J.Y.: Hello and welcome to the 7Sage podcast. I'm J.Y. Ping. And on today's episode, David talks to a student named Adam, a Chinese national who went to school in America. With the help of 7Sage consultants Dan and Selene, Adam overcame his anxiety about writing in English and put together a winning application, ultimately getting an early decision acceptance to Penn Law.

David: Adam, thank you so much for talking to me today. It's a real honor and a pleasure. Can you start by telling us more about your background? Just a little bit about growing up and what led you to apply to law school?

Adam: Sure. So I came to the States around 11 years old, and my mom, she came over as a post-doctoral fellowship in Cincinnati. Since then, I was just growing up in Cincinnati in a public high school. While I was young, I was just really interested in history and social science.

In high school, I developed a habit on reading historical documents. I also got really interested in the AP social science categories, especially AP history, US history, European history. While doing some research all the way in high school, I was thinking that, well, law school may be a way out for me since I'm so interested in the legal aspect of this whole atmosphere.

And then I went to Ohio State University, and studying, majored in finance and political science, and along the way, I just worked hard in college, and then decided to apply to law school in my, end of my junior year, beginning of my senior year.

David: And why did you decide to work with a consultant?

Adam: Coming from China, I understand where my weaknesses are. My reading and writing skills are still far behind my speaking and listening. So I think that writing has always been my weakest point in all my abilities. To make sure that I had a good application, I just had to work with a consultant from 7Sage.

And partly because it was also my, I worked with 7Stage on LSAT prepping. I took the course and after that, I decided to, you know, give it a try on the 7Sage admission package. And I think that, overall, the price was really affordable on my end. I think that mostly what I need is the editing and then some directions on applications, but it turns out a lot of things were beyond what I expected. And we can talk about that in a bit.

David: Oh, great. To be clear, are you saying that you were nervous about the essays?

Adam: Yes. I was very nervous about my writing skills. I really need to clarify some of my thoughts. When I write, I tend to write a lot of stuff, and I tend to lose track on what I'm writing and I tend to not get them together.

And, you know, I just have a whole five page of what I want to say, but I couldn't wrap them up in a neat format or in a neat fashion that's suitable under a good personal statement. And that had been my problem since high school. And because I majored in finance, my writing skills weren't really catched up along the way.

David: And I think that you started working with us before you got your final LSAT score. Is that right?

Adam: Yeah, I actually started very early. I started contacting you guys all the way back in February, I think, in February of last year, because I wanted to get an early hand on. I know it's a really popular service and I think I really needed that help, so I decided to enroll very early.

And then luckily I was paired automatically with Dan and Selene. Dan was my advisor on writing and Selene was my advisor overall on my application. And I'm very happy about that early-bird package, I think. Well, not a package, but early-bird advantage.

David: So tell me about your LSAT trajectory and what you were thinking along the way in where you wanted to apply.

Adam: Actually, I started prepping in the beginning of 2020. I think that may be a little bit late, but I started prepping in, I think, January. But after a couple of PTs and scores came out, I took my first exam, I think, in August, and the score was a 159. Wasn't really on par with what I was thinking.

For four years, I'd been think about applying to T14s, that's what my family wanted and also what I personally wanted to achieve. And so I wasn't satisfied with the 159, and I contacted Selene, who I'd been contacting ever since February. And she said, "Well, let's do a retake." And so I did sign up for the September one as well as the October one to make sure, because there's a timing gap between the signups and actual scores come out.

So after 159, I signed up for the September and October. And so after two more months of studying, after the September score came out, I got a 167 and I was very happy about it, I shared with Selene. And since this year, I've been notified by Selene and also looking through Reddit and other sources, that this is a very competitive cycle, and looking back, it is.

We decided that there's still some improvements for the cycle, and so I decided to give it a try in October again. The score came out to be 164. It wasn't really what I expected and I was pretty let down. So I emailed Selene and had a call with her. And so we decided that this cycle is very competitive and why don't we start early?

And so we decided to focus on our application materials, essays, and optional essays as well. So we decided to use that 167 along with my college GPA to just start our application. And then I started working with Daniel ever since then.

David: How did you decide where to apply, and where did you apply?

Adam: Like I said previously, I decided to apply to T14s after I did some research. I wanted to achieve a top-tier law school because my dream was going through capital market, that's what I studied in undergrad, and through international capital market trade along Asian Pacific, as well as the New York sites. So I applied broadly, as recommended by Selene. I applied broadly to all T14s besides Yale.

