Archive for the ‘Admissions’ Category

Welcome to Law School Success Stories, where we discuss 7Sage applicants who made the most of their GPA and LSAT score.

👤 Who: “Sanjay,” a recent college grad

  • 📈 Top LSAT: 170
  • 📉 GPA: 2.99

Results

  • 🏆 Accepted at UVA

🔎 Initial Assessment

Sanjay had applied the previous cycle and been accepted to GW and Fordham with substantial scholarships. During the year since applying, he had taken the LSAT two more times (for a total of five attempts), ultimately raising his score from 155 to a whopping 170. This made him determined to take another crack at the T-14, despite having a GPA well below their 25th percentiles.

A phone call with Sanjay revealed that he was not only a finance whiz, but a funny and down-to-earth guy. His low GPA had been due, in large part, to a debilitating skin condition that struck him at the beginning of college. The resulting social anxiety caused him to miss classes frequently during his first and second years. Sanjay saved up enough money to begin a new treatment regimen, and by the fall of his third year, he was earning good grades.

Our task, then, was to convince the admissions committee at a T-14 school that his GPA didn’t reflect his ability to succeed in law school, and that Sanjay was so smart, ambitious, and congenial that they simply could not turn him down. We developed a three-part strategy:

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Once upon a time, the LSAT was the only game in town for law school applicants. Things began to change in 2016, when the University of Arizona Law allowed applicants to apply with a GRE score, followed by Harvard Law the next year. Nearly forty law schools now accept the test.

The Case for Taking the GRE

The GRE has a lot of advantages from the perspective of a test-taker. Available throughout the year and across the world, it’s easier to schedule and more convenient than the LSAT. The GRE will also feel more familiar to anyone who’s taken the SAT or ACT, and most test-takers find it less time-pressured than the LSAT. The test has special advantages for applicants with quantitative skills, who may find it easier than the LSAT, and for anyone applying to dual-degree programs, who may have to take the GRE in any case. Finally, if an applicant decides to cancel her GRE score, the test doesn’t show up on her record. If an LSAT-taker cancels her score, by contrast, the test still shows up on her score report.

Nevertheless, there are some reasons to hesitate before you go all in on the GRE.

We don’t know how GRE applicants actually fare in the admissions process.

Very few law students in the first-year class of 2018 got into law school with a GRE score alone. Let’s look at some examples:

  • In Harvard’s first-year 2018 class, 18 of 566 students were admitted without an LSAT score, or 3.2%.
  • In Northwestern’s first-year 2018 class, 12 of 245 students were admitted without an LSAT score, or 4.9%.
  • In Georgetown’s first-year 2018 class, 18 of 581 students were admitted without an LSAT score, or 3.1%.

(See the full table.)

At every other T-14 school, either zero or one student got into law school without an LSAT score.

Before you give up on the GRE, we should grant that these numbers don’t tell the full story. The most relevant question isn’t “What percentage of law school applicants got accepted with a GRE alone?” but “What percentage of GRE-only applicants got accepted?” In other words, we want to know if GRE applicants had a higher or a lower acceptance rate than LSAT applicants.

At a panel discussion in June of 2019, Alex Feinson, Harvard Law School’s assistant director of admissions, told a group of prelaw advisors that the acceptance rate of GRE-only applicants mirrored the acceptance rate of all applicants, indicating that it was no easier or harder to get into Harvard Law with a GRE score than with an LSAT score. Eulas Boyd, Brooklyn Law School’s dean of admissions, told the same group that GRE-only applicants had a slightly higher acceptance rate than all applicants, but he still didn’t think that it was easier to get into Brooklyn Law with a GRE score. Rather, he thought that the pool of GRE applicants was stronger than the pool of regular applicants.

