The Brief
A Blog about the LSAT, Law School and Beyond

Transcript

J.Y.: Hello, and welcome to the 7Sage podcast. I'm J.Y. Ping, and in today's episode, four 7Sage consultants, our former law school admissions officers from Columbia, Berkeley, Notre Dame, and San Diego School of Law, talk about the application process from the other side of the desk. We had this conversation live, and after the panelists spoke, they answered a few questions from the audience. If you want to know what really happens after you submit your application, stay tuned.

Tajira: Welcome, everyone. My name is Taj McCoy. I am one of the admissions consultants at 7Sage. Thank you all so much for joining us. Hello to those of you that are joining us from all over the country and outside the country. Hello, Toronto and DC and California, I see you. Today's conversation is really for you all to listen in and hear some of the juice that happens behind the scenes.

We're here talking today with admissions professionals about the entire admissions process, but from the perspectives of the admissions office. And so my colleagues here, I'm going to have each of you introduce yourselves, share where you've worked, and then we're going to jump into a conversation that really will touch on processing and assigning files, application review, issuing decisions, scholarship offers and negotiations, considering application soft factors. And I think we'll end with parting pieces of advice. Jake, why don't I have you start?

Jacob: Yeah, sure thing. So, hi, everyone. I'm Jake Baska, one of the consultants here at 7Sage, and previously I worked for 14 years in admissions, including seven years as director of admission and financial aid at Notre Dame Law School.

Tajira: Wonderful. And Tracy.

Tracy: Hi, Tracy Simmons, and I am one of the other consultants, and I actually, I still work in admissions. I'm at the university of San Diego, and before that, I worked at McGeorge as part of the University of the Pacific, and before that I worked at Chapman, and before that I worked at Golden Gate. So I've been in legal education administration and admissions, financial aid and diversity for about 22-plus years, 23 travel seasons, according to Marriott. So that's important to note.

Tajira: Yes. And Susan.

Susan: Yeah, sure. My name is Susan Cersovsky. I just finished five years in the admissions office at Columbia Law School. Before that, I was actually an attorney. I went to Columbia Law School. I worked at Weil Gotshal, I worked at New York Life and did some pro bono work, so, before coming to 7Sage.

Tajira: Fantastic. And again, I'm Taj McCoy. Most recent admissions work was at Berkeley. I was the director of admissions and scholarship programs. I've worked in admissions at four law schools over the course of about 10 years, and then I also did about a year and a half in law school career services before jumping into consulting. And so, again, welcome, everyone. I love to see so many people here with us.

I'm going to jump in. Let's just say, you know, we're just talking about this process as if I don't know what's happening. When I hit that Submit button, Jake, what happens with my application when you receive it? Can you give us the details in terms of walking through processing and assigning files?

Jacob: Right. So the super exciting aspect of this, everyone signs up to hear the records processing side. So when you click Submit on the application, there's an overnight reset from LSAC and then the law school in question will get your application the next morning. Every admissions office has one or two records processors who are the ones who will go into the LSAC database to make sure that all, that the application is received, all the supporting documents have been received, and then to double-check if there's anything missing, coordinating that with the applicant in question.

But if it's all ready to go, they change that student's status, and so this is what you then see on the status checker. They may update that status to Application Received, Application Complete, and when they eventually assign that application out to someone for reading purposes, you'll see First Evaluator, In Review, In Process, whatever a school uses to indicate that your application's actually in the pipeline and has been assigned out to a file reader.

Tajira: Fantastic. When we're thinking about files being assigned, is that done in batches? Is it a whole lot? Do you have to kind of wait a couple of months after applications open before you actually submit, start distributing files, or how does that work?

Jacob: Yeah. And this may be a school-specific thing. So at Notre Dame and at most law schools, we're all so busy in September, in October, going to recruitment events that we don't spend a lot of time reviewing applications, just because we don't have the time. There are some schools that do start issuing decisions a little bit early, maybe because they don't do as much travel. Maybe they focus just on the tip-top applications, which are usually pretty easy to evaluate because the students are so strong that it's pretty clear they're going to be admissible.

But for a lot of schools, that evaluation process really doesn't get rolling until November. Excuse me. So if you click Submit in September, you may see that your file gets sent out for review earlier, but it may just be sitting in someone's review queue until they finally get off the law fair circuit in early November.

Tajira: Mm-hmm. And Tracy, I mean, Golden Gate, Chapman, you know, USD, Pacific McGeorge, have your processes varied at all from that?

Tracy: Yes, particularly in terms of timing, and I would just say kind of globally in the time that I've been in legal education administration, I feel like the first probably 10 years or so, no one really reviewed files before, like, November, December. And then all of a sudden, I would say about, I don't know, seven, eight years ago, we would be on the road together, and I would hear a few of my colleagues who didn't even have early decision or priority deadlines in the fall start saying like, yeah, sent out a couple offers yesterday, and everyone's freaking out, like, what do you mean you sent out offers? It's October, like, we don't read files yet.

And so what's happened is that it's definitely picked up steam in terms of people kind of reviewing files a little earlier in the process. Now, some of that is because of volume, and I think because of capacity, I think some of the offices are not as big as they used to be. You know, when you have, I mean, higher ed is like any business, and so I think that as you kind of have structural changes and you're trying to figure out where you put your resources, sometimes, you know, you kind of take an admissions person and put them in another role or split their role.

And so what that means for you all is that, as Jake was pointing out, it's that you may have submitted your application, but it may just be sitting there, and it could be that it's in review or it could be that it's actually just complete. And so that will definitely differ depending on the school, but also as I noted, kind of tied directly to priority deadlines or early deadlines and things like that.

I would also echo what Jake was saying about the files that generally get reviewed first. If you're starting off kind of in the early fall, I really do think it's usually the competitive applicants that are reviewed first because those tend to not, depending on the structure of the committee, and again, the lawyerly answer, it depends, but you know, for those files, you don't tend to have as many reviewers. They don't tend to have as many people kind of touching the file, so to speak, and so those offers tend to go out a little earlier because, again, you don't have as much engagement on it.

Tajira: Okay. That's excellent information. Go ahead, Susan.

Susan: Yeah. So I'll just jump in and add that at Columbia, like Notre Dame, we really don't start reviewing until, you know, maybe late October or November for the same reasons, busy engaged in recruiting activities. Columbia also does have an early decision applicant pool, so those maybe get reviewed first, but other than that, we at Columbia would really review files in the order that they were complete. So, if you did get them in, you know, in September, even though we're not going to look at them, those files would be the first ones that we would look at once we do start reviewing files.

Tajira: Got it, got it. And just to offer a little tidbit from Berkeley, we did start reading applications in September. It really does run the gambit when it comes to how this process works. Okay. So let's say you've been assigned a queue of files. What does your process for file review look like, Tracy?

Tracy: So this is where it gets a little more complicated, and I apologize if this is going to be, like, kind of oddly worded, but the structure has literally been different, kind of almost based on my time in admissions, because I think when you're first starting out and you're a younger professional, the faculty committees or the dean may kind of want you to have a little more experience and exposure to kind of what it's like to do file review, but also kind of what they're looking for in a candidate.

And so for me, over time, what has happened is that I generally had a general admissions committee where a file would be assigned to two people, and if those two people agreed, that was the final decision. Most of us are, like, if you're the lead in the office, you tend to be called the chief admissions officer, and so some structures have been that if a file was assigned to two people, if I didn't agree with the person, I still could overwrite that decision, whether it was admit, deny, or waitlist.

What has happened over time, for me at least, is that I have enough experience now where my faculty committee members tend to say, like, you're actually the expert, not us, and so whatever you say goes, more or less, and I don't mean that to be, it sounds a little bit weird, but what I'm saying is that, ultimately, these are kind of singular file reviews, and so what that means for your purposes is that at least it goes through the process much more quickly. But I also note before we jump in and let my colleagues kind of speak is that there are still schools that have literally multiple people, meaning more than two people that have to agree before an offer is made.

That may not be the case for a waitlist or hold or deny, but the structure really is different, and I think it's important to just note that, you know, as I'm looking at the chat and you guys are asking when and things of that nature, all that we're saying will be influenced by kind of when your file is ready and competitive. And we'll get to more of that, Tajira will kind of steer us in that direction a little bit later. The structure really does differ in who reads what when, really does vary from school to school.

Tajira: Jake, what was your experience?

Jacob: We had a couple outside file readers, people who had worked in admissions but had since moved into other fields but still wanted to help out where possible, so kind of part-time file readers. They would usually be the ones who would start reading files a little bit earlier to kind of warm up the application pool for us. And then when we came off the road from file reading as a staff, me as director, my two assistant directors, we would reread the files that they had already done to see what their evaluation was, but also to judge those decisions within the context of the applicant pool as it had developed by early November.

So by early November, we had received maybe 20 to 25% of our applications for the year. We're actually starting to see some of those trends develop on, will applications go up this year, go down? Where are we seeing LSAT scores, where are we seeing diversity, et cetera. So then some of those applications were so strong that we could feel confident they were clearly admissible, some at the other end of the spectrum, unfortunately, but then we could also start to identify that middle area.

So then going forward, typically having two or three people evaluate an application before making a final decision, sometimes engage in our faculty committee, but kind of like Tracy said, they had a lot of faith in us and a lot of trust in us, so we would report to them. They would review decisions at a macro level, but it's not as if faculty were sitting down with every application and with, you know, their smoking jacket and pipe, and really weighing over every single application. They were looking at more of the big-picture items for us. But every school can be a little bit different in that regard.

Tajira: Okay. And Susan, what about your experience?

Susan: Yeah, so at Columbia, faculty did not, were not involved in decisions whether to admit or deny. So there were just about five or six of us that were full-time officers who would make those decisions. At least two people would read every file. So there was a lot of file reading and we would do that after we were done with the recruiting season, as I mentioned. In my time at Columbia, we had anywhere from 7,000 to almost 10,000 applications in a year, so it was a lot for us to get through since there were two reads. And we really did read them in the order that they were complete, and every application got to read, so we didn't sort them or, you know, we didn't have any grid-ins or cutoffs or anything like that. So anyone who submitted an application got at least two reads.

Tajira: Is it true that everybody reads applications within five or 10 minutes each?

Susan: I'll just answer that. For us, not necessarily. It depends on the application. You know, some applications are, you know, the ones that are sort of obvious admits can actually be a little bit faster, or obvious rejects. It's sort of the people in the middle that take a little bit longer, or if somebody has something that's really strong or their application's very strong, but maybe one thing is a little bit off. Maybe they don't have a lot of experience or maybe one of their quants is lower than we'd like. That might take a little bit more time, actually, to read that application.

Tajira: Jake? Tracy?

Jacob: Yeah, and I did a lot of that. I would also say that for us, as the person who reviewed the application last before issuing a decision, I would typically take a little longer than 10 minutes on the admitted students, even if they were very strong, just to make sure that I'm crossing, checking off all those boxes, just to make sure that we're not missing anything prior to issuing a decision.

But then also that I was taking note of, if we're going to admit the student, let me take note of perhaps some faculty who I may want to have reach out to the student or alumni to reach out to the student now that we're transitioning from evaluating the applicant to now recruiting an admitted student. And it's easier to do that while the application is still, you know, I'm making the symbol with my hands, it's still on my screen, as opposed to I've already processed the application and now I need to go back and get it.

I'd take a little bit longer for the students who, unfortunately, it was pretty clear that they were not going to be admitted. Yeah, five to 10 minutes is pretty normal. But then as Susan said, those median files, that competitive middle, it could take a little longer than that, just because you really want to make sure you understand the student and get the context of where they're coming from if you're going to argue their merits versus another student's merits down the road.

Tajira: Now, Jake, I'm going to pick on you for a second, because you said something really interesting. You said, you know, for those folks that you're possibly considering for admission, you're checking to see, do they tick all these boxes? Now, do you have a checklist that you're looking for certain traits or anything, or would you expand on what you mean?

Jacob: I haven't missed the character and fitness issue, right? Let me make sure I'm reading that really closely. Let me make sure there are no red flag issues in here. Those classic types of things, as opposed to thanks for mentioning that. So when I say check the boxes, I just mean they haven't killed anyone, right? Check. There are no significant character and fitness, check. They didn't write their "why Notre Dame" statement telling us all about why they want to go to Northwestern, right? Okay, check. No, all the pieces are in place here before I make an offer of admission. And later on down the process, an offer of admission and an offer of scholarship.

Tajira: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. And so, like, there was another thing that you touched on, but I'm actually going to pick on Tracy with this. You mentioned folks that happened to be right in that middle, right around the medians, right kind of in your bread and butter. Can you give me some for instances on why someone who might be right at or above both medians might not be accepted, Tracy?

Tracy: So one would be the timing of the review, if in fact, okay, a better way of explaining might be that if this is October, November, December, the class is wide open. The number of seats is wide open, the faculty, the dean, they're not paying as close attention to the actual numbers, and so I have a lot more leeway at that point in time. When I get to, say, March, April, July, things are very tight, and so we're paying very close attention to our yield, we're paying very close attention to how close we are to kind of hitting our target goals for LSAT or GPA.

And so if the person is right there, the dean may say, well, that person doesn't really help our numbers. And I know this is part of the challenge for you as applicants, because we talk about it not being numerically based, but this is kind of that part of this question that Ms. McCoy's asking is, you know, this is why someone who is at those numbers may or may not be admitted because of the timing of their actual application.

The other reason, though, is that sometimes, in reviewing those applications, the numbers are spot on, but the writing is really, really poor. And the challenge is that so much of the law is tied directly to writing the written materials, and so we don't want to put you in a situation where you're not competitive in law school, but also ultimately not competitive when you are out there kind of in the field. And so that's another reason.

And then the last one for now, I mean, and again, we, you know, we could talk about any one of these for like three or four hours on their own, right? Another one would be character and fitness. I've had some candidates where, you know, I wanted to either meet with them or I wanted to get more information from them. Sometimes with some character and fitness issues, we have to kind of run it up the ladder, meaning I need to engage with the dean of student affairs. In some instances, I need to bring in the dean.

In other instances, I've had to bring in general counsel because the issues are serious enough and, you know, we're not trying to penalize students, but we have to be mindful of the fact that, one, we have a responsibility to the students on campus, two, we're trying to make sure that you can actually pass character and fitness before you spend a hundred and $200,000 on an education where you can't get your license. So that would be another reason is that there's some concerns about character and fitness, and maybe we're waiting for additional information and/or waiting for other feedback and opinions about that particular issue or incident.

Tajira: And Susan, getting 7,000 applications, I would imagine at some point the class is just full, right? Like, is that another reason for why you might have like perfectly good numbers, but you just don't have the space, is that right?

Susan: Yeah, that's exactly right. And as Tracy said, like, timing can be an issue there. So all things being equal, you know, I would advise people to get your applications in early. Maybe, you know, don't necessarily wait until January. Although people still do get in who, you know, submitted applications in January, but it does make it more difficult for the reasons that you just said.

Tajira: Mm-hmm. And Susan, so Tracy mentioned goals. And so those goals, are they set before the cycle starts and do they change throughout the cycle?

Susan: Sure. You do have an idea sort of going in what you're looking for when you start doing the reviews. But I think Jake mentioned this: you get some data that comes in on the applications. You have years and years of data that you look at where you see, like, okay, by October 15th, we had this many applications in the past. Where, what does it look like now, and what does that breakdown of those applicants look like in terms of demographics and scores? So you sort of balance the medians that you had in last year's class and against sort of what the applications are looking like so far, and that sort of helps inform what you're looking for in this year's class.

Tajira: Mm-hmm. Are these goals set, Jake, by people outside of admissions sometimes? Or where is that coming from?

Jacob: By deans or trustees? Yeah. So no, at this time of year, law schools are wrapping up their incoming class. They're maybe rounding out things off the waitlist, they're keeping track of any students who may have a change in plans and aren't going to enroll. But they're also asking the question of, so, how did we do, how close were we to certain thresholds, certain targets? Were we low in certain areas this year? And this is something we want to address in the coming year.

But then also looking at the national trends. How many people just took the LSAT in this past iteration? How many people have taken the LSAT over the past year? So realistically, what may we expect as far as an applicant pool going forward? And so directors of admission, deans of admission are having those conversations with the deans of the law school, with the faculty on their committees, and potentially a little higher too.

And occasionally, usually everyone's on the same page because, ultimately, the applicant pool nationally is what it is, and if it goes down drastically, there's nothing that we as admissions officers can do to change that. So some direction may come from leadership, even though we're all on the same page. So again, if this year maybe racial diversity was a little bit lower, maybe that's something we want to have as a point of emphasis for the coming year.

But then that can change after the actual applications come in, things shift on us. Usually things are pretty consistent, but certainly we all experienced two years ago a drastic increase in applications across the board, and it's something that we kind of expected. We expected a wave. We didn't expect a tsunami coming, and a lot of us had to change our goals pretty quickly because of that and inform leadership about that pretty quickly.

Tajira: That's really helpful. Tracy, I mean, these goals, I know that they can probably change over time, you know, as you start to see the class shape up, do you ever receive directives like mid-cycle where they're like, well, actually, we want to change our priorities to this?

Tracy: Absolutely. I mean, one, they can change because of the budget, and so all of a sudden your budget dean and/or the university is saying, we want a bigger share from the law school, and that changes the revenue goal. It could be that there's a change in the budget related to scholarships because they want to give more money to the continuing students, meaning the current law students.

And then the other thing could simply be that, you know, U.S. News comes out and things look great, and they're like, well, since we did so well this last time, let's shoot for X. And you're like, whoa, we've been admitting now since October, November, and so to change gears is really challenging, but it does happen. That part is definitely, you know, part of the challenge in terms of thinking through our goals and the timing and things of that nature. So it definitely kind of, those things were a little bit of a loop, but we do our best to adjust and provide as accurate a picture as we can because, as Jake noted, there's so many moving parts and so many factors that we don't patrol.

If all of a sudden, when an LSAT administration was going to happen in mid-cycle, and there was a major weather issue that impacted, you know, technology and the internet in a certain region, we couldn't have accounted for that, and maybe we were anticipating that we were going to get a certain number of candidates from that part, from that LSAT administration. Literally, you have no impact, you know, no control over that, but that could directly impact our goals and the timing and things of that nature. So.

Tajira: Mm-hmm, that's great. I'm going to kind of detour us back towards application review just for a little bit. Jake, I'm curious, you know, when it comes to admissions committees, how is it that, you know, it's determined a file should go to them as opposed to one of your standard admissions officers in your office?

Jacob: Sure. So again, every school's a little bit different in this regard. So our committee trusted us a great deal. So for the most part, we were just referring files to them if they were significant. If the student was competitive for admission, we wanted to admit them, but there were some significant character and fitness issues that we felt the faculty needed to discuss.

And so by that, I know character and fitness issues can sometimes be a source of concern for a lot of applicants. For the most part, the things that students are reporting to us are pretty benign or can be categorized as youthful high jinks: underage drinking citations, for instance, or to pick on Notre Dame as an institution, for example, football tailgate citations, right? So one or two of those throughout the course of a collegiate career, not a problem. A small number of speeding tickets, not a problem.

But we would see students with more significant issues, maybe regarding DWI or related to assault allegations. So not convictions, but allegations, and how do we want to discuss that and handle that? So we would refer those files to our faculty committee and would talk about them as a group. So those files would initially be reviewed by our staff. So we would do the initial review before sending them on, because we wanted to provide the faculty with the initial filter of, we think they're competitive, we like them, if not for this character and fitness issue that is beyond the blessings that you have given us to process on our own.

Tajira: Now, Susan, sometimes I see, you know, reading on Reddit and things like that, I troll just to get a sense of how people are feeling in the cycle, there are times when people say, you know, like other people are receiving decisions and I just seem to be on hold. Why might an admissions team hold a particular application as opposed to issuing a decision right away?

Susan: Yeah. There are a couple of reasons. Earlier in the cycle, it might be because you're on the border of maybe some quants or, you know, the rest of your application, we're not quite sure if we're, if we're going to take you this cycle and we're just sort of waiting to figure out where those numbers are going to be. That was especially true when the Flex was introduced and some of our numbers were just completely thrown off.

It might also happen that we are not sure, we're not convinced that you're actually very interested in coming. And so you might get held for those reasons. And so, you know, maybe if you end up going to Harvard or Yale and you withdraw from Columbia, that might be a reason why we might hold you. So if you are held and you do have really strong quants, you might want to write the school, you know, and just write them a letter that you're interested in them.

Tajira: That's great. Can we talk a little bit about splitters? When it comes to high LSAT splitters versus high GPA splitters, which sometimes they call those reverse splitters, is there a preference? And when they are a splitter, does that make things more difficult in terms of making an offer? I'm going to start with you, Tracy.

Tracy: Yeah, it's challenging. It's challenging. I mean, here's the thing. Most candidates are splitters. If we're being really honest, most candidates are splitters. You do have some candidates who have a low LSAT score and a low GPA, and you have some that have a high LSAT score and a high GPA, but most people have one or the other.

And so, honestly, this goes back to what we were just talking about in terms of the goals of the institution, the metrics they're looking for, the idea that at any given point in time, you might say, you know, the school's focused on moving their median numbers because they've had some success with U.S. News, with hiring, bar pass rates, for example, in states that have really high, complicated, difficult bar exams. And so that may be the focus that year.

And so that means that maybe candidates that have what would be considered to be weaker LSAT scores, and again, this is all relative for each institution, because it doesn't mean that you're not going to be a good lawyer. It doesn't mean you're not going to be a good advocate. It's just for that particular school, we are focused on how competitive you are for that pool in that moment in time. And so I think the other part of this is kind of thinking through scholarships.

There are times when the scholarships may differ depending on the goals of the institution. And so for one candidate, so I'm looking at, you know, Susan, I'm saying, okay, her LSAT score, great, her GPA's okay, and right now we're so focused on GPA that I might not be able to offer her the same scholarship I would Jake, who is the reverse. He has the high GPA and the lower LSAT, and since we're focused on LSAT, we're going to take, you know, we're going to give Jake this. And so that's where it gets a little bit complicated.

I think the big thing to think about in context is that you have to kind of watch the numbers of the schools you're applying to, you know, in terms of the class that was admitted the year before, because that will give you some indication in terms of what they were focused on and what they prioritize. And I'll stop there for now, because there's, we could talk again about this for a long time, because there are a number of different factors.

Susan: No, it's great.

Tracy: Because I was going to say the thing about, like, letters of recommendation is the other piece of this. If your GPA's not strong, this is where you probably want to have academic letters versus employer professional letters. So I'll stop there. Go ahead, Taj, I'm sorry.

Tajira: No, that's great. That's great. Thank you, Tracy. Susan, I'm going to spin this a little bit for you. You know, how often does it happen where you really, really like an applicant, but maybe one or both of their credentials aren't where you need them to be? How often does it happen where you're really able to champion that candidate and take the risk on admitting them? And is it actually a risk or, you know, are there things that help you to feel really confident in those particular candidates?

Susan: Sure, that definitely happens. Sometimes you read somebody's personal statement, their diversity statement, and you're just like, wow, this is an amazing person, and I would love for them to be at this school, and I think they would offer so much to the class, but their quants aren't there. And it is tough, but let's say their GPA's not where it should be, but they had a rough, you know, first year of college, and you look at the trend and there's an upward trend in their GPA, or let's say they write an addendum and they had mono, or they had a death in the family or something like that, and that accounts for maybe their GPA being a little bit lower than you'd like, but you can tell that they would succeed at this school.

You know, you don't want to admit someone that is going to take out student loans and not be able to complete their law degree. So, but if you're convinced that they, you know, that they're going to be able to do a good job at the school and be there, then you can argue for them, and sometimes it does work. You know, it really is for people that have incredible stories and amazing personal statements where you can sort of overcome those quants. So it happens.

Tajira: That's great. Now, Jake, I'm going to spin it slightly different for you. I've heard of something called yield protection, and I might be really, really interested in the school, but my numbers are kind of vastly higher than their medians, and they won't admit me because they think I won't come. Like, is that really a thing? And if it is, how do I convince that school that I really want to be there?

Jacob: Sure. And it can be a thing. I think there, and you can see this, I think, on websites like Law School Data, or previously, students would usually use Law School Numbers. They are the students who are in that high LSAT/GPA range, who you see all these green dots, but then who are these yellow dots and who are these red dots? And Tracy also kind of hinted at this before too. They could be those students where there are character and fitness issues. There's weak writing. There's a red flag somewhere in there that makes you go, the stats are good, but I'm not sure the stats are real because of these other factors.

It could also be because there's just no way they're going to come here, and to speak for my experience, the way I usually put this to my staff was if we're going to feel disappointed when the student chooses another institution, a higher ranked institution, because they're such a great candidate, they'd be an awesome fit here. But, you know, hey, if Harvard comes calling or Yale comes calling, we understand. You know, we're going to be disappointed, as opposed to are we going to feel silly that we even bothered?

