
But I would say what's most fun is like, if I have a, it's kind of weird, because it's work-related, but it's like, I have a whole bunch of resources to help me through stuff and everybody's like really good at it. And so that's fun in the sense, like, if there's like a really novel question, there's like four or five people I can call on the phone and go, you know, what do you think about this? Or let's go grab a drink after work and sort of talk about that. I find that kind of fun, right? Kind of engaging.
I'd say what I least like about working at a law firm is certainly some of the time management skills that I find with lawyers. I, again, I'm an accountant as my, you know, second, you know, this is my second profession, and I like working very efficiently, and I don't like staying up for the sake of staying up, and I like doing things in a very time-efficient manner.
But the billable hours requirement is just anti that, right? You have every incentive to take a long time. You have every incentive to get to things like sequentially and not concurrently. So a lot of times you get a request late at night or in the afternoon, and you read the timestamp, and it's like, well, this was hanging out in your email at 8:30, 8:30 in the morning. It's now eight o'clock at night. Could have, you know, emailed me that at 10. Why am I getting this now?
And so I find a lot of the time management skills like really lacking. And I don't think it's the fault of any individual people. I think it's the fault of 26 years old, a lot of them are 26 years old as first-year associates or something, and they'd gone straight through undergrad. They've never worked before. They don't teach these things in law school. You know, for me, like I had to take operations management one-on-one when I was in business school. Like, that's the first, one of the first things you learn in business school is like, how do you just manage your time?
And as those people get more senior and they're starting to lead, you know, deals, they don't improve necessarily their time management skills. And so you might have somebody that you just really don't like working with because they're just on their own schedule. And there's really not a lot as a junior you can do about that other than like, by the time you're senior, you're just, hopefully you're better at that.
So I would say like that I certainly really dislike, but you know, if I'm senior enough and I'm still at a firm, like I'm going to try to make it a point to go, things that can be delegated ASAP, you're going to get delegated, and the things that have to stay with me, you're going to stay with me. Because I like going to bed. I like seeing my wife. I like go grabbing dinner at six or seven o'clock. I like to go to the gym. You know, a lot of people will stay up till one or two in the morning, and it's just not how I, it's not really how I function. So, but that's really hard to manage as a junior.
David Busis: Well, if anybody has questions for David, this is your opportunity. We like to hear your voice. So if you raise your hand, we'll call on you. We can also get to questions that you type out, but we prefer to hear you. And in the meantime, I'm going to keep asking David a couple of questions. David, talk to me about your work-life balance. So how many hours do you find yourself working, and when do you usually get to go to bed?
David Brown: I think it's become a lot better with the flexibility of remote work. If I wanted to go into the, this is why, one of the reasons why I dislike going into the office, I just have to get up an hour earlier, shave, get dressed, drive down to work, and when I want to leave, say I leave at, leave the office at five or six, I know I'm going to have to come back on and log on.
And it's just another, like, you know, where it's like, well, if I'm always at home, like I can always be logged on and I don't have to waste, you know, that sort of two-hour chunk of time, I can be much more time-efficient with my day.
I feel like I'm much healthier, you know, working from home, because I can, my apartment complex has a gym. I love to cook, I'm a pretty good cook. I don't really like to eat out that much. I can make myself something quick to eat in my kitchen that's infinitely healthier than the Chick-fil-A that's in our building. If I have 10 minutes of downtime, like, okay, I can throw in some dishes, I can throw in a load of laundry.
So I like that flexibility, right? Because it saves me a whole bunch of time where like, I'd have to do it at some point. I typically try to log off by eight or nine o'clock, depending on if things are, the expectation is like to be up. I find you're incessantly always going to have to check your email because you just don't know when something's going to come through.
You have to give yourself the boundary of like, okay, at this time, I'm just going to log off, and people are just going to have to be okay with it. You just have to push back on stuff and go, I'm asleep. I can't do my job if I don't get some sleep. But there are other days where I'd been up till one in the morning doing stuff, but that's, I knew I had to do that.
It wasn't like, well, I really haven't had a ton of time where my day has been blown up and I didn't really know about it in advance. It was like, okay, a week in advance, like, okay, we know the closing is going to be on Wednesday. So just FYI, we gotta be up for everybody to sign the documents and stuff like that.
Work-life balance, like, is it great? To be honest, no, it's not. I mean, it kind of sucks, but there's one school of thought that goes, that's what the money's for. I had a conversation about this with a colleague a few, a few weeks ago. You're paid to be logged on, you're paid for your time. I have also had conversations with my colleagues that go, I would be totally happy with a nine-to-five job that pays me 75% or 50% of their gross, if the, you know, firm would allow.
So there's a big conflict, I think, generationally, and there's a big conflict, even among the classes on like what work-life balance should look like. I won't let you know, like, where I fall into that camp, just because, you know, it's my own personal thoughts, but it's very divergent, I think, views. And I think the work-from-home thing has to stay, because I just think from a talent management perspective, there are firms that are much more flexible than my firm, and there are firms much more flexible than some of the other firms that are all peers to each other.
And you're just going to, it's so easy to lateral. You can call up a recruiter and have a job offer at a different firm within two weeks, and conflicts clear, and it'd be remote only. And so if these firms are serious about managing their head count properly, they have to offer some of these better work-life balance perks.
David Busis: Thanks, David. We're going to take a question from Daniel now. So Daniel, you can ask.
New Speaker: Hi. Thanks to both Davids, by the way, for hosting this. It was very interesting and helpful.
David Brown: Yeah, no worries.
New Speaker: But I have a question for you, David, David Brown. So you said you worked as a CPA. Did you enjoy working as a CPA? And why did you decide to move into law instead?
David Brown: I did like work as a CPA. My master, so I went to law school thinking I was going to be a tax lawyer. I did a, after my undergrad, I did my undergrad at Indiana University. I was an accounting, finance, and economics major, and then I did a one-year master's in accounting with a focus on tax. And I thought I was going to go to law, and I had always sort of wanted to go to law school.
And so I thought I was going to be a tax attorney and like a strategic, you know, kind of M&A sort of tax attorney, and I kind of found, like, doing that, it wasn't really my jam. But CPA was always sort of my backup, because I always knew I wanted to go to law school, so if like this law thing didn't work out and I got, say, you know, like my dad, you know, my dad passed away like a year ago.
He always said like he always wanted to go to law school and he just got too old or it didn't make any sense. So I was always kind of like, well, if that ever happened to me, like I am employable as a CPA. That's fine.
My second thing was, well, a lot of my friends from undergrad and my master's went to go work at like Big Four, and I knew what lawyers at Big Law firms made, and you do kind of the same type of work for the same kind of hours, and you make three to four or five times as much. And that I found much more interesting from a, just a money management perspective. Like if I'm going to be working a lot of hours, like I want to sort of maximize my investment.
And, but to answer your question directly, I did like working as a CPA. I didn't go, I didn't work in Big Four. I worked at a, I worked at Caterpillar, I worked at a Fortune 500 company doing internal cost management. I liked it a lot. It paid well, but the things I was doing, I would sometimes have to work with some of the lawyers on some trade stuff. And I just thought, hey, they're doing stuff that I think is more interesting. They're making more money than I am. You know, let's see about this law school thing. And then I was lucky enough to get accepted to Harvard, and I don't think, I couldn't turn that down.
New Speaker: Yeah. Thanks. That was a great answer. And I really appreciate that. A related question then would be, how come you decided to go into law instead of going into finance? Because it seems like you're interested in capital markets and the market, all that. So why did you decide?
David Brown: Yeah, so I thought about that. So I did, I am a, I did pass level one in the CFA, and I thought about that. I still think about that. So that's kind of one thing I'm thinking about. Like, I don't foresee myself working at a law firm. Really, your exit options really start to material, really good exit options start to materialize, like your third year at a law firm. And if you're doing M&A and capital markets, that I find, because it's not so niche, that I find sort of offers you the best exits.
If you were, for those business-minded, you know, litigation, you know, that's its own separate thing I don't know too much about, but like if you're sort of business-minded, you want to go work in a business role or a finance role, I find that in M&A or capital markets practice is probably the best rather than something like tax, because you have to think about, like tax is super niche. Like why would somebody hire like somebody that only does tax? I want somebody that can understand the macro level of the business and stuff like that.
So that's still something I'm considering. You know, after a handful of years in Big Law, I'll evaluate, do I like this enough to continue it? Do I want to do something else? I really don't think you can really know whether you truly like a job or not until you're, you know, maybe about two years into it, because the first year you're just learning your role, you're learning, what are you doing?
And then I think the second year should be devoted to process improvement. You know, I'm nine, 10 months in, I don't know if I have enough information to say, like, oh, I hate this, or I love this, or I like this. I do what they tell me to do, and I try to learn a lot. And then once as I become more mid-level to senior, and then I can evaluate, what are my exit options?
Having the CPA, I haven't decided if I want to do level two of the CFA. I mean, I don't know when I'd have time to study for it, but having that background is going to be, I think, very good, very helpful for me to keep my options open, especially in an M&A capital markets practice.
New Speaker: Yeah. Well, thank you, guys, for both your, for your time. And it sounds like you've got a lot of qualifications, so nice job, David.
David Brown: Yeah, no worries. Yeah, thank you.
David Busis: Sergio. Let's go to you.
New Speaker: Yeah. Thank you both for having this call. This is really helpful. For David Brown, so you talked about, you know, sending applications, I guess, for having, you know, working at a law firm, you know, your first year, your first summer, and you know, I'm just kinda like thinking, like, you know, once we start law school, some of us are probably gonna have like this shock, right?
Like, you know, starting, you know, your first quarter or semester in law school and just being super busy, trying to learn, right? How did you, do you have tips, or how did you prepare, I guess for, I guess, doing the research and submitting applications for applying for these summer internships?
David Brown: So I had a lot of stuff like on autopilot. You know, the one nice thing about being a business major is like, I always had an updated resume and I always had like a template cover letter. You could do that now. I mean, you can, there's no reason why, before you go to law school, you can't get a high-level template cover letter that can be easily adapted and a resume ready to go. Because that's, that's really all you need. You need that and an internet connection to apply to a job.
Now, where to find a job, like I said before, there's the NALP website, the NALP. I don't know if it's nalp.com, but if you just Google NALP law jobs or something, you'd see it's really easy to find. And you just go to the, I went to the, this is literally what I did, I went to the website, I filtered, there's a whole bunch of filters you can filter through, I made the filter selections I wanted to, and on one of the tabs, you know, it's like HR contact, but with their email address.
And I would just literally email the HR contact, Hi, my name's David Brown, I'm a first-year at Harvard Law School, a couple of sentences about I'm very interested in this kind of practice, this firm and this office, please see my attached resume and cover letter. I'd be happy to take a phone call or, if permitting, you know, grab coffee with some associates in the Boston office, that kind of thing.
And, you know, I would at least get a response most of the time. Sometimes, you know, you're ignored, sometimes you go, no, sorry, go away. Other times it's very favorable, but you've got to be okay with that, right? You know, not everybody was looking to hire 1Ls. But if you email enough, people just love big numbers, like you're going to find somebody to bite. But how do you do that, like, while you're studying? You carve out, you just carve out some time for it.
Like, I, you know, like I said, I was a middle-of-the-road law student at Harvard. I, after my first semester grades, I was like, well, I'm not going to clerk on the Supreme Court now. So what am I going to do? I'm going to, you know, my goal was to always work at a large law firm in, you know, some sort of transactional practice. So I just, I would carve time out when I could and apply from there, and, you know, balancing that with your schedule and your readings.
Harvard's also a law school that doesn't really have grades, you know, it's like pass, honors, and DS. I don't even know what DS stands for, but, you know, you can kind of, it's not the end of the world if you got to take a few days to apply to jobs. At the end of the day, this is why, and I could post another webinar about my issues with law school education, the end of the day, it's a professional degree.