As for other schools, we just don’t know. All we can say for sure is that admissions deans are moving away from the LSAT cautiously. The validity of the GRE as a predictor of law school success is an open question, even for law schools that have performed their own studies, and admissions offices are still tracking the progress of their GRE admits. We’ve also heard that law school faculty, who often sit on admissions committees, are skeptical of the GRE. And when we asked Rob Schwartz, the assistant dean of admissions at UCLA Law, whether a 95th percentile LSAT score was more compelling than a 95th percentile GRE score, he agreed that it probably was (though he didn't necessarily think everyone should take the LSAT). Thus we have reason to suspect that for most law schools, getting accepted with a GRE score is no easier than getting accepted with an LSAT score, and that it may well be harder.

If you’ve already taken the LSAT, there’s probably no point in taking the GRE.

If you have any valid LSAT scores on file, LSAC will report them when you apply to law school. You don’t have any choice about that.

This is important for two reasons. First, law school admissions officers are more likely to trust your LSAT score than your GRE score. They have been making admissions decisions for years based on LSAT scores, and they've seen for themselves how students with various LSAT scores tend to fare. As we’ve noted, the GRE is uncharted territory.

The second thing to understand is that your LSAT score will probably have a larger effect on a school’s U.S. News & World Report ranking than your GRE score. Per U.S. News’s ranking methodology, a school’s LSAT median and GRE median account for 12.5% of its ranking. But law schools are required to report their LSAT medians. They are not required to disclose their GRE medians, and only sixteen of them—or eight percent—did report those medians to U.S. News for the 2020 rankings. Even for those schools, we don’t know if the GRE median was factored into the ranking proportionally, based on the number of GRE admits, or if it was discounted.

“But wait,” some of you might be thinking. “Won’t a great GRE score still look impressive to admissions officers, even if I already have an LSAT score?”

Well—sure. An applicant with a perfect GRE score and a 150 LSAT is probably better off than an applicant with a 150 alone, all else being equal. But if you’re capable of getting a GRE score that’s much better in terms of percentiles than your current LSAT score, you’re also probably capable of improving your LSAT score. A better GRE score won't replace your current LSAT score, but a better LSAT score will replace your current LSAT score, practically speaking. Almost all law schools use your highest LSAT score.

Alissa Leonard, the assistant dean for admissions and financial aid at the Boston University School of Law, put it best when she said to a group of prelaw advisors in 2019, “I don’t think it makes sense to take the GRE in addition to the LSAT. It doesn’t bring much to the table.”

A few more considerations for those leaning toward the GRE

  • The list of schools that accept the GRE is growing, but we’re a long way from universal adoption.
  • The ETS’s GRE to LSAT converter is not trusted by many admissions deans. For the most part, admissions deans are looking at the percentiles of your GRE section scores.
  • Although the GRE lets you choose which scores to report to which institutions, almost all law schools require you to submit all of your GRE scores within the last five years.
  • There’s no data on whether applicants who get accepted with GRE scores tend to get merit scholarships. If you’re thinking of applying to a law school with a GRE score, you should call the admissions office and ask if they award merit aid to GRE applicants.

Conclusions

You should probably NOT take the GRE if…

  • You already have a valid LSAT score
  • You want to apply to any law school that doesn’t accept the GRE
  • You may be able to achieve the median LSAT score of your target school

Applying to law school with only a GRE score might be the right decision for you if…

  • You think you’ll be better at the GRE than the LSAT (as is sometimes the case with mathematical applicants)
  • You are applying to dual-degree programs, some of which require the GRE
  • You are positive that you can’t achieve the median LSAT score of your target school and feel like you may as well throw a hail mary.

Bottom line: We recommend that you apply to law school with an LSAT score unless you have a specific reason not to.