And also I added some safeties, including Boston University and my alma mater, Ohio State. And so that's how I applied it. And what I was thinking of is that, with my GPA and my LSAT, I could at least get some admissions in T14s and be ready for my backup safeties, if it's a really super competitive cycle.

David: And I think that you applied early decision twice, right?

Adam: Correct. That was a strategy that we formulated together. And also because of my three scores, it was up and then down, it's like an up shape. So we feared that it might not be a good sign for my overall application. Even though they only take the highest scores for the statistics, it's still presenting a bad sign for my applications.

So what we decided is that, luckily, because they have different ED times, we decided to apply Columbia ED first, in early November. And then we said wait and see how the score comes out, because they said it will guarantee the decision will come out in the end of December.

And so we'll decide if, based on that application, whether I'll apply to a second ED. And so, because Columbia also faces a very competitive cycle this year, they deferred me, which wasn't really a yes or no decision. They deferred me back to April.

And so I realized that my time is running short, so I emailed Penn right after that, and I said, "Please add me onto the ED II applications." And then they responded to me in early January when they were back in the office. So that's why I had two EDs. And also because Penn was my top choice, actually, among all, in the beginning, but I just decided to reach a little bit higher just to see if I can win a lottery.

So I applied to Columbia ED first and then waited for Penn for the ED II program, since I still had the time. I think the deadline was in mid-January.

David: Selene, I have a question for you. How did you approach the question of where Adam ought to apply?

Selene: Well, I think that he should have applied broadly because of the nature of the cycle and what was going on in the world and within admissions.

I felt like he had an interesting file. There are a number of very attractive factors that I saw in his application. Given what he wanted to do, it kind of made sense that these internationally known law schools should be his focus. When a candidate decides to apply ED, they are indicating to the admissions committee, "You are my top choice. I'm willing to bind myself to you and come if you take me."

Columbia, I think, made sense because it's a very well-respected program. It would carry him far internationally. Given his background, given his interest in finance, going to school in New York City made sense.

Columbia has excellent placement within corporate law and they had the early ED program, and that if he did not get the results that he wanted, then, you know, we could see what other programs he could turn to. And Penn had this second ED program. Penn has Wharton next to it, and he is interested in finance. So that's kind of how it seemed to make sense to us.

David: Yeah, just a small clarification. I have talked to some people who think that ED, or early decision, means simply applying to law school early. ED means that you apply to a school and you agree to go to that school if you get accepted. Often ED applications are due early in the cycle, but there are some schools, like Georgetown, that have early decision deadlines as late as March, actually.

So ED just means that you are applying to a school and agreeing to go there if they admit you. And you can only apply to one ED school at a time. But if you're canny, like Adam, you can apply to one ED school, and then if you don't get in, you can apply ED to another school.

Before we talk about your essays, Adam, which it sounds like you were the most nervous about, a question for both you and Selene. Did you have an overall strategy for how to approach your applications? Were you thinking, "This is what I want to convey to the committee," or did you take the pieces of your application one at a time and just say, "How can I write the best essay? How can I write the best addendum?" et cetera.

Adam: We started contacting very early on in this stage and I had all my available information to Selene, including my resume, and what my experiences are and my thoughts on the essays.

But, you know, overall, we decided that I'll tackle my LSAT first, but then once my LSAT score comes out, we'll formulate our strategy based on LSAT score's timeline. So, at 159, she recommended me to retake, and at 167, we started actually working on the application materials and targeting our schools, as well as formulating our overall strategy on the applications.

And especially it turns out that the 164 comes out, that's when we actually get into the serious talks on the decision timelines and what we want to present to each of the schools.

Selene: That is all true. I remember that it was pretty important to me that, given what I saw in his application, that we present Adam and his strengths, like figure out what his strengths are.

What does he have to offer a law school community and try to bring those strengths out in the materials, whether it was emphasizing his international experience in law, in leadership, in his resume, and also trying to make him distinctive in the way he expressed himself in his personal statement.

Had we not done that, it would have been sort of easy to look at his file as just a really, really impressive GPA, and a 167 with kind of a bell curve LSAT history. And I did not want him just to be evaluated on his numbers. So I thought it was important that we present the fact that he has knowledge of two cultures, that he has a very strong interest in finance.