The whole purpose of going to law school is to be a lawyer, not an academic, and law school is so much geared towards the academic side of law and not the practice side of law that I think it does a real disservice to people who are like, this is a transaction. Like, I am going to law school, paying a lot of money to go to law school in order to get a job. And why do these barriers exist for getting a job? Doesn't make any sense to me.
Now, if I was getting a PhD in jurisprudence, that's a totally different ball game. Then, all right, you want to be an academic, makes sense, focus on the academic side of things. But to practice law, teach me to get a job, teach me these tangible skills about how to network and things like that. You really don't get that in law school. So you just have to make time for yourself to figure that out.
David Busis: Well, thanks, Sergio.
New Speaker: Yeah. Thank you. Thank you both.
David Brown: Yeah, no worries. Great questions. If we don't get to your question, please shoot me an email. You can email me at my work email, so email@example.com, v as in Victor, e as in elephant, law.com, and I'll try to get to everyone's questions. I will try to answer your question. If I don't answer your question, it's because it's my issue and just remind me, bump it up. I do not intend to ignore any questions.
David Busis: That's very generous of you, David. Hi, Audrey. Are you there?
New Speaker: Hi. Hi. Yes, I'm here. Thank you, David, for this very helpful introduction. And I have a question. If I actually missed it, I apologize for it. But I wonder, you mentioned about, you had take a gap year before attending to law school. And I wondered, like, how did you use your gap year, and what is the best way to spend that year? And then I wonder, like, would a paralegal job be a good choice to just get familiar with this kind of work?
David Brown: Yeah, I would say during a gap year is, practically speaking, do something, do something interesting, whether that's working, whether that's traveling, I would say do anything but just sit on the couch, because that gap year is going to, it's going to be, it's not gonna be a red flag, but it's going to come up.
David's a great resource for me on this one. Like when I, I applied to law school, two sessions, and because I spent some time studying for the LSAT, I sort of had this like very weird time where I really wasn't doing anything other than studying for the LSAT. And I think that really hurt me on my applications because it was like all I was doing.
And then I applied, got into some places, didn't get into places I wanted to get into, I reapplied again, but now I was working. I was working at Caterpillar, I had some very good experience. And from an application standpoint, I wrote, I think, a very, a much better personal statement than my first personal statement, because my second personal statement was about, here is some concrete, like, stuff I've done.
And so, that doesn't have to be working, necessarily. It could be traveling. It could be, you know, I spent this year in this really, it had this really interesting experience. But your personal statement should be active, right? It should be about you doing something, not I saw somebody else do something, or I saw this thing happen and that made me feel this way. It should be, this happened, and that made me do X. And this is what I did while I was doing X.
Now, your question about being a paralegal, yeah. Being a paralegal's fine. Plenty of paralegals go to law school. Is it going to prepare you for the work? I think it depends. It depends like what kind of work you're doing, but law firms need paralegals. Paralegals at V&E are great. Is it going to help you in law school? I'd say really nothing really helps you in law school. Law school is its own weird bubble of stuff. Is it going to help you be a practicing attorney? Again, I'd say, again, probably not, because you're going to just kind of learn by doing, but you know, being a paralegal is great.
New Speaker: Thank you so much.
David Busis: Good luck, Audrey. Okay, we're going to go to the last question. I'm sorry that we're not going to be able to get to everybody, but Kristen, we'd love to hear from you.
New Speaker: Hi. Hi, David. Thank you so much for speaking with us today. I think you mentioned this a little bit about the exit options after spending a few years in the law firm. I was curious what your next step professionally would look like and what you've seen from others. Typically, what they do, what their next chapter looks like. Is it getting promoted within the law firm or, you know, finding other options that are outside the law firm? And relatedly, I'm curious about the performance evaluation process as well.
David Brown: What happens in a law firm, at a Big Law firm, you're sort of auto-promoted every year until your eighth year, and then you kind of are up for partner or you're made counsel. So, I mean, you're not pushed out. Some firms push you out if you don't, if you're not hitting like your billable hours, but, you know, unless you're, unless you're billing like something super low, and again, you don't cause like, say, an HR issue, it's, I think it's very hard to get fired from a law firm.
It's also very easy to lateral to different firms. I know plenty of people who, every two years, three years, they lateral to a different firm and they're comfortable doing that indefinitely. And so they go, you know what, I've made enough money, I want to go do something way more, more chilled out, and do that.
I will say, like, after, if most people leave a firm in that kind of three-to-six-year range, after six years, you're kind of, you're kind of a little bit too senior. You're kind of too expensive. You're kind of too qualified for some, like, in-house role at a company. Three to six years is sort of the sweet spot, which is why you see so much attrition there.
By then, most Big Law attorneys, if they've been handling their finances properly, they no longer are in law school debt, and they go, well, I'm net worth zero. I did my time at a Big Law firm. Let me go make, you know, $150,000. It's a pay cut, but it's $150,000 I get to keep rather than making, you know, $2,000, $3,000, $4,000, you know, debt payments. And I'm fine, and you're fine with that.
I will say expect, I will say expect a pay cut. Like if you're leaving as a fifth-year, you're making 300-something thousand dollars, there are very few in-house legal departments that are going to pay you that, so if you're very salary conscious at that like level of seniority, there's almost nothing better than a law firm unless you get like a senior counsel job or a general counsel job at like a FANG or something.
But in the three-to-five-year range, it's very, I think it's very doable from a Big Law firm to get a $200,000 base job, maybe with another 20 to 50K in bonus and benefits and that stuff, and it's like, hey, if you're making $200,000 to $250,000 for the rest of your career, you're going to be fine. That's probably what I'm going to end up doing, either in-house or I'll go try something in finance. I have a lot of contacts in finance, so I can call up or something like that. That's most likely my next career step.
Super long-term, I'd love to teach. When I quasi, my quasi-retirement plan is to go teach at my alma mater at Indiana University for, I don't know, 100K a year, by then, the money, to me, I don't think will matter, and watch my Hoosiers lose to Rutgers every year. That'll be my retirement plan. My family's in Indiana, my wife's family is in Indiana, my family is in Indiana, so it's just kind of what we want to do.
Your second question was about performance evaluation. My experience is that it doesn't matter. I mean, as long as you're hitting your billable, again, it's very difficult to get fired from a Big Law firm, and to be perfectly frank, if you're on the cusp of like getting the talk, lateral. Call up a recruiter, you can lateral to a different firm within three weeks. You can probably do that indefinitely every three years. Right now, people are snagging $100,000 signing bonuses as fourth-years.
The market right now is completely wacko, and from a performance evaluation perspective, like, it just isn't all that useful. Again, perhaps another webinar could be something like a business-minded or business majors evaluation of the internal management of law firms, because I have a lot I could say about how I think sort of nonsensical lockstep salaries are and how nonsensical auto-promotion is and things like that. But performance reviews are very low on my sort of care list.
New Speaker: Got it. Thank you so much. That was so helpful.
David Brown: Yeah, no worries.
David Busis: Thank you, David, and thank you, everyone who came. I hope you learned something. David, I like how you were, you gave us a lot of practical advice and, I don't know, I feel like you're so level-headed. You've imparted some of that clear-eyed thinking on us.
David Brown: Yeah, no worries.
David Busis: You can send us the bill later for your time.
David Brown: I will. Yeah. So that's the thing, like, this is getting billed to client development, so. But yeah, it's my pleasure, it was absolutely my pleasure. I hope to do more webinars like this in the future. Whatever topic you think would be interesting to discuss, I'm down for it. You know, even if I know nothing about it, I'll just make something up. That's my, that's mostly my job anyway.
David Busis: Perfect.
David Brown: Exactly, right? But yeah, but like I said, my offer that I said a few minutes ago still stands. Like if I did not get to your question, or if you want clarification on something, please shoot me an email and I will get to it. 7Sage was a very important part of my law school journey. Without it, I would not have been able to get into Harvard. David was instrumental in making my application awesome. And again, I don't think I would've gotten into Harvard without David's help. So any way I can give back, I'm totally, I'm totally willing to do so.
David Busis: David, we really appreciate it, and I'm sure we will be tapping you again. This is a great webinar.
David Brown: Absolutely, my pleasure.
David Busis: Well, good luck, everyone.
J.Y.: Hi, it's J.Y. again. Thank you for listening. As always, if you're studying for the LSAT, applying to law school, studying for your law school exams, or studying for the bar, come visit us at 7Sage.com. We can help.
That's it for this episode. Take care of yourself, and see you next time.
Tajira: In most instances, as we've been saying throughout, schools are not looking to match. We're looking to try to get you the best possible that we think is comparable to what you're receiving from our peers. We're looking to try to make sure that it's a fair award and that we are putting you in a good position, but we're not necessarily looking to get into the business of being used car salesmen who are going to try to, and you get this and you get, that's not what we do.
J.Y.: Hello, and welcome to the 7Sage podcast. I'm J.Y. Ping, and today we're presenting part two of a double-header on scholarship reconsideration requests. We held our first discussion about financial aid on Clubhouse and released it as episode 70. Today's episode presents a follow-up webinar with a slightly different roster of admissions officers. They start by talking about the basics of merit aid, then cover a few questions we didn't get to last time. Please enjoy.
David: Hi, everyone. Welcome to the webinar. Thank you so much for coming. We are really pleased to have you. So I'm David, I'm a partner at 7Sage admissions, and I'm joined today with three of my colleagues.
Tajira McCoy worked in law school admissions for 10 years, most recently as the director of admissions and scholarship programs at Berkeley Law. And, Tajira, I hope I don't embarrass you, she also just published a novel, came out two days ago, _Savvy Sheldon Feels Good as Hell_, so go to your local bookstore. Tracy's holding it up.
I'm also joined by Elizabeth Cavallari, who spent six years as a senior and assistant dean of admissions at William and Mary Law School, and Tracy Simmons, who's the senior assistant dean for admissions, diversity initiatives, and financial aid at the University of San Diego School of Law. Welcome, all of you. Thanks so much for joining us.
And my first question is super basic. I'm hoping that one of you can clarify a big question for me. What's the deal with financial aid? What's the difference between merit-based financial aid and need-based financial aid? I don't get it. Anyone who wants to speak, you're welcome to.
Tracy: The basic difference is that merit is literally what it says, and I know that seems silly, but it literally, generally speaking, is based on your academic indicators, you know, generally speaking, that's your LSAT score and your relative GPA as calculated by the Law School Admission Council, not necessarily the GPA that's on the transcripts from your degree-granting institution.
I think it's important to note that there are some law schools that will actually consider things like your major, on the rigor of your major and things like that in the actual calculation, but for the most part, traditionally speaking, merit is literally just your LSAT score and GPA.
And the need is traditionally based on your actual need as calculated by the government when you submit a FAFSA. There are institutions that will use other tools for international students, for DACA students, et cetera, to kind of get that same type of calculation, particularly for institutional funds and donor-related funds that require an actual need calculation.
And so it generally is based on your income, assets, number of people in college, and things of that nature, very, very traditional calculation, but again, they can differ by school because each school will have their own criteria in terms of how they determine what is the most needy student, particularly with limited funding on the need-based side. They're just, you know, that, unfortunately still in 2022, there are not tons of schools that have need-based aid, but those are the basic differences.
David: Okay, Tracy or whoever else wants to jump in, how do you get merit-based aid? Who do you ask for it from?
Tajira: You know, at a lot of schools, you're automatically considered for merit-based aid, and for most schools, that ends up happening at the time that you're also considered for admission. Depending on the school, there are, you know, kind of a subset of schools that do that consideration a few weeks to a month out after admission, but the vast majority of schools, I would say, do both admission and merit-based considerations at the same time.