Because if we admit a student, we are getting faculty in touch with them, current students, alumni, we're going to really put on the charm offensive, and there's nothing quite like putting on the charm offensive to someone who's like, yeah, not so much. We don't want to waste the time of the alumni, the faculty, the students, et cetera, so we're going to feel silly because there really wasn't anything beyond the stats in here to make us think that they were going to come here, they were going to choose us.

And I don't think that really swayed us in a whole lot of cases, but occasionally you would read that file where you would say, and I think Notre Dame is a pretty specific institution, holy cow, they seem to not have any ties to the Midwest, they don't seem to be really interested, their whole personal statement was about how much they hate football and lake-effect snow. Do they know us? Have they seen anything about us? So there could be those discussions, but they were quite rare.

There are some schools that may be a little more concerned about that, and the reason is not just because of the charm offensive, not just because of the effort, but because yield is a small factor in U.S. News, and it's much smaller than the LSAT, it's a smaller factor than the GPA. It's much smaller than the judicial ranking, than the peer ranking, what other law schools think of your school. So some schools put a lot of weight on that because they want every last little bit to help them in U.S. News. I think most of us kind of view it as, how much time and effort do you want to put into this if you, if you don't really know?

So now back to the student perspective. If you're worried about that, about a school, applying to a school where you are way over their medians and they may just not even believe that you're going to go there, convince them, write that optional "why this school" statement. If they don't allow for that statement, include that information into your personal statement. Maybe take an opportunity to visit the school either in person or virtually, because most schools track that type of interaction. Make them feel the love, so that way, they understand you are applying with serious intention, as opposed to just applying as a pure safety with no intention of enrolling even if you were offered admission and a generous scholarship, et cetera.

Tajira: Mm-hmm, great. So, given the amount of time we have, I'm going to move us forward. We're going to move and switch gears a little bit and talk about scholarship offers and negotiations just for a time before we jump into application soft factors, which I think a lot of our listeners will really appreciate. Now, when it comes to scholarship offers, most of the time it's actually the admissions office making these offers, right? It's not financial aid. So students, like, when they're wondering where that decision's coming from, typically, it's from admissions, right, Tracy?

Tracy: Yes, for a lot of schools, that is part of the process. It's part of the decision-making process. That's something that, you know, we're thinking about as we're making the offers, also tied to all the other things we've discussed this evening in terms of timing, and who's making those decisions at what point and what the goals are and things of that nature. I think it's important to pay attention to the fact that it is different from school to school, and so for some institutions, you're going to get an offer, and whatever you're eligible for at that point in time, you will get that in the letter, and if you don't get it in the letter, it's because you're not eligible.

When there are other institutions where you may receive a scholarship offer, merit-based type offer a little later in the process, and then that's completely separate from possibly getting, you know, your award letter with your actual financial aid package, which includes loans in addition to scholarships and other things of that nature.

Tajira: And can any of you talk to, would that be the same when it comes to need-based aid? Is that also through admissions or would that all be through financial aid?

Tracy: Depends on the institution, for sure. I mean, most institutions are waiting for a FAFSA of some sort, for candidates that can submit a FAFSA, and then for international students and DACA students, many of them will have a separate form that you can fill out if they have need-based aid. So I think the big caveat here is that not a lot of institutions have need-based aid. I know that's disappointing for folks, but that's really something that you all should be paying attention to, that that's not something that's widely available at the 196, 197 ABA law schools, and so that's just something to think about. But generally speaking, that is a separate process.

And then lastly, there are some institutions that will have separate funds that you can apply for that are basically donor-related sometimes. And so the donor could say, I want someone who loves Notre Dame football, and you demonstrate that by some photos and an essay. I mean, it could be something that's for a single parent or someone who speaks three languages and has a degree in econ. It really is school-specific and donor-specific, but those are other opportunities out there for you all.

Tajira: And for merit-based scholarships, I mean, is there a rubric? Is it like LSAT, GPA, they meet at this number, so I award this? Or how, who determines how to make those awards and what candidates should receive what amount? Jake?

Jacob: Sure. So we try to be equitable and fair for the most part, and also trying to keep in mind goals for enrollment, for budget, how much scholarship money do we have available this year, et cetera. But then the outside factors that we take into play. What are some of our peer schools doing? We get lots of data from LSAC regarding if a student applies to our school, here are the most common schools they also apply to. And if they're admitted to that other school, here's how many came to your school, here's how many go there. We have to keep track of that too.

How are our awards stacking up with a couple of those benchmark peer schools? What is everyone else doing? We would typically create a grid every year based on the applicant pool, based on the budget to try and figure out the balance of all those things. But then it could be adjusted over time too. So as Tracy mentioned, we may find as we go through the process, gosh, you know, here are our LSAT, our GPA targets, but you know, we're just, we're seeing more LSAT targets than what we were expecting, so perhaps we don't need to offer quite as much merit in that field.

On the other hand, you know, looking at the other end of the process, those last waitlist admits, do we have any scholarship budget left for those guys, even if where they would be normally on the grid would be at a rather high award? But if we don't have any money left, we don't have any money left, unfortunately. So that can vary a little bit too. But I think most schools use some sort of standardized method, and you can intuit that pretty easily on Reddit or on Law School Data by looking at a lot of those statistics, if you spend enough time to try and crack the code.

Tajira: And Susan, people talk about LSAT and GPA a lot when they talk about merit-based awards. Are there any other factors that are considered for merit-based awards?

Susan: Yes, and I do think it's institution-specific as Tracy and Jake have said. One thing I will say, at Columbia, the financial aid office was completely separate. So at Columbia, we admitted need-blind, so without any consideration whether you could afford to pay, and then if you were admitted, then you would go to financial aid and get a financial aid package. Our, the merit aid was all handled through the admissions office.

There was some merit aid that was more heavily aligned with quants, but it wasn't only quants. We would look at factors, you know, certainly LSAT and GPA, and by GPA, I mean, sort of in context, like looking at your whole academic record, but we would also look for other factors because for our sort of top scholarships, you would get a faculty mentor, and we want to make sure that it's somebody that the faculty are really going to enjoy being with over the next three years and having them, having the student be part of their research. So we would look at your resume and your personal statement very carefully.

Those are for like the full-tuition and half-tuition merit scholarships, but we also gave full-tuition merit scholarships for people that had a demonstrated interest in public service, so that was another set of scholarships. There was a new scholarship last year that was geared towards first-generation students that was full tuition.

And then there were other merit-based scholarships that were surrounded, you know, something like leadership qualities that were tied to, you know, maybe a specific donor. And so our scholarships, our merit scholarships at Columbia were, they were either rewarded with your admissions letter or you were nominated, and then there may or may not be an interview process. But there were no like separate applications that you made.

Tajira: Now, it's been noted all over that it seems like certain higher ranked schools kind of delay their scholarship process a little bit and maybe wait to start awarding scholarship around December or January, as opposed to with their admissions offers. Can any of you give me a sense of why that might be?

Jacob: I can take that one because that was our policy, certainly. So the reason for that was that we wanted to make sure that we could offer our most competitive scholarship just once. And so by December, we have received enough applications where we knew where the pool was and we could feel comfortable beginning offers of admission.

But really, come February, end of January, February, at that point we received about 75% of our applications for the year. We know what the applicant pool looks like. We know what merit is defined as this year, because we've seen all the shifts in the pool up to this point. And so we know that we can now issue that most competitive scholarship possible, as opposed to maybe still guessing a little bit in December and then finding we may have to bump things up in March or April in order to be competitive with a lot of our peer schools.

So it's just our effort to make sure that we could still be as competitive as possible. And other schools kind of take that same approach. For others, and maybe because they're waiting to process your FAFSA and if a need factors into the award, they just need a little bit of time to process those things.

Tajira: Mm-hmm. Susan, you look like you wanted to weigh in.

Susan: Yeah. So at Columbia, we didn't issue any admit decisions until January, and sort of in those first batches of admits is where we made some of our merit awards, most of the merit awards. So they were kind of on the earlier side of our admits, but our admit decisions were maybe on the late side compared to some of the other schools.

Tajira: That's great. I'm going to switch gears again so that we can get to soft factors. This part, I think, will be fun for us because, you know, this is all the juicy stuff. In talking about personal statements, what sorts of things might really strong candidates, let's say they're above both medians, might they include in their personal statement or other statements that might turn you off? What would be some personal statement or other statement don'ts?

Susan: I would say, I think Tracy actually mentioned this earlier, but you definitely want to proofread your personal statement and have it well written. Really, law school admissions officers rely on that as a writing sample more than any writing that you do on the LSAT. That's just something to keep in mind. And I know I read one application, you know, while I was at Columbia that said, so that's why I want to go to Cornell Law School. So, you know, we, you want to make sure that you've really dotted your i's and crossed your t's and proofread your application before you submit it.

I think other things that might be a turnoff is just regurgitating your resume. You know, as we've talked about throughout this webinar, admissions officers do read applications quickly and have a lot of applications to read. So you want to make sure that you're really getting the most bang for your buck in sort of what, you know, how admissions officers are spending time reading your application. So you don't want to repeat just your resume. So that would be one thing that I would say.

Tajira: So with proofreading, if there's a spelling error, is that an immediate no?

Susan: It's not, it's not, but, you know, it does raise eyebrows just because the law is a very exacting field and you should really be putting your best foot forward in your personal statement. And, you know, it's perfectly fine to ask someone else to proofread your statement for you before you submit it, and that would be very advisable. Don't just like be typing up until the deadline and then hit Send. I would say, you know, give yourself time to proofread and have someone who you trust to proofread the statement.

Tajira: Okay. Tracy, a don't?

Tracy: Oh my goodness. I would say don't ignore the instructions. I think that kind of along the same lines of kind of proofreading and being detail-oriented, one of the tests basically in this process is your ability to follow directions. And so I think candidates often focus on trying to stand out, and I would say that this is not where you want to stand out. You want to kind of fall in line and fall in pack and basically deliver a statement that basically demonstrates that you are a strong writer, that you follow directions, and that you basically can be concise in terms of addressing what you think conveys your best story.

And again, kind of echoing what Susan said, you know, without regurgitating your resume, transcript, CAS report, et cetera. That's my, I mean, and then there are 20,000 other ones like quote and stuff like that, so, I'll let Jake jump in now.

Jacob: Yeah, I'll go even more basic. So, to make sure I'm not double-negativing this, I'll go with be professional, so don't be unprofessional, but be professional. When you asked this question, the thing that came to mind was the student who, in all the files I've ever read, took the greatest blowtorch to his application and just burned it down. So academics were good, great undergraduate background, solid resume. I made the joke earlier about what's the tie here to the Midwest? Maybe he was from Chicago, et cetera.

But then on his "why Notre Dame" statement, he effectively wrote, this is a stupid question. Why does anyone ever write, ask this question? I think all you ever want to hear is stuff that's going to boost your ego, and I'm not here to boost your ego. I'm here to keep it real. And he kept it real for two pages, and it was to the point where I actually, like, I had to step away from my computer and take a couple deep breaths.

I called my boss just to say, hey, I'm just making sure I'm not too upset about this, right? What do you think as someone who used to be a partner at a law firm and work for the government and all that stuff, what do you think? And he read it and said, yeah, no. That's not showing the type of temperament and restraint and good judgment that we want at our law school. So he was one of those green dots that year who was a red dot instead, you know? So be professional, be polite, follow instructions, proofread. I mean, it all seems pretty basic, and yet we can all assure you that some people fall short of those benchmarks. Remember they're entering what should be a serious profession.

Tajira: Right. Switching gears a little bit, is there any difference on how international applicants are evaluated? Susan?

Susan: Yeah, I'll say just looking at the quants. The LSAT maybe carries a little bit more weight than the grades. We don't get a GPA exactly. We do, LSAC does do a pretty good job of kind of explaining what their grades mean, but it doesn't factor in to U.S. News & World Report or anything like that. So the LSAT does, you know, sort of matter more beyond that. I think English language skills matter if you went to an undergrad institution that's not English speaking. So just being able to demonstrate those skills somewhere in your resume is helpful, and in your writing.

Tajira: Tracy, how often did you read or do you read LSAT Writing samples?

Tracy: Yeah. I literally saw that in the chat and cringed a little bit because it's somewhat to the example that Jake just gave, and I think that anything that a law school asks for, you should take seriously. You don't know who will read it and how often they read it and what they will use it for. I think it's pretty important for candidates particularly who are kind of like on the margins, around the medians, under the medians. It becomes a little more important.

I have worked with a lot of other law schools who've said specifically for those specific candidates who don't have majors in which there was a lot of writing involved. That is another reason that the writing sample becomes really important. But I also think it says something again about like what Jake said about professionalism and temperament. So remember that the writing sample is your only real raw analysis that you kind of provide us. I mean, this is a big part of law school, and so it's the one chance we get to see how you've got to work on the fly.

And so I think that's really, really important. And I think, you know, drawing on the writing sample, saying no one's going to read this, these are real life examples that we've seen, is just really immature and unprofessional. And so, again, because you don't know how many schools are using it very seriously, looking at it very closely, and/or using it to compare your actual writing, to make sure that you didn't buy an essay on the internet, you should pay very close attention to it and do a good job and be as thorough as possible in the time that you're given.

Tajira: That's great. And Jake, now that diversity statements have such a broad and inclusive approach, should everyone write one? And is there a ding against a diverse candidate if they choose not to?

Jacob: I'll handle that second one first, because I do think that sometimes there are candidates who worry that they're kind of like mining their pain to justify their admission and to take a step back for a moment. Yeah, I don't want anyone to feel uncomfortable applying to my law school or any law school. What I hope to learn out of an application is who you are, where do you come from? And I hope to be able to contextualize your background or your academic performance and your professional experience based on where you come from, because some people have had some significant hurdles to overcome based on parent education background, based on socioeconomic status, being in a rural area or an urban area, et cetera.

And it's really useful to know that, and to use a real, real basic example I think most students don't think of, those of you who had to work during undergrad for 20 hours a week, 30, 40 hours a week to pay the bills, it's great to know that. You may not think that that's a diverse experience and it's worth mentioning in a diversity statement, but it is. That type of blue-collar experience, the type of nose-to-the-grindstone experience, we want to know about that, not only to know about you and to know about your background, but also to then look at your transcript and say, wow, he got a 3.8 GPA while working 40 hours a week, or commuting an hour each way. That's really impressive.

So don't feel as if you need to, don't feel as if it's required. We try to write the topics broadly, though, so that students from a lot of different backgrounds can feel like they can offer that voice to us, but only do so if there are things that you want to tell us about yourself. If you want to hold some things back, we respect that. But it also is a little weird when we read about something on a letter of recommendation where we go, wow, working 40 hours a week, first in our family to go to college, I wish I had heard a little bit more about that from the applicant herself instead of from a professor.

Tajira: Fantastic. Well, we are in the last two and like a fraction of a minute left, and so what I would love to do is receive a final piece of advice from each of you for those that are planning to apply this fall that are listening right now. And so, Susan, I'll start with you.

Susan: Sure. One thing that people don't necessarily think about is reaching out to student groups. Law schools can be very helpful, so if you are ex-military or in the military, reaching out to the military, student groups can be helpful or any, you know, identity groups that you might want to be a part of that can, they can maybe help you navigate this process. I'm going to say proofread, proofread, proofread, and apply early if you can. And then also don't worry about the things that you can't control.

Tajira: That's great. Tracy.

Tracy: I agree with everything Susan shared. I think a big one is using your own kind of research skills and your own spreadsheets and things of that nature. I'm seeing a lot of responses in the chat by people who are also in the application process who are trying to be helpful, but they're not giving kind of the caveats and the nuances. And so they're saying yes or no, and that's not really how admissions works from the admissions professional's perspective.

And so I would say that, you know, whether a GPA is high or low, whether a diversity statement is more an adversity statement, all those things really go back to our lawyerly answer: it depends. And so I think it's really, really important that you do your own homework. I think that you have to remember that the admissions professionals and consultants are all people who have done this work for some time and their objective is to get you into law school, not to keep you out.

And so the best advice you're going to get is from the consultants and from the law schools themselves, not from the blogs, not from each other. Even though you have good intentions, you don't actually know what we do and how we do it. And so sometimes you kind of put your, you put yourself in a box or you kind of shut your own opportunities down without really giving yourself the full opportunity to kind of get out there and see what's available to you. And so just don't block your own blessing. Basically, be open-minded and do the work. It will really work out in your favor if you do the work yourself.

Tajira: And Jake, bring it home.

Jacob: Man, I had a whole list, and then Susan and Tracy knocked them all out. But no, to reiterate, though, find your zen, control what you can control, don't worry about other people, okay? So worry about your application. Do not be afraid to ask questions. And to build off Susan, student groups are so wonderful to reach out to. Use your LinkedIn network, use your buddies who are in law school, but then, really, what Tracy said to you. Don't be afraid to contact admissions offices.

They are here to help you out and they're here to ask, or to address those questions. They're not here to mislead you by any stretch of the imagination. So just ask questions. Think of yourself as a lawyer already. Lawyers don't sit back really timidly, waiting for something to happen. They're asking questions or doing research, they're building into contingency plans and all that stuff. So start to think about that a little bit. Don't be afraid to ask those questions. Don't be afraid to be in touch with people.

Tajira: Fantastic. Well, thank you, panelists. You have been phenomenal. This has been a wonderful talk. So appreciative to each of you. I sent a message to David, one of our partners at 7Sage, and told him, you know, at one point we hit 600 attendees in the room. That's a fantastic showing for tonight. Thank you to everyone who joined us. We really appreciate you all. If you do have remaining questions, you can ask them in the discussion forum for the event. We'd be happy to jump on those as you ask them, but certainly stay tuned because there will be other events coming up next month, and we'd love to see you there. So in the meantime, thank you again to my panelists, and we'll see you all soon.

Jacob: Bye.

Susan: Thank you. Good luck, everyone.

Tracy: Thanks for having us.

J.Y.: Hi, it's J.Y. again. Thank you for listening. As always, if you are 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.


Comment on this

Transcript

J.Y.: Hello, and welcome to the 7Sage podcast. I'm J.Y. Ping, and on today's episode, David talks to Lexie Holden, the runner-up for the 2020 7Sage 7K Scholarship. Lexie received an admissions consulting package and a $1,000 scholarship to defray her law school tuition. Her story is inspiring from both a personal and an admissions standpoint. In this fall, she'll begin her studies at Yale Law.

David: Well, Lexie, it's so nice to talk to you. I'm so glad that you could join us for the podcast.

Lexie: Yeah, absolutely. Thanks so much for having me on.

David: So Lexie, I want you to start by taking us back in time and just tell us a little bit about where you grew up, how you grew up, what was your life like before you decided to apply for law school?

Lexie: Absolutely. So I was born in and spent the first 15 and a half years of my life living in Germany. I'm an army brat, so I spent my almost first 16 years of my life growing up overseas, attending the American schools on the U.S. Army posts, while also living simultaneously in German villages and attending ballet classes with other German students. So I had sort of the best of both worlds, but I also, I'm a citizen of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.

So that sort of threw in that third world. Military brats are often considered third-culture kids, because, you know, when you ask them where they're from, it's like, well, where did I live the longest? Which place did I like the best? You know, what's the answer you're looking for? So I was sort of a fourth-culture kid when I throw in my Native American culture and heritage as well.

David: Did you feel like it was something that separated you from other military brats?

Lexie: Oh, definitely. So having spent so much time in Germany and having been fluent in German, I was often considered too German for the American kids. And I also lived off post in German villages, so hanging out with me after school was usually a challenge because, you know, I'd have to coordinate, you know, having my mom come back to pick me up if I went over to a friend's house on post.

The opposite was true for the German students who, even though I spoke German, I didn't necessarily know the dialect or the slang, so I was too American in their eyes, and the other American students that they knew, you know, moved pretty frequently, so it was always a question of like, when was I going to leave? And then trying to tell either side, you know, that I was Native and that I'm, you know, a citizen of Choctaw Nation blew their minds, just really threw another wrench into their plan of trying to figure out which culture to put me into. So it made for an interesting upbringing, to say the least.

David: Well, I'm going to go out on a limb. Please tell me if I'm just totally in the wrong, but I would guess that there aren't a whole lot of Native women or members of the Choctaw Nation in Germany, where you were. Is that the case?

Lexie: So Native Americans actually serve in the military at a higher rate than any other demographic group. So there are a lot of Natives relative to other demographic groups. However, we are still a very small population overall. So in terms of other Native students that I knew of growing up, I really can't think of any off the top of my head. There were a couple more once I moved to Washington State when I was in high school, but then none again when I moved for college to Chicago. So yeah, it's, we're a pretty elusive bunch, but then, you know, I feel like once you find Indian country, you kind of find everyone, because we all sort of tend to congregate near one another.

David: Well, I want to get to that, but first I just want to ask you how you fostered your identity as a member of the Choctaw Nation growing up in Germany.

Lexie: Absolutely. So I'm very thankful to my mother because, so she's a historian and she was the one who really kept the family stories alive, the, you know, our ancestry, you know, telling me about, you know, who my family is, what we used to do, where we come from, you know, stories that had been passed down from generation to generation. And that's not something that everyone who is Native, you know, has the privilege of.

You know, a lot of folks are separated from their families, a lot of folks have traumatic family histories that are difficult to bring up, but I was very lucky and fortunate in the sense that my mom told me everything. So I, even being thousands of miles and an ocean away from my tribe, always felt at home in the stories that she would tell me. And then coming back to the U.S., it was much easier to just fit right back in. It's like I'd never been away at all.

David: And you say that it's easier to connect with other Natives once you get to Indian country. How did you get to Indian country?

Lexie: Yeah. So I always knew I wanted to do something that would ultimately serve other Native Americans. I, again, as an army brat, you know, service is something that I'd always seen in my life, something I knew that I wanted to spend the rest of my life doing, not in the military sense. I wanted to do it through policy and law, and it wasn't until my first year out of college that I was finally able to do a fellowship where the bulk of my work was centered on tribal communities.

I always tried to sneak it into previous internship opportunities or other things I'd been doing, or even, you know, for papers and classes or research projects, but it was never, I was never able to make it like the center focus of what I wanted to do and the work I was doing until after graduation, when I was serving as a Bill Emerson National Hunger Fellow and was placed with the Native American Agriculture Fund for my field placement.

David: So what did you actually do as the Hunger Fellow?

Lexie: Absolutely. So the bulk of my work with NAAF, and it's a six-month placement with a field placement and then six months with a policy placement in DC, but while I was with the Native American Agriculture Fund, I was tasked with writing a report about a very small but very important program under the USDA called the Federally Recognized Tribes Extension Program, which, while I have a lot of family members in the past who were engaged in agriculture, my great-grandparents on one side were sharecroppers, there were farmers on another side.

You know, agriculture has since skipped a few generations. So I was being tasked with, you know, studying this very small group of folks, helping farmers and ranchers do their job better, as a total outsider. So I asked my supervisor, I said, "Oh, great, great. Okay, so the FRTEP, that's what I'm working on. What's extension?" And she was kind enough to say, "Oh, you know, it's the person you call up when you, you know, want to figure out what type of soil you have so you know what to grow, or maybe to build a hoop house."

David: Yeah, of course. Come on, Lexi.

Lexie: What's a hoop house, though? I just Googled that one on my own. I didn't ask her. I was like, okay, I've already proven myself like ignorant enough in the realm of agriculture, but I'm coming at this with a good heart, I swear. So, and then over the next six months, I got a chance to interview these agents, to learn about the communities they serve, the work they do, and also the ways in which the way the USDA is currently structured fails them in their communities, and really come up with a lot of policy recommendations out of that, that I'm still currently working on today.

David: Can you give me a small example of one way that the USDA is failing them?

Lexie: Yeah, absolutely. So there are currently 36 FRTEP agents. They were created as an alternative to the traditional cooperative or county extension system, which has 3,000 agents across the country, one in every county. If you do the math, there are about 80,000 Native American farmers and ranchers across the U.S. So if a traditional county extension agent is looking at serving about 200 farmers each, these FRTEP agents are looking at serving about 2,000 each, which is completely unsustainable.

And I can't even keep up 2,000 names in my head, so I can't imagine keeping up 2,000 names and operation plans and all the things necessary to, you know, helping someone make their agricultural operation work. So figuring out how to get more funding for the program is one of the number one priorities, so that they can actually hire more agents to be able to do more good in Indian country.

David: So what does it actually look like when you're trying to get more funding for the program?