Schools That Accept the GRE

2020 Rank School GRE Admits* L50 G50
0001 Yale University 0 173 3.92
0003 Harvard University 18 173 3.9
0004 University of Chicago 0 171 3.89
0005 Columbia University 1 172 3.75
0006 New York University 0 170 3.79
0007 University of Pennsylvania 0 170 3.89
0008 University of Virginia 0 169 3.89
0010 Northwestern University 12 169 3.84
0013 Cornell University 0 167 3.82
0014 Georgetown University 18 167 3.8
0015 University of California—Los Angeles 2 168 3.72
0016 University of Texas at Austin 0 167 3.74
0017 University of Southern California 1 166 3.78
0018 Washington University in St. Louis 1 168 3.81
0021 University of Notre Dame 0 165 3.71
0023 Boston University 0 166 3.74
0023 University of California—Irvine 0 163 3.57
0031 University of California—Davis 0 162 3.63
0031 Wake Forest University 4 162 3.58
0039 Brigham Young University 10 164 3.8
0039 University of Arizona 18 161 3.7
0045 George Mason University 1 163 3.76
0048 Florida State University 2 160 3.63
0051 Pepperdine University 0 160 3.63
0052 Yeshiva University (Cardozo) 1 161 3.52
0064 Pennsylvania State - Penn State Law 0 159 3.58
0071 Brooklyn Law School 3 157 3.38
0077 American University 0 158 3.43
0077 St. John's University 4 159 3.61
0083 Texas A&M University 8 157 3.51
0087 Illinois Institute of Technology (Chicago-Kent College of Law) 6 157 3.44
0087 University of New Hampshire 0 156 3.46
0091 Florida International University 0 156 3.63
0091 University of Hawaii 4 154 3.32
0091 University of South Carolina 0 155 3.41
0104 University of Buffalo—SUNY 0 153 3.41
0122 Pace University 0 151 3.3
0143 Suffolk University 0 153 3.36
0RNP John Marshall Law School 4 149 3.18
0RNP University of Dayton 0 149 3.29
Featured image: pexels-photo-261909-2

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The T-14.

It seems like no one talks about anything else. But where did this term come from and what does it actually measure?

Where the Term "T-14" Came From

The term "T-14" refers to the top fourteen law schools according to U.S. News and World Report (USNWR). But why fourteen instead of ten or twenty-three or five? Because the top fourteen schools have stayed fairly consistent according to USNWR.

Let's repeat that for emphasis: they've stayed consistent according to USNWR.

But USNWR's rankings are somewhat arbitrary. Here's how USNWR determines them:

Notice that USNWR rankings are mostly a measure of reputation. This is a little odd, because USNWR also helps perpetuate these schools' reputations.

To some extent, the rankings are a self-fulfilling prophecy: the longer you maintain a high USNWR rank, the better your reputation…and the higher your USNWR rank. No wonder they stay static at the top.

It's also worth pointing out what the rankings are not. They are not primarily a measure of employment outcomes. They are not at all a measure of how prepared you'll be to succeed. "Faculty resources" is a poor stand-in for educational quality, as you can see in a more detailed breakdown of the ranking methodology:

Let's question some of these assumptions. Does the fact that a school spends more on its instructors, library, and supporting services mean that it is better? Maybe—or maybe it's just in a more expensive location. Does the amount a school spends on its instructors and library and supporting services really matter more than twice as much as the students' employment rate at graduation? Do you, or does anyone you know, care even 0.75% about how many volumes are in the school's library?

The point isn't that these rankings are bad. The point is that rankings—any rankings—necessarily rely on assumptions that may not hold true for you.

So, back to the most important question:

Does attending a T-14 school matter?

It depends on what you're looking for.

Graduating from a highly ranked school usually makes it easier to do the following:

  • Get a job in Big Law—especially the first time around
  • Get a federal clerkship
  • Pursue legal academia

But graduating from a T-14 school does not guarantee a job, and graduating from a school of lower ranking doesn't mean you can't get a job in Big Law. Your class rank, network, and interviewing skills also matter a lot.

If you're contemplating a specific school, you should take a look at the latest ABA-disclosed employment outcomes.

📌Further Reading


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We’ve rounded up five spectacular personal statements that helped students with borderline numbers get into T-14 schools. You’ll find these examples to be as various as a typical JD class. Some essays are about a challenge, some about the evolution of the author’s intellectual or professional journey, and some about the author’s identity. The only common thread is sincerity. The authors did not write toward an imagined idea of what an admissions officer might be looking for: they reckoned honestly with formative experiences.

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Featured image: Desk Essay

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At 7Sage, we have worked with hundreds of law school applicants from China, South Korea, and many more countries, and we have assembled the following FAQ to help international students gain admission to America’s top law schools.