And so for a lot of students, they'll know at the time that they get their offer whether they're receiving merit-based awards or not, right at the onset, and then they have the opportunity to then make some requests if that school allows it.
David: Elizabeth, can you tell me more about how you can make a request for more merit-based financial aid?
Elizabeth: Sure. So this will often depend on the school. So the first thing you want to do is figure out what the instructions are, often on an admitted student portal. Some schools will ask you to submit a formal request, a special form. Others will just ask for general information. And someone asking for additional aid, my general advice is looking at it in terms of cost of attendance. So not simply the amount of a scholarship, but how that scholarship amount affects your bottom line.
So when you're asking for additional aid, it's comparing bottom lines from one school to the next and not simply the scholarship. So if you're in state at one school and out of state in another, the scholarship amounts might be vastly different, but you still could be paying very similar at the end of the day.
So when asking for that scholarship request, I think it's important that it shows that you've done your due diligence, that you've looked at all the numbers, and that you're asking not simply for a higher dollar amount, but you're asking for something to lower your overall cost of attendance compared to other schools.
David: Right. And Elizabeth, just to fill in some context, I think when you ask for more merit-based aid from a school, you're usually sending the school another offer, and you're telling the school, "I'm strongly considering attending this other institution, and if I did, my overall cost of attendance would be lower. Is there any way you could make this decision easier for me by making my cost of attendance at your school lower?"
Elizabeth: Yeah, absolutely.
David: Okay. So tell me how you can phrase this letter and, frankly speaking, not to sound like a jerk. So Tracy's nodding. That either means you know how to sound like a nice guy, or you really know how to sound like a jerk. Maybe you can tell us about each.
Tracy: I was going to say, I could probably, I think all three of us can talk about each, but I think the biggest thing is that you want to be honest, you want to be thoughtful. I think the advice that Elizabeth just gave in terms of actually thinking through your request and actually doing the work, doing the math is really, really important.
Being thoughtful about the fact that you're comparing one school to another, you have to pay attention to things like what are the median LSAT scores and GPAs for one school A versus school B, because oftentimes that is something that is not thought about by the candidates, and it really is disappointing and it's frustrating for the institutions because you really are comparing apples to pears, and there's a thoughtfulness around that is kind of lacking.
I also think that it's important to ask questions if you cannot find the information on the website. Each law school has, as Elizabeth pointed out, general instructions, if that's something that they do, outlined for you, because we want to make this easy for you, but you also want to make it easy for the law schools to kind of entertain this kind of request.
I think the other things to think about, really, is that you have to have a tough skin, and you have to be prepared for the no. There are a number of law schools that do not negotiate and never have, and I've noticed in the last year and a half, I did a quick survey last spring, and there are a number of schools that were actually moving from the general idea of reconsideration and negotiation altogether.
And so the flip side of that is that in terms of being a jerk, I think it's important to understand that if they are telling you no, those are generally institutional policies, not just some individual in an admissions office or financial aid office telling you no. Those are institutional decisions based on the budget, based on their goals and parameters and things of that nature.
The last point I'll make for now is that I really do think that the candidates who come across as genuinely thoughtful, even for the schools that don't negotiate and/or reconsider, oftentimes if there is additional funding that may come your way, oftentimes we will often ask about those students later on or those candidates later on, because you were polite, thorough, thoughtful, and you actually were not belligerent with the staff when you actually were told we actually don't do that.
And so I think those are, to me, that's kind of how you avoid being a jerk, but there are tons of other things that I'm sure my colleagues here can kind of expound upon a little bit.
David: Tracy, before we do, so you said don't compare apples to pears. Does that mean that if you are asking school A for a little bit more money and you're showing them another offer from school B, school B should be a peer school? Is that what you mean?
Tracy: Yes. I mean, I think it's really important to be thoughtful about the fact that if you are submitting a request to ask for more money or trying to negotiate your scholarship, and you're looking at a school that the median score for the LSAT, I'll just use that as an example, is literally six points below school B, that means that, you know, generally speaking, school A and school B are really kind of targeting and focusing on very different candidates.
And I don't mean that to be disrespectful, but the focus of those merit scholarships is often tied directly to U.S. News rank. And so I know we don't always want to talk about that, but that's the reality of the circumstances, and so if you're applying to one school and you're saying, "I really want more money and I really want to go to your school, but school B gave me X amount more," well, at the end of the day, you were at the top of their pool.
You're not at the top of the pool for the school where your LSAT score is five or six points below, and so your scholarship is comparable. And so you just want to be, this is where, again, I think, Tajira and Elizabeth were talking about earlier, in terms of just doing the math, doing the homework, and being thoughtful and strategic in your request. I'm not saying don't ask, but I think how you frame it will be different if you're comparing a school that is right here and a school that's right here. That's just the reality of the situation.
Elizabeth: Absolutely what Tracy is saying, and I think there's, I mean, there's exceptions to every rule. So I think about some of my experiences, that if it's a school that isn't as highly ranked but they have a super specialized program that a student's interested in, I've seen students say, "I'm really interested in your school. I understand you're more highly ranked. However, this school has this program I'm really interested in. It's more specialized, and here's where I'm struggling."
And so having the student just being like really forthright about what their decision-making process is. I also think about if someone's moving across the country, where to go to my school versus living at home, where even though the rank might be slightly different, that there's some really strong financial considerations that students are considering.
And so while it's not necessarily comparing apples to apples, but understanding the student's personal circumstances helps. And if it's someone I really want and knowing that how they're thinking about scholarships and loans and their debt load upon graduation does make a difference in how I would consider them for additional aid.
David: That's super helpful. Here's what I'm taking away so far. First, you have to follow a school's instructions. If they tell you how they want you to petition them for more merit-based financial aid, obviously you have to listen to them. If they tell you that they don't entertain those offers, you're probably wasting your time.
Number two, if you have questions about a school's process, try to find them yourself before you ask the school. That's actually probably true for everything in your whole life. And it's certainly true for everything in law school admissions, not just financial aid, I think.
Number three, in an ideal world, you want to compare pears to pears, which means that if you go to a school that has an LSAT median of 166, it's not going to be all that compelling to say that you got a full ride from a school with an LSAT median of 145. It's a lot more compelling to say that you got a big scholarship offer from a peer school, a school that also has an LSAT median of 166 or 165 or 164, something like that.
This next one I feel like is a little more counterintuitive. Be honest about your situation and your decision-making process. I sometimes think of law school admissions officers as professional BS detectors. Your job is to read through the lines and try to suss out the people who are trying to play you, and you're probably pretty good at it.
So if you are asking for more merit-based financial aid, it really goes a long way, I'm gathering, to say, "Here's my decision-making process. I'm really attracted to your school because of X, Y, and Z." And you don't have to necessarily lay it on, I think, by saying, this thing that I read on your website really attracts me, this clinic that, you know, anyone can list.
You can say, I have family in the area. You can just tell them the truth. You can say, my wife, you know, wants to move there, or whatever has a job offer there. But if you are honest, and this is the next point, even if you're rejected in the short term, you may be a candidate for aid later on, if more opens up. You can make a good impression on admissions officers by telling the truth.
And then the final point, and this really goes hand in hand with the idea of not trying to play games, you are not just comparing two numbers. You're not just, well, you are comparing two numbers, but you're not just comparing the amount of scholarship that one school offers you with the amount of scholarship that another school offers you, because if one school costs a million dollars to attend and they're giving you $50,000, you're still on the hook for $950,000.
It's not really that compelling to say school B, which has a tuition of $10,000 and it's giving you nothing, should give you some money. You want to compare what it would cost you to attend each school, and maybe not explicitly, but at least implicitly, ask them to make up the difference. So, Tajira, did I get that right, or...?
Tajira: You absolutely did. That was great, and what I love about it is you actually have been touching upon some of the questions in the Q&A section that have been asked anonymously. In particular, there's one that's kind of saying, you know, I have this offer from Cornell and, you know, they have a $200,000 cost of attendance. I also have an offer from UT Austin and they have 120K cost of attendance.
And they're saying, you know, would it be sensible to use the offer from UT Austin to negotiate with Cornell? It's going to depend on what those offers look like. It's not just about the cost of attendance, it's not just about the award you receive, but it's also about, you know, the ratio. And so in making thoughtful requests, some schools are going to expect that you're going to do that math, right?
And so if the award from UT Austin covers 50% of your tuition, and the award from Cornell covers 25%, you know, like, are you asking them to give you pears for pears, or are you asking them to kind of find something that makes your cost of attendance more equal? And I think that those are going to be very different conversations.
And one is a much bigger ask than the other, given the amount that these costs of attendance differ. And you have to remember that schools, as they're thinking about awarding scholarship, you know, most of us cannot award based on cost of attendance. We can only award based on what tuition costs are.
David: Can we do a little lightning round? I have so many little questions. So you don't actually have to be lightning quick as you answer, but it's okay to answer these questions with one-word answers. So Tracy, lightning round question number 1. How long should a request for more merit-based financial aid be, if you're writing it?
Tracy: I think, you know, a page or so. I mean, I think you should get to the point, and if they require documentation, make sure you submit the requisite documentation.
David: Elizabeth, can you ever ask, or should you ever ask, for more merit-based aid over the phone?
Elizabeth: No, it should always be in writing.
David: Tajira, can you ever use an offer from a higher-ranked school as leverage, even if the higher-ranked school didn't offer you any money or offered you less money?
Tajira: If they didn't offer any money, it's a very weak thing to put forth, and most of the time it's not going to be given any consideration. If it's a smaller offer, will we consider it? Yes, but again, it's not necessarily going to be given all that much weight. Typically, when you're asking for people to give you more, you're showing them that you've gotten more from some school that is right there with them.
David: And then this one's open to everybody. I've heard that you should avoid the phrase, "can you match?" So, everyone, is that true, and are there other phrases you should avoid?
Tracy: I agree. I don't think you should use that terminology. Please state, you know, looking to increase my scholarship. I'm looking to, you know, I'm looking for you to help me make a stronger decision because I'm committed, you know, things of that nature. But I wouldn't say "match" because for most of us, there's a reason that we're not, we're unable to do that for a variety of reasons.
Tajira: Other things to avoid are "I deserve," "you should give me." Anything that kind of crosses into the entitlement realm is going to be kind of a hard sell. And I think it's also something where it's like when you're comparing schools and you're like, this one's actually better, so you should match, don't do that. People do that, and I don't really know what the reasoning is behind it, but it does happen more often than I'd care to even express.
Elizabeth: And people might feel different, panelists might feel differently about this, I actually don't like the term "negotiate." I would much rather have someone say, like, "I respectfully ask to be considered for additional aid."
David: Write that down, everyone. At this point, I'm going to invite everybody in the audience to raise your hand if you have a question. We really enjoy hearing your voice, so we can answer questions that you type, but more fun if we can talk to you.
In the meantime, I want to run this by you panelists. I'll tip my hand. We actually had a meeting about this last night, we already talked about this, it's old news for us. One thing that came out of the meeting that really struck me is this idea that when you're asking people to reconsider you for aid, you're telling them a story. You're not an agent negotiating a Hollywood deal.
You're telling them, I have a really hard choice to make. I really like your school, but I am also considering this other school, and it may make more sense for me financially, and I am asking if there's any way that you can, you know, find a way to make this choice easier for me to say yes to something that I really want to say yes to. You know, is that an accurate summary? Are we telling a story about a hard choice that you have to make? Tajira's shaking her head.
Tajira: I think it depends. We get those messages all the time, and yes, it's incredibly hard to take very similar offers from two great programs and choose. And the hard part is a lot of times money makes those choices far more difficult. You know, if you are looking at those schools without any consideration of money, what would you do? What are your priorities?