Lexie: Yeah, well, it's a farm bill provision, which is very convenient because the connections that I made while I was a fellow with NAAF led to me being hired as a policy assistant with the Intertribal Agriculture Council, which led to me becoming the Associate Director of Policy and Government Relations. We're one of the founding members of the Native Farm Bill Coalition, which is the largest coalition of tribes working together for a single policy purpose ever, as far as our history records indicate.

We represent 270 tribal nations, inner tribal alliances, and native organizations, and their Farm Bill priorities, which is, you know, the Farm Bill's a huge piece of legislation, comes up every five years, and essentially, if you eat, the Farm Bill affects you. So, thankfully, this little program that I was researching as a fellow is now something that I get to continue working on and advocating for in this larger Native Farm Bill Coalition work that I do.

David: Can you give me an example of a typical day or maybe two? I'm sure that no day is typical, but maybe like a typical day in the office, as much as you can approximate it, in a day in the field that's not atypical?

Lexie: Absolutely. So a lot of my work that I do in the office, let's say, I work remotely, but is connecting to our stakeholders. So reaching out to tribal leaders and Native ranchers and farmers to tell them about opportunities to engage with USDA, for opportunities to meet with us, also having conversations to hear about how particular programs are working or not working in their communities.

I also do a lot of outreach to allied organizations or non-Native organizations who are interested in supporting our work. That involves a lot of like Indian country 101 conversations where we strip it down to like bare bones basics of like, this is what a tribe is, here's how long agriculture has been going on in this area. So it's a lot of relationship building and sort of education, I would say. And then a lot of writing as well.

So I do a lot of writing for our comments that we submit whenever, you know, a different federal agency is trying to propose a rule change, submitting testimony. I've gotten to testify in front of Congress a couple of times so far. So preparing comments and things like that. Sometimes writing up blog posts or articles, though that not as much anymore as when I was a fellow.

And then a day out in the field, that, you know, depends on the community that I get to visit. This past year, I did a six-week-long road trip across Indian country to meet with our producers. So that took me everywhere from Alaska to Montana to Arizona. So a lot of different climates, a lot of different environments.

Sometimes I was, you know, riding around in a Jeep, going off on crazy trails as we did tours of olive groves. Sometimes it was wading through cow poop in a field in Montana so I could see what their regenerative agriculture practices looked like, or fending off mosquitoes in Alaska, because I don't know how they do it up there, but the mosquitoes are the size of dogs up in Fairbanks. And hearing about, you know, how they're doing traditional foraging or, you know, fishing. So it's a pretty cool job. I get to do a lot of different stuff and it's all in service to Indian country, so that's what makes it so great.

David: What was your best and worst moment on the job?

Lexie: Best on the job would probably be some of the incredible opportunities and meals I've gotten to have with folks. A lot of these round tables we do for work involve traditionally made foods made by Native chefs, featuring food items that are from the local producers, and getting to sit down and eat bison meatballs and different corn, beans, and squash stews, and things like that, and sit down with a producer and have them tell me all about their life story and why their operation is so important to them and their families, and how many generations back they've been going.

Probably worst day would be not wearing long sleeves in Fairbanks and getting eaten alive by mosquitoes and looking like I was doing interpretive dancing while I was trying to explain to people what the Farm Bill is and why it's important to Alaskan Native communities. That was not one of my shining moments in professionalism, but I think they understood I was an outsider, and they were kind and took pity on me.

David: Well, you're already doing really substantive stuff. So, you know, how is a law degree going to let you do more?

Lexie: Absolutely. I have been so lucky in this job because I have so many mentors around me who are attorneys working in the field of federal Indian law and Native food and agriculture law and policy. However, at some point, I'm sure they would love for me to not have to call and ask for their advice about something. Having a legal training that lets me know how a particular piece of legislation needs to be worded in order to have the impact it needs to on the ground to actually help producers in the way I want it to is something that I need a formal legal training around.

You know, it's one thing to be able to take stories from the field and turn it into something that legislators can really get behind and tugs at the heartstrings and really shows them how important Native agriculture is, but if you don't have the ability to craft the legislative language in the very precise way it has to be done to target Indian communities, that's a problem. That's where there's a disconnect and that's where a formal legal education and going to law school is going to make me that much more of a better advocate for the communities I'm hoping to serve.

David: Well, you have a really developed motivation. How did you end up shaping your background and your motivation into a coherent application? I guess what I'm really asking is, what did you write your essays about?

Lexie: Yeah, absolutely. So I took my personal statement and diversity statement in a little bit different directions. My personal statement really focuses on what it means to be a Native American woman and to be a Native American woman wanting to do food and ag law and policy, whereas my diversity statement was about my experience as a survivor of domestic and sexual violence in college and how I use that experience to help me essentially be more empathetic and how it helps me in my work and how I can use my experience as a survivor to try and create better policy to help folks who are survivors of other traumas, so that hopefully it won't happen again. So that's what I did.

David: Yeah. I feel like most people would've been tempted to flip-flop those. I just feel like, like my first instinct is, you know, your identity as a Native woman sounds like a diversity statement, and being a survivor and being motivated to help other survivors sounds like a personal statement. So how did you settle on this allocation of the story?

Lexie: Absolutely. Well, I knew I didn't want my identity as a Native woman to be just a box that's checked, a, you know, something like, oh, this is a diverse candidate coming in. She identifies as American Indian, she meets this core demographic that perhaps we're trying to target in her admissions decisions, versus being a survivor, I know that I do not have it in me to go specifically into domestic violence and sexual assault survivor type of law.

I know that that's not a field that I can work in. It's work that's incredibly important, and the people who can do it, like, more power to them, but where I see myself having impact is in tribal communities, doing this food policy, which is what I'm passionate about, and frankly, what I have the mental, emotional, physical capacity to be able to deal with right now. So that was sort of my reasoning for flip-flopping the two. Plus I had a lot more to say about my identity as a Native woman than my identity as a survivor, which is one facet of me, whereas being Native is who I am.

David: Would you feel comfortable reading us any portion of your essay?

Lexie: Yeah, absolutely. Which one would you like to hear?

David: I'd love to hear the personal statement.

Lexie: Sure. Okay. In Indian country, we don't ask where you come from. We ask from whom you come, because we care more about your relation to others than your zip code. Most non-Native Americans I meet like to ask the former, and my answer is always longer than they'd usually expect. As an army brat, my family and I have always lived wherever the military sends us. I was born and raised in Germany for nearly 16 years and graduated from high school in Puyallup, Washington. I attended the University of Chicago in Illinois, interned in Washington, DC, and worked remotely from my grandparents' home in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Yet I wouldn't say that I'm from any of those places.

David: That's great. And you don't have to read the whole thing, but just walk us through what happens next.

Lexie: Yeah, absolutely. So just talking a little bit about what I was speaking to earlier about being too German for the American kids, too American for the German kids growing up, and then throwing out the whole being Native American, and the American kids would be like, "Oh, you don't, you know, you don't look like the pictures of the Indians in our textbooks," or "Aren't they all dead?" And then the German kids would want to play cowboys and Indians with me.

So there's a lot of misinformation around what it means to be Native and about whether we even still exist today, which we absolutely do. And just growing up around the military and how that really instilled in me a sense of service, and how I was able to turn that sense of service into something that I wanted to do for my community and, you know, not just my tribe, although I hope that what I do impacts members of my tribe, but Indian country more widely.

I talk about my, one of my ancestors, my five-times great-grandmother who survived the Trail of Tears and how, because she was able to survive, I'm able to be here today and I'm able to be able to do this work and to serve Indian country. And so one of the things that's fundamental to being Chahta, which is the Choctaw word for Choctaw, is that we have a mission to honor our ancestors and to make the world a better place for our descendants, and so choosing to honor my five-times great-grandmother's history and her survival by choosing to do this work, to make sure that the type of starvation that our communities faced on the Trail of Tears, that that's never something that we have to go through again. And, you know, that's really what's inspired me to go into law and why I specifically want to work in food and agriculture law.

David: So did you know all of this before you started writing, and writing was a process of distilling that into words? Or did you figure some of this out as you wrote?

Lexie: Yeah, I think the story has always been there, and I knew what kind of work I wanted to do before writing my essays, but I think finding a way to tie together all of these seemingly very disparate places and very, you know, disparate aspects of my identity and, you know, the type of work that I want to do, and probably not a whole lot of people graduate from UChicago and are like, yeah, I want to work in agriculture. So trying to be able to show the connection between all of these different things.

And it just took a lot of asking questions about how one thing led to another in my life, and at that point, the story was very clearly laid out. Every decision that I had made or that the universe had made on my behalf, it led very naturally into the next thing. And that's, it was just a matter of finding the right words to convey that story. And that's where the essay came from, after many, many rewrites.

David: How many rewrites?

Lexie: Oh, I want to say the general outline and the core values about myself that I wanted to share, that only took one or two times to get it done. But I would say probably between six and eight, going through figuring out the right words I wanted to say. I tend to use far too many commas and like a lot of run-on sentences, so cutting those back, you know, that took a couple more times as well, but it didn't take too many in the grand scheme of things, but more than, say, my entrance essay for UChicago, which I somehow did in like two takes. I don't know how.

David: Did your other essays, like the diversity statement, take as many drafts?

Lexie: Diversity statement took a lot longer. It was a really difficult topic to write about, but one that I still felt I needed to share in order to really give myself sort of the credit for what I had gone through, and to be able to show that even though all of this was going on during my time in school, that I was still a great student, that I was still doing all of these, you know, extracurriculars, that I was still, you know, focusing on giving to others and focusing on service to others rather than just shutting down, which is also a perfectly appropriate response to trauma, but I wanted to be able to show how that wasn't something that happened.

And it took, that one took a lot more even just to decide, you know, what did I want to write about for the diversity statement, knowing that I didn't want to just, you know, duplicate what was in the personal statement.

David: Yeah. Are you proud of what you ended up with?

Lexie: Oh, incredibly. Yeah. Anytime someone is interested in applying to law school and hints that maybe wanting to read my essays, I'm happy to send them a copy. I think, you know, looking back on them a year after having written them, they're still great pieces. They're still, they still really tell my story and a safe version of my story, and so I'm always happy to share them with folks. And I think, yeah, it's, I think they were great. I did a good job and I've got to pat myself on the back for that one.

David: Would you be willing to share the first paragraph of your diversity statement?

Lexie: Yeah, absolutely. So in my third year of college, I was working for Illinois State Senator Kwame Raoul when two advocates visited his office, looking for a senator to introduce their group's sexual assault survivors' bill of rights to the legislature. Instead, they found me. As they described the length survivors currently had to go to in order to receive justice, I reflected on why I had decided to not report my own year of sexual assault and emotional abuse.

David: So it's a sort of a frame story.

Lexie: Yeah. It's, it was, I want to say almost a year exactly after I'd gotten out of that relationship. When these two advocates came to our office, I was the only one in the office, and, you know, they were looking for the senator and they found me, and really wanting to introduce the sexual assault survivors' bill of rights, and hearing, you know, what other survivors had gone through, knowing what my own experience was like, you know, having been a survivor in the DeVos, you know, Title IX era, I just knew that barriers that I faced as being someone who was in a very privileged position when all of this happened to me could only be even more insurmountable for people who didn't have the same privilege.

So I, you know, listened to their spiel, I collected all of their one-pagers and takeaways and leave-behinds and everything, scanned them all in to the senator, and wrote up an email saying that, you know, I wish that something like this had existed a year ago, because I wasn't brave enough to tell my story then, but I'd like to tell my story to you now in the hopes that you will be a sponsor of this bill, which he ultimately was. And then when, a year later, he became attorney general for Illinois, it was under his office that they were responsible for actually implementing the various policies that fell under the survivors' bill of rights.

So even though I didn't necessarily get direct justice for what I had gone through in college, I was still able to contribute to a wider sense of justice for other survivors throughout the state of Illinois, and, in my mind, that was enough for me.

David: Yeah, that's a, I'm really heartened that it ended that way.

Lexie: It was definitely terrifying to send that all in an email to a state senator, but ultimately it worked out and he was the lead sponsor for the bill and it passed.

David: Is all of that in your DS?

Lexie: Yes.

David: So let's talk about another happy ending. What was the upshot of your applications to law school?

Lexie: Absolutely. So I ended up applying to, let me think about this, I think 13 schools. I was, I think, admitted to seven and waitlisted at six, and I will be heading off to Yale Law School this fall. So that was the final decision.

David: Yay!

Lexie: Woo! I'm very excited about it.

David: When do you move?

Lexie: In about two weeks, actually. So.

David: Good for you.

Lexie: Move up to New Haven.

David: Well, I've got some pizza recommendations for you.

Lexie: Apparently, that's the big thing up there, is there's a lot of debate around the pizza, so I'll happily take those recommendations later.

David: Yes, it's a debate that I, when I was there in college, I played out nearly every week.

Lexie: That's good to know. Yeah, in Chicago, they had very strong opinions about deep dish as well, so I feel like I'll fit right in.

David: Well, I will actually also be interested to hear where you come out on. The New Haven pizza is sort of antithetical to Chicago's deep dish.

Lexie: It is. I mean, Chicago pizza really is its own institution. Some would even say it shouldn't be considered pizza. I would say that's blasphemous because I love Chicago deep-dish pizza, but I am excited to try the New Haven varieties, even if they aren't possibly as good as Lou Malnati's. I'm just going to go ahead and throw it out there.

David: I do know Lou Malnati's too. Well, I'm sure that experiencing both sides of the pizza debate is also going to make you a better lawyer.

Lexie: I hope so, yes. Have to examine all the evidence before coming to any sort of conclusions.

David: Well, Lexie, thanks so much for sharing some of your story with us, and a huge, huge congratulations.

Lexie: Thank you. I really appreciate having a chance to come and speak and tell you a little bit about my experience and hopefully inspire some other folks to shoot their shot and apply to whatever dream school they have.

J.Y.: Hi there. It's J.Y. again. Thanks for listening. If you're interested in applying for the 7Sage 7K Scholarship, head on over to 7Sage.com/7K-scholarship. That's numeral 7, the letter K, hyphen, scholarship. I'll also add a link in the show notes. Applications for 2023 will open in January.

If you're studying for the LSAT, applying to law school, or prepping for the bar exam, head on over to 7Sage.com. We can help.

That's it for this episode. Take care of yourself, and see you next time.


Comment on this

Transcript

J.Y.: Hello, and welcome to the 7Sage podcast. I'm J.Y. Ping, and on today's episode, David talks to two consultants and an LSAT tutor about deferrals. Well, sort of. So here's the thing. They were supposed to talk about deferrals and they did, but then it turned out that 7Sage consultant Taj used to be a private chef for NBA players, and Jake tours the world in search of the perfect brisket, and Ben is teaching second-graders how to make galettes before he starts Harvard Law. So they wound up talking about the kind of stuff you might do if you defer law school. Anyhow, it's a good conversation, and I think you'll learn something about law school admissions. Enjoy.

David: Ben, I love summer camps. I am like a longtime camper and counselor. What's the deal with your summer camp?

Ben: So this one is in this town of Crestone, Colorado, which is about an hour away from where I live in Alamosa, but it's basically run by AmeriCorps members, so people serving a year of national service through a nonprofit called Alpine Achievers Initiative. So there are three to four of us every day that have essentially complete discretion to run whatever kind of program we want with about, you know, 12 to 15 first- through fifth-graders.

So we've been doing, the theme is connection. So, you know, something different every week, food or, this week is nature, we had an art week. So it's been really fun. I've been, I got the kids to make homemade galettes like last week. You know, most of them didn't know how to pronounce the word when we started, and they're pretty good cooks. It's been fun.

David: That's so fun. So that's the main activity for everybody.

Ben: I mean, there've been all sorts of activities, but yeah, that's, I mean, I run food, so I do all the lunches and I get them to, you know, really it's just less work for me so that I make them work for their food, but I have them make pizzas and galettes and all sorts of fun stuff.

David: That's cool. Do you have a cooking background?

Ben: Somewhat. My mom is a, like, semiprofessional. She's been working as a cook and a chef for a really long time, and when I was home for one summer, I cooked something on the Great British baking show every day with my mom, so it was like a new, a new challenge every day, and so now I have a few different things under my belt.

David: Taj is also a semiprofessional, really, a professional cook. She has like nine jobs before. Short-order cook.

Tajira: It's true. I was a private chef for NBA players for some years.

David: Wait, I didn't know that!

Jacob: Wait, for real?

Tajira: Yeah.

Jacob: Okay, the podcast is changing now.

Tajira: I thought you guys knew that part.

David: Are you serious, Taj?

Tajira: Yeah.

David: You have lived so many incredible lives.

Tajira: I just do what's fun.

David: Can we stay on this for a second? So how many clients did you have? Was this a full-time job? Did you like live there? Did you go there every day? How much are you cooking for an NBA player?

Tajira: It was part-time. It was actually while I was in law school. So I was living in LA, I was doing the evening program, and when I let go of my full-time job in insurance, I picked up some law jobs and things, but those didn't pay well, so I also picked up some side things. And I was living with a girl who was dating an NBA player, and he was the first person I cooked for.

And then I started staging for some others and cooked for a few families. I can't say who, obviously, but yes, it would be full weeks' worth of meals, loading up their fridge, just doing the things. Everybody in the house had different dietary restrictions, you know, so it was like trying to make sure everybody was covered, sometimes wives and girlfriends.

David: Do you remember—

Jacob: Not wives and girlfriends for the same house, right?

Tajira: Uh-huh.

David: Do you remember, I don't know, like a decade ago now, I'm so old, I've lost all track of time, but when, you know, Michael Phelps was in the winter Olympics, I feel like every day, NBC, I think it was NBC, did a special about what he ate for breakfast, which was by far like my favorite part of the Olympics, because it was like 13 eggs, six omelets, four blueberry pancakes with sandwiches stacked on top. It was like that Beauty and the Beast song where Gaston is like bragging about how much he eats. Was it like that with the NBA players?

Tajira: Yes, because they had to have high-protein, high-carb diets because they were in the midst of like training or doing whatever. A lot of times the wives would be on like something completely different, kind of like, I guess what we would call keto now, but it used to be called like Atkins, and, you know, everybody was dealing with something else, or you'd find someone that's like, oh, well, I'm doing like a macrobiotics thing, and then I'd have to go research what that meant.

So it just depends, but that was the private side. And then, as David knows, more recently, some friends of mine opened a wine bar that has a full restaurant and they needed a chef for a while. So I stepped in for about two months last year and was their cook there.

David: This is fascinating. Let's get started, because it also transitions into what Ben is doing right now. So...

Tajira: Awesome.

David: A little late. So I'm David. I'm a partner at 7Sage. I'm joined by Taj McCoy, former director of admissions at Berkeley, former insurance adjuster, didn't know that either. Former private chef for NBA players. Also with Ben McAnally. Ben, did I get your last name right?

Ben: Yes.

David: All right. I nailed it. Slam dunk. So Ben is a 7Sage tutor, also a chef, also a camp counselor. And I'm here with Jacob Baska. Jacob, can you give us like the fun fact now?

Jacob: Oh, sure. So, right. So my cooking thing. So barbecue aficionado, which means semi-pro, right. So the out plan I always have is that if something goes sideways professionally, we'll just open up the brisket and ribs and pulled-pork truck and just boogie outta here. And we've also checked out the barbecue scene in like Auckland, New Zealand, Vancouver, British Columbia, again, in case things go sideways and we need to skedaddle. There's a need for good old-fashioned American barbecue, and a couple good markets internationally, and so we've already, we've scoped that out.

Tajira: Awesome.

David: Nice. What was your favorite barbecue?

Jacob: Oh, man. You know, to go off, a little off-kilter, so my main things are brisket, ribs, pulled pork. The best I've had, though, is in Seoul. So some barbecue in Seoul, but American barbecue, and so just to see the ways that it gets filtered through different cultural lenses is really amazing. And, I mean, at the end of the day, just getting some ribs is always satisfying, especially in places where you don't expect it.

David: Right. And what I didn't mention, perhaps least importantly, Jake is also the former director of admissions at—

Jacob: In a former life, yes.

Tajira: I was just going to say really offhand, Jake, my parents and I, we usually go to the Best of the West BBQ Rib Cook-Off every year in Sparks, Nevada. You guys should come. It's amazing. People come from Australia and all over the world. It's incredible.

Jacob: Oh man. Yeah, that's, my wife and I have all these food- and drink-based vacations lined up for once the kids get a little older, you know, so that's on the radar.

David: Maybe we'll have a 7Sage summit meeting there.

Tajira: That would be amazing.

David: Ben, I wanted to ask you about your cooking and counseling because I think that you have something else lined up. You're going to Harvard Law School in 2023, and you got in early through Harvard's Junior Deferral Program. Is that right?

Ben: Yes, that's right.

David: So I wanted to talk today, not just about barbecue and cooking, although that is much more fun. I did want to talk about deferring law school, and I want to start by asking you, Ben, to tell us about Harvard's program. How do you apply? Who's it for? Why should people consider it?

Ben: Yeah, so the program is geared toward people finishing their junior year in undergrad. So the idea is for some sort of nontraditional students basically having at least one more year of college ahead of you, and you apply, it looks like the deadline next year, I just checked, it's probably going to be April 1st, and you apply. It's not rolling admissions like most law school admissions. There's a single deadline. You do have to take the LSAT, and you have to take it early, and there's, you know, some rec letters, an essay, standard things, but then you actually hear back sort of mid to late summer, I think July 1st.

And then you sort of go into a senior year of college knowing that you have a law school admission. The catch or the bonus, depending on how you think about it, is you have to take a two-year, or get to take, at least in my opinion, it's certainly get to take, a two-year deferral between college and law school where you don't have to worry about taking LSAT or, you know, recommendation letters from people who barely remember your name or something like that, and then get to go after that. So that's the basic pitch of the program.

David: And why is it a bonus, in your opinion, to take two years between college and law school?

Ben: In my opinion, it's this really wonderful gift that's actually twofold. I think the first is it helps to take some time between undergrad and law school for a few different reasons. I actually worked with a group of Junior Deferral Program students to write a series of blog posts for HLS admissions office and was trying to gather together people of who sort of fit into different categories of why somebody might want to do this.

And the categories I found were some people just want to see if law school's really for them, right, and confirm, and so they work at a law firm or in, you know, some sort of legal adjacent or related field. Some people want to get extra experience outside of direct law in whatever area they want to go into. So somebody worked for basically undergraduate college doing minority admissions work, right, because that's what they eventually want to do in a legal field. So they worked in an adjacent area. Somebody wanted to get basically experience, a ton of experience, working really hard and making some money before law school, and so they went and did management consulting.

And I think those are three of, you know, three pretty standard categories for why people are in this program and do deferrals in general. And then there was me, which was like a total sort of left-field card. I'm not doing anything related, at least this year, to what I plan to do later on. It was just get out into the broader world, slow down, swerve, and build some, in David Brooks' words, eulogy rather than resume virtues. Some things that are just sort of broadly applicable to life rather than law school admissions.

And I think the beauty of having a deferral program like this is you don't have to build a resume in the intervening two years, because, one, it's probably not going to show up the next time you apply to anything anyway, and so it gives you an excuse to do something you might not otherwise have the courage to do.

David: I like that distinction between resume virtues and eulogy virtues. Tell us more about how you've been using your time and how you've been building up the eulogy virtues.

Ben: Yeah, I actually heard that distinction for the first time at a keynote address in DC. I was about halfway through a two-month road trip around the country after graduating, basically just living out of my car, and I heard David Brooks give this address and he was basically making a pitch for people graduating college not to immediately jump into their future careers, the argument being the actual career window is getting longer.

People are able to work later into life because of, you know, improvements in healthcare, and the expectations are not that you're committed to one sort of career track for the rest of your life, and that a lot of these things that people are looking for are not things, you know, employers and just life, you know, people in your life in general are not really looking for things that you can get just staying on one track.

And so actually at that point, I had just gotten an offer from my dream law firm, this boutique federal appellate litigation firm in DC, to do this two-year fellowship, and it was sorely, sorely tempting, and David Brooks at first, generally, talking with him briefly afterward, directly told me don't do that. That's a bad idea. You're wasting time partially because of, you know, opportunity cost, and partially just because, you know, if you want to work at a law firm and you're sure that you want to go to law school and work in a legal field, and I do, that you should really do something else before you go to law school and build some other kinds of things.

So I chose to go do this AmeriCorps position in Southern Colorado. I, during the academic year, was working with second-graders doing academic interventions, and the reason that I chose that is because I'm doing this collaborative storytelling project, which is a whole side passion project of mine. But now I'm running a summer camp, as David briefly mentioned, and cook for 12 every day, and I'm teaching kids how to make fun pastries and food. Also cleaning up a lot of child messes and opening juice cartons and fun stuff like that.

David: Yeah. The Capri Suns are really difficult. We could do like a master's program in that. To aim it, and you like, you always pierce the back.

Ben: Exactly. I've become kind of a pro, if I do say so myself.