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An LL.M. is a one-year master’s degree for candidates who already have a degree in law, and it can help them switch to a new field of law, get a new job, or gain a professional edge. Read about why you might apply and how to maximize your chances in our admissions course: https://7sage.com/admissions/lesson/all-about-ll-m-degrees/.


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The annual uproar about law school rankings might lead you to believe that the rank of the school you attend is the only factor in determining whether you will become a successful lawyer. As Above The Law points out, the T14 law school rankings, as determined by US News and World Report, rely heavily on inputs – especially peer assessment, grades, and LSAT scores — while ATL’s rankings rely more heavily on outputs like jobs and starting salaries. Given that the two lists overlap quite heavily at the top, I wouldn’t blame you for feeling like you might as well say goodbye to your law career before you’ve even read your first case note if you don’t get into a T14 school. But don’t lose heart! Many, many law school graduates attend non-T14 schools and go on to have successful law careers.

I speak from experience. By way of background, I graduated from Emory Law School squarely in the middle of my class. It was a great place to go to school, with whip-smart professors and clinics, but it was not T14 when I attended and still isn’t (though it’s been solidly T25 for many years). Emory is also located in Atlanta, which, for all of its charms, was not the city where I intended to practice upon graduation. Like so many others, I had my eyes set on New York City. I managed to write myself onto the law review which, given my highly mediocre class ranking, definitely helped boost my resumé. This, combined with my comfort with interviewing, helped me land a job in Big Law in the New York office of a Chicago-based firm, where I specialized in real estate law.

I jumped ship after five years and wound up in Cardozo’s admissions office, where I counseled prospective students about whether they should or shouldn’t go to law school, and why they might be a good fit for Cardozo in particular. I later returned to practicing real estate law with the New York City Economic Development Corporation. As a lawyer, first in private practice and later for the City of New York, I regularly interviewed candidates for summer associate and lateral positions. While I can’t speak for every law firm or government agency, I do think I have some insight about whether attending a T14 law school really matters—so here goes!

When does attending a T14 law school really matter?

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Featured image: Villanova Law Library

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Welcome to Law School Success Stories, where we discuss 7Sage applicants who made the most of their GPA and LSAT score.

👤 Who: “Sarah,” an applicant who grew up in China and moved to the United States for college.

  • 📈 LSAT: 169
  • 📉 GPA: 3.33

Results:

  • 🏆 Accepted at the University of Michigan Law
  • 💵 $35,000 merit scholarship

🥅 Goals and Strategy

Sarah knew she wanted to take her law degree back to China, and the cachet of a T-14 school was important to her. Her parents, however, had a limited ability to pay for her education, and as a Chinese citizen, she wasn’t eligible for federal loans, so she was also hoping for a merit scholarship. Continue reading

Featured image: Steps-Cropped

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Welcome to Law School Success Stories, where we discuss 7Sage applicants who made the most of their GPA and LSAT score. Please note that we changed certain details to protect this applicant’s anonymity, but we did not change his numbers or results.

👤 Who: “Neil,” a recent college grad of Southeast Asian descent

  • 📉 LSAT: Under 149
  • 📈 GPA: Over 3.8
  • 🗞 Two-year résumé gap

Results

  • 🏆 Accepted at a T-14 school
  • ✍️ Handwritten note from the dean: "I loved your essays" (and more)

🌘 The Strategy: A Shot at the Moon

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Welcome to Law School Success Stories, where we discuss 7Sage applicants who made the most of their GPA and LSAT score.

👤 Who: “Mark,” a Caucasian male in his mid-forties switching careers from the trucking industry

  • 📉 LSAT: 166
  • 📈 GPA: 3.9

Results:

  • 🏆 Accepted at Northwestern
  • 💵 Significant merit scholarship

🚚 Starting the Journey

Mark worked in the trucking industry for twenty years before he began a new kind of long-haul journey toward his JD. He didn’t know any law school applicants beyond the 7Sage community and had no idea where to begin.

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Featured image: Tucking

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