And so, especially in my position at Berkeley, I would get these kinds of questions all the time. And we end up having these conversations and I have to remind candidates a lot, you had a list of priorities that you were considering when you picked the schools that you applied to. And have you gone back to that list and looked at that at all?
Because especially in the spring, everything starts to center around money, and we forget about all those other priorities that really mattered to us, and fit is about so much more than money. And so, like, at the end of the day, trying to make sure that you're considering not only the financial aspect but also repayment aspects, also support and resources aspects, also faculty and representation aspects.
There's so many things that kind of fall out of the brain as we're talking about money, and a lot of times, reintroducing those priorities into the conversation actually helps you know what decision you're going to make regardless.
David: Thanks so much. Angie, we'd love to hear your question.
New Speaker: Hi, everyone. My name is Angie. So my question is, is that merit-based scholarship same for the international student too? And, or is there any other way, like, you know, international student can appeal for the scholarship or something like that? My question is that. Does that make sense? I'm sorry.
Tajira: No, that absolutely makes sense. Thank you so much for your question. And yes, for most schools, it's going to be the exact same process, the exact same considerations. There are very few schools that cannot do the exact same for international students. And typically, that's going to be at a public institution. It just depends on the source of their funding when it comes to the awards that they're granting.
David: Thanks, Angie. Good luck. Hi, Fisher.
New Speaker: Hey, guys. Thanks so much for doing this. I've gotten a lot of helpful information so far. The question for you guys is, I've heard that scholarship funds are meted out after the initial award as seats are filled and people say, I'm going to another school, that kind of opens up funding. Is that true, and if so, is there a process where students who have already accepted get additional scholarship as July and August rolls around?
Tracy: I think it depends on the institution, how their budget's structured. It depends on how they award. I think Tajira in the beginning was speaking directly to the idea that for most law schools, you may hear about your award right when you're admitted, but there are other schools, literally, I mean, I know one school here in California that it literally, it's March 20-something and they haven't awarded any scholarships yet at all, which is very different, right?
And so, in that instance, not sure if that's going to work out in terms of candidates who are applying and they have not heard anything yet. And so I think it's really, I mean, I guess I'll say this: one, my first thought, like if we were meeting one-on-one, I'd say that is something that you don't control at all, and so don't put your eggs in that basket. You do what's best for you in terms of asking questions about how do I improve my chances of obtaining a scholarship?
What is your largest pool of funds? Is it merit-related, is it program-specific, or is it need-based, and how can I, you know, do whatever I need to do to obtain those funds from your school? And then the next question will be things like what you exactly just asked, is there an opportunity later in the cycle to obtain more funds as the class settles in, as your seat deposits come in, as people submit their permanent request, as people kind of make, formalize their plans, et cetera, et cetera.
And the school will let you know their specific process. But I think it's important to note that, generally speaking, it's very, very different and you literally have no control over that. So don't focus on that. I think your job is to get in, one, and then, two, do everything you can to kind of inform yourself about the additional scholarships that that specific law school may be offering you, in terms of how you obtain them, how you apply for them, et cetera, et cetera.
David: All right. Thanks, Tracy. Great answer. Good luck, Fisher. Natalie, we'd love to hear your question.
New Speaker: Hello? Thank you guys all for your patience and time in doing this. So, in the request for reconsideration, do you find that students that ask for a specific amount find more success, or should we just kind of lay out the facts and the offers that we have and see what happens?
Elizabeth: I would recommend laying out the facts. I think that tends to be better, but some schools will ask specifically, what kind of aid are you asking for? And so I think that really does depend on the school. So making sure you have, like, that information ahead of time, but generally what's been most successful is, here's what I have.
We have an idea of what you'd like just by seeing the numbers in front of us. And sometimes I feel like students try to push their luck a little bit by asking for specific dollar amounts, and that could rub the admissions officer the wrong way.
David: Elizabeth, is that true even if you ask for a very modest amount?
Elizabeth: I would, I'd say even in that case, I've had some people say, like, if you, like, I've seen people compare like apples to pears before, and they're like, I understand this other school isn't comparable, but even if you could give me a little bit more aid, that would make the difference.
And so while it wasn't a dollar amount, like they knew I wouldn't be able to match, but explaining their circumstances, I'm like, there's no way I'm going to give you an extra 15,000, but I can do an extra 5,000. And that was a good-faith effort to the student that we wanted them, even though they knew that their offer wasn't necessarily comparable because of the difference in kind of ranking and LSAT numbers of the two different schools.
David: I will say this also just underscores to me the importance of asking in the first place, so long as you're very polite. You know, if it's the case that a pretty modest offer on your part is an extra $5,000 a year, that is great news for the student. That's still $15,000, but that is real money. Well, good luck, Natalie. We're going to go to Charlotte.
New Speaker: Hello. What leverage do we have if our scores or GPAs are significantly above that median point of the admitted student with regard to additional scholarship funds? And related, how do we advocate for ourselves without showing our hands? Thank you.
Tajira: Without showing your hand in terms of other offers you have? Because we already know your numbers.
New Speaker: Thank you. That's helpful. I think without saying too much, but it sounds like transparency is very helpful in this situation.
Tracy: You want us to be a partner with you in this, and so I think, you know, it's really important that you be thoughtful about the why behind your question, because we are professionals and our job is to try to do our best to give as many opportunities to as many students as possible.
And so, you know, we have institutional responsibilities, but we have responsibilities to the entire applicant pool. And so, to the extent that a school is requesting that you provide information about your other offers, that is for a reason. I mean, sometimes it's because they want to understand, like, are we underawarding? You know, and that might have them consider, reconsider the entire scholarship policy.
Then other times, they literally are thinking through their budget and their goals. And so there was a response I typed to one of the candidates, I'm going to chat about, all these things are so tied to things like, things that, again, you don't control, but things like, one of our goals related to net tuition revenue. Our school may say, our, you know, budget dean may say, we need a class of this size because we want to offer this many more scholarships. Or they may say, you spent way too much money last year. We want a class that same size, but we don't want you to spend as much money.
All those things are part of this. And so to the extent that you can be as transparent as possible, but also kind of view us as, we're not your adversary. We, literally, our jobs are to kind of help you find the law school that's going to be best for you, and as Tajira pointed out, for some of you, you get very, very focused on the money. And while we all understand how important that is, at the end of the day, we've seen too many candidates make the wrong decision for the wrong reason.
And so we want you to be thoughtful about that in the context of, is this school really where I want to be? Will the difference of $2,000 or $5,000, or, you know, the conditions in terms of the scholarship, will that make a difference, or will I ultimately know that, irrespective of any of that, I really want to be at this school because they have the right programming, the right mentoring opportunities, and the right alumni connections for me?
And, you know, for some of you, at the end of the day, it's going to be like, nope, that $5,000 makes all the difference. But for a lot of you, when you're, in your heart of hearts, when you're sitting by yourself and you have to make this really, really tough decision about your law school home, you want us to be in a space where we can help make a great decision, because we all want you to have a really good law school experience.
Tajira: And I think it's really important to note, you know, when it comes to this whole transparency thing, playing things too close to your vest means you're probably not giving us the information that we need to make an educated decision. And in doing so, you may have shoot, you may shoot yourself in the foot, because then our offer's probably going to be relatively conservative, and it's not going to take into consideration all of those things that you could have shared with us.
It's best to be really transparent in this process. It's best to tell them, you know, if they're your number one choice, if that's where you want to go, if you have a family history there, all of those things, it matters. And just being genuine and telling people what it is that you're looking for and hoping for, we're understanding that, you know, we're doing our best to touch as many people as we possibly can with the budget that we've been allotted, but we're going to try to do our best to really try to encompass as many really strong and worthy candidates as we can.
David: That was really helpful. I think it's worth underlining Tracy's point. Seems like it might be a takeaway or should be a takeaway. Tracy, correct me if I'm wrong, but what I'm hearing is that you're going to have more success if you do not approach this in an adversarial way. You are not trying to beat more money out of a school. You're trying to forge a connection with a partner in your education that's going to be mutually beneficial.
Tracy: Absolutely. And again, you know, ultimately, what you want is that you want us to be in a situation where, in July, if our development officer comes back and says, "Guess what? We just got this amazing scholarship, and we have five people that we need to award it to before school." You want to be on that side of like, oh my goodness, hey team, who's been in touch? Who made requests for more money, and who's been super engaged, and who's been super helpful and nice in terms of their interactions with the office?
And you want to be on that side of that because, honestly, this does happen. And so that kind of goes back to Fisher's point about, like, you know, does money come available later? It's different types of money that comes available. It's not necessarily the same money, but there are times when we're given an opportunity to, all of a sudden, award something different.
Many law schools will have their development team who will regularly and frequently go back to existing donors and say, is there any way that we can change this scholarship, or can we take some of the scholarship for continuing students and give a little bit to, you know, to entering students? You just never know, and so you want to be on the side where we literally are, we're on your team.
Lastly, when you come to that school, you also want to be that person who we think of very highly in terms of that level of respect and camaraderie and transparency, because, again, we are often, in the admission space, asked, who should we kind of nominate for this? You know, alumni that we're connected to will say, I'm looking for a clerk. I'm looking for, I'm going to refer to the people who I know were candid, honest, and earnest in their dealings with us throughout the process.
And so I know it sounds trite when we say, be thoughtful, be nice, be respectful, be transparent, but it really is not. You're literally starting your reputation in this process and it will carry you through. And I have students who, 10 years later, come back to me. I would write a letter of recommendation for them, I would offer up anything for them because of how they handled themselves in the process.
Tajira: Absolutely. And I think it's so true, when those extra funds come up, you know, as Tracy mentioned, I used to keep a running list of people who either I wasn't able to touch with money or who like needed just a little bit more and I just couldn't do it at the time. I always went back to that list to see, okay, I've got 5,000 more dollars. Who can I touch with this? And it always came back to those folks that just had such a great rapport with me in the office.
David: Okay, Samantha, we'd love to hear from you.
New Speaker: Hi, everybody. Thank you for doing this. You mentioned that we should be honest about our situation and decision-making process. Can you talk about the type of contexts that would be appropriate to share with schools? Like what have you all seen? Are there things that aren't appropriate? Just what type of things should we include there?
Elizabeth: So we've seen it all. There's definitely things that are too much information. So that's why I'd probably have someone you trust look over your request, to be like, does this come across as professional, even though you're sharing personal information, that it feels like this would be a compelling reason.
So I've seen that some went from a full-time job and where they're helping care for family members to stepping away from that and then going to law school full-time. So in addition to taking on loans, they're not providing for their family. So looking at that bottom line cost of attendance wasn't just impacting that individual.
So in that case, there was a larger thought process in how they're going to be looking at their financial aid. So I think the personal requests matter, but it's the way that you're putting it, that you're laying out the facts. I think sometimes people like, I want to give you my sob story, but sometimes with just budgetary concerns, I don't, we can't look necessarily at that, but more about the facts and the considerations just as they are on face value.
David: I hope that's helpful, Samantha. We're going to go to Hannah.
New Speaker: Hi, everybody. Thank you so much for doing this. This really feels great to see such nice people like yourself like sitting on the other side of the occasion and reviewing our applications. I have like two quick questions. First, I want to know if you could elaborate more about the diversity and minority component, like how that would be effective, if at all or not.
And then the second is somehow a silly question, kind of like upside-down question. I was wondering if you are being waitlisted for, let's say, for your, from your dream school, and you feel like you don't have any chances to get out of the waitlist. Is it helpful to mention to them or just like, as you said, honestly tell them that you might not be asking for scholarship if you get out of the waitlist, or that's not a thing? Thank you.