David: I believe it. I believe, you're a man of many talents. Actually, I want to go back to the storytelling project, but let's put it on hold. We'll focus on deferrals for a second. I'm interested to hear about the collaborative storytelling project. But turning to our former admissions professionals, and also, of course, food professionals, do we have a sense whether Harvard's JDP program is more or less competitive than, you know, applying through the regular channel? And I'm also just wondering, you know, why a school would offer a program like this. What's the advantage from an admissions perspective?

Jacob: Yeah. So, you know, to jump in on that one, at least per Harvard's website, they try to make it pretty clear that it is no more or less competitive to do the JDP versus regular admission. I think it's still a reasonably new enough program where we don't have enough of a track record on that, though I'll let Taj jump in with her two cents on that one, but you know why a school would do this?

Because it's an opportunity to lock in some amazing students and have the bonus of them getting that experience for a couple years, that it's never a problem to see students come right through from undergrad, but there is that missed lived-in experience because you're going to go into a law school environment where it's a Socratic educational process, and having lived-in experience, having professional experience, having a variety of different backgrounds to contribute to those conversations is really beneficial to the larger educational process.

But it can be hard to tell people, go do something, go work for a little bit, then come back, if they have that feeling over their shoulder of am I putting myself at a disadvantage if I go to work for a little bit of time? I know they're telling me to do this, but do they really mean it? So it gives students this guarantee of, or this blessing, hey, we'll see you in two years' time, go do something out in the world. And as Ben mentioned, the variety of backgrounds and experiences these students are accumulating, that's only going to enrich the Harvard educational experience, which is already a pretty rich experience.

David: Taj, do they really mean it when admissions officers tell you to go get experience before you apply? Because, of course, that's the other way that you can unofficially defer law school, simply by just actually deferring your application.

Tajira: Sure. You know, the fun thing about this particular program is I think it kind of gives folks the opportunity of, instead of applying and going straight through, I want you to apply, I want you to show me what a great candidate you are right now, and I want you to also show me that you're mature enough to sign on to this and guarantee that you're going to go get experience. It's a really smart program because it takes those folks that would otherwise be trying to go straight through and funnels them to go get experience first instead.

And I like that about this. I think, you know, in terms of this versus the folks who apply and then ultimately request deferral, the processes are a bit different because, for some schools, deferral is, there's some hurdles that you have to overcome to get to a yes on deferral otherwise. But for this, it's a planned thing.

It doesn't surprise me that their acceptance rate for the JDP program would be similar to their acceptance rate in the rest of their program. I think that's what most schools would try to do even with their early decision programs as well. So that's pretty standard. And so, in my mind, I think this particular program is actually quite brilliant because where some schools, you can tell that they lean towards candidates that have experience, and you can tell that based on their average age, here, they're giving folks the opportunity by kind of building it into a program and just getting those folks to go out there and get that experience. And it's like it's their idea.

David: Let's go to something else you said. You mentioned that there are hurdles for folks who ask for a deferral after their acceptance. What are those hurdles and how do you get to a yes if you've already been accepted and you want a deferral?

Tajira: That's a great question. As you know, I've worked at five different law schools, and so at each one, the deferral process has been a little bit different. For the most recent law school where I actually helped to manage the deferral process was at Berkeley. Typically we had people submit a form. The primary reasons why we would approve a deferral request was if someone was either completing another graduate degree program and they needed another year, maybe they were being deployed by the military, maybe they were a Rhodes Scholar and had another year of fellowship or something like that.

Typically there had to be some sort of a major reason. It couldn't just be, I just want to gain a year of experience. For that, we would tend to stress to applicants that you need to apply in the year that you actually intend to enroll. And so it depends. For other schools, because maybe they've overenrolled, they offer to everybody. There are some schools that will offer the opportunity to defer to folks who are on the waitlist, in a way to kind of begin building their class early. And so it depends on the strategy of each school that offers deferrals.

I found where some schools, they really don't want to offer deferrals because they don't want people to try to tag along their scholarship money because sometimes scholarship can be deferred also. And so there's a lot of moving parts to consider. It's also knowing that if you offer that deferral, that's one less seat you get to offer in the next cycle and your goals are going to be different in that next cycle. So a lot of times, senior admissions officials tend to be careful and cautious with how many deferrals they're going to offer, simply because from year to year, your goals change and you've got to be prepared for that.

David: Jacob, talk to us about deferrals at Notre Dame or deferrals in your experience.

Jacob: Yeah. To drill down specifically into what we did and to build off what Taj said, I think that we were probably at the more liberal end of matters because anyone who works in admissions long enough, I mean, you just run into so many different cases where the plans change, life intervenes, in whatever way, shape, or form. So we would have students who were fully committed to enrolling at Notre Dame Law School, and then a health issue would pop up or a family issue would pop up. They would find out that they were three months pregnant and were scheduled to have a baby halfway during 1L year, which, children are a blessing, but maybe not during 1L year.

We twice had students win their state competition for Miss America, and so they deferred for a year. Oh, it gets better. They deferred for a year to compete in Miss America, which is right around Labor Day. And then they both won, and then neither of them actually attended Notre Dame Law School. So, you know, so life comes in between everything from the personal health and tragedies to Miss America, and the tragedy being not enrolling in Notre Dame Law School.

But we treated this, we would often have conversations with students about whether it would be more appropriate to defer or to reapply, and the usual logic flow we would have is, are you sure you want to come to Notre Dame, but you just need to go take care of something else for a year, in which case postponing or deferring is going to be the better course of action. We'll lock you in, we'll also lock in your scholarship, you're good to go, and we'll see you in the next year. Or are you kind of wavering about Notre Dame? You want to leave your options open to test the waters again, or it may be a two-year thing or a three-year thing.

So perhaps you just gained admission to a PhD program. Or we had one student, Notre Dame being Notre Dame, we had one student who wanted to consider a vocation to the priesthood and he wanted to postpone by a year, but based on my knowledge of the seminary, it is more akin to a PhD program where you may find out in a year it's not a good fit. You may not find until three, four, five years down the road. So is it a one-year thing? Are you sure you're coming to Notre Dame? And if not either of those things, you may just want to reapply in the following cycle.

So, but other schools, like Taj mentioned, they may guarantee admission, but they may reconsider you for scholarship. Or, from our standpoint, because we were considering this to be a definite attendance, if we're locking you and the expectation is you aren't applying to other law schools, and if that changes, let us know so that you can then reapply for us as well. Where other schools are very open with students who postpone, allowing them to apply to any and all other schools, it's really important, if a student finds himself in early July and a life issue has arisen, to have that conversation with the law school where they're currently deposited to make sure they fully understand what the policies may be.

David: Did either of you ever grant multiyear deferrals?

Jacob: So we did a two-year for Teach For America, and that was the exception because TFA, since it was, we knew it was going to be a two-year commitment, we were willing to do that one.

Tajira: I also did one for a two-year master's program.

David: What's to stop a student from accepting a deferral and then just reapplying anyway?

Jacob: Ethics, morals. No, no, no, no. So, at the end of the day, if a student were to tell us, hey, I'm postponing a year, and then apply to other schools and cancel, there's nothing that we could do to stop that, other than potentially file a misconduct with LSAC, because we would have a student fill out a form to say, I'm not going to apply to other schools, and if I change my mind on that, I'll notify you. But do you really want to file a misconduct with LSAC about this one?

Really, so it depends on the school, and it depends on the nature of the case, and it depends on the conversations with the student, but we really encourage our students to be open with us, and we would be open with them about our policies. And if they determine this is the right road to go down, then here are our expectations. And if things change for you, just keep us in the conversation.

Tajira: I think it's also a matter of, you know, for us at some of the schools where we offer deferrals, we offer only binding deferrals versus, you know, a deferral where it's clear that, you know, if they decide they want to retake the LSAT and try again next year across the board, or try again for more scholarship or whatever the case may be, that they can do that. The risk that a candidate runs if they apply, request a binding deferral, and get one is if they then step out of bounds, they run the risk of having admissions rescinded. And I've seen that happen at multiple schools.

I've seen where the person applied to one school, that school notified the school where the person had the binding admission, they got rescinded from both. And so, you know, it's, this is an industry where everybody knows everybody, and schools, as much as you want to think that we're all in competition all of the time, we actually are very collegial and we believe in the integrity of this process and we uphold it together, and so it's important to note that.

David: Okay. Well, let's say that I apply, and Taj, you accept me to Berkeley, and Jacob, you accept me to Notre Dame. And then I, you know, decide that I want to go cook galettes for the kiddies with Ben for a year, maybe two years. And so I tell both of you, actually, you know what? I'm going to reapply. I have to rethink this. If I reapply, are my chances worse the next year? I mean, I've already burned you once. Are you guys worried that I'll burn you again?

Jacob: That's not a problem. So for folks who reapply, and we see a lot of this conversation on social media and we run into this with our clients who are reapplying. Gosh, is this a problem? No, but it's probably something you want to address on your application for the next time around, because not only is this the second time that you're applying, but you've already been admitted. You've already heard our best sales pitch, right? We've already put you in touch with alumni for networking and with faculty to find out about classes and our current students. You've heard everything.

So at this point, you know, we always say that a "why school X" statement is kind of softly required. For those students who are reapplying, it's really required. Why this time around is this the right time to go to law school? From going through this entire yield process, application and yield process, are you sure that we're still a really good fit for you, et cetera? And if the student can really address that directly, there's no problem at all. If they leave that to the side, though, in the admissions committee room, that will be a question. Gosh, so why, what happened two years ago? What's changed in the meantime and why are we still a good fit for them now?

David: I see. How many, I don't know if you can tell me this, or I'm sure it changes from year to year, but how many deferrals are you guys typically granting? This is a big secret?

Tajira: I can't speak for the last few years at Berkeley, but in years past, it would be probably close to about the same number of people that are admitted to the early decision program. So about 10% of the class that's intended to come in.

David: That's a big number. That's bigger than I expected. What percent would you estimate requested a deferral and wouldn't get one?

Tajira: Because the process is very kind of clear and requires a form, there weren't a ton of people who were denied a deferral request, of the folks that actually made the request.

David: That's helpful. All right. Well, any other thoughts about deferrals? Anything else that our listeners should know about deferrals before we turn to collaborative storytelling?

Jacob: The reason why, so my microphone was on mute when Taj started laughing, but I was laughing too, is I think we need to differentiate between two things in a topic we haven't really discussed, and not to open a can of worms before collaborative storytelling, but in a "normal" admissions year, how many natural deferrals are there? Every school has their number, and it's going to range between a handful to, like Taj mentioned, maybe 10%, maybe a little bit more than that.

But the last two years have been really interesting in admission, and one strategy that schools can pursue if they find that they are overdeposited is to encourage students to postpone for a year by increasing scholarship if they postpone. And so these are, we need to differentiate between a student-driven postponement versus an administrative postponement.

In cases like that, it's because kind of like when you show up at the airport and too many people have shown up for the flight and they need to encourage people to take another flight, we've seen schools go down that road too, and that's probably affected numbers of postponements drastically, because if a school typically enrolls 200 students and they're sitting at 250 deposits on June 1st, after a second deposit deadline, they need to bring that number down. They may not literally have enough seats in the different lecture rooms to hold those students. And so their postponements going into the next cycle may be a little bit bigger because they were inducing students to delay a year.

David: And that happened last cycle, right?

Jacob: It's happening this cycle, according to social media. Yeah. And in a lot of those cases, schools will be pretty up-front about that. They'll reach out to students. The question will be, do they do it after the initial deposit deadline? Do they do it after the second deposit deadline? Schools have different policies and they have different strategies to pursue that. And much like airlines sometimes, they lock you in if you accept the first offer. Some schools have been pretty up-front to tell students, if we have to increase our offer down the road and you've already accepted it, we'll come back to you to give you the offer that we gave to the latest folks to take it, et cetera. So, yeah, it's been out there.

David: Ben, bring us home. Tell us about the collaborative storytelling project and give us a glimpse of what our listeners might do if they defer.

Ben: Yeah, absolutely. I want to make one tiny note before I do that about the HLS Junior Deferral Program, that similar to what sounds like a lot of other deferral programs, you do sign a commitment not to apply to other schools while you hold that deferral, but it's also not binding. You aren't committed to attend the school, right? But you're committed to, say, if you choose not to attend, or if you choose to apply to another school, you're expected to let them know, right, rescind your admission, and you're able to reapply.

And my understanding is that reapplication isn't, you know, questioned or frowned upon, with a small caveat that if you reapply your senior year, and I am not a representative of HLS's admissions department, so take this with a grain of salt, and you can confirm if this sounds plausible, Taj and Jacob, but there's this question, you know, you've made this whole pitch for why you're so committed to deferring for two years, right, and then if you follow it up and say, actually, I want to go right after college just because now I know I can get in, there's this sort of asterisk on your application. Well, okay, was that first commitment disingenuous or did something really meaningfully change?

Jacob: That seems pretty logical, and it sounds like you are a sharp enough person where you should consider attending Harvard Law School in the future.

Ben: Yeah, yeah. So for collaborative storytelling, this has been something that I've done for a really long time. It's actually part of my personal statements for both undergrad and law school. They both open basically with me playing imaginary games with my brother as a kid. That was one of the things that was most central to all of my formative experiences, that my brother and I and, you know, friends that we pulled in on occasion just lived in lots of different imaginary worlds, and that as I've grown up, I've realized that that process of telling a story with other people is pretty crucial for building narrative capacity when you're growing up, building this capacity for self-authorship as an adult, and then meaningfully engaging with and becoming involved in a community.

And, you know, as I transition toward the political theory, which is where I'm going next year, the body politic, right? So my law school personal statement basically made this connection between this collaborative storytelling platform that I've been building for a few years called Istoria. It's designed to basically get parents and young children talking and telling stories together, get these kids, get these kids to engage in what I call the five Cs, curiosity, communication, compassion, critical thinking, and then creativity, all sort of building on each other, and then getting the parents to actually imagine and engage in this sort of fun process that makes you take yourself a little less seriously. I actually think it's really valuable for the parents as well.

That is actually really similar to, in many ways, what we're trying to do with the system of laws that, I reference Dworkin's famous _Law's Empire_, where he argues that the proper role of a judge is to take part in the collective authorship of what he calls a chain novel, that what you're doing when you're writing a legal decision is you're participating in this story that we're all telling together about our institution of laws. And my argument in that essay, and moving forward with other writing that I've done, is that basically it's a very particular and very important kind of story that we tell with our law. It's one where we cannot help but be its characters, and so that we'd better tell that story well, and we'd better tell it inclusively and collectively.

So I've been spending a bunch of time this summer now playing D&D with 10-year-olds, which has been super fun, and next year I'm going to be doing a master's in political and legal theory and doing the nerdier, more boring side of that. But I've been really enjoying building, basically, these stories for 6- to 8-year-olds, and then actually engaging in this process with these kids in the summer camp as well, to see if I can prove this theory that I have.

David: I love it. Well, a couple of us are writers. I'm a writer, Taj is a writer too. Jake, you're probably a writer too. I have no idea. But thanks for making it feel important, what we're doing. I didn't know that we were shaping the body politic.

Ben: You know, at least that's what I'm telling myself I'm doing. I think it would be, yeah, it's a good story, and it lets me combine, you know, two of my passions into one. If I can see federal appellate litigation, my hopeful future career, as a particular kind of storytelling, I'm much more excited about it and compelled by becoming involved with it rather than having to compartmentalize self for career and vocation.

David: All right. Well, Ben, thanks so much for talking to us. Jacob, Taj, thanks for joining us. Ben, you probably have a lunch to cook for a bunch of hungry people. It was a pleasure. This was a really informative discussion. Thanks, everyone.

Jacob: Happy to be here.

Tajira: Thanks so much.

J.Y.: Hi, it's J.Y. again. Thank you for listening. As always, if you are 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.


Comment on this

Subscribe to our podcast:
iTunes (Apple Podcasts) | Google Play Music | SoundCloud

Transcript

Elizabeth: If your goal is to apply into a matriculating law school and you're at this webinar right now and you're planning ahead, no, you shouldn't be looking for that March 1st deadline as when to submit. Most schools do some version of a rolling admission, so the earlier, the better in making sure that you have the most options available for admission and for scholarship.

J.Y.: Hello, and welcome to the 7Sage podcast. I'm J.Y. Ping, and on today's episode, the 7Sage admissions consulting team talk about the basics of admissions. You'll hear from a number of our consultants speaking from their experience as former admissions officers on various components of the application package and process. This conversation was recorded live, so towards the end, you'll hear Q&A from the audience. Without further ado, please enjoy.

David: Hello, everyone. Welcome to the webinar. I'm so glad you're here. If you don't know me, I'm David. I'm a partner at 7Sage, and I am joined by four illustrious colleagues, and I'm going to let each of you introduce yourselves. So, Tajira, can you start us off?

Tajira: I'm happy to. Hello, everyone. My name is Tajira McCoy. I also go by Taj. I am one of the admissions consultants. I'm also one of the program managers behind the scenes. Previously, I've worked at UC Berkeley as the director of admissions and scholarship programs, University of San Francisco as a director of career services, and others all over the country over the course of about 12 years. And I'm happy to be here. And I will pass the baton now to my colleague Jake.

Jake: Hi, everyone. I'm Jake Baska. Formerly, prior to joining the 7Sage team where I'm now a consultant, I worked as director of admissions and financial aid at Notre Dame Law School, and prior to that, I worked in undergraduate admissions at Notre Dame, primarily with international students, mostly from East Asia. So glad to see a lot of my clients jump on board who are based in China and Korea. So, welcome to this podcast tomorrow morning, as opposed to this evening here in the States. And now I'll turn it over to Elizabeth.

Elizabeth: Hi, everyone. I'm Elizabeth Cavallari. Prior to working with 7Sage, I was the senior assistant dean for admission at William and Mary Law School, and then I have another seven years of experience in undergraduate and then just general graduate school admissions. I'm happy to be here and talk to you about law admissions 101.

Tracy: I think that leaves me, Tracy Simmons. So I'm currently the assistant dean for admissions diversity initiatives and financial aid at the University of San Diego School of Law. Prior to that, I worked at the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law, Chapman University School of Law, and Golden Gate University School of Law. And so I've been doing this work for about 22 years or so, and I'm super excited to engage with my colleagues and also to help demystify the process a little bit. Welcome.

David: Well, thanks so much for joining all of us. Tonight's program is called Admissions 101, and we're just going to go over the basics of admissions. And I want to start by talking about the difference between the numbers and what some people call the soft factors. Could any of you, I'll just lob this in the air. Could any of you explain the difference between, you know, numbers and soft factors and how important each one is?

Jake: Man, that's the million-dollar question, right? That's the one that gets things moving on message boards. I tend to look at it as the numbers are the things that you can see on an Excel spreadsheet, and they're instructive because a GPA and an LSAT does have predictive validity for first-year law school success. It's not a perfect validity, but it has some validity. But it doesn't tell us who you are as a person, and it doesn't tell us your professional background, your legal interests, what you would bring to the class, what you would bring to the discussion, what you want to pursue postgrad, why you would be a good fit at this law school, or maybe not a good fit at this law school.

That's where everything else in that application comes into play, all those soft factors like the resume, but in the written pieces, but then also all the biographic and demographic information that goes into the application, all those questions that you wonder, why are they asking me about, am I a veteran, and do I have veterans benefits, and do I have this, this, and this? Well, it's because law schools care about having a diverse class, including people who maybe have served in the military, and they want to know, hey, do you have educational benefits that can help you pay for law school?

Or why are they asking about where I want to practice postgrad? Well, maybe because they're interested to hear where you want to go. Is that somewhere where we tend to go? Can we hook you up with some alumni if we admit you? Things like that, that's where all those soft factors come into play on your application.

David: That was super helpful. So, to be clear, I think that everyone knows, and I'm wondering if this is true, that your LSAT score and your GPA score probably matter more than anything else. Would you agree with that, Jake or anyone else?

Jake: I'll softly go. It's almost like getting a ticket into the game, but then once you're in the game, you still need to compete. And people who may statistically are outside those target parameters, there are still going to be people who are admitted who are below the medians, right? Otherwise the medians would be higher. Those people tend to excel on those soft factors.

David: Right. Another way to think of it, if you're in the middle of studying for the LSAT, is that a GPA that hits the median or an LSAT score that hits the median is usually, but not always, a necessary condition, aka it's not quite a necessary condition, but it's a necessary-ish condition. And then maybe the soft factors are a sufficient condition. It's not enough to have good numbers.

Tracy: Can I just jump in real quick, David? I would just, I would add that I think part of the issue is that the soft factors kind of help round out the picture. I think that, you know, Jake started with the idea of an Excel spreadsheet, and so the reality is that we've all done this for a long time and we could easily just put all our candidates in a spreadsheet and just say that, based on correlation data and based on historical data for our institutions, that we could just pick all these folks kind of top middle and just say they'll probably do okay.

But the reality is that what we know is that there are a number of reasons why people are successful and unsuccessful in law school, and so all those other factors that we're asking about in the application, things that you might put on a resume, things that you might put in a diversity or adversity statement, things that you talk about in your personal statement, will really kind of help us get an understanding of things like grit and tenacity and your work ethic and your ability to, you know, accept feedback and make adjustments and things of that nature.

And so I think it's really important to be thoughtful about the things that the law schools are asking, because when you're looking at certain schools, they're getting tons of applicants with the same exact profile numerically. And so that doesn't mean they have that many seats available, though. And so what are the things that they're going to use to help make a decision about how they shape their class?

We are creating and crafting a community, and so who do we want to be part of the community? We want veterans. We want single parents. We want folks who are third-generation attorneys, and we want folks who are first-generation college students, and we want women, and we want folks that identify as, you know, transgender and other things of that nature, because we know the law is not black and white.

The nuances of who you are through those soft factors will help create a much more robust conversation in the classroom, but ultimately will lead us to really creating a legal framework and a profession that really is reflective of our society.

Tajira: And I think it's important to note also that for those who happen to fall below the median, it doesn't mean that you're out of the game. The other soft factors can still help you knock it out of the park. And so it's really a matter of putting together the full package to make sure that you're putting every effort into the application, not just certain pieces.

David: Elizabeth, can you tell us when we should apply and how much the timing matters?

Elizabeth: So I always say apply when your application is the strongest, and that has a caveat, right? We want you to apply early. So I think earlier in the process, it does give you more options. However, there are some times that I think it's important for people to apply a little bit later, if there's kind of some difference in numbers.

So if you started off with a little bit of a lower GPA and it's been strong and continuing to go up and you're a college senior, and the fall of your senior year, you're going to have this stellar GPA and it's going to bring your numbers up a little bit over those schools' medians, I would actually say that's a better time to apply than applying early and then updating your transcript, because when you're getting that first review of the application, it's with your best foot and your strongest foot forward. However, if everything's already in place, I would say the earlier the better, but often it is weighing when's the earliest I could apply with my best possible application?

David: That's really helpful. Is it ever too late? I mean, are you naive and foolish if you, you know, apply when the application is officially about to close, at the deadline?

Elizabeth: If your goal is to apply into a matriculating law school and you're at this webinar right now and you're planning ahead, no, you shouldn't be looking for that March 1st deadline as when to submit. Most schools do some version of a rolling admission, so the earlier, the better in making sure that you have the most options available for admission and for scholarship.

Jake: If I can briefly add onto that. You can go read success stories of people who applied at the deadline and got into a great school and got a great scholarship. Those are the needles in the haystack. And we all sat in that committee room where we needed that one last student, hit this statistical profile and we're looking for these other characteristics, and, oh my goodness, this student applied on the last day. That is atypical.

You do, as Elizabeth noted, you want to apply when you can put your best foot forward, and if you're planning things out, applying in the fall certainly is more advantageous despite the random story you'll read from someone who got into Harvard, applying on the deadline, and isn't that amazing? I assure you, they were the needle in the haystack.

David: Taj, can you tell us a little bit about letters of recommendation? I mean, who should you be asking for these letters from?

Tajira: Well, I think it's always important to make sure that if, when possible, you're including academic letters, because you are applying to professional schools. You have to remember that admissions committees often have several faculty members. Faculty respects faculty. They want to be able to picture you in the classroom. They want to get a sense of how you're going to be involved on campus. They want to get a sense of how you're going to interact with your peers.

It's extremely important to have those particular letters because it gives us a window into how you're going to be a student on our campus as well. And so if you're within five years of law school or undergrad, excuse me, then that's going to be something that most schools will push for. Some schools outright require it. And so that's something that you've got to consider.

In those instances when you haven't kept in touch with professors, now's a good time to start reaching out, to start asking for like a Zoom coffee date where you give them an update on what's been going on with you. You ask them very kindly, you know, would you be able to write a positive letter of recommendation on my behalf? You want to make sure that you stress that for law school admissions specifically, admissions officers are looking for concrete, substantive examples, not just summative statements.