Tracy: I will attempt to start with the diversity piece. Please, Tajira, Elizabeth, David, jump in if I'm going the wrong direction. But I think it's important to note that, generally speaking, with merit scholarships, again, because it's generally based on these academic credentials, diversity doesn't come into play for those scholarships.
I think the playing field is very, very clear in most instances and for many, many law schools that it literally, these funds are based on those numbers, period. Your admissions decision, you know, is often based on the adversity, diversity, and things like that, that you might bring to that specific program, that law school, that city, et cetera, et cetera.
But those are very different things. If a law school has diversity-related scholarships, you know, for example, you may have a donor who said they really want to support women coming into the profession, there may be a specific scholarship related to, you know, being someone that identifies as a woman, there may be a scholarship for folks that are LGBTQ+ and/or allies, you know, so be on the lookout for those types of scholarships.
But the reality is that, generally speaking, you are, you know, your diversity and things like that that you bring to the table are often used in the actual review process for your application in being admitted to the school. The merit scholarships are the biggest pool of money, and that's just generally very, very separate.
And so, again, each law school, as you do your homework, you know that as we talked about viewing what's on the website, if there are other scholarships that you can apply for, generally speaking, those will be listed. If not, schools may send out a newsletter and/or provide updated information in an admissions-type portal after the fact, once you're actually admitted, that will allow you to apply for other types of scholarships. And those will be identified in the definitions and terms, and things like that will be laid out.
David: Okay. Hannah, let's come back to your question, just to make sure that everybody here gets a chance to ask one question. And so if we do have time, we'll come back to your second question.
Elizabeth: And I just put a link in the chat. AccessLex has a database of scholarships and fellowships that I think is helpful for outside aid, but there's also a fair amount of diversity scholarships and fellowships in there that include work between like 1L and 2L year.
David: Thanks, Elizabeth. Angelo, we'd love to hear from you.
New Speaker: Hello, everyone. Thank you so much for your time. I had a quick question regarding kind of how to interact with admission officers when you're in that negotiation discussion, I guess. So let's say that I'm asking a school for a certain amount of money or for a bit more, essentially they come back with an offer. Is it ever appropriate to go back and say, is there any chance you could give me just a little bit more, or is that completely just something that we shouldn't do? I'm just wondering.
David: Can you ask twice?
Tracy: I cringed a little bit and giggled only because this comes up a lot and it's a really tough call. You know, I always say, if you don't ask, you never know, but I think you have to be able to kind of read the room and pay attention to what the school is saying. If they say specifically, you can only ask once, that is not an institution that you can go back to again.
Many of us don't have that specific language, and so to the extent that you want to try it, I think all the same rules of engagement apply: thoughtful, detailed, you know, enough, follow instructions, be humble and be honest.
But again, I just want to caution everybody, don't be offended if, in fact, you're told no or that we've already given you this one update, and we want to kind of make sure that we're spreading the wealth and wait for other people to submit theirs. Don't be surprised by it.
Elizabeth: And this is related, I think, also to a question that was in the Q&A about when to ask for aid. Do you do it right when you get an offer from a school, or do you wait til you collect all your offers? So generally I'd recommend waiting til you collect all your offers. I've seen people ask once, and then they get a scholarship offer from another school and come back to me and ask again. And so waiting for that and doing kind of one thoughtful ask and maybe a follow-up, but based on having as much information as possible for that first ask.
David: Elizabeth and Tracy, I have a follow-up question for each of you. I'll just start with you, Elizabeth. When is it too late to ask? Waiting for all your offers is all well and good, but, you know, sometimes people don't know if they're going to get another offer, the seasons are changing, and people are getting anxious.
Elizabeth: So I'd probably say like a couple of days before deposit deadline, that's kind of under the gun. I know now is tough because some schools haven't given all their scholarship offers, and April 1st is coming up very quickly. And so, in that case, like I would probably say now's probably a good time to ask for those April 1 schools, and it's okay to say, I'm still waiting on a couple of schools, but here's the information I have right now.
So if that person were to come back, it's not like, well, where were these before? No, you told me you're still waiting on some schools, and I have an idea of the schools they're waiting on. And so I know it's not necessarily the student, but it's kind of the institution. So for April 1st, I would say, tomorrow, do that ask. April 15th, probably around April 1st. So giving like a week or two lead time, so that schools have time to come look at the other offers and then be able to come back to you with a decision.
David: And then this is for Tracy or anyone. What's the worst-case scenario here? If you ask and you're not very polite, a school can turn you down. Can it get worse than that? Can they rescind your offer of admissions?
Tracy: They could, right? Like, so the situation in which that might happen is when someone has been dishonest. Part of the challenge for candidates is a bit, as you can probably tell, I have known Tajira and Elizabeth for a very long time, but that also means that I've been in the business for a long time.
And so if I have a candidate that is presenting information and I'm like, that does not seem to be in line with what that school has ever offered, and, you know, again, we always avoid antitrust, you know, things of that nature, right? So I'm not specifically saying, "Hey, Tajira, did David apply at your school, and did you give him this much?" I'm not going to do that. What I am going to do is say, "Hey, Elizabeth, you know, did you all change your criteria for your top scholarships this year?"
So, for example, if I know that she's at a school that does not give full tuition scholarships, and someone comes to me and says, "Dean Simmons, I am, I want to negotiate, I want to request additional reconsideration, et cetera," and they say, "I have a full ride from school B," and I'm like, huh, I didn't know school B gave full tuition scholarships.
If, in fact, that comes out, that becomes a character fitness issue and what we call misconduct and irregularities. And so that is a trigger that will then notify all the law schools the candidate's applied to, whether they've been admitted or waitlisted doesn't really matter, and that kind of launches an investigation. So that's worst-case scenario if you don't tell the truth.
The other part of that is simply that we just say, no, you know, it's just a no, and we will be polite, we want you to be polite, we will be polite too. And we just say that we don't do that, we don't have any additional funds, or, you know, the window has passed. There are some schools that have a tight window of time that they will consider your reconsideration requests, and so once that deadline's passed for those schools, it's just done when it's done, and the worst they can do is just say no in that space.
David: So to be clear, if you're honest, if you're polite, and if you're following instructions, you have nothing to lose. Okay. Beverly, we would love to hear from you.
New Speaker: Well, first of all, thank you, guys, so much for doing this. This is, this has been super helpful. Thank you so much for the transparency. My question is for schools that have like an earlier deadline for scholarships, like the signing date for that, but it doesn't ask you to make a monetary deposit. How do you approach those if you are still undecided by the deadline? Does that make sense?
Tracy: It does, and, I'm sorry, please jump in, everybody else, but I was going to say that the challenge that you have is that our expectation is that you're prepared for that. If you've done your homework, if you've attended workshops and sessions on like this, with 7Sage and/or with the law schools themselves, you will understand that at any given point, you may have a decision from two schools that you applied to and you may not have heard from the other eight.
That is how it works. We are not beholden to what other schools do. And so the expectation is that you're applying to schools that you're really interested in and that you're willing to commit to, and that the reality is that you may have to hold a seat somewhere while you wait to hear from other schools. We know that it can be expensive, but we also expect that you are going to make the decision that's best for you.
And so if you contact Elizabeth and say, you know, "I'm really excited about your school. I need to make a deposit because school X is expecting their deposit tomorrow, and I haven't heard from you," that may not change what Elizabeth and her committee do. We all have our own individual kind of process in place, and so the expectation is that you be prepared to possibly make more than one deposit as you kind of wait to hear from everyone, unfortunately.
And so that's just kind of the nature of the process, and there's just not a lot, again, you know, there's not a lot you can do to control that beyond applying as early as you can, and early, meaning early with a competitive application, not early with a sloppy application.
New Speaker: Thank you, Ms. Simmons. I think I might have misexplained my question. First of all, I wanted to make sure that I'm understanding you guys correctly. It's that schools do understand that students might be depositing at multiple places and it's acceptable.
Tajira: It's not always acceptable. You have to be very careful and you need to look at the terms that each school provides to you, because there are some schools that do not require a paid deposit that do require you to withdraw from all schools that you're applying to. So you need to watch the terms very carefully because you can be found to be, you know, going outside of the rules if you're not careful.
New Speaker: Gotcha, gotcha. But for this specific school, the situation is they have a deadline for scholarships ahead of their actual deposit deadline, and this scholarship deadline is not monetary and it's nonbinding according to the school. Can we make, you know, can we say we commit to this scholarship but still continue to negotiate with other schools and consider other offers? Is that not super clear?
Elizabeth: I want to say maybe, but I would, I think going back to what Tajira was saying is look and see what the school is saying. Most places, if you're committing and placing a deposit without money attached, it's they're expecting you to fully commit. So I would double-check all of that first before even thinking about placing another deposit or trying to negotiate with other schools.
Tajira: I know one school in particular that does not require deposits, and when they make scholarship offers, it moves the date forward. And it happens to be a school that I worked at, which is Berkeley. And so if that happens to be Berkeley, you need to look again at those terms because there's absolutely terms on the commitment page in CalCentral that tells you you have to withdraw. So look very carefully.
New Speaker: Thank you.
David: So I want to end by posing one anonymous question to all of you that I think might be interesting, and then I want to ask you all for your final pieces of advice. The anonymous question is this: is it a good idea to state that if I received X amount of scholarship, I would definitely commit to your school? I see a lot of, a lot of silent nos.
Tajira: I knew you were going to ask that question. I saw that one in there and I was like, oh.
Tracy: I didn't see that one, and it's a big fat no, because it's the same as, and you're my first choice, but you're submitting, you know, five other offers that you're like, you don't need to say that and you don't need to do that. Like, and again, I don't know necessarily if all my colleagues will want you to come to their school if that's the only reason that you're coming. And so again, you have to be thoughtful about what story you're trying to tell and what narrative you're trying to tell.
Tajira: It's all in how you make that request, and if you're giving us a condition, you're not actually making a request. It's really about how you approach a situation where it's a school you want to attend, right? Like there's a whole pool of people that want to attend this school. It's not like a situation in which losing a candidate means that the school doesn't meet any of their goals. They still have that opportunity.
Coming from a slightly more humble place can really help, because in this instance, you're wanting something from us, but, and if you're coming, I saw the question as both, like, is it a good idea to state this? And the second part of that question was, if you're asking for a higher amount than your other offers. So, not only are you asking us to beat everybody else, but you're asking us to still meet a benchmark, and that's unlikely.
In most instances, you know, as we've been saying throughout, schools are not looking to match. We're looking to try to get you the best possible that we think is comparable to what you're receving from our peers. We're looking to try to make sure that, you know, like it's a fair award and that, you know, we are putting you in a good position, but we're not necessarily looking to get into the business of being used car salesmen who are going to try to, and you get this and you get, that's not what we do. You want to be just kind of careful and, as Dean Simmons said, thoughtful in your approach.
Elizabeth: I think it can also come across as entitled, and getting requests like that make me question who you might be in our community, who you might be in the classroom, how you'll engage with your coworkers, how you'll interact with the experts in our career services office. And so for me, that is a question of judgment about, do I even want you in my class and would I want to yield you?
David: Well, speaking of wanting to yield, everyone, can you give us one final piece of advice, each of you, that would make you want to yield and shower with money one of these candidates? Maybe not shower with money, but just one final piece of advice as people approach you with reconsideration requests.
Tajira: I always felt like, in dealing with reconsideration, especially at Berkeley, the folks that I got to know, who I knew their story, I understood a lot about them specifically from their application file, because it was so exemplary, but also in their request, there were, it's like everything just kind of layers one upon the other, and I'm learning more about them and I'm just seeing more and more why they're such a great fit for my particular school.
And you see that in how they carry themselves and how they make their requests and how they communicate and how they speak to the team. All of that goes a really long way. And I think that the thoughtfulness, it sounds like something so simple, but I promise you, it goes such a long way in how you approach money conversations and, but at the same time, you know, we are also talking to admitted students about events, about housing, about roommates, about parking, about everything under the sun.
The aggregate of all of those communications can end up weighing into reconsideration. And so just keeping that in mind, all of those communications, all of those are opportunities for us to get to know you even better and how you're going to be on our campus and how you're going to interact with everybody in our community, and that matters.
David: That's helpful. Any last advice from Tracy or Elizabeth? You might've said it all already. That's fine.
Tracy: I was just going to add a little bit about how you interface with the office, kind of building on what Tajira talked about. I am often the person who will just answer the phone. It's not necessarily my job duty every day, but I will do it periodically just to kind of, if volume is high or everyone's kind of at lunch or something like that.
And I often find myself stunned in surprise at the tone candidates will take when they think they're talking to someone that maybe doesn't have the same type of title. That is not okay. And so that is something that will be held against you. And I think that, you know, I'm often thinking of not only the counselors and the coordinators, but I'm thinking about the dean, his assistant, I'm thinking about the faculty support staff.
Just like law firms, when they take young associates out to dinner, they're paying attention to how you treat the waitstaff, et cetera, because they live and die by their executive assistants. And so, again, these are all these intangible things that, you know, oftentimes candidates don't think about.
But I can tell you there have been candidates who, literally, I have been either admitted from the waitlist and/or given additional scholarship money to, because when I asked, my team is like, oh my gosh, they are so responsible, they're so respectful, they're so nice to us, on and on and on. It seems silly, but at the end of the day, I have to deal with our dean of students, and I don't want her mad at me because I've admitted someone who is, as David pointed out, a jerk.
And so it may not seem important to you in this space, but I'm letting you know that we want to help people that are thoughtful and kind, and, I think as Elizabeth pointed out, we are thinking of the three or four years are going to be with us, we're thinking about who you're going to be as alumnus, et cetera, and so in this process, you know, specifically related to scholarshipping, you know, you want to put yourself in a position that everyone is rooting for you.
You want us to basically kind of want to help you, want to find other funds for you. And so kind of be kind. It's just the right thing to do anyway, but you know, law school is hard enough, and so don't come in with that chip on your shoulder. Everyone's there to do the same thing, and so just be thoughtful, be polite. When you have deadlines, meet them. When you have questions, ask them. If the answer is no, don't hang up in our face. Don't send nasty grams, things of that nature.
David: Thanks, Tracy.
Elizabeth: Mine are just echoing what Tajira and Tracy said, like be thoughtful, be kind, be respectful. Generally be a good human and treat the people in the admissions offices how you would like to be treated.
David: That's a good place to end. So all of you good humans who attended, thank you so much. I wish all of you good luck. I hope you find a school that's a great fit, and thanks for joining us. Bye, everyone.
J.Y.: Hi, it's J.Y. again. Thank you for listening. As always, if you're studying for the LSAT, applying to law school, studying for your law school exams, or studying for the bar, come visit us at 7Sage.com. We can help.
That's it for this episode. Take care of yourself, and see you next time.
Jenifer: I think the best thing when a school is silent and you're curious is to call and ask or to email and ask the general admissions account just what the policy is. And then that way, you know how to proceed, whether you need to be preparing an email that goes into a little bit more detail and actually making the ask or scheduling that meeting where you do that.
You'll have the information that you need to know how to move forward, but you definitely should just ask what the policy is when none is stated.
J.Y.: Hello, and welcome to the 7Sage podcast. I'm J.Y. Ping, and on today's episode, 7Sage admissions consultants Tajira McCoy, Elizabeth Cavallari, and Jenifer Godfrey host the Clubhouse Room for law school candidates to discuss scholarship negotiations and reconsideration.
Tajira moderates the panel, inviting the audience to inquire about scholarship offers, the timing of scholarship increase requests, and negotiation strategy. So without further ado, please enjoy the conversation.
Tajira: Good evening and welcome, everyone. I'm Tajira McCoy, but you can call me Taj. I'm a professional writer and law school admissions and administration professional. For 10 years, I worked in law school admissions at four schools, spanning public and private institutions, including two Jesuit schools, a T14 school, and an HBCU.
Most recently, I served as the director of admissions and scholarship programs at Berkeley Law and the director of career services at the University of San Francisco School of Law, before joining 7Sage as an admissions consultant and project manager. Tonight, we have a fun conversation planned for you that's all about scholarships. Tonight's panelists, my colleagues and I, represent 7Sage.
For those preparing to apply to law schools, 7Sage offers LSAT preparation, admissions consulting, and editing services. If you visit our website, 7Sage.com, you can create a free account, which gives you access to some sample lessons, an LSAT prep test, and a hundred question explanations. The free account also gives you access to our discussion forum, where you can ask questions about the admissions process, hear from other 7Sagers who are currently in the process, and learn about other events we have coming up.
You can also follow us on Twitter. Our handle is @7Admissions. The three of us on the panel are admissions consultants and have worked on admissions teams at various law schools across the country.
So, literally, tonight's conversation is all about money: negotiations, reconsideration, and the like. I'll be facilitating the panel questions and then we'll open up the conversation for some Q&A. I encourage you all to ping your friends who may be interested in this conversation or who have questions themselves.
And if you're not already a member of Club 7Sage, I encourage you to tap on the green house at the top of your screen. It'll take you to our Club page, where you can follow us and be notified of upcoming events. We do plan to have one next month that will be on waitlist offers and letters of continued interest.
So let's go ahead and get started. So, to my panelists, welcome. I would love to have each of you please introduce yourself, share which schools' admissions teams you served on, and then we can go ahead and get started. And Elizabeth, I'll start with you.
Elizabeth: Hi everyone. My name's Elizabeth Cavallari. For six years, I was the senior assistant dean for admission at William and Mary Law School. I also have served in undergraduate and graduate admissions.
Tajira: Great. And Jen?
Jenifer: Hi everyone. My name is Jen Godfrey. Happy to be here. I have about 10 years of experience in law school admissions. I worked at the University of Idaho, also at Louisiana State University, and at the University of Arkansas, Little Rock. At each of those institutions, I played a lead role in scholarship awards. So, very happy to help you guys out on negotiating the money.
Tajira: Wonderful. So the three of us have each had extensive experience when it comes to scholarships, scholarship committees, review, negotiations, reconsideration. And so I have some questions for our panelists, and if you think of anything that I don't ask, please go ahead and jot it down. The last 15 to 20 minutes or so we'll dedicate to you all being able to ask questions as well. So certainly hang on to those, and then at the appointed time, I will ask people to raise their hands and bring them up on stage to ask their questions.
And so the first question is, and I think for many of these, several of us are going to answer, but the first question is, what do admissions officers consider when making scholarship awards? And I'll start with you, Elizabeth.
Elizabeth: So I would say, first and foremost, when I was looking at making scholarship awards, I was looking at LSAT and GPA. And then in breaking down the GPA a little bit more, I look at rigor of curriculum. But generally, there's like certain benchmarks based on LSAT and GPA, and then from there, all those other factors, so work experience, recommendations, quality of writing. All of that could potentially increase the scholarship offers.
So while, for me, it was primarily numbers driven, the other pieces certainly made a difference in awarding initial aid but then also in reconsidering merit aid.
Tajira: Anything to add, Jen?
Jenifer: I would say at the institutions where I worked, we certainly, of course, were very interested in the numbers, like Elizabeth stated, but we also had different sets, different pools of money, and so a lot of times we had pools that maybe were geared toward diversity, or broadly speaking, so of course in those instances it was numbers plus those other elements as well.
And then also we honestly were very interested in just the likelihood of whether the award would actually influence the applicant to accept our offer. And so sometimes even an applicant that had outstanding numbers, it wasn't out of the norm for us sometimes just to kind of test the waters by not giving a scholarship, to see if they would say something because that would indicate that they were actually interested and, you know, kind of felt like, hey, come on, man. I need the money.
And so it made us feel like it was worth it to extend that offer and not have that scholarship on the books, so to speak, if it wasn't really going to make an impact with that student.
Tajira: That's really helpful information. And I would add, you know, of course we're looking at LSATs and GPAs and things like that, especially when it comes to merit awards, but there are still many schools that also consider based on need. And that might be based on a FAFSA, it might be based on that school-specific institutional aid form.
It can include any number of factors, but it's something that helps us determine based on someone's need. Can we also give award from that particular pot of money? There are also awards that are based on endowments, and so a lot of times we call those institutional aid. There are special named awards based on donors who have decided to give and have designated funding for very specific groups of people and/or areas of interest.
And so there's a lot of different moving parts when it comes to awarding scholarship. It doesn't all come from one pool, but there are certainly different ways that you can go about going after that money, even in the negotiation part.
So to move on to our next question, and I'll start with you, Jen, what would you say is the difference, or is there a difference between scholarship negotiation and reconsideration?
Jenifer: In my experience, the difference, at least at my schools, when we use those two different terms, would be, you know, the scholarship negotiation is, you know, when we would already, we've made the award and the applicant has come back with some sort of leverage. Maybe they have another offer from other schools and they're trying to negotiate a higher award.
Reconsideration sometimes just comes with, you know, maybe a lower offer coming in or no offer coming in, and we would then take another look at that applicant after that April 15th deadline has passed, and we might have additional funds on the table that we can then go back and say, hey, is there someone that maybe seems out of alignment or didn't receive anything at all? Now we can look at them, or a second time, with this newly found money.
Elizabeth: I, personally, don't like the term negotiation and I know what people use it pretty frequently, but when I would hear from an applicant and they would reach out and say, I want to negotiate my scholarship, it never quite sat super well. I would still, you know, go through the process, but I prefer to be like, I'd like you to reconsider, where it felt like more of a level of respect rather than saying, like, I'm a used car salesman.
I think when you're talking about negotiation or reconsideration, it's the way you approach it really does make a difference.
Tajira: It's funny that you say that because I actually think the same thing. I think in years past, there was a lot more leverage on the student side, especially as we were coming out of maybe the subprime in 2008, 2009, and there was a shortage of applicants, and it felt like there was this leverage that students had to really negotiate and try to get schools to match offers from others.
But even schools that used to have matching programs have moved away from those. And reconsideration seems to be a little bit more of the norm, at least in my view. And so it's really interesting that I thought you said that, because I'm with you there.
In going into negotiation/reconsideration, do all law schools negotiate? Elizabeth?
Elizabeth: No, not all schools will look at your scholarship offer or no scholarship offer in trying to think about you for merit aid again. So it really does depend on the school. I think it's important to look at what schools are saying in their directions. So some schools might say we'll consider schools that are similarly ranked.
Others might say that they don't offer merit aid, but they're willing to consider you for "additional need-based aid." And others will say that they reconsider and some will say they don't do it at all. So I think it's really important to check with each individual school to see what their policy is.
Tajira: And some will actually look at the possibility of increasing awards without considering any other offers. It's really interesting how different the policies can be across the board, but it is something that, you know, I would highly recommend that candidates research because it varies vastly. You know, some schools want to see all of the offers that you've received while others only want to see what you perceive to be your strongest offer.
And that might be from the school that's ranked the highest, or it might be from the school who gave you the biggest award. It's based on your perception of which of those awards is the strongest. And I would say that that's really based on which one you're most likely to go to other than the school that you're requesting an increase from.
And so it just depends. But definitely research is tantamount here when it comes to scholarship. What would you say you should do if the school doesn't publicize a scholarship negotiation policy, Jen?
Jenifer: I think the best thing when a school is silent and you're curious is to call and ask or to email and ask the general admissions account just what the policy is. And then that way, you know how to proceed, whether you need to be preparing an email that goes into a little bit more detail and actually making the ask or scheduling that meeting where you do that. You'll have the information that you need to know how to move forward, but you definitely should just ask what the policy is when none is stated.