And so it's important to make sure that they are not just saying this person is extremely detail-oriented. They're giving you the "how" as well; the meat has to be with potatoes. And so you want to make sure that in these letters, we're really looking to get a sense of, a big-picture view of how you are as a student.

Similarly, for professional letters, you know, we're looking for substance over title. It does not matter who the president of the company is or who the highest titled person is. What we want to know is the person that worked closely with you that can attest to your professional demeanor, your work ethic, how you worked with other people, your proactivity, those are the things that we're trying to glean when it comes to your professional letter.

It's really important to make sure that you're not focused on getting, you know, that number one person. Instead, it's really about the people that can give you the very best substantive letter.

David: Tracy, what would you say to the applicant who's been out of school for a long time and just can't wrestle up a letter from a professor?

Tracy: The first thing I would say is that you need to pay close attention to the instructions from the institution that you're applying to, because there are some law schools that are really, really, really focused on academic letters for the reasons that Tajira just stated, because it's an academic program.

But the reality is that, you know, we understand for many candidates, for a variety of reasons, they're no longer in touch with those professors because it's been five plus years, et cetera. And so in that instance, I would say that you still want people who can focus on the same exact skillset that you just heard about, all the things that basically allude to your ability to be successful in a very competitive environment.

Your work ethic, your professionalism, your ability to accept feedback and adjust accordingly, your ability to tackle hard things and learn new concepts and things of that nature. And so in that instance, it's ideal to get something from a supervisor, get a letter of rec from a supervisor, not a peer, and because that's not the same. You want someone that basically was in a position to evaluate your work.

That's what we're really looking for, the professors on our committees, that's what they're looking for. Someone who can basically say, here's where I saw this person improve. Here's where this person started and why they were promoted. Here's how this person tackled this huge issue that we had in our company, and I expect they will be able to do the same thing in law school. And so I think it's really important to just, you know, strategize and think critically about who can be your best advocate in that kind of workspace, because, again, these letters of recommendation are just a reflection of an academic letter. They're just coming from a different person.

The last point I'll make here is that I do think that it is very similar to what you just heard about the title of the person, though. I think people fall into a really bad trap of thinking that the title of the person is somehow going to overshadow the substance of the letter, and it's really, really, really important that you be thoughtful about who can actually get in the weeds about your work, and how you work, and really describe who you are as a person, as someone who wants to learn and grow and develop. And, you know, those skills are going to be the same, whether it's coming from a professor or teaching assistant versus a supervisor. And so I think it's just important to be thoughtful and creative about who you ask and, you know, give them time to actually write and craft a really good letter on your behalf.

David: That was very helpful. I'm going to turn to the Elizabeths and the Jakes when I ask about resumes now. So just tell us what the point of a resume in a law school application is. I mean, you're not applying to a job, are you?

Elizabeth: You're not applying for a job, but you're entering into a profession, and what your background and experiences are not only helps enrich your law school class you're thinking about entering, but also provides experiences when you're going out into the workforce three years after graduation.

So, for me, the resume is a really good snapshot of how people spend their time, and people can do that in a variety of different ways. Not everyone has a linear path to law school. So some people's resumes read very much like, I wanted to go to law school since high school, and here's how I've planned it all out. Others meander a little bit, and you're able to see how their experiences have kind of helped them focus what their intentions are, and potentially sets them up for writing in their personal statement why one of these experiences helped them get to law school.

If you're coming right from undergrad, I want to see that you've been involved and active, being a leader in some way, shape, or form. If you're coming right from a professional experience, the quality and the type of work you were doing, so while you're not applying for a job necessarily, we do look at all of that to see who you might be in the classroom and how you'd be involved in our community.

Jake: Yeah, and to expand on that, and as Tracy mentioned earlier, we want to enroll a diverse law school class. The law touches on so many aspects of society. It's good to enroll students who have an accounting background who want to go into tax law and students who have a STEM background and want to go into intellectual property or cybersecurity. It's great to have people who've worked in policy and government on one side of the fence, and on the other side of the fence and at the state, local, federal levels, et cetera.

So, in the best interest of enrolling that diverse class, we want to see what people have been doing. We also want to get a sense of that leadership capability too, because lawyers typically are the future leaders of those local, state, and federal government offices. Additionally, if we go back to the stats and we talk about, hey, where do the soft factors come into play, one question I would ask our admissions committee back in the day for a really compelling student with a really strong resume but with lower stats would be this.

There's going to be a bottom 10% of the graduating class GPA-wise three years from now. There's going to be a bottom quarter to the class. If this student's stats are predictive and they are in that bottom 10%, that bottom 25%, are they still adding to this class significantly for the next three years because of their professional background, their leadership background, all these other skills, and per this resume, we are absolutely confident that they're going to get a job after graduation. And if we can answer that really affirmatively, that helps those students who are in that statistical area in the applicant pool.

David: I'll open this up to anyone. Can you give us a couple dos and don'ts for a law school resume?

Tracy: My immediate, like, knee-jerk reaction was please be thoughtful about listing high school information.

David: Make sure you list it?

Tracy: No, the opposite. Please do not, period. Now, I say that with the caveat, because I want people to understand that what we're not trying to do is we're not trying to discriminate against people who literally have not been able to be involved or engaged on campus because they had to work throughout undergrad to put themselves through school, and so maybe their only activities in sports and things like that were in high school.

We understand that, but this is where your work experience will become really important, and so you list the hours that you were working while you were in college, and that will kind of indicate to us that you weren't able to participate in a fraternity, or the business club, or the college Republicans, or things of that nature, because you just didn't have the time to do that. But I really do think it's a misstep to include high school information at this stage because you're applying to professional school, and so, you know, it's just something to be thoughtful about.

The last point I'll make here, David, is that I do have another caveat and that's for the folks who may have started college when they were in high school, and we have those young geniuses out there who were 14, 15, 16, taking college courses, and they're done by 18. We know that happens, and so in those instances, obviously, you need to list the chronological order of things, but for the most part, the majority of candidates applying to law school just generally should stay away from high school information.

Tajira: I would add as a don't, a lot of times we have these resumes where you can tell the candidate has taken great pains to stick to that one-page resume to their detriment. They have cut out all kinds of experience and relevant extracurriculars, leadership roles, and things that are very, very important to us that we need to see.

Don't assume that because something is not law-related, that it's not relevant, and make sure that if a school says that they accept a resume that's somewhere between one and three pages, you can go onto that second page comfortably and stop worrying that you're creating too much work for us. You're making us work harder if we can't find the information that we need. And so if you give it to us up front, it makes it so much easier for us to really consider the full big picture and have a clear big picture as we're making these decisions.

David: Well, we have many more questions about resumes, and we are going to have a Q&A at the end of this, but for now, I really want to keep going with our sprint and talk about the next, maybe the biggest single component of the application that you're responsible for after you take the LSAT, the personal statement. For anyone who wants to speak up, tell us in a nutshell what you're usually trying to do in the personal statement and how the admissions office uses it.

Jake: This is the really key component after those stats, because this is really your opportunity to introduce yourself. We are going to start going through the biographical and demographic information, your name, your hometown, parent information. I had some committee members who had cell phone or area codes memorized, so they would know like, oh, hey, the student is applying from Florida, but they have a 317 phone number. Oh, that means they're actually from Indianapolis. Okay, they're kind of close to Notre Dame.

We're building this image of you, but it's not until we get to the personal statement and then the subsequent written pieces that you are actually communicating to us who you are. You are introducing yourself to us, and so we put a lot of emphasis on that in the committee room. I think the main questions that we're trying to address through the entirety of the application are, who are you, why law school, and why us? And you don't need to address all those questions on the personal statement, but you want to keep in mind through the course of your entire application, how are you communicating that to us?

So if the "why law?" isn't as obvious from your resume and your background, you may want to talk about that a little bit. So for those of you who are maybe coming from the performing arts, or I saw a couple veterans throw Q&As on there, certainly there are aspects of the law that touch on those professional areas, but we see that a little less than students coming from poli sci, government, history, English. So having that "why law?" is going to be really important.

And also having that feel for who you are so that when we get to those letters of recommendation that we were talking about earlier, what we hear about you from those professors or those managers aligns with the image we've created of you from all of your written pieces. So it's really weird when you read from the letter writers, this is the funniest person, I know they're so jovial, they bring a ray of sunshine, but the written pieces are so serious and sad. Like, who are these people? So those are the main things I try to encourage applicants to keep in mind: who are you, why law, why us? And then where's the best place to communicate that to us, particularly with that eye towards a personal statement.

David: Elizabeth, to, I don't know, the nearest third decimal point, what percentage of the personal statement should be professional and what percent should be purely personal?

Elizabeth: I can't really give a percentage. I mean, it depends, and I feel like we give that answer a lot. It really does depend on the individual applicant and kind of what their story is. I mean, I think a lot of it, in the personal statement, should be personal, because this is the one chance we get to hear your voice. The rest of the application, we're looking at your numbers, your transcript, we're hearing about you through letters of recommendation, we read a resume, but you don't really get to articulate who you are necessarily through that.

But there is a point where a personal statement can get too personal. So having someone look it over and make sure that you're coming across as someone who's ready to join the legal profession, even if you're sharing something difficult, as Jake was saying, we want to know why law somewhere, but it's also the part in the application we really get to hear about who you are, what makes you tick, and why we should admit you.

David: I will say, having, you know, worked with a number of applicants, one very common and very effective pattern is to try to find a turning point in your life and to tell a story that begins before that turning point, that encompasses the turning point, and then tells us briefly what you learned or how it changed you. And then if the turning point was not about why you want to be a lawyer, and it's perfectly fine if it is, you usually, or at least you may want to pivot to law in the last paragraph. You may want to say how this lesson is going to prepare you for your career as a lawyer.

That is not the only way to write a personal statement, but I think it's a very useful framework because it forces you to tell a narrative about yourself, and that's probably the best way to communicate your personality. For Tracy or Taj or, really, any of you, can you give us a few dos and a few don'ts for the personal statement? Might be easier to say the don'ts?

Tracy: There's so many. I mean, this is such, you know, I saw Jake when he started and I giggled because I was like, I know we as admissions folks can talk about this literally for, like you could spend a whole session, meaning a whole full-day session, just on personal statements, because there's a lot of misinformation out there and there's a lot of really bad information and advice out there.

A couple quick ones so we can turn to Taj. One, I think the important thing to remember is that this is the one big chance you have in the application process to really use your voice. And I think that, you know, part of the problem and challenge for us as admissions professionals is exactly what Jake alluded to in terms of us trying to kind of get to know you and building this, we're building the story in terms of who you are by where you went to undergrad and what you focused on and how many times you changed majors and where you worked or didn't work and things of that nature.

And I think that people forget that the personal statement is, it is a writing sample, but it really is a chance for you to tell us who you are outside of just your numbers. And I think that oftentimes it's underutilized in a lot of different ways. I would also note that I think it's important that you be thoughtful about how your personal statement fits into the narrative of your entire application.

I really don't think people spend enough time kind of strategizing about how to think through what they want to communicate with their personal statement as it relates to the resume, the transcripts, the letter recommendation choices and adversity statement, diversity statement, optional essay, et cetera, assuming that you're applying in a state that you can submit those other things. And so I think that, strategically, I think that this could be a powerful tool.

And I'm not saying that what David said earlier about the LSAT score and GPA being super, super important, it is not true, because it is very, very true, but this is where, when we have room, particularly early on in the process when we're not so wedded to, like, I still got 200-something seats left, this is where the folks who are splitters, the folks who maybe a couple number, one of the numbers is not as close to the median as some of us would prefer for, you know, ensuring success in law school, this is where that statement can really make a difference.

And then my last point before turning to Taj is that I think there's some misinformation out there about the fact that these personal statements need to be somehow like sorrowful, or like a woe is me, or it has to be that you tell the story of like death and dying and things of that nature, and it's just not true. If you have lived a life that has been pretty pleasant and things have come together for you and you had a good family and a good upbringing, and you've known for a while that you wanted to go to law school and you've kind of played your cards right, and all these things fell together, that is okay. We want those people in law school too.

So I think that misinformation about the fact that if you don't write a story about how hard your struggles have been, that you're not going to get in, I have seen it on the internet, it is not true. And trust us, after you read a couple hundred applications, you really are looking for these bright spots. I want to find some happy people who have been blessed enough to make it this far without having to overcome a lot of tragedy, and kudos to all the folks who've overcome tragedy and to get here.

But for those of you who don't have a down-on-your-luck story, you're going to be just fine, and you're going to write a great personal statement that is indicative of who you are and how successful you'll ultimately be, and we are excited to read your statements too.

Tajira: And I would just say, you know, the alternative or the opposite of that, for those of you that do have kind of those stories, don't be afraid to share, and don't worry about someone else having a story that might be similar to yours. There are so many candidates that are constantly worried, well, what if I say the exact same thing as other people? My story is no different. It's different because it's yours and that's what makes the difference. Tracy and I could have the exact same background, have gone to the exact same schools, have done the exact same things, but how we tell our story is going to be different, and so you need not worry about that piece, okay?

When it comes to don'ts, I really hate quotes, and I know most of my colleagues are smiling because they do too. The honest truth is, you know, Aristotle, sure, profound, great. If it's not relevant, it's not relevant. Don't include it. It's just taking up extra space in something that's supposed to be about you. Now, if it's a quote that happens to be your mantra, what gets you through the day, then that is something that I would like to know. But if it's just randomly put there to be profound, don't do it.

If you are looking to kind of try to make a splash in some way, understand that things that stand out a lot from everybody else's often is not taken well. You know, if you're trying to have some really funny narrative and it's not quite hitting the mark, or if you're trying to do things in verse or, you don't really need to do all of that. Really, what we're trying to do at the end of the day is we're really trying to get to know who you are, and you don't need to use your personal statement to address things about your application that you perceive to be weaknesses.

That's what addenda are for, and leave that to those documents, because this is supposed to be about your strength. This is where we introduce ourselves to each other and get to know you. You don't need to go straight towards, well, my GPA wasn't what it was supposed to be. You're using space that you didn't need to use for that if you're doing it in your personal statement. I think those are my big ones. As Tracy said, we really could go all day specifically on this subject, but personal statements are important. It's your introduction, it's your opening statements for your case where you're advocating on your own behalf.

Tracy: Can I add one quick thing, David? Just to follow up, to repeat something. It shouldn't be a regurgitation of your resume. And so, again, this is where the strategy comes in. It requires that you be very thoughtful and about what you're putting together and how you're pulling together. For those of us that require a resume, for those that suggest it, FYI, a suggestion is like, consider it like a requirement, don't regurgitate what's already there because, again, you're wasting an opportunity to use your voice in the space to convey why you're a good fit for that law school and why they're a good fit for you.

David: All right. Well, let's move on. And this is for, you know, anyone. Elizabeth, Jake, if you want to speak up, go ahead. What's a diversity statement? Because I noticed that a lot of applications don't actually say the word diversity statement. So is it real? And if it's real, what is it and what's it for?

Jake: So, hey, Elizabeth, if I can take this one, because at Notre Dame, we did not call it a diversity statement explicitly. For most schools, again, we've hit on this point a couple times that schools want a broadly diverse class, and that's for any number of reasons: to serve the American general public, which is an incredibly diverse populace, to build that future leadership group for America.

But also, let's go back to the classroom. It's a Socratic learning environment where you are fleshing out shades of gray in case studies, and it's incredibly valuable to have different voices in the room. And so what voice are you going to add to the class? And what we found over the years at Notre Dame was that if we called something a diversity statement, a lot of our applicants would just gloss over that because of the thought of, if I'm Caucasian, if I'm male, if I'm heteronormative, et cetera, I have nothing to contribute to diversity.

But then later in the application, we'd find out they're the first in their family to go to college. They grew up on a farm and, you know, had to get up at four in the morning every morning to put in labor on the farm, or we find out on the resume they've been in the military for a couple years. You know, we find out all these things that they could really contribute to the conversation in the classroom, but they didn't think that we wanted to hear about it.

And so we reframed our question to be more encompassing, to say, hey, what's the voice you're going to add to the class? I offer that anecdote because every school has a different prompt on the diversity statement, but I think essentially we're all trying to get, all the different law schools, kind of at that same question: who are you? What's your background? How are you going to make the class better? How are you going to improve the conversation?

And so if you have something that you can point to, it's really great to learn about that through your application. And, as Tracy mentioned, it's more space to play with too. You don't need to go through a regurgitation of everything on your personal statement if you can then mention something in more in-depth measure on your diversity statement, because it's another page or two pages for you to play around with.

Elizabeth: And I would say along with that, for me, the diversity statement, we think about kind of quality rather than quantity in kind of producing these, so for diversity statement or whatever the school might call it, it's not required. A lot of times we say something is optional, but you should do it. The diversity statement is not that.

For me, the diversity statement or whatever a school might call it is a place where if there's something so integral to who you are that you need to include it, and we found it nowhere else on the application, that is the place to include it. So it's okay to pass on a diversity statement. I would much rather have a really, really strong personal statement than a really strong personal statement and a lukewarm diversity statement. And so the diversity statement should be additive to your application rather than kind of taking away from it.

David: Okay. So if anyone has anything else to add, just jump in. Otherwise we're going to continue with our sprint so we do have some time for Q&A. I want to talk about addenda. What's an addenda? It's a funny word. What does it mean? What's it for? What do you do with it?

Tajira: An addendum is an explanatory statement. Typically, it's used to provide context that you can't get anywhere else in the application. Often candidates will utilize space to explain something having to do with the LSAT or their GPA, they may be explaining a gap in education or employment, they may need to, they may be required to provide a character and fitness statement, or they may be trying to provide any other context.

Often addenda are utilized to explain a perceived weakness in the application. So for the LSAT, if someone's taken it a bunch of times and they're trying to provide context for why they decided to take it as many times as they did, if their score fluctuated over time, if they had a drop in GPA, if they started school and maybe they're first-gen and they have kind of a transition period when they get to school, if they decided, you know, in their first year that bio wasn't for them and that they're going to move on to poly sci or sociology.

There's all kinds of reasons why they might want to provide us with some context, and it's important that, you know, candidates do this proactively because often admissions officers don't have time to follow up with questions later on, and so this is a way for you to give us those answers up front to the questions that you think that we're going to have as we page through your application. Giving us those answers helps us to get to a favorable decision, because if we get to the end of an application with a bunch of questions, typically the answer's going to be no.

David: You know, I think of a two-question test, and I would be very happy if any of you just knocked this down and said it's a terrible idea, but I often tell applicants, you know, you should ask, first of all, does this addendum tell the admissions committee something that they would not know otherwise? And second of all, does it seem more like an explanation than an excuse?

And a really, really clear example of that is if, in your second semester of your freshman year, maybe somebody in your family was ill or something, and you were going home a lot and you were caring for your family and it put a lot of stress on you, and that semester, your GPA dipped precipitously and then went back up the next semester or in two semesters. That is sort of like the clearest, most ideal case, I think, for an addendum, because it's going to raise a question. Somebody looking at your transcript is going to say, what happened? And when you say what happened, that is an explanation. It's not an excuse.

Jake: And on the note of explanations instead of excuses, oh, sorry, Tracy, that also ties in with character and fitness, and the, I saw that we had a question a minute ago about, do I need to disclose speeding tickets? So the character and fitness questions are typically separate, but if you answer yes to them, you'd have to include additional information, which is kind of also related to this field. And similarly there, you want to provide a clear explanation of matters. What happened, what was the resolution, et cetera, as opposed to having the admissions committee try to guess.

So in the case of speeding tickets, I received two speeding tickets. One was five years ago in this location. I was pulled over for going 70 in a 55, and I paid my ticket, et cetera. The other one was last year, I was pulled over for going 45 in a 25. As opposed to, I've gotten two speeding tickets, I paid some money. Okay, what are we talking about? Was it like going 80 in a school zone with the lights flashing? Because that's bad, as opposed to going 70 in a 55 and you got pulled over and paid a hundred-dollar fine. So make sure you provide that explanation.

Tracy: I just want to jump on the test that David put forth in terms of, you know, explanation versus excuse, and I do think that Elizabeth said something that's worth repeating and it's, does this add something to your actual application? I'm going to go back to the strategy analogy. You need to think through the questions that are posed by the law school, and then look at your materials and have you answered all those questions, and then stop and think, would this committee have any additional questions for me based on what I've already put together?

And if they would, then that's when you might have to consider writing an optional essay or an addendum related to your grades or your LSAT score, et cetera. I also think that it's important to, this is where kind of the short and sweet while not being dismissive is important. Jake's example with the speeding tickets is one that you all should hang onto because I think that's a perfect example of being a little too flippant, which is not received well in our world, because this is such a big part of our profession.

And so if we ask you a question, you need to be thorough and thoughtful and provide as many details as you can. This is where a lot of candidates get themselves into trouble because they say, oh, well, my cousin who's a lawyer said I didn't have to tell you that. If the law school asked that question, you need to answer that question and provide all the information you have, because the reality is this: most people don't get into law school or get dismissed from law school because of what they did; they get dismissed or their application withdrawn or the offer is withdrawn because they fail to disclose.

And so, again, this is a judgment, it's part of the strategy. It's asking the question, it's taking advantage of a team like this who has experience in this space and asking those tough questions. But again, it's all about strategy and it's about being thoughtful and being very intentional with your language and being intentional with each tool that you're given to basically round out this picture of who you are in the application process.

David: Well, with that, I think it's time to open it up to your questions. So we see your questions that you've written out, but we really like to hear your voice. And so we are going to give priority to anyone who raises their hand, we're going to call on you, and if we get through all of those, then we will go to the Q&A, but I'm going to call on Annalise first because you were the first hand that I saw, so, welcome.

New Speaker: Thank you guys so much. First of all, this has been so helpful for a nontraditional student like myself, but speaking of, so a nontraditional student with a limited budget, would you recommend putting your limited budget into LSAT tutoring to boost your score or for admissions consulting to try and help those soft factors?

David: I'm going to take the first crack at this, actually. Look, Annalise, the LSAT matters more. I mean, that's, I really feel like that's the bottom line. Everything matters, obviously, to maximize your chances. You do not want to give anything short shrift, but at the end of the day, you know, if you're going to invest in this process, I think a dollar goes farther if it helps you get a better LSAT score. Admissions officers, you know, of course, feel free to disagree.

Jake: No. I mean, the way I usually put that to applicants is that it's not just for admission. It's also for potential scholarship too. You know, investing in that LSAT course and bumping yourself from the median to three points above the median, that may mean a difference of like $10,000 a year in scholarship. And additionally, as far as the consulting side of things goes, you're going to find a lot of, just to pick on us for right now, you're going to find a lot of resources on the 7Sage website. And also you can connect on an hourly basis with a lot of us if you have some pretty quick questions.

And although we've been very verbose this evening, we also can get right down to business. So, you know, you want to talk about, hey, how do I present myself on this application? I got one hour. My reaction is, okay, sister, let's go. Boom. And it will fly by. Okay, but we're going to make sure that we cram everything in there. Like everyone's going to be a little different. If you're practicing at a 177, okay, maybe don't invest in the LSAT prep. You're good to go. That's going to be, that's going to be pretty rare, though. That's going to be pretty rare.

Tajira: I will say there is invaluable information within the discussion forum on the 7Sage website. There are admissions consultants that are kind of trolling around looking to see if there are people who have questions that need answering. There are tutors who are trolling around, there are previous 7Sagers who've been through the full process, who've been admitted, who are still answering questions for others. There's some great resources where you can get some of those questions answered in terms of your soft factors without having to spend a dime. And so there's definitely some resources there if you want to put your money towards the LSAT first.

David: Good luck, Annalise. We're going to move on to Sophia.

New Speaker: Hi, thank you for giving me this opportunity and for everything you've been sharing with us tonight. Sorry, if you hear any noise, my sons may be making noise, but my question is the fact that I've been in the construction industry, I earned my bachelor's degree, and I've been working in that industry. However, applying to law school is very well connected with my, what I want to do for the rest of my life, but it has nothing, it's not necessarily connected to the construction industry. It's still, you know, from experiences I've had in the construction industry, but it's not exactly, you know, a construction lawyer or something like that.

Do you think that can negatively affect my application? People will think that, oh, I'm here today, tomorrow I'm there. Today I'm in construction, tomorrow I'm in, you know, I go to law school and then, do you think that might be an issue? Thank you.

Elizabeth: I can jump in here. I don't think it's an issue at all. I mean, every person comes in with a different path. I think it'd be really important in your personal statement to connect why law and why this is the right next step for you, whether it's professionally or personally you've had these experiences. And also, as you're talking, it sounds like you've had experience with lawyers in the construction field and out.