Tajira: Great, thank you. And if the admissions office says that they don't negotiate, what is your thought on someone still sending other offers that they received? Elizabeth?
Elizabeth: Kind of waffle back and forth on this, because I think when schools say, some schools say they don't negotiate merit aid, but I've seen them increase other types of aid as kind of a reconsideration. So I think that's something where I would probably pick up the phone and ask the question and say, "I understand you don't negotiate, but I'm wondering if I can send you my offers in terms of cost of attendance from other schools in case your office decides to do any reconsideration down the road."
And so that way it's, you're saying yes, I'd like more aid, but you're saying it in a way that is, feels more general versus like them pushing it on the school. But, Tajira and Jen, you guys might feel differently on this.
Tajira: Jen, any feelings?
Jenifer: I just really come from a school of thought where, you know, you have to shoot your shot, you have to ask for what you want. And there is a way to go about it respectfully, as Elizabeth suggested.
But I think that what, what I advise clients to do is they go in, of course, saying, "Hey, I understand that this is not something that you do. I really want to come here, but I'm struggling because I have this other offer, and what is it that I can do, what can I avail myself of at your school that could potentially, you know, lower my price tags? So are there other opportunities in terms of need-based aid? Are there other opportunities that I can apply for? Are there assistanceships in the second and third year?"
So basically just having a conversation about other ways that could make it more affordable for you, but, of course, mentioning that the reason why you're struggling is you have this other great scholarship offer. And I think a, just because that, again, like I said, as part of my, kind of my values, but I also think that the reasons for a school saying that they don't negotiate vary, and some schools, they state that just because they don't really feel like they have the ability to, but when they have the information, sometimes I love to know. So you never know if that might get your name to the top of a discussion for a different opportunity later. So I think it is better to just shoot your shot.
Tajira: Along those same lines, Jen, if a school limits consideration to reviewing one offer, how would you feel about a student that sends in all of their offers?
Jenifer: So at that point, I think you're doing too much. When they tell you only one, give them only one. And so you are going to have to seek some counsel with someone outside of that school to really, you know, if you're feeling unsure about which one is the best one, then you'll need to put your head together with someone and actually follow the instructions in that scenario.
Tajira: Anything to add there, Elizabeth?
Elizabeth: No, I agree with that. I think especially when a school is saying like, but very simply, only give us one offer and that's clear in their instructions and you totally violate it, that it shows kind of professional judgment or lack of judgment.
Tajira: Yeah, I would agree with that as well. And so coming back to the panel questions, Elizabeth, I'm going to come to you first. Let's say that the school wants to consider a candidate's best offer. How would you advise them, you know, because sometimes to a candidate that means the highest offer they've received total. Sometimes that means from the school that's closest to this other school in the rankings. How do you determine which is the offer that you should submit?
Elizabeth: That's a great question. There's also another piece that I would look at. And when I was looking at scholarship considerations, I would also look at which one had the lowest cost of attendance overall. So if school X offered 30,000 but school Y offered 40,000, and you're going back to school X saying, well, this other school offered me 40,000, but the initial school is $20,000 cheaper, it's actually not, I think, a comparable scholarship request.
So I think that's also important to consider, what is the actual cost from these schools, before you go back to a school and say, here's my best offer from another school. So I would say the best offer would be a combination of lowest cost of attendance. But it could also be ranking.
And so I think that would kind of be a personal judgment where if your choice is between the school that's maybe a higher rank, but scholarship could entice you to go to another school, and that could be considered your best offer. Or if you're kind of looking at schools all of similar rank, I would say the best offer would be the one that offers you the lowest cost of attendance.
Tajira: Is there anything you would add, Jen?
Jenifer: No, I would agree with it.
Tajira: I would too, actually. Now, Jen, how does it work? How do I approach a school to negotiate scholarship or to ask for reconsideration if they haven't made me any offers as of yet?
Jenifer: So this is a person who I'm assuming has offers from some other place. They just have not heard back and, or just have not received a scholarship from the school that they desire one from. I think the approach is somewhat the same. You might, you know, of course, verify, I think, first that you have actually been considered for scholarships. Because I think that sometimes applicants come in hot a little prematurely, not really realizing when the school does that in their process.
But if you, you know, get confirmation that you have been considered and you have not received an award, then that's when you might respectfully request that they consider the fact that you have been offered another award from maybe a similarly ranked school or one that offers you a better overall cost of attendance, et cetera, the things that we have talked about before. But I think the process is much the same, other than that initial step of confirming that you have actually been considered already.
Tajira: Great. Anything to add there, Elizabeth?
Elizabeth: Nope. I think that answered it pretty concisely.
Tajira: Perfect. Thank you so much. If I were to negotiate with a school and they increased my award, but then I get a better offer elsewhere, can I ask for more? Elizabeth?
Elizabeth: That's where I feel like it gets into some muddy waters where it really kind of is a judgment call. You don't want to continually go back and forth to this school, because at some point, the school is going to say like, nope, this feels like you're playing one school against another.
But if you did get reconsidered and they increased an award, and then another offer came that wasn't necessarily part of your negotiation, then I think it's okay to say, in good faith, "I received this other offer that I wasn't expecting and so I'm hoping you'd be able to consider me again." But the idea of continuing to kind of negotiate back and forth, back and forth, just doesn't kind of leave a good taste in my mouth. I've seen people do it, but it's not necessarily successful.
Tajira: I would agree with that. And I think it's extremely important to read the fine print of these negotiation and reconsideration policies, because some schools actually explicitly limit the number of times that people can come back and request. There are schools that only give one bite at the apple.
And so then you have to be strategic in when you're coming to that school to request that increase, because if you come too early and you get a better offer, well, that's too bad, you've already made your request and they won't consider again. And so it's really, really important to be aware of how each school moves in terms of these policies. Definitely ask questions if it's unclear to you, definitely be mindful of your commitment deadlines, because that often ends up coming into play as well.
There are some schools that will extend commitment deadlines for some reasons, but not indefinitely and not for just any reason. They certainly don't want to give an extension just because you haven't heard from your top choice. Be wary of that, but also be really strategic in thinking about what all of your options are.
If you were to not receive a reconsideration decision in time, you know, what would your decision be? You have to think about, you know, if I have all of the information that I'm going to have today, what would my decision be, and how would it change based on these factors adjusting? If I were to hear back from this school and they do give me an increase, or this school decides not to, think about all of the different ways that this could play out, but always keep in mind your priorities as you're doing this, right?
Because before the money conversations, there were other priorities when it came to law school. That might be location, that might be programs, that might be certain faculty that you wanted to work with or certain types of clinics where you wanted to get hands-on experience. Once we start talking money, everything gets a little bit muddled and people really focus in on that one thing, but that's not the only thing that determines your fit for a school. So make sure that you're keeping all of that in mind as you're thinking about these awards.
So, moving forward, this next question, Jen, is for you. Are there any instances in your experience where a school will keep an applicant in mind for more money even after the negotiation process is over?
Jenifer: Yes. I mean, that definitely was something that I was up to over the course of my career. If there was a student that I really was worried that I would possibly lose over the summer, because I knew it was someone who was very realistically on a waitlist or competitor schools that, you know, they would likely be moved on over the summer, I would always kind of have a little flag or a note on their file that if push came to shove, we needed to find some money.
But then also just students who might've made that really respectful ask and maybe have very compelling reasons, maybe citing that they were, you know, drawn to a public interest career and they really were just concerned about their ability to live well after law school. If I didn't have the money at, you know, in April or in March when they asked, I would keep an eye out for if I did lose another student where that money, you know, frees up, I would have that student in mind kind of first and foremost.
Tajira: Elizabeth, what about you?
Elizabeth: I think what Jen mentioned, but schools often have like fellowships that they initially award, and then if that person might not ultimately attend, like I would go back to people that I've kind of built a relationship in the process and consider them for that.
There's other times where there were students that I was able to give a little bit more money to, and they came, and they were intending to come, but I knew it wasn't quite enough, but they were still trying to make it work. And so if there's any kind of wiggle room in scholarship budget, I have been able to go back. But I think that is really built upon like relationships that formed between admissions officers and applicants.
Tajira: Great. Yeah, I did the same thing. Oftentimes, you know, through renegotiation, you really learn about students and what they've got going on financially and what they're hoping to achieve, and a lot of times, reconsideration is to provide the increases that you can, but your goal is also to touch as many people as possible.
What I used to do was I would keep kind of a running list of folks who reached out to me and would say, you know, "Hey, you know, Tajira, if there's anything else that frees up, even if it's $500, if anything frees up after commitment deadlines, would you please consider me?"
And I literally kept a running list and I would wait until after all the commitment deadlines passed to see, you know, once the dust settled and some of the summer melt started to happen, did money free up? Was there anything that I could distribute to those few that were still hoping for just a little bit of a bump where maybe they didn't get some huge merit scholarship or maybe they kind of maxed out on need aid, but that wasn't really enough?
Was there a little bit more that we could kind of push in their direction in an effort of goodwill? And so I think that it's always a good idea to ask questions and to get to know the folks in admissions who are making these decisions, because they are people and they get it. They know how expensive this is. They want to help where possible.
They can't necessarily do it all at once, but staying on their radar is a good idea. Especially if you know, like, hey, I'm going to commit to this school regardless, but if anything frees up, would you please consider me? And that is a reasonable request.
Let's see. Next question is, I had this happen recently. I'm interested to see, ladies, what your take is on this. What would you say for a candidate who has applied to schools, and the schools say that more money might free up after commitment deadlines. And so if they check a box saying, yes, consider me after commitment deadlines, it's possible that the awards will be bigger. Is it best to agree to wait for consideration after those deadlines passed, if they intend to go to that school regardless? Elizabeth, I'll start with you.
Elizabeth: Ah, this feels like a really hard one. I think for me, this would be a really tough thing, because if you're already telling a school, yes, I'm going to come anyways, regardless of my financial offer, then it doesn't necessarily entice a school to maybe want to give you money after that deadline.
But we also don't want people putting down multiple deposits for schools, but we understand that finances are a reason why some people do that. And so if I think you were to say, yes, I'm going to click that button, I think I would make sure to have a conversation with the admissions office, like how much finances are playing a role and to kind of gauge kind of their thought process about how it's worked in the past, and if there potentially is a strong likelihood of receiving aid. But I'm interested to hear what you all think about this too.
Jenifer: This one is hard. And then in a way, somewhat of an unfair position to put an applicant in. I hate to sound too judgmental, but I do think I would tell an applicant honestly to put their ask in before. I mean, granted, it sounds like it's kind of this form sort of situation. I mean, a lot of times people aren't in a position to put down money for the possibility of maybe getting money that they need later. So I don't know that many applicants are in a position to play that game. So I know that doesn't really answer the question, but I do think that it's a pretty rotten position to put applicants in.
Tajira: Yeah, I'm of the same frame of mind. And this actually happened to a client of mine recently. And for me, the first thing I thought of was, you think to even just last year's cycle, right? Last year, volume was incredibly high and schools were inundated and overenrolled. That meant that in last year's situation, it's unlikely that any money freed up, and so where does that leave that person that agreed to be considered later?
It leaves them in a worse-off position because there is no money. And so, in thinking about my client, that's what we discussed. They're telling you that the money might free up, which means it might not. And so to agree to be considered in the off chance that additional funding frees up puts you in a worse position.
And so I said, first of all, even though you intend to go to that school regardless, they don't know that. So go ahead and let them consider you up front because they have more money now, they have money now, whereas later there's no guarantee that they will. And so it's important to think about it in terms of that distinction, unless they're giving you some sort of concrete information that says, oh no, well, we actually hold a certain portion of our budget for after, which seems unlikely to me.