You can also then talk about this and include any of those skills that you think are relevant in your resume. So as you're reading your resume, it might not say I have a legal, a very strict legal experience, but we can pull out those really strong transferable skills in your application. We read people with all different backgrounds. One of my favorite applications I read was a nurse who wanted to go to law school, and while she didn't have any legal background prior to that, she had a really compelling reason but why law was the next step. And it was someone I was so excited to add to our law school community because her voice was going to be so different and vibrant than some of the other people that we were bringing in that year for, in admissions.

David: Well, thanks, Sophia. Good luck, and goodnight to your son. Christine, love to hear your question.

New Speaker: Okay, wonderful. Thank you guys so much. I really appreciate your time this evening. Just to give a little bit of context for my question, I'm 11 years out of undergrad. I first started planning to go to law school around 2016, and I was able to get an academic-sourced letter of recommendation back then, but, actually, I had to delay preparation for law school and taking the LSAT, et cetera, for quite a few years. I'm now ready to apply for admission for next fall. And I tried reaching out to the professor from whom I received the letter and to see if she could redate or refresh the letter so we could resubmit that through CAS.

She had, in the interim years, retired, and she said that as a general policy, she didn't provide recommendation letters anymore to any of her former students. So I'm a little worried because I do want to submit a solid academic letter of recommendation, and besides a quasi-academic letter I have from a certification program I completed after graduating, this letter is like the only one I have. So I was wondering if it were advisable to include or exclude this very dated academic LOR, and if I do, is a separate addendum explaining some of these circumstances warranted?

Tracy: I don't think you need to include it, and you definitely don't need to include any kind of explanation as to why you don't have an academic letter. If you're out 11 years, the expectation for you specifically is that you're going to have really strong professional letters.

David: Any other takes on this?

Jake: Yeah. Once you get past that five-year mark, and I think Tracy mentioned that earlier, as admissions officers, our expectation is the professional letter. And occasionally you see that faculty member who you have maintained contact with or who is still willing, and that can be valuable, but it's not expected, so don't worry about it, don't stress about it. If you have those two managers or partners you work with in a business, supervisors who can provide that feedback, that's really what admissions officers are going to be looking for. And then your resume is going to be far deeper than the majority of the applicants that they're going to see too. So in case you're worried about that, don't be.

David: All right. Well, good luck, Christine. Hi, Mary. You can ask your question.

New Speaker: Hi. So I'm wondering what are some important things to put in an early decision essay, and then how much schools pay attention to your interest in them, such as visiting in person?

Jake: That's a good one. Can I go first on that one? Okay. So early decision, at the heart of matters from an admissions standpoint, is a way to identify the students who are telling us, hey, if you admit me, I'm going to, you are my top choice clear and far away. And then from the admission standpoint, it's really useful for enrollment management purposes to be able to ID that cohort and get that cohort admitted and deposited before you move into the big chunk of your file reading later on in the winter.

So from the student standpoint, I would always advise it can be beneficial to apply early decision for a lot of schools. It can be advantageous as far as gaining admission, because again, they're going to read your application with an eye towards, they have identified us as their clear top choice.

But from a student standpoint, is it your clear top choice? If you're admitted, you're going because there was such very different financial aid and scholarship models with early decision policies from different schools, so you want to make sure you research that, and are you going to be really happy at the end of this process? Once you get that letter of admission from this school, you know in your heart of hearts you're good to go.

If you can very clearly say those things, then it can be something to look at. But again, look at that financial component because some schools guarantee certain scholarship levels if you're admitted early decision; others will give you just need-based aid later on down the road. How do you feel about that, right? And different students have different priorities on the financial component of matters versus this specific school. If I'm into this specific school, then the financial components are a moot point. So hopefully that makes sense, Mary.

David: All right. Good luck, Mary. We're going to go to Monica.

New Speaker: Hi there. Can you hear me?

David: We can.

New Speaker: Amazing. Echoing others, thank you so much for being here and giving us all this great advice. I know I am probably not the only one who's been taking a lot of notes. My question also has to do with applying early decision. I was wondering if you could talk just a little bit more about, you know, if applying early decision does hurt your financial aid chances, and if schools tend to have that information available on their websites, or if that is an information that you should call the university to talk about.

Tracy: I mean, I think, like Jake said, the big thing is that the benefit to the law school is that you're basically committing without them committing to you on the financial aid side of things. And so you basically are saying that this is your top choice and that you are willing to forgo any potential scholarship negotiation, et cetera, et cetera, by accepting this offer.

And so I think, you know, it really is a benefit-burden type conversation, a cost-benefit analysis that you have to do for yourself in terms of whether that's going to be worth it, whether you've saved enough, whether you financially are in a good place to kind of afford that, because for some candidates, while it's definitely appealing, the reality is that the opportunity to see what scholarships they are offered by other schools is a lot more alluring than maybe being wedded to this one school.

But that's a really individualized, personal, familial-type choice you have to make because there are risks. But again, there are huge benefits, because for some candidates, that may be their way into a school that later in the pool, they might not be as competitive in. And so I'll let Taj and Elizabeth and Jake say more, but I do think that that financial piece is really, really a significant part of this, and you may not find the information you're looking for on the web because they don't really have to provide it, because you're already, the instructions are clear. You are committing and generally committing to withdraw your other offers, et cetera, et cetera, by virtue of even us submitting that application.

Elizabeth: I would say, in looking at early decisions, oh, sorry, Tajira, I didn't mean to cut you off, in looking at early decisions, you want to see what schools put out there in their literature. So some schools will say right up front, like, this is your scholarship package that we'll be offering you. And generally, when a school is offering scholarship with early decision, they're looking for the stronger part of their pool. And for other schools, if they're not offering scholarship, as everyone else said, it's not guaranteed, it's likely not going to happen.

And that's where they're looking that they can take a little bit more of a chance on someone because they're not necessarily expending any merit aid that they can then expend it to other people in the process. So you're going to have to weigh, is going to this school worth it without financial aid, or is it better to kind of weigh my merit scholarship options at the end and make the best financial decision with all the opportunities given to me?

Tajira: There are very few schools that offer guaranteed scholarship for early decision programs, and that is something that is available online. You can look that up. There's only a handful of schools, though, that do it, and with that award, can you negotiate that up? Rarely. And so it's important to know, you know, if you're looking to have, I know that I need at least a half scholarship. I know that I need this much.

If you know that up front, then you want to preserve your ability to negotiate scholarship. And so that means, typically, you're not going to be applying early decision because that ability is taken away from you simply by applying early decision. And so you want to make sure that as you're thinking this through, what are your priorities? Are your priorities scholarship? Are your priorities rankings? Are your priorities just getting in?

You know, like what is it at the end of the day that you need to accomplish when you're getting into these schools? Are you hoping to have multiple offers to consider? If you apply early decision, are you going to have FOMO in thinking about the schools that you didn't hear from in time? That's a big thing, and that can follow you later on. And so if the answer is yes, early decision might not be for you, and that's okay.

You know, so it's just a matter of thinking things through and considering, you know, what are your priorities, and if money is a big one, then you may want to really research the early decision programs that do offer guaranteed scholarship and see for those schools, because it's guaranteed scholarship, the expectation is going to be likely that you're going to be above both medians.

David: Well, unfortunately, that brings us to nine o'clock, so we're out of time. I'm so sorry that there are a lot of questions here that we just don't have time to answer, but we're all going to be around on the forums. I'm going to beg everyone here to come back to the forums, to spend all night on the forums. So, please, ask your questions on the forums. We want to hear from you. We will do our best to get back to you. We'll do another one of these webinars soon.

And let me also just say that, look, I know this process is, let's be honest, horrible. I mean, first you have to live inside the LSAT for six months or however long it takes you to study, and then like you come up for air and you're like, and you're like a castaway on this island, and I mean, my metaphor is decaying, but it's like the island of the place where you have to now write a bunch of essays about yourself.

But, if this is any reassurance, I want to also tell you that the instructions on applications are very good. You will get so far by just following those instructions. Schools really, really say what they mean. There is not another secret set of instructions that you have to know about. You don't have to do the secret handshake and slip somebody a 20 to get the real dirt on what to do.

Follow the instructions, and when in doubt, just step back and, I think, Jacob, you're the one who said this, try to convey who you are, why you want to be a lawyer, why you want to go to this school in particular, and think about what you might uniquely contribute to the school. That's basically your job. All of these essays are different ways of getting at those questions. So, all of you, good luck. You can do it, and I hope to see you on the forums. Thank you so much.

J.Y.: Hi, it's J.Y. again. Thank you for listening. As always, if you are 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.


Comment on this

Transcript

J.Y.: Hello, and welcome to the 7Sage podcast. I'm J.Y. Ping, and on today's episode, I'm joined by David Busis for a crash course on the Writing section of the LSAT. Yep, you heard me right. We're going to talk about this unscored and much-neglected section.

David, whom you might know from the numerous admissions-related content we release here, is, and this you might not know, is a published writer. His works have appeared in _The New York Times_, _The Wall Street Journal_, and _The Atlantic_, plus he took the LSAT and was admitted to Yale and Harvard, just to name-drop a little, but seriously, I think he is in a far better position than me to teach how to write the essays that you'll have to write for the Writing section.

In this short episode, David and I first talk about what the Writing section is, whether it actually matters to your applications, and then we analyze a real LSAT Writing prompt and construct a response essay, illustrating the principles he teaches. Okay, let's jump right in.

Today, we're going to talk about LSAT Writing, and to start off, maybe tell us a bit about what the LSAT Writing is and whether it matters, because this is not something that I cover a lot in the curriculum, mostly because it's not a scored section of the test, but I think that's probably not fair to the section.

David: Well, I would say that it's half fair. I mean, look, it does not matter as much as the rest of the LSAT, but it matters enough. You should take it seriously and you should study a little bit for it, especially now. The landscape has totally changed because LSAT now allows you to take it asynchronously. So you can take your LSAT without even thinking about LSAT Writing, and then you can go home and treat yourself to, you know, a celebratory dinner.

And then the next day, guess what? You get to study for something else, but you don't have to study much. You can study for LSAT Writing for four, five days, less, maybe three days, and take it after the regular LSATs and do it justice by studying for it. In the old days, you had to take LSAT Writing right after you took the timed test, which means that if you wanted to study for it, you would've had to take time away from the LSAT. So there's not much of an opportunity cost anymore to studying for it. That's what I'm trying to say.

J.Y.: I see, but why study for it at all if it's not scored?

David: Well, it's a good question. It's a valid question. It's not scored, but it does go to every single law school admissions office, and so everybody who reads your application will be able to look at LSAT Writing.

Now, the truth is many of them won't look at it. We did an informal survey. We asked our own former law school admissions officers, and then some former law school admissions officers that have been on our webinar, whether they read LSAT Writing, and to be honest, many of them said that they rarely look at it or that they only sometimes look at it.

But if you look at it the other way, about 70% of them said they look at it at least occasionally, and a good 20% usually look at it. So I just don't think that it's a good bet to hope that they won't read it. It's actually, it's sort of like Pascal's wager. Are you familiar with Pascal's wager?

J.Y.: About the existence of God?

David: Yeah, exactly.

J.Y.: Just in case. Just in case, right?

David: That's right. You want to live piously just in case, because it's just a pretty bad bet to live as if he doesn't exist. Well, you know, same thing with LSAT Writing. Like it's just, it's a pretty bad bet to live your life as if no one's going to read LSAT Writing. They might not, but what do you have to lose? You have to lose, I don't know, couple hours of study time, and you have a lot to gain. Or maybe a more realistic way of putting it is that you actually have a lot to lose if you don't study for it.

The LSAT Writing is one of those things that can probably do more harm than good. You're not going to make up for a bad LSAT score with a great LSAT Writing sample. Maybe it'll inch your admissions reader a little closer to a yes if you write a fantastic sample. But I think the real danger is that they read it and they're not impressed, and it makes it easier for them to say no, because admissions readers in general are just looking for reasons to say no. So if you study for it, you can take away one potential reason for them to say no.

J.Y.: Gotcha. Okay, well, then let's talk a bit more about what's actually on the LSAT Writing. Is there some, like, general format that the test writers follow when they create these things?

David: Yeah. It's actually super mechanical, which is another reason why you should study for it because you don't have to read many of them to understand it. LSAT Writing starts to feel a lot like a Logic Game. It's a writing game, so it always starts with a choice. Somebody has to choose between one of two options. You know, Flo has to choose between tacos and pizza for dinner. A beer brewer has to choose between opening a production brewery or a small, little brew pub.

And then you always get two criteria. Here are two ways that we're going to decide which choice is better. Flo wants her meal to be delicious, and Flo wants to be heart healthy. And finally, you get two paragraphs of information, one paragraph for each choice. So there's a paragraph of information about tacos, and there's a paragraph of information about pizza in our tacos versus pizza example.

Every sentence of that paragraph is a fact that you can interpret as a pro or con by looking at the criteria. It's a 35-minute test altogether and you'll type it on your own computer. I think that's important to know.

J.Y.: So we're always presented with two choices and we're asked to make an argument for one or the other of the two choices.

David: That's right. I should have said that at the beginning. It's a persuasive essay.

J.Y.: I see. And you are making the argument, there are kind of guardrails, right? Like you're guided along based on the criteria that they present.

David: That's right. So in our pizza versus taco essay, you're not going to impress anyone by saying you should do tacos because Shaquille O'Neal likes tacos better. Well, so what? Like you have to refer to the criteria. You have to say, Flo, according to the facts, Flo thinks that guacamole is delicious, and one of her criteria is that she wants to enjoy her meal, so she's likely to enjoy it if it includes guacamole.

J.Y.: Right. So the fact paragraph about option one, tacos, are going to contain some facts that either are pro or anti whatever criteria that they laid out for you. And the same is going to be true with the pizza paragraph facts.

David: Yeah. And in these, they're usually pretty unambiguous, by which I mean it's usually pretty hard to interpret any given sentence both ways. Most of them have facts that are like pretty obviously a pro or pretty obviously a con, but sometimes it's hard.

J.Y.: So you're telling me I can't get this wrong.

David: Yeah. I mean, you can always argue creatively, right? LSAC doesn't provide an answer key. I'm just saying it's probably going to be pretty clear to you how to use most of the facts, but yeah, occasionally, you'll be able to use a fact to argue either for or against an option.

J.Y.: Okay, I see. Great. So now I think I have a general idea of what this task is. Now, in Logic Games, we use a lot of repetitive templates, game boards. Is there something like that for this task?

David: I think the analogy is just choosing the structure beforehand. I did a couple of these LSAT Writings to prepare for an LSAT Writing lesson. To be honest, I was pretty cocky. I thought I was hot stuff, I thought I was a pretty good writer, and it was actually much harder than I thought to write a cogent, compelling essay in 35 minutes, especially when I tried to figure out the structure on the fly.

So I would advise you to practice, I mean, take the test once without constraining yourself to a structure, but then review it and try to apply a structure. And I had the most luck when I applied a really dead simple, pretty obvious structure. I would always state my position in one sentence, that was the thesis of the essay, Flo should order tacos.

J.Y.: Right. And you do want to be very definitive.

David: You do want to be definitive.

J.Y.: Option one, not option two.

David: That's right. Obviously, there's no right answer here. You'll almost always be able to easily argue for either side, which can be a pitfall. If you're a waffler, it may be hard to decide. So I would advise you just to choose what you feel is more compelling, and if you don't have a feeling, just choose the second option. It's the second one you'll read, it'll be a little bit fresher in your mind.

But I always started with a one-sentence statement of my position, and then my next paragraph was just a pro. I would argue for my side. I wouldn't really try to compare it to the other side. I would just extol all the virtues of my side. I would basically walk through the paragraph about my choice and just try to spin every sentence into, you know, a more compelling argument that this best fulfills the criteria.

And then in the next paragraph, I would usually acknowledge a seeming strength of the other choice, and then I would knock it down. It's true that pizza is also tasty, but it's so unhealthy that Flo can't enjoy her meal if she's worried about an imminent coronary event. And then you just walk through the facts about pizza, or the other side, and you say why it's a losing choice, why it fails all of the criteria.

And then even though I advise you to do a one-sentence intro, I would spend a couple sentences on the conclusion. I think it is a pretty good chance to say something memorable and sum up or shore up your arguments in case you were still figuring out what you were trying to say as you wrote.

J.Y.: Okay, so it sounds like at the end of following this template, this structure, you would've used up all the facts in both of the paragraphs, the facts for your side. You highlight the pro facts and then you talk them up, and then you transition into your second paragraph where you're trying to, you know, talk down the other choice. And again, you do that by looking at the facts, identifying the ones that seem to be arguing against it. You just highlight those. And then even the ones that are for that second choice, that other choice that you didn't pick, you know, you try to minimize those facts.

David: Yeah. When I was practicing, I would typically touch on most of the facts. I wouldn't always touch on all of them. I don't think that you're going to get a deduction for failing to use a certain fact. I really doubt that any admissions officer's going to go through with a clipboard and make sure you touched each one.

J.Y.: Okay, great. So this sounds like we have a template for how not to get rejected from law school on the basis of your LSAT Writing sample.

David: Yeah, I think that's the goal. Right? Just don't screw it up. It's not a high bar, but again, it's worth practicing. It can be a little trickier than it may seem. It is sometimes hard to complete the essay in 35 minutes.

J.Y.: Yeah. I think that's really important, just the time pressure and, you know, having to both structure your argument and to add meat to the bones, to write it out can be daunting under the time constraint, so it's a good idea to practice. Now I see what you mean when you said it probably takes, you know, just a few hours, nothing like actually comparing, studying, rather, for Logical Reasoning or Reading Comp. This is probably something you can get done in like several, maybe 10 hours of prep.

David: I don't think you even need 10 hours. You know, nothing bad will happen, obviously, if you study for 10 hours, but I really think if you take at least three practice essays, you're going to hit your stride. And more importantly, you'll have a better sense of what it takes to get to the end of the essay with hopefully a little bit of time to revise, just so that you can spell-check and make sure that you don't have any glaring typos.

J.Y.: Right, right. With that, how about you and I look through an actual writing prompt and we'll try to apply, try to apply this simple, that simple structure.

David: Sure, yeah.

J.Y.: Let's look at, from PrepTest 79, the LSAT Writing prompt. It's about Stonewall Construction. So I'm going to read. It's pretty short. I'll read it out, and David, you can take it apart and apply the template that we talked about.

David: Sure.

J.Y.: Okay, so Stonewall Construction is deciding which of two upcoming construction projects to bid on. One of them is resurfacing Hilltop Road or expanding, the other one is expanding Carlene Boulevard. Since Stonewall cannot fulfill both contracts at the same time and bids constitute binding commitments, Stonewall can only bid on one of them. Using the facts below, write an essay in which you argue for bidding on one project over the other based on the following two criteria.

One is that Stonewall wants to enhance its reputation among potential clients. Two, Stonewall wants to increase its capacity to take on bigger projects. Okay, so maybe let's pause here, and David, can you analyze what we've read so far?

David: Yeah. I think one reason it helps to practice a few of these is to learn where you can read quickly and where you should slow down. I think you can usually read that first sentence, the setup, very quickly. It doesn't usually have much substantial information. It just sort of has the labels of the two choices.

So, at this point, if you're reading through it the first time, you really only have to lodge two things in your mind. One choice is Hilltop Road, the other choice is Carlene Boulevard. Very soon, we'll figure out what each of those choices entail, but for now, just pull those out of the fairly verbose setup and then look at the criteria again. And those you do want to try to hold in your mind as you go on to read the facts. So again, the first criterion is that Stonewall wants to enhance its reputation, and the second one is that it wants to increase its capacity to take on large projects.

J.Y.: Great. So now, looking ahead, I see just two more paragraphs, and each paragraph is a set of facts about one or the other of the projects. So the first paragraph says, the Hilltop Road resurfacing is a small project. The potential profit is relatively low. With Stonewall's experience, resources, it is almost certain to win the contract and is highly likely to finish on time and within budget. Stonewall has an established reputation for finishing projects on time and within budget.

Stonewall has specialized in small projects. Construction firms specializing in small projects find it increasingly difficult over time to win contracts for bigger projects. If the project is completed under budget, Stonewall will keep the extra money. If it is over budget, Stonewall must cover the additional costs. Stonewall will use any extra money to purchase additional heavy equipment. Okay. So that was a lot of facts, and I feel like I wasn't even paying that much attention as I was reading it.

David: Yeah. And let me just say that it does feel a little overwhelming the first time you read through this, but even though it's a fast exam, like all the other sections, I think it certainly pays off to take your time and be very patient as you work your way through all this information. I tended to spend about 10 minutes processing this, and then spend the other 25 minutes writing.

J.Y.: I see. 10 minutes like planning out, processing everything.

David: 10 minutes reading, starting to outline, rereading, or at least trying to mine the paragraph of information for facts that seem to support my side, et cetera.

J.Y.: Okay. So, well, let me finish up then with the final paragraph. The Carling Boulevard expansion is a large project. The potential profit is much higher. It involves kinds of work Stonewall hasn't done before and would require to expand its operation. Because of the overall nature of this project, Stonewall believes it has a good chance of winning the contract. It is uncertain whether Stonewall can finish the project on time and within budget. Even if Stonewall exceeds time and budget constraints, it will gain valuable experience. If the project goes over budget, Stonewall will lose money.

David: One thing to notice is that a lot of these facts are about how profitable the project is likely to be, but that's not actually one of the criteria. So that's going to be an indirect argument for or against one of these projects, because you do have to relate it to the criteria.

J.Y.: Yeah. This requirement being enhancing its reputation among potential clients and increasing its capacity to take on bigger projects. So the facts that we read in either project about profits, you have to do a little bit of interpretation, a little bit of argumentation to get it to be relevant to, I presume it's the second criteria, right? Like, increase its capacity to take on bigger projects.

David: Right, and of course, there is no answer sheet, but I think it's much easier to relate profitability to that second criteria. It's a lot easier to say, well, if they make more money, they can buy the equipment or hire more people to take on larger projects.

J.Y.: That's right. That's right. Okay, so those are the facts that are inviting us to draw some connections. And then there are other facts that are just much more direct.

David: Right. Some facts are directly about its reputation. So we learn in the first paragraph about Hilltop that Stonewall has an established reputation for finishing projects on time and within budget, and we learn that Stonewall is more likely to complete Hilltop on time and within budget. By the way, if you need taglines for these two, because I'm sure it's hard to keep all of this in your working memory, Hilltop is basically the smaller, less risky project. Carlene Boulevard is the bigger, riskier project.

But you can interpret this fact that Stonewall is likely to finish Hilltop on time and within budget two ways. On the one hand, you can say, well, finishing one more small project on time and under budget isn't going to do much for them because they already have an established reputation. Or you could go the other way. You could say, well, it's going to burnish their excellent reputation.

J.Y.: Right. So depending on whether you choose Hilltop or Carlene to advocate.

David: Right.

J.Y.: Yeah. Well, okay. So which one would you choose?

David: Well, I wrote this one and I chose Carlene, and I don't think I had any particular reason. I think it would be just as easy to choose Hilltop, but yeah, I chose Carlene and I ended up making the argument that it just had less to gain with Hilltop. Notice that this prompt falls into a pattern that you will see often. It falls into, you can think of it as an upside versus downside pattern because Stonewall is contemplating two enterprises that are both uncertain, that both lie in the future.

It doesn't know whether it's even going to get either bid, let alone whether it's going to complete either project on time or within budget. So you're weighing a set of risks and potential rewards against another set of risks and potential rewards. You're not weighing two straightforward benefits against each other.

J.Y.: Right. So for the Carlene Boulevard, it is just a higher risk-reward calculation.

David: Yeah, but I tried to say there's more upside and less downside, or maybe that the upside outweighs the downside.

J.Y.: Yeah. Whereas with Hilltop, it says that they're almost certainly to win the contract, so there's like very little probability involved. It's like pretty much a sure thing, but it's, you know, it's a small project, so low risk, low reward.

David: Right. There's not that much to gain, and I think you can go farther than that. I think that you can say they actually have something to lose if they gain the Hilltop project, because they give us this fact that construction firms specializing in small projects find it increasingly difficult over time to win contracts for bigger projects. So it's like best-case scenario, they win the bid, they do an amazing job, and then it's still harder for them to get a bigger project.

J.Y.: They pigeonhole themselves into that kind of construction company. I see. So that would go into the anti paragraph. You'd open with your decision: Stonewall should bid on Carlene. And then the first paragraph, you would go into all the pro, all the reasons for it.

David: Right. Talk about all the upside of choosing Carlene. Because we don't know if it's going to complete either of these projects on time and under budget, one way to analyze each choice is to say, well, what happens if they do nail the contract, if they finish on time and under budget, and what happens if they don't?