You want to make sure that you're putting yourself in the best position, and while it's kind to defer to schools to make that very best decision, you've got to think about yourself first. This is you advocating on behalf of yourself and to make sure that you're doing that in this.
The next question that I have is, if I get an increase after negotiating and then get pulled from a waitlist at a top school, let's say Harvard, can I use that as leverage to negotiate again? Elizabeth?
Elizabeth: I think that would probably depend to me on intentionality. And so if your plan is to go to Harvard regardless, and you're hoping that if you go back to the school that you were initially deposited at, because maybe you can get some money from Harvard, that's not necessarily the way to do it.
But if you got pulled from the waitlist at a school and you're like, I could go here, however, if the aid would really make a difference to stay, I think just being honest and forthright about that with the admissions office feels better to me and feels more realistic than trying to kind of leverage schools against each other back and forth in that process.
Tajira: Jen, anything to add?
Jenifer: In that situation, I will point-blank ask the student, if I give you this money, are you coming? Because if they can't give me a clear answer on that, then I would just say, you know, you're in an enviable position, you've gotten, you know, admitted to probably your dream school. I think you're going to have to think about things outside of money in making this decision.
And I would leave it at that because, like Elizabeth said, I'm not, even though I'm not offended by the word negotiation, I certainly don't want to be involved in any sort of, or never did want to be involved in any sort of bidding war.
Tajira: That's great information. And it's important to note, if you think that you're going to get a school to increase their awards, that you can take that back and try to negotiate with Harvard, Harvard doesn't actually do any merit-based aid. It's need-based only, so you're not going to be successful in that.
It's really important to think about and be aware of who's going to accept what information and how that can be used. It is important to note, you know, if, when I used to receive information like that, it would just kind of let me know that maybe we weren't their first choice. And so, like, depending on how the ask was communicated and what information was provided to me, part of what I was looking to see when I would re-review their file is, you know, how committed does this person say they are within their application? And do I get a sense that they're really going to come here?
If I don't, then I'm unlikely to even bother trying to negotiate again, but I've also been at schools where even if I wanted to negotiate again, I wasn't allowed to, because our policy was one bite of the apple. So just be wary of all of the possibilities. If you get pulled off of the waitlist at a top school, sometimes that also means that you have to make a decision about that top school without having any information in terms of aid from that school.
Waitlist offers are different than offers that are made throughout the rest of the cycle, and they can be ones that have very quick turnaround times that don't allow for you to have all of the information. And so be wary.
The final question that I have before we open things up to our wonderful audience here, and Jen, I'll bring this to you first, is if a school requires me to withdraw all other applications to accept their scholarship, does that include places where I'm waitlisted?
Jenifer: If I were advising a client, yes, I would say that that does include places where you're waitlisted, but when, in doubt, ask.
Tajira: Easy-peasy. So, first of all, thank you to my panelists. This has been a great conversation so far. We have exactly 20 minutes left and we have some wonderful people in the audience. If you have a question related to scholarship or negotiations, please feel free to raise your hands. I am going to ask at first that we have people limit themselves to one question, no follow-ups, so that we can get to as many people as possible.
However, if things begin to slow down, I'll invite those who have asked questions to return for another round if they'd like. If we have more questions and the time allows, please feel free to ask them on Twitter using the hashtag 7SageonCH. And just as a reminder, we do plan to have another event next month to discuss waitlist offers and letters of continued interest. And the first person I'm bringing up, their name on here is T. Lessor?
New Speaker: Hello.
Tajira: Hi there. How are you?
New Speaker: I'm doing well. Thank you. My question has to do with, how do I phrase that I would like to, you know, after, I haven't applied to this law school that I'm thinking of and I would really only go if it were a full scholarship. And I know that's a big ask and that I'm late in the cycle in terms of, I haven't hit their deadline, but I had to kind of make a decision later due to unforeseen circumstances.
But I would only go if it was a full ride. I'm even considering just applying again in the early fall if I have to, and that I would want them to consider my March 11 LSAT, because I feel like I'm going to shoot far above their 75th percentile score. So I guess, I'm saying this so awkwardly because I don't know how to phrase this.
Elizabeth: All right. So I think I understand what you're saying. So you're planning to apply, essentially for them to review your application in April once your March scores are there, but you're only willing to go if you receive a full scholarship. So I guess the question would be, are you, would you want, would you not want to apply if you weren't receiving the full scholarship?
Because I feel like you're putting maybe like the cart before the horse here, where I think that if you're going to apply, you just need to put your best application forward and see what the scholarship offer is. However, at this point in the cycle, and I can't speak for every school, but a full tuition scholarship is certainly something that's probably tough to come by.
And so if you're saying to go to this law school or to go to law school is going to require a full tuition scholarship, I probably would recommend holding off this cycle. Hopefully that score you get from the March LSAT comes out higher than the 75th percent of the school you're interested in and applying first thing in the cycle next year. And I think that's the best opportunity to have your best foot forward, but also the strongest possibility of receiving that type of scholarship.
New Speaker: Okay. So it sounds like maybe I shouldn't apply because it might be shooting myself in the foot somehow, or...
Elizabeth: I mean, you could absolutely still apply, but I think to reach your goal at this late in the cycle could be more difficult.
New Speaker: Thank you.
Tajira: Thanks for joining us. I'm going to bring up the next person. An invitation went out to Q. Tang 2?
New Speaker: Hi. I applied to two law schools in Canada and in the state. Currently I got a couple of offers in Canada, so my question is related to the situation in Canada. So the offers require me to accept them before they could tell me how much scholarship they will give it to me. So would it be bad if I accepted multiple offers and paid the deposit at this time?
Jenifer: I'll have to admit that I'm not as familiar with Canadian law schools, but for US scholar, US law schools, it's not bad to deposit more than one school. I mean, ideally, we'd love for you to deposit only at your top choice, but I also feel like if it's a situation where you can't have the full picture of what your financial aid package is like without depositing, they're kind of asking for that, in my opinion. But yeah, I mean, I'd be curious to hear what Tajira or Elizabeth think, if they might have more experience with Canadian schools.
Tajira: I think the biggest thing that you need to watch out for is some schools, as you're committing, there are forms that you fill out, and some schools will have terms that say, in committing, I'm agreeing to withdraw all applications. If they're requiring that of you, then that's something that you need to be mindful of, because that would mean that they're expecting that you're not depositing at other schools.
And that can end up calling into integrity, calling into question your integrity later on. And so if you end up saying, oh, well, I didn't have all of the information, well, but you did agree to specific terms. In agreeing to those terms and then breaking those terms, a school does actually have the right to rescind their offer. So be very wary of the terms.
New Speaker: Thank you.
Tajira: Okay. You take care. The next person coming up is Lexi Lucos.
New Speaker: Hi.
Tajira: Hi there.
New Speaker: My name is Lexi. Thank you for sharing this information today. It was very helpful and it provided me with some clarity. So for me, in my situation, I am a current undergraduate student and I am kind of debating between taking gap years and then going to law school, or going straight into law school.
And one question that I had referred to whether or not need-based income would differ if I were to take a gap year and thus have a full-time income, whereas if I were to be a student and then directly apply, I'm assuming if I'm a student and haven't had a full-time offer or any sort of salary or income in that sense, there would be more of a need-based help. But if you could just shed some more light on that, that'd be great.
Tajira: That's actually a great question, and the answer really is it depends, because depending on the schools that you're applying to, depending on what they use for their need-based consideration, some will use the FAFSA, and if you're still within, I believe, under the age of 26, that means they'll still consider your parents' information in determining what your expected family contribution would be.
And so sometimes that doesn't necessarily mean that it's going to be a higher need as a student. Sometimes it would actually be with you working on your own. So it depends, but it also depends on that school and what they use to determine need. Schools that use a school-specific form tend to take some of the parent information out because law school is a professional school. And so each one is going to kind of manage that a little bit differently.
But there are also quite a few schools that do not have need-based aid. And so you're just going to want to research really carefully and then be in touch with those financial aid offices to get a sense for how they calculate out that information.
New Speaker: Thank you so much.
Tajira: No problem. You have a good one. I have another hand here. It looks like Sonia Henry. Hi there.
New Speaker: Hello. Hi, good night. I'm just from Jamaica. I just wanted to ask a question, if you know of any instances where students from the Caribbean have received a full, a fully funded scholarship to the United States to study law?
Elizabeth: Yeah, so, I mean, I feel like all students are considered for merit aid. And so we, in my [unclear], we have awarded full tuition scholarships, and we didn't necessarily break it down by demographics. So I think, yeah, it could be a possibility depending on the school, but also your profile.
Tajira: Yeah, I would agree. It's definitely a possibility. There are certainly schools or students from other countries that are offered full tuition scholarships all the time. It just depends on the school and the way that they're able to award aid. Sometimes there can be issues at public institutions in awarding full tuition scholarships internationally because it is public funding.
So it just depends on the schools. And so it's a good question to ask schools directly, you know, are international students allowed to receive full tuition scholarships, and would that be based on merit? Would that be based on aid or a combination? But admissions offices are happy to answer questions like that.
New Speaker: Thank you so much, guys.
Tajira: Our pleasure. Thank you. And we have Erica.
New Speaker: Hi there. Can you hear me?
New Speaker: Awesome. Thank you all for hosting this panel, it was really helpful. So just wanted to describe my situation a little bit and hope to get some advice and insight. So I submitted almost all of my applications late January and early February, and I let all the schools know I'd be retaking the LSAT this March to see if I could increase my score, and in my mind that was to use that as leverage, but I'm sure they know why I did that.
So I asked them if they could consider my file using my January LSAT score, which was around their medians. I've only heard from one school, but I did receive a 75% scholarship, but it was like a lower-ranked school.
So my question is, could the rest of the schools possibly be waiting to hear or see my LSAT score from March? Hoping you can provide some insight because I fear that being offered admission late in the cycle, but also possibly being offered scholarship late in the cycle, or at least being offered admission late might jeopardize my chances of possibly receiving scholarship. So hopefully that makes sense and hope I can get some insight.
Tajira: So, just to clarify, you want them to review your application now, but to wait to review your scholarship after your March score comes out, correct?
New Speaker: Yeah. So I basically just asked if my file could be considered using my January score.
Tajira: Right. What does your online status checker say? Does it say you're in review?
New Speaker: Yeah, for most of them.
Tajira: Okay, so the ones where it says it's in review, they are moving forward and reviewing your application. They're not waiting for your next score to come out.
New Speaker: Okay, so, got it. Got it. Okay. That does answer my question.
Tajira: Good. Good. Good.
New Speaker: Thank you.
Tajira: No problem. Well, we have about five minutes left. Oh, there you are. Hi there.
New Speaker: Hello, I'm sorry. I pressed the button and I was just kind of waiting and nothing was happening. I'm so sorry. It must be my phone.
Tajira: No problem.
New Speaker: So my question is, I guess, a little specific. I wanted to know if the panelists, first of all, thank you so much for your time, if they could speak a little bit about conditional scholarships. I received a pretty substantial scholarship, but it is conditional versus at another school, where I received a much smaller amount, but it is a non-conditional scholarship. And I was wondering if we could talk about negotiation or reconsideration of that if it's at all possible, or if it's just not a good idea at all.
Tajira: That is a great question. Jen, do you want to start it off?
Jenifer: Sure. So just so that I'm making sure that I'm clear and kind of answering the correct part of your question, is it that you are trying or asking for advice about whether it's advisable to try to negotiate the renewal, the conditions of your scholarship and not so much the amount?
New Speaker: Well, there's a lot of contradictory information online, but I've seen both. I would probably [unclear] negotiate or reconsidering the condition. That would be my biggest concern, but just whether or not it's advisable to even consider a scholarship with a conditional, or would it just be advisable to go with the institution that's offering less money, but it