And so my argument is that best-case scenario, for Carlene Boulevard, they nail the project, they get a windfall of cash, they can invest it in more equipment so that they can successfully bid on and complete large projects in the future, and they establish a reputation for doing large projects.

J.Y.: That's the first criteria.

David: Right. Well, it's both. If they make a lot of money, they increase their capacity for bigger projects, because they can buy more equipment, and they establish reputation for big projects. And then on the other hand, if they don't finish on time and under budget, they gain valuable experience, and I took that right from the facts. I mean, that is sort of interpretive on LSAC's part, but they give it to us. Even if Stonewall exceeds time and budget constraints, it will gain valuable experience.

J.Y.: Yeah. That's just explicitly stated.

David: Yeah. So that's the argument for Carlene Boulevard. And then the argument for Hilltop Road, you sort of do the converse. You say, well, best-case scenario, if they get it, we've already talked about this.

J.Y.: Yeah, we talked about that. Yeah.

David: Worst-case scenario, they get nothing. There's a big opportunity cost.

J.Y.: Yeah. And then in the final paragraph, are you just rehashing some of the points?

David: Yeah. The final paragraph is really more rhetorical than functional. I'll just read it. Stonewall Construction has every reason to bid on the Carlene Boulevard expansion project, where success would carry huge rewards and failure would come with the consolation prize of valuable experience. Stonewall would reap meager rewards, on the other hand, from the Hilltop Road resurfacing project, and the best-case scenario, finishing on time and under budget, would ironically lead to the worst result, typecasting Stonewall as a company that specializes in small projects and circumscribing its hopes for the future. So I didn't add any new logic there.

J.Y.: Yeah. All right. And, you know, looking over everything that you wrote, it's not that long. I mean, we said it's three paragraphs, and we're talking about, in total, maybe like 13, 14 sentences?

David: Yeah, that's right. This was one of my shortest essays, but I think this was probably the most successful one, and I think it's because I really set out to write the simplest possible essay. In some of the other ones that I wrote, and I put them up on the course so everyone can see, I went through contortions of logic, which, if it were like a gymnastics competition, maybe I'd get more points for the difficulty of the routine, but it's not a gymnastics competition, and I'm not going to get more points. I think in the end, they just are a little harder to follow and they fall more flat.

J.Y.: Yeah. This one just seems super simple, like definitely bid on Carlene, here's why you should, and here's why Hilltop Road sucks. And then that's it. Wrap it up.

David: Yeah, that's right. Keep it simple. There's, you know, the logic that we applied to this essay sort of applies to writing LSAT Writing in general, but maybe in reverse, like there's not much to gain by writing an amazing essay. There's just, no way is an admissions officer going to read this and say like, holy cow, this man sounds like Abraham Lincoln on LSAT Writing. We need them in the class. It's just, it's not going to happen.

J.Y.: I used to think that the admissions officers just would not read it because, you know, LSAT Writing used to be done by hand, and then, you know, just to like decode people's chicken scratch. I don't know, just call me cynical, but I just don't think many admissions officers would do that. But now it's all typed up, so it's very, very low cost for them to take a look.

David: Right, it's easier. I mean, I think there's a big swath of admissions readers who are checking it, who are not reading it carefully or closely, but they're making sure that you didn't dog it, and then I talked to a lot of admissions officers who told me that they're using this as corroboration if something else seems fishy, if the personal statement is too good, or if they're, you know, if they're wondering about somebody's English skills.

J.Y.: So like, would you say particularly for international students, this might be something that they need to pay attention to?

David: Absolutely. I think it's much more likely that admissions officers will read the LSAT Writing of an international student.

J.Y.: Yeah, that makes sense, right? Because this is the constrained, real-time test of English. I mean, I suppose the other sections of the LSAT definitely also test English, but this is a generative kind of test.

David: Right. And in some ways, it's probably closer to what you'll actually have to do in law school.

J.Y.: Yeah. All right, well, David, this was really informative, really constructive. Thanks so much.

David: Yeah, you're welcome.

J.Y.: Thanks for listening. David created a full set of lessons covering the Writing section with many more sample prompts and essays. The whole course is designed to be pretty short, so you'll probably be able to get through it in one or two sittings. You can access the entire class on LSAT Writing on 7Sage.com for free. Yep. For free. Because remember what we said about this section. We don't want this to be the reason that your application gets dinged. So please have a look at the lessons.

Okay, that's it for this episode. Take care of yourself, and see you next time.


Comment on this

Transcript

Tajira: When it comes to feeling like there are certain things that we might be lacking, I wouldn't necessarily put anything in a personal statement to highlight that. A lot of times there are candidates who do that, but the personal statement is really about your strengths and your journey.

J.Y.: Hello, and welcome to the 7Sage podcast. I'm J.Y. Ping, and on today's episode, admissions consultant Tajira McCoy attends a lively Q&A session hosted by a group of 7Sagers who met on the discussion forums and then formed their own study group on Discord. The participants were invited to submit some questions in advance, which Tajira tackles first, before opening the room to questions from members of the group. So, without further ado, please enjoy the conversation.

Tajira: Well, hello again, everyone. My name is Tajira McCoy. I also go by Taj. I am an admissions consultant over at 7Sage. I worked in law school admissions at various law schools across the country over the course of about 11 years. I've worked for two publics, two privates, a Jesuit, and an HBCU and a T14. I've also worked for a year and a half in law school career development, so I've kind of seen both the front and the back ends when it comes to the admissions process itself and when it comes into going out there and starting your very first job after law school.

When it comes to 7Sage, I help with admissions strategy, I help with editing, I help with talking through school lists and really trying to help make sure that the applications that are submitted are polished and tell a really strong narrative. As an admissions person, I am a big-picture person, and so I'm looking through applications to try to find folks that I feel fit a community, that they fit what we're looking for, that they help us to meet our goals, and that they're going to be contributing members to our community. And so as I'm helping clients for 7Sage, those are the same kinds of things that I'm looking at as I'm reviewing different documents that our clients are putting together.

To start with some of your questions, the first question that I have received, and I might actually go out of order a little bit with these questions, just to kind of deal with some of them, because some of them are a little lengthier in the response that's needed. I think one of the easier ones is the recommendation for the number of schools to apply to. Typically, I would say somewhere in the ballpark of 10 to 15 schools makes a lot of sense.

You want to have some schools that are targets, some that are reaches, some that might be a super reach, but you want some safeties too. You want a good spread because you want to have multiple options to choose from later on, and you want to base that list off of what your goals are. And so your goals might be scholarship, it might be a high-rank school, it might be a specific region where you know that you want to practice. It might be a school that has a really strong program in terms of the area of law that you want to practice in.

So there's going to be a lot of things to consider. I strongly recommend that as you're getting ready to do this process, that you write down what your priorities are, because in the springtime, when everybody's talking money, a lot of people forget what those priorities were and they focus on the awards as opposed to everything else that was on that list. And so you want to be able to have something that helps to ground you, something that you can come back to later to remind yourself of, of what you're discussing and what you're kind of really focused on.

That was one question. Let's see, the pros and cons of applying early decision. I love this question. I think it's actually really an easy one. With early decision, there's the side that just wants to have an answer right away, and then there's the side that wants to be able to see all of the decisions and negotiate. If you fall on this side at all, do not apply early decision, because you won't have the opportunity to do any of those things that you want to do in terms of considering those other schools.

Early decision is really about communicating to a school that you have a number one choice, and no matter what else happens, no matter who else you hear from, no matter what opportunity they give you, you will still drop everything and go to that school. That is essentially what you're communicating to a school that you apply early decision to. You're making a commitment. If you are of the frame of mind where you're like, you know, I'm applying to all of the T14, I'm going to apply early decision to Berkeley, but I really kind of want to hear from Harvard and you, that doesn't help you.

Berkeley's decisions will come out on December 7th, and then you're stuck, and so now you automatically have to withdraw all of your applications if you receive an offer of admission. You really want to make sure that, whatever school it is you choose as your early decision school, you're happy with that decision, because if it's a binding program, those schools will talk if for whatever reason you ultimately decide not to enroll in that binding program.

If you happen to have a binding admission and start applying to other schools, that can cause an array of issues later on down the line. I have seen admissions offers rescinded, and so it's just important to know, going in, you know, what your options are and what your priorities are.

There was a question that said, okay, so if we're offered a scholarship, how can we best ask follow-up clarification questions such as, "Will the scholarship apply to summer coursework?" without seeming like we're asking for too much? And I thought this was a great question. Know that scholarship offers, actually, the ABA requires that schools provide the particulars when it comes to scholarship offers when they send the scholarship offer.

And so normally that's either going to be in paper or it's going to be via email. It'll often have a link to all of the terms and conditions that apply. Typically, it's going to say right in the letter that it applies either primarily just to each semester so that it's not covering summer classes, or it's going to tell you how that spread works. All of that information should be very easily attained for you, and if it's not there, then it's often posted within an admitted student's portal page. They're typically very clear when it comes to the standards for their scholarship, because they have to be.

Application tips for people with weak softs. This was one I actually asked Alina, did she happen to know what kind of softs we're talking here? And so I'm going to talk through a couple of different answers for this question, because it depends on what softs we're talking. So, soft factors obviously include your written materials, it might include your resume, it might include your work experience, it might include the explanations that you provide if there happen to be some weak points within your application.

And so, depending on what it is that you think is going to be considered a weak point, you can provide context up front to help answer the questions that you think that we might have. One of the things that I like to tell people is, you know, when we are reviewing applications, the biggest thing, the biggest no-no is kind of leaving us with a bunch of questions that are unanswered.

If we don't feel that we have all of the information that we need, it is really hard for us to make a favorable decision. However, if you provide us with the context and the background to help us understand what might be a perceived weakness, then it's really easy for us to go back to our admissions committee and say, well, this is the reason, and this is why I think that, you know, that's a blip, and this is what they're really going to be able to do.

So if it happens to be that there's something on someone's background, maybe they have a character and fitness statement that they have to write, or maybe they have some experience that they feel like isn't sufficient for a particular school, let's say they're applying to Northwestern, and Northwestern happens to like a good amount of work experience and they might have six months versus a year, but they've decided to apply this cycle, that might be something you want to address head-on.

And so, in doing that, it really does help you get a sense of, what is it that I need to explain? If there's anything that you think the admissions office is going to have a question about, you want to do that up front because in 9 times out of 10, the admissions office will not have time to come back and ask questions. Every once in a while they will, but most of the time you want to answer those questions up front.

I'm seeing a question in the chat. Does 7Sage disclose to law schools which students have received admissions consulting or essay editing? No, we're not required to do that. However, some schools will ask on applications if a student has received assistance. Yale asks it outright, and there are others that do too. However, most admissions officers assume that someone has received at least some help, whether it's paid or not paid. Somebody read your documents, somebody proofread for you, someone kind of looked things over. So I think the reason most schools don't ask is because there's an assumption that you had somebody look at everything.

There's definitely those moments where, you know, in reviewing documents where we want to see what your raw writing will look like, and that's why that writing sample from the LSAT is required, because it's the only piece of paper that no one else gets to touch, and so that can be very telling for us.

Another question that was asked was the insights with regard to applying to dual or joint-degree programs. It's funny because so many schools offer these programs, but there actually aren't a ton of students that sign up for them. It can actually be a rarity, and what I find is most students end up determining that for whatever their career path is, the law degree is sufficient and they don't actually need that added degree, that added debt, that added, you know, tuition cost, and so it just really depends.

There are every once in a while folks that are going into a really niche area where it makes sense to have that MBA or maybe that MPH and then go from there with their law degree. But in most instances, we find that people don't need both. And so though we market them and though the schools have consortium agreements to allow for these types of programs, there are very few folks that actually go through them all.

Tips for applicants with degrees outside of the US and Canada. The biggest things here are just allowing time for transcript evaluations if your transcripts happen to be in another language. Because those things have to go through LSAC, it does take a substantial amount of time longer than a US or a Canadian transcript would in being considered and evaluated, and so that process can be lengthy and there's no guaranteed time by which they'll have everything done.

And so that's the thing that I think is the biggest barrier when it comes to international applicants. Everything else is the same. We look at these applicants the same, we look at all of the documents the same, and it's really about getting a sense of the story. I've never worked at a law school, and I've now worked at five, where, I've never worked at a law school where we've had any kind of quota that, or threshold number that we couldn't admit a certain number of international students. It's always been about, you know, who's going to be the best fit regardless of where they're from.

And similarly for the schools that I've worked at, scholarship has been for everybody, and so it's really about making sure that, as you're looking at the schools you're applying to, how do they communicate that information specifically for international students? What information do they provide on their website?

And you can actually see on their 509 report, which is something that they're required to do for the ABA, how many international students they admitted based on the rubric that they have, because they have to do a breakdown of everybody that's admitted by sex, by race. For international students, the race gets assigned as, it's a very specific, I think it's nonresident alien. I hate that word, but that's what they get assigned on the actual 509 report. And so that gives you a really good sense of how many people happen to be international applicants and are admitted.

At some schools, you might see that it's like one person, but other schools you might see it's like 40, and that's a big difference because then you have a sense of how their offices work. In asking questions about abilities of, you know, if you happen to be on a student visa, you definitely want to get in touch with their career services office, because they're going to also have some constraints on what they can do in terms of OPT and CPT time if you happen to be, want to be able to work during your summers while you're in law school as well. For my international students, definitely keep that in mind. So, yeah, it's really just about the transcripts, then.

So I think I've answered all of the questions that I received up front, but I am happy to discuss any part of the admissions process with you all. I've worked at a bunch of law schools, so I can give you context based on kind of some different perspectives at different schools as well. So the question really is, you know, if you apply ED, what if you receive an acceptance from a school, but they didn't provide enough scholarship money for the candidate to be able to attend? Is the candidate obligated to attend due to the rules of applying early admissions?

If it's a binding program, absolutely, you're required to attend. The issue there is, that's a part of a reason why not to apply early decision. There are very few schools that have guaranteed scholarships when it comes to early decision. One would be Berkeley. One would be Northwestern. You need to know that that award is enough. And if that award is not enough, and you're hoping that they might negotiate that up, I would not apply early decision because there's no guarantee of that.

If you happen to apply to a school that doesn't have any kind of guaranteed scholarship assigned, you're definitely not necessarily going to get what you think you're going to get or what you want. And so the ability to negotiate is going to be paramount there. If you need a certain amount to ensure that you can attend a specific school, do not apply early decision.

I have a question that says, does legal status such as DACA affect chances, specifically negatively? Absolutely not. Nobody looks at that status. For some schools, they can't even see that status as they're reviewing. A lot of schools suppress that question specifically so that there isn't an ability for anybody to have any kind of negative anything towards that.

Do schools notice when your personal statements are personalized and tailored to each school? Is it usually the case that students do this? It depends, and the reason why it depends is because some schools will also allow for those "why X?" school statements. If they allow for that statement, you really don't need to personalize your personal statement because you're giving them something that's very school-specific in another statement.

However, there are certain schools where they give you the instruction that they want that information in the personal statement, because they don't accept a "why X?" statement. So, for instance, USC is one of those schools. They do not want a "why X?" statement, they want it in their personal statement. They'll allow a third page for the personal statement, so you can specifically talk to them about what attracts you to their school.

Conversely, Berkeley, UCLA, they have specific statements that they want you to write about them. And so even though Berkeley requires a two- to four-page personal statement, they don't expect you to talk about Berkeley at all in that statement because they have a "why X?" "why Berkeley?" statement, and they want you to write that too. Feels like a ton of paperwork, but what Berkeley's trying to do is give you the opportunity to tell more of your story, because they don't have an interview process and they don't have the bandwidth to start one.

Similarly, UCLA has, they don't have a "why X?" statement, but they have a programmatic contribution statement. And so with that, what they're trying to do is see what area of law or program is it that they offer that you feel like you can't get anywhere else, what's really attracting you to them, and they want that in a separate statement. Similarly, there are ones like the core value statement at Penn, or Georgetown takes a "why Georgetown?" statement.

And so it just depends. There are little niches here and there. And then there are schools that say that they don't take a "why X?" statement, but they actually do. So, like, UT, for example, on their application, it says, "we don't accept this document," there's nowhere to upload it, but if you email it to them, they'll take it. So it's just a matter of having a sense of what all of these different schools are looking for, how they accept their information, and, really, what it is that they ultimately want to receive.

So, I have more questions in the chat, and I have some hands up. I'm going to kind of go back and forth so that we can make sure we're hitting everybody. But I think that, is it Alon? You had your hand up first?

New Speaker: Yeah, I have a question, two questions in one, but if you get accepted, is it possible to move your seat to the next cycle to start law?

Tajira: It's possible, but it depends on the school. So what you're talking about is a deferment. There are schools that will outright offer deferments. A lot of time schools accidentally overenroll. That just means that more people committed than they really planned on it. What they'll do is they'll offer students the opportunity, like let's say you're going to be relocating to go to school. You know, they might say, hey, if you would like to defer to next year, you can do that.

Some schools will even allow a scholarship award to defer from one year to the next, while others will say, we'll reconsider you for scholarship in the year that you actually choose to attend. So be really watchful of that part because that can get kind of sticky, and some schools, when they do deferrals, they make them binding, so that stops you from being able to apply to other schools in the next cycle.

So watch that as well, because if your plan is, I actually want to retake the LSAT and then see if I can get more money, you want to be careful. Just watch that a little bit.

New Speaker: Okay. Yeah, I think you kind of answered it, but would they be able to rescind the scholarship that they potentially offered for, if you deferred it, would you still be able to keep the same offer?

Tajira: It's possible. It's going to depend on the school and what their scholarship and deferral policies look like. For some schools, they're not allowed to defer scholarship, and so what they do is the second that they start reviewing people for scholarship in the next cycle, which is the next cycle where you're going to be entering, that's when they'll consider you for scholarship. For others, it says it right within their documentation.

Some of them have you do like a deferral request form, and it asks you then, are you requesting to be able to defer your scholarship? And you say yes, then often they'll just let it carry over to the next year, and it'll just start with you when you start school.

New Speaker: Okay, thank you.

Tajira: You're welcome. Okay, the next question I had here was, if a candidate applies in October, November, is that still considered early? Typically, yes. There are going to be some caveats there, though, because there's, in the T14, there's just a substantial amount of applications that come through those doors, and so it's important to understand kind of context. I'll use Berkeley because that's the one I'm most familiar with, but I can also kind of insert some thoughts on some other schools.

So for Berkeley in years past, pre-pandemic, we used to receive about 5,000 or 6,000 applications each year. We would receive about 2,000 to 3,000 before Christmas, and then the other half we would receive in January. In that instance, October, November was still relatively early. Once the pandemic hit, it was like this huge influx of applications came far earlier, and instead of receiving that 5,000 or 6,000 applications, Berkeley received 8,000, and the typical 8,000 applications that NYU was receiving, well, they received 10,000. Then, October, November wasn't as early as it was in years past.

I do think we're getting closer to what the previous normal was in terms of application numbers, and so I do think, I do still think October, November is early. September is very early. Are there schools that are already reviewing applications and making offers in September? Yes. Berkeley starts reviewing applications in September. Georgetown starts, Texas starts, USC starts, and admissions people are very friendly and a lot of us travel together and know each other really, really well.

The dean of admissions at Berkeley happens to be besties with the dean of admissions at NYU. A lot of times when they're making plans or creating programs, they actually are talking to each other as they're doing these things. Even though it feels like this is crazy competitive school to school, and we're all fighting each other, we actually know each other and are all quite very friendly, and so that's something to keep in mind.

Let me see. Alina, you had your hand up.

New Speaker: Yeah. So I'm going to compound some questions.

Tajira: Okay. Let me drink some coffee.

New Speaker: Yeah, there you go. It's going to be a long one. Okay, so kind of going off what you were talking about, you know, I really kind of commiserate with [unintelligible] in terms of perhaps not having the same, you know, intellectual achievements as some of the other applicants or, you know, super high-ranking professional experience, and in those cases, I'm wondering, like, would you recommend writing an addendum to that?

And to further expound on that, you know, you yourself are a writer, you're a writer. So I'm wondering, like, in terms of, is it better to write an addendum or is it more strategic to perhaps like craft it into the personal statements to, you know, like if you have something that is not necessarily, that wasn't exactly gained from your, you know, your undergraduate or professional experience, that you could highlight in your personal statement? I hope that sort of fizzles out into something clear.

Tajira: I kind of have more questions, actually. So when it comes to feeling like there are certain things that we might be lacking, I wouldn't necessarily put anything in a personal statement to highlight that. A lot of times there are candidates who do that, but the personal statement is really about your strengths and your journey. Sometimes people will talk about somewhere where they, like a starting point, and then at the finish, they're very strong, but other times there are candidates who kind of weave into their personal statement some of the things that they think are weaknesses to try to hit them off at the bat and like immediately address them early on, and that's not necessary.

When it comes to your addenda, that's really what those are there for. Addenda really are, essentially, optional statements where you're allowed the space to explain something that you feel needs it, you know, like your personal statement should stay that really strong journey statement, your narrative, what you're about, why you're moving forward in this way, how you see yourself being successful, maybe what your goals are. It doesn't have to hit all those things, but it should be kind of in that ballpark.

Whereas these addenda, they can be like short and sweet, like one page or less about a specific instance or a specific circumstance or just something that you feel needs to be addressed. And for some people, that could be a gap in education, it could be that life was happening one semester and we had to work full-time to help support the family. It could be we were grieving during specific times and things just didn't happen.

It could be that we had to just take time away because things are hard right now, you know, like there's a lot of things going on, and I think the important thing to remember is admissions folks, just like applicants to law school, we're all human. We get it. As long as you give us context for what was going on that you think that we might think is weak, then it helps us. I think there's a lot of folks who are afraid to talk about mental health, but, you know, that's a real thing.

And I think there are more and more candidates who are getting a little more comfortable in kind of talking about the things that they've struggled with that affect them and that may affect grades, that may affect other things, and just kind of shedding a light on that to see how they can move forward and how they can describe those things in a positive light. It's really about talking about your way through it so that you can say, okay, I dealt with this. This is where I am now, and this is how I know I'm stronger.

Kyle. Hi.

New Speaker: So, I have two unrelated questions, so I'll just start with one and then follow with the second one. So, back to, I wanted to go back to the application timelines about applying on the early side. In your experience, at what point do you think that the admissions outcomes change enough to a point where you would consider saying it might be a good idea to delay or reapply on the next cycle?

Because applications are expensive, you want to make sure you're putting your best foot forward. Some of us are going to be taking the LSAT in August, September. You know, if we don't get the scores we want, we might be taking it again. At what point would you say, okay, at this point, in order to get your best possible outcomes, it might be a good idea to push it off until the next cycle?

Tajira: You know, it really depends. If you're applying to T14 schools and you're taking the November LSAT, I'd be a little concerned just simply because December puts you a little bit behind, and a lot of times people don't start their documents until after they've got the LSAT where they want it to be. And so it's really important, let's say you were taking the November LSAT. It would be really, really important then to make sure you are kind of working on the other soft factors as you go.

It's going to be really, really difficult to turn around a full application after you've gotten your score back from November and still feel like you're ahead of the curve. When it comes to that December to January kind of slide, it's, there's this huge influx of applications that comes in right around that time, and so it really can be the difference between getting a decision in January versus getting a decision in sometimes like February, March, because there's just so many that come in all at the same time that it just, there ends up being a kind of a backlog.

Does that make sense? If you're not applying T14, or I would say T30, then I would say, you know, like the November LSAT wouldn't necessarily be as much of an issue. And so it really depends on where you're applying and what their particular application cycle looks like when it starts to kind of backlog. If it happens to be a school that does have like a February 1 or February 15 application deadline, then that December application is going to feel a lot later than it will for a school that has like an April or a continuing deadline.

New Speaker: Perfect. Thank you.

Tajira: Sure.

New Speaker: And then my second question is around letters of recommendation. So I've seen some conflicting advice on this point, so I'd be curious for your feedback. So I've been out of school for seven years now, so I have not maintained contact with any of the professors since my, since I've graduated. I did have good relationships with a couple of them, though, and I'd be curious at what point would admissions officers be, you know, okay with just getting professional recommendations or if it's worth it to reach back out to one of those academic professors, even if it is, you know, has been a few years since you've last spoke to them, if you think that you can get a good recommendation. So I'd be curious to get your feedback on that.

Tajira: That's a great question. You know, when it comes to letters of recommendation, the important thing to remember is you're applying to a school, and when it comes to the admissions committee, there tend to be a good number of faculty members on the admissions committee. Faculty members respect faculty members.

And so if you can get an academic letter, even after all this time, it's going to have some good weight to it because it's going to be able to attest to your abilities while you were in school, especially if you can have someone who had you for multiple classes, so they can talk about your growth over time, they can talk about your critical thinking, they might be able to talk about your group work and your writing. That's going to be a really strong letter. And so if you can get it, try.

They do understand, though, if you're more than five years out, there's not a huge expectation. If you're within five years, there are some schools that just outright require it. So if you're at that four-year mark and you haven't been in touch with anybody, you want to make sure you are. If you're at the seven-year mark and you still have a relationship where you could like reach out to them and kind of jog their memory based on some of the projects that you did, or maybe you were in their office hours quite a bit, that would be a good thing to do.

Just to have one letter, because there are some schools that take up to four letters to have something that's academic have some professional and maybe have something that can kind of talk to maybe some of the volunteerism or other things that you've done. That's a good kind of well-rounded set.

I saw that, yeah, of course. I saw that, is it Alon asked a question? Is it a red flag if you have four LSAT scores? Maybe. It can be, it depends. And so, and I hate that because I know we say it all the time, it depends. But you're going to hear that all through law school. With four LSAT scores, the difficulty with four or more is that they start to kind of all blend in together after a while. When you have one, it's very definitive. If you have two and there's kind of a difference, you can explain that away. Two or three, it's kind of easier to explain and give context for each of them.

The more that you have, the harder it is to say that one particular score is most reflective over all of the other scores, and so it starts to get kind of difficult. Now, if there's like one score that is substantially different from everything else, and by substantially, I mean, like 5, 7, 10 points different, then that's something that where you can kind of distinguish, but you need to make sure that you're giving the full context.

And so that's where an LSAT addendum is going to come in really, really handy, and you're probably going to want to talk about the scores one at a time. Similarly, if you have a bunch of cancellations, we can see that you canceled. And so, like, know that that's something else that we can see. We can see if you canceled, we can see if you didn't show up. All of that information is provided to us. And so if you have multiple cancellations, you might want to provide some context for that too.

If you have where you have like two scores and then one went higher, and then you took it again, and then there was a drop, that can be problematic because, again, it's going to be like, well, how do you know that that high score was the one that's most reflective of your performance and not the most recent score? There's going to be some difficulty in making that explanation, so you just want to make sure that you provide all the context you can for what was going on.

I understand that there have been a lot of tech issues. There have been a lot of different things that have kind of hindered people's ability to feel like they're performing at their best. You want to just make sure that you're giving all of that context. Go ahead and talk. I know you have something to say about it.

New Speaker: Do you not recommend canceling the first score if you have a score preview?

Tajira: If you have a score preview, it's not a score you want, right?

New Speaker: No, it's not a bad score, but no.

Tajira: What would be the bonus in keeping it?

New Speaker: I got a 161, but it's like, it's not a 150-something, you know what I mean? But it's definitely not what I want. That's like my perspective.

Tajira: Yeah. I mean, if it doesn't help you, why keep it?

New Speaker: I see. And then would it still be a red flag if you canceled one and took two more or three more?

Tajira: Not necessarily. Is that your only cancellation?

New Speaker: I just got my scores today, or yeah, today.

Tajira: Yeah. I wouldn't, like, if you have one cancellation or one absence, I'm not questioning that. If you have three cancellations, then I'm like, what's going on here? Give me some context for that. But one, I'm not going to have an issue with that.

New Speaker: Okay. Okay, cool. Thanks.

Tajira: Okay? No problem. I see Yasmin asked a question. In your experience, are there any topics or things that people talk about in personal statements that don't look good to schools? Yes. There are many. Okay, oftentimes, anything that's TMI is going to be something to avoid. Bodily fluids are often things where I'm like, ew, stop it, no. You know, it just depends. But there are things where people kind of talk about things, and you're like, I would use the gauge of, you know, if you would come to my office in admissions and talk to me about it, then it's probably okay. But if it's something that you wouldn't say to my face, I'd leave it out.

If it's an Aristotle quote, leave that out. If it's any quote, really, just leave that out, unless it happens to be a quote that's actually like your family mantra or something that you say to yourself every single day. A lot of times people do these things at the beginning of a personal statement to sound super profound, and it's cute and all, but no. It's just not helpful because at the end of the day, like now I've got someone else's voice in my head instead of yours. Right?

Similarly, there will be times when people will tell this incredible story about grandma, and grandma was this pioneer and she did all this badass stuff, and she's amazing. And now I want to admit grandma, but I don't know anything about you. And so you shot yourself in the foot because you told me a great story, but it's not, it doesn't have anything to do with your abilities. Right? And so we want to remember what the eyes on the prize are because, you guys are cracking me up in the comments, but like, but it's true.

It's one of those things where it's just like, you know, you want to make sure that at the end of the day, you are the star of these documents, right? If you're going into this career of advocacy and of being a legal practitioner, pretend this is your first case, and you're making the case for you to be a law student. Think about it in those terms. And so, in giving the story, yes, we can touch on grandma, but grandma inspired me to do this, and this is what I did with it. Then you take it and you make it your own.

Winnie says, upon applying, are you automatically considered for scholarships or should you research and apply separately for each school? It depends. For merit-based scholarships, you're automatically considered. For need-based awards, you often have to do an additional form. Sometimes that might be the FAFSA, sometimes a school may have a school-specific, sometimes you might have a school-specific form that you have to do, but it depends.

There are schools that will also have scholarship essays that they collect when you submit your application. Berkeley, NYU, those two happen to have a lot of different scholarship essay options with their application. UCLA does, I believe Northwestern does as well. So you just want to look really closely. The hard part is you don't actually get to see the current application instructions until the current application comes out, and so that'll be right around September 1st.

Every once in a while, there are a couple of schools that will let their applications out a little early. Arizona State did that last year. They let it out sometime in mid-August. So you can watch that because they were sending out admissions offers quick. And so you just want to make sure that you have a sense of what's going on there. So it just depends, but definitely keep a look. The ones that require an essay tend to be the bigger dollar amounts, and so those are ones that you want to really consider.

If you happen to be eligible for those, make sure you get those applications in specifically by the deadline that they set, because those go, once those admissions committees convene to consider you for a scholarship for those particular named scholars, those are big awards. A lot of them tend to be like 30,000 to full rides. Some include additional living stipends and things like that. So you want to make sure that you have a sense of, you know, what your opportunities are. I would start looking at that stuff now.

How important are demographics in application, like race and ethnicity? It depends. If you're applying to some schools, especially public schools, there are some schools that actually can't consider race and ethnicity, like Berkeley, like UCLA, like UC Irvine and Davis. There are other state schools in other states that may have a similar proposition to Prop 209, but that specifically blocks them from being able to consider that.

So when we receive your application, all of the questions that have to do with race and ethnicity are suppressed. We can't consider that as we're making our admissions decisions. However, you know, you do have the opportunity to write a diversity statement, and so that can talk about the perspective that you're going to bring into the classroom, and that's one way to kind of introduce it into your application in a way where we can look at it. Even though it can't necessarily be considered for admissions at those particular schools, it can be a part of the overall holistic approach and review.

And so it's, there's never going to be a diversity admit or a diversity scholarship per se at one of those schools, but it doesn't mean that it didn't factor in onto the whole. At private schools, they tend to have a lot more flexibility when it comes to diversity and considering it in the admissions process, and so they might be able to just kind of outright talk about, okay, well, I want to make sure that we're improving our diversity numbers this year. How do we do that?

And so they might have a full strategy and plan in place, and often that's something that is set forth by the dean or often by the university senior administrators themselves. So there's a lot that goes into those considerations. The way I'll say it is, you know, you want to make sure that you include all of your information when you're answering those questions on the application, and if there is anything diverse about your perspective, you want to make sure that you give that perspective and why it's uniquely you and how you're going to use that as you move forward through your legal career in a diversity statement.

There's a lot of times where students think it doesn't matter, or it won't have any weight to it, and the thing is, all of your different admissions materials, it's like an onion and you're peeling back all these different layers. It's an opportunity for you to tell more about yourself, and because you're limited in page space in your personal statement, you want to use that page space for your diversity statement and for the other optional statements so that you give them the biggest, clearest picture of who you are, why you're a good fit, how you're going to make an impact and a difference on their community, what kinds of things that you're going to, like, just hit the ground running when you get on their campus, the ways that you picture yourself making a difference, and the ways that they can help you achieve your goals. And so if you can give them all of that within your application package, then you're doing a really good job.

Regarding PS topics, again, say I want to talk about my hometown and community work. Is that topic overused and cliche? It's not overused and cliche because it's not you. The thing is, you and I could be from the exact same place, we could have gone to the exact same school, we could have had the exact same job, but the way that we tell our stories is going to be different, and so it's really important to remember it doesn't matter how many people talk about their hometown.

How you talk about your hometown stands out and is unique because it's about you, and so don't worry that, oh, they've probably read this kind of personal statement this many times. We haven't read yours, and so it's really about making it your story, giving us your voice, having us understand what it is that you've been through and why your hometown is significant to you, and really, those things that really impacted your decision to move forward in the way that you have. Those are the things that give us a sense of what you're about and what's important to you.

And then those things like your diversity statement help to layer on top of that the ways that you identify and the ways that you see the world. And then your resume will give us the ways that you've gained experience and the things that you're really strong at. And then your optional statements will tell us about really interesting, quirky things. And then your "why X?" statement will tell us why you think you're a great fit.

And then your addenda will tell us, these things might be weaknesses, but this is what I went through to get here. And then your transcript is going to tell us, well, this is how I performed. All of the different documents within your application serve a different purpose, and so making sure that you give us everything, you know, it really helps to enrich the application and give us a wealth of information so that we really can go to our admissions committee and fight for you.

SS asked, would 7Sage provide any bonuses or promo toward consulting? I know it's $200 off right now, but the cost is still hard to manage. So just hoping for assistance. I can ask. It's always worth asking the question, so we can follow up on that, but let me check with David first.

Alina asked, regarding diversity statements, does low income, poverty level fall? Yes, it does. Socioeconomic hardship falls into it. It could be race, it could be ethnicity, it could be LGBTQ status. It could be gender identity. It could be anything that you feel is a marginalization. It could be mental health, it could be learning disabilities or any kind of disability. It could be something that you feel sets you apart that gives you a perspective that not everybody in the room is going to have. Maybe someone in the room might have it, but not everybody.

And so it's really interesting to see, you know, the different ways that people consider themselves to be diverse. And so, for me, right, I would be, I'm a woman, I'm black, I'm Asian, I'm plus size, I'm queer, you know, like there's all kinds of ways that we identify, and all of those to me are things. I have an autoimmune disease, so I have a disability, right? Like all of those things are things that make me different. I could write about all of them or I could pick one, and either way, I'm still telling the admissions committee something about myself.

Kyle. I'd be curious to hear more thoughts about diversity statements. Are there situations where you would recommend not writing one? What if your resume work experience is the only thing that you'd consider writing a diversity statement about? Great question. And I answered part of it, but I can answer a little bit more. There are times where we have folks who are like, I don't think I should write this because maybe it doesn't feel applicable to me.

I definitely have clients where they're like, okay, well, I'm a white guy. Like, what should I do? And I'm like, well, you could still be diverse. You know? It just depends. But if you feel like it doesn't apply to you, it's perfectly fine not to write a diversity statement. I have seen some kind of cringy ones where it's like, you know, I'm just going to talk about the fact that I know I have privilege. That's great. Not necessary, but great. And so it's just a matter of determining how you feel your perspective sets you apart.

I've had some where they've been, folks who maybe they don't have like a physical thing that creates a diversity for them, but they were in the military, or they're a nontraditional student and they've been out of school for seven years, or they've, you know, had things that distinguish them in another way. Age and distance from graduation, that makes you a diverse student. You know, having had seven years of work experience is a big deal, you know? So it's a matter of perspective and thinking through the different ways that you might fit that bill. And so it might not be about race and ethnicity, but it might be something else that sets you apart.

Okay, Steven. Would it be wise to emphasize relevant work experience in the law? Is that something that can help someone stand out or does it sound too showoffy or smug? Should it be an ancillary matter or can it be the central focus?

So for a resume, because, big point, and I think this was Yasmin's question earlier, you know, like things to kind of avoid for personal statements. We don't want you to regurgitate your resume in your personal statement. Right? All of your work experience, I want to see all of it on your resume. All of it, all of it. Like there's so many times where people will take out certain jobs because they're like, oh, they don't care that I worked at Starbucks. Yes, I do. I did too, thank you. Hello, baristas. And it's one of those things where like, first of all, I want to know all the experience you've had because it gives me a better picture of, over time, what you've done.

Like maybe in college, you were a team lead at McDonald's. That may not sound like a huge deal, but at the same time, you were someone who was trusted to lead a team, you gave exemplary service, you managed money, you dealt with managing other people, and you still had to do food service, you had to clean, there's all kinds of things that are a part of that job that tell me about the experience that you had and the type of person that you're probably going to be in the community.

There's a whole lot of things that you don't see within that experience that I see as an admissions person, and that's why it's important. People like to pull out their college jobs because they think that they're not relevant because they may not be law-related. I want to see the law-related stuff, and I want to see the stuff that's not law-related. It's not showoffy to talk about your law stuff, but it's also not showoffy if you have great experience elsewhere. I want to see all of that.

On your resume, you should be talking about the honors you received, you should be talking about the scholarships you received. If you have any publications, any professional affiliations, your strengths when it comes to language, your interests. I want to see all of them. I don't need the weird, like, weird formatting changes. We kind of like the standard resume in admissions world because it's easier to kind of read through everything. I want education, I want experience, right? Like, boom, boom, boom. But I still want you to be able to cover those things.

If it ends up being on a second page or even a third page, that's okay, as long as you give me all the things. I don't want you to go onto a fourth or fifth page, if you can avoid it. But two to three is okay. If you go, and if you just have a really, really short one-page resume and it feels really thin, then I'm worried, because I'm not seeing extracurriculars, I'm not seeing the things that could have been happening, like where are the summer jobs? Were you an RA?

You know, like what kinds of things were you involved in? Were you involved in nothing? If you were involved in nothing, then I expect to see work experience. So where's the work experience? All of those things should line up. And so your resume should tell me a whole lot about you that you don't necessarily need to cover anywhere else, because I'm going to read that thing page for page.

How often do you see leadership skills in a resume? How big of a difference does it make, and what does it say to the admissions officers? It depends. You don't necessarily need to put leadership skills separately from the work experience and different tasks that you were responsible for at your jobs, because a lot of times your jobs will be able to signify those leadership skills directly, and so we'll kind of be able to see those leadership skills in action.

So, like, for instance, I just did this major overhaul of a resume today, and one of the things was like, "led specific types of behavioral groups through these types of therapy," right? Like, the different ways that you lead, you can specifically put that on your resume. The different ways that you facilitate something, if you took ownership or more proactive and created something, make sure that you're using the action verbs within your job descriptions that tell us that.

You know, like a lot of times people just kind of give us the "assisted with," "assisted that," but where you took ownership of something, where you coordinated, where you facilitated, where you led, where you managed, give me those action verbs so that I know that that was yours. Show me that you were accountable for it, and then that way I already know that you led it. You don't have to have a separate leadership skills section.

Two-page resume is the standard, yes. I know I talk fast, so that was probably a little overwhelming. You guys are great. Like, listen, when it comes to this stuff, it's a little scary, but at the same time, all of the admissions folks are just like me. We're approachable people. We're mostly friendly. Even if we're not smiling and we look kind of mean, we're fine.

But the thing is, like, definitely reach out to admissions offices, talk to them, interact with them, attend their info sessions, get to know them, and it actually does help your application when it comes to "why X?" essays and all that stuff to be able to talk about the interactions that you have with their faculty, with their current students, but more importantly, to get your questions answered. Don't be afraid to reach out to them. They're not scary. They're not going to bite you.

And it is important to interact with them because some of them actually do notate in your file that you've had interactions with the school or that you've attended certain events. Having that understanding that, oh, you know, Alina has, she came to an open house virtually, she's done a tour, she must really be interested, as opposed to the person who has never had any contact, just sent in an application, has never emailed, has never asked any question. We look at that, we look at interactions, we get a sense of who's really interested, and sometimes that makes the difference.

If I can see that one person clearly has had open communication with us and that, you know, some of the people on my team remember them, that's a good thing. And that can go a long way, because I usually, I used to keep a list of people who were kind of like right on the bubble, right? Like they were, maybe one of their numbers was below median, and so I wasn't able to make that outright decision, but I was like hanging on to them because I didn't want to waitlist them.

And so there would be times where, you know, the dean of admissions might say, like, is there anybody that's on the bubble that you really want right now? Yes. I have this list over here. These are the people that I want. Boom, boom, boom. These are the things about them that I really, really like. I just, you know, I was just hesitant because of this. And they'll be like, bring that person on. Because you want good people in your class. You want to have a good mix, but you also want to have people where you're like, these are the people I want to have coffee with. So you don't know that if you never make connections with anybody.

New Speaker: Do you have any sort of general guidelines for how to, you know, email either deans or people on the admissions committee, or professors that you're interested in, without, you know, being like...

Tajira: Yeah, well, with admissions in general, I would just email their general email address. You don't necessarily need to email the dean because they're super busy, but, you know, if you email the general admissions office, a lot of times you're going to reach like either their assistant director or director, and they'll be super friendly, they'll answer your questions. Sometimes they'll schedule time to talk with you and everything like that.

But just email them, say hi, I'm so and so, I'm applying this year, I'm curious about these things. Does someone have time to talk to me or would this be better, you know, addressed in a different format? You know, and then that way, let them kind of dictate the conversation, but it's pretty easy. You know, similarly with faculty, just introducing yourself, letting them know that you happen to apply this fall, you're really interested in that particular school.

And for that particular professor, you know, faculty, they're academics, they like their egos stroked a little bit. Oh, I saw that you teach this, you know, or you happen to run this clinic. I'm really interested in that. I would love to know more. Do you happen to have time for like a 5- or 10-minute Zoom so that I can pick your brain a little bit about the ways that I could get involved if I were offered admission? They love to talk about things that they do, so they're going to say yes, as long as they happen to be available.

The one thing to remember is, you know, during the summer months, most of them are traveling, and so that's a time when some of them are going to answer your emails and some of them are not. But in the fall especially, they tend to be very responsive, and if you happen to be coming to visit the school and you're like, oh, I would love to, you know, grab coffee with you, I'm going to be there taking a tour at this time, sometimes they come on the tour with you.

You know, a lot of these folks, they're just regular people, and so they get excited when people are excited about them and their programs, and they're really excited about people who seem like they're going to be a great fit, and those faculty members that you connect with that think you're a great fit, they're going to tell admissions that too. So it's important to make those connections and reach out because sometimes those faculty members do impromptu letters of recommendation, and you have no idea they've done that.

New Speaker: Thank you so much.

Tajira: It's my pleasure.

New Speaker: Very, very, very helpful.

Tajira: Good, good, good, good. Well, it's my pleasure. I'm happy to do this with y'all again at some point if you'd like to, but keep in touch. You're welcome to give the whole group my email address, Alina, and, you know, if there is, I can't remember who asked the question now about the discount thing, but I will ask David and I will follow up with you, Alina, about that. So.

New Speaker: And yeah, also like David is on our Discord and Scott's on our Discord, so I can also just send you a link to join, and then in case anybody has any questions, they can like directly message you. I want to say thank you again so much, and I know I'm not the only one who's very grateful you came on. So I'm sure everybody gleaned a lot from this, and we'll be in touch clearly after this. It was too good of a session to let you go, so unless any last remaining questions?

I just hopped on and I feel so bad because I know you want to hop off.

Tajira: Oh, you're fine.

New Speaker: I want to know if it's bad to kiss ass to some of these deans, because I feel like I do it accidentally, like I vibe with them and then I'm like, oh shit. Like, did I come off as a kiss-ass to the rest of the group? And then I'm like, I don't know if that looks bad. I don't know if that's a good thing, because now when I join some of these Zoom calls, they remember me. I can't tell if that's a good thing or a bad thing, but I've also been doing this. I've been studying for like two and a half years now, so I've been joining like every single session that they put out. So I don't know if that's a reason too, but yeah, just, I would love to know if it's a good or a bad thing.

Tajira: If they're like, oh my God, it's you. Hi, how you doing? That's not a bad thing. They're like excited to see you because like the hard part with admissions a lot of times is you put on events like these and every time you do them, it's different faces. So there's never any familiarity, there's never any recognition. So when you have those folks that are memorable, who come to more than one thing, it does stand out in your mind.

First of all, because you do tend to remember the folks that you see more than once, but it's also nice because it's like, okay, well, I know if I'm going to tell a bunch of stories during the course of answering questions, I'm going to think back to, okay, well, what did I tell last time? Because I don't want to be repetitive and have you hear the same stuff over and over again, but I also want to make sure that, you know, like I'm giving as much information as I possibly can, because when I have people that are, that come back and are repeating, that means that they're genuinely interested.

And so that's a good thing. That's always going to be a good thing. Nothing about that comes across as ass kissing. I will say like, I mean, there can be levels to that, right? Like, so it's like, okay, well, if you're like, oh my God, Tajira, you look so cute today, we don't need to do that in the middle of a Zoom session, right? We could do that separately because then they're going to be like, okay, so what's that about, you know? And it's really, you're just kind of like pissing off the other people in the room.

The admissions person probably doesn't care, and they're like, oh my God, she noticed. Like, you know, whatever, but like, it's fine. It's just one of those things where it's like, okay, well, there's certain things that we could probably talk about just one on one, and then there are other things where it just makes sense along the group and the forum, you know, like you could do follow-up questions even, and have some questions that no one else will have thought of because you've been to a previous event.

And so you could be like, you know, you happen to mention something last time, and I just really, you know, I've been thinking about it and I really wanted to follow up and ask this. Right? Like that's actually going to help everyone in the room. And so in that instance, I think that it's really important for you to be there and for you to have experienced something else, because then that way, you're moving the needle for everybody and you're kind of bringing the conversation up to where you were.

New Speaker: Gotcha. Okay, that's actually helpful. I kind of want to follow up on that. Like, is it not like, you know, now that I've been going to these for like two and a half years, does that kind of ring a bell to them? Like what's going on? Why hasn't she applied yet?

Tajira: Not at all.

New Speaker: Is that not really a question that they're thinking? Because part of me is like, damn, do they think like I'm just taking my time or I just [unintelligible].

Tajira: Some of them might assume that you started coming as a freshman. Yeah. Like it's really just one of those things where like some schools, like there are candidates that often come, start coming to open houses in their very first year of college. We have sometimes where like high school students come. And so like, it's never really a question of, oh my God, I'm seeing you again. How come you didn't apply last year? It's really more of, oh, it's great to see you again. Like, is this the cycle that you're applying, you know?

And so a lot of times what they're trying to do is they'll gauge like, well, is this the year for you? Because if it is, then I want to make sure that I'm looking out for your application. And so like, make sure that when it is the year that you're applying, that you alert them, especially the ones that recognize you, because they're going to be looking for you. You want them to be looking for you. That's a good thing.

New Speaker: That's helpful. Thank you for spending your last minute answering that.

Tajira: Oh, no problem. No problem. It's my pleasure. Well, you guys are wonderful. I had a blast, and I'm looking forward to next time already. So, Alina, I will follow up with you once I talk to David, but certainly, you know, you all are welcome to reach out to me if you have any questions or if you want to have a quick chat, you know, kind of offline, I'm happy to do that.

And in the meantime, I wish you all the best. If you're preparing for the LSAT, if you're starting to get ready, are you guys all applying for this year? Yeah?

New Speaker: Most of us are. Yeah, fingers crossed. Hopefully. Hopefully.

Tajira: Well, fantastic. Well, definitely reach out, and I will see if I can find out some information about some discounts and we'll go from there, okay? But I'm sending you all my best. Regardless of what you do, just shoot me an email and let me know where you land. Okay?

New Speaker: Thank you so much.

Tajira: My pleasure. Y'all take care.

New Speaker: Have a great day.

Tajira: You too.

J.Y.: Hi, it's J.Y. again. Thank you for listening. As always, if you are 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.


Comment on this

Transcript

Jennifer: First and foremost, and the obvious, you're not alone. Being waitlisted, you are not alone, and there are many in sort of the pool that are waitlisted, and being waitlisted, that is a great movement and progress as far as your status.

J.Y.: Hello, and welcome to the 7Sage podcast. I'm J.Y. Ping, and on today's episode, admissions consultants Tajira McCoy, Elizabeth Cavallari, and Jennifer Kott of 7Sage host a Clubhouse Room for law school candidates to discuss waitlists and letters of continued interest, or LOCIs.

Tajira moderates the panel, inviting the audience to inquire about waitlist strategy, timing LOCIs around commitment deadlines, and content that admissions officers hope to receive. So without further ado, enjoy the conversation.

Tajira: Well, good evening, everyone, and welcome. I'm Tajira McCoy, but you can call me Taj.