He has language skills, he's had experience working stateside as well as internationally, and he was also extremely engaging and involved on campus.

David: Well, let's talk about how we showed off those strengths, starting with the personal statement. Adam, did you know what you wanted to write about?

Adam: Writing has been my weakest part overall, and when I write, I tend to brainstorm a lot. When I first had the rough draft, or it wasn't even the rough draft, it was the brainstorm. I had around six to ten pages of all my stories that I experienced in my life, and I don't know how to deal with it. I sent this brainstorm to Daniel, and Daniel was, luckily, giving me a lot of feedback on that, and then we started working based on that.

But personally, I don't know how I would elaborate my story that will make me very distinctive. I have a lot of interesting things to tell, but I don't know how I would combine them or compress them into a short two-page personal statement.

David: Well, let's turn to Daniel. Daniel, so you received a long brainstorm, it sounds like. How did you help Adam pull a story out of that?

Daniel: As Adam said, he had a lot of different experiences to share, interesting experiences from his background. But one thing that Selene and I discussed a lot last cycle was, given the competitiveness of the cycle, we really wanted to try to help our clients find a way to emphasize a strong "why law" component to their essays.

So we looked at some of Adam's internship experiences in China, and we found a story that we felt like showcased his strengths and also told a story that narrated the arc of his interest in the law, and kind of helped clarify why he was interested in law.

And one thing I'll say is that working with a lot of international applicants, you know, in my experience, a lot of clients will say, "I want to take on corruption," or "I want to fight for human rights." There's a lot of folks giving similar reasons for why law.

And I think what was important, and what we tried to do with Adam was to really find a specific story that would really make it believable when he said that he wanted to take on corruption and fight for human rights. And that's what we try to do, when looking for an anecdote or an experience to work on.

David: Adam, can I summarize your personal statement, or do you want to?

Adam: To put it short, it really was a story that motivated me to actually change my perspective of what I wanted to do in law. David, you can take on after that.

David: No, no. I'd love to hear, it's your essay, to hear you give us the brief.

Adam: All right. Sure. So, to make it short, like I said, I wanted to do law in high school because I'm interested in law. I'm interested in math. So I wanted to do mostly finance law or laws regarding big corporations, and Daniel, if you can help me summarize that a little bit?

Daniel: I'm looking at it because I was curious to see kind of the evolution of the personal statement from the first draft to the final draft. It sort of starts out with Adam's background. And it's kind of a story of a loss of innocence, in a way. It tells a story of how he was raised in China, and in the Northeast region of China, and how he was told by his grandparents growing up that he would benefit if he became part of this system.

And he says, though, he glimpsed evidence of the system's corruption. He was told that China was becoming a democratic country ruled by law and order. Then it narrates his time in the States, and his education, and going to high school in the States, and how he got interested in law and history.

And then he goes back to China on this internship, and it tells a story of his work on this case. Basically, when they get to the city where the hearing is supposed to take place, the judge's secretary walks in and tells his team that the judge had instead decided to attend a training workshop in another province. So he basically didn't show up for the hearing without giving any notice. That moment starts an exploration into how private entities sometimes bribe elected officials.

And this episode kind of opens Adam's eyes to start looking at other instances of corruption and unsavory things going on in terms of law in the system. And it leads to this sort of moment, whereas before, he wanted to get a law degree to become part of the system and benefit economically from it.

He sort of changes and he realizes that he wants to use a law degree to improve the system and strengthen the law and order. Another thing we talked about with Selene all the time is how people in their essay saying that they're going to, they're going to change the world and they're going to do these different things.

And it's really hard to make that convincing. So that's actually, you know, maybe the most challenging part of it is finding a way for Adam to express how exactly he wants to go about making change with his law degree. So that's kind of the general run of his essay.

David: One way to think about this essay is that it's a sandwich. So the meat of the sandwich is this one very memorable clarifying moment. Adam is a young, starry-eyed intern, really excited for his first case, and he shows up, and the judge doesn't show up. Presumably, he hasn't showed up because he's been bribed. And then if you think about the bread on top, we have some context setting up that one moment.

And then on the bottom, we have some reflection taking us from the clarifying moment to the conclusion, which is that Adam wants to fight corruption with his law degree. And it sounds a little pat when I put it like that, but it is really, really deft when you read it. And that's why I admire this story.

I think that there's so often a tension between giving us one clarifying moment and writing something that feels true to life, because in real life, you don't often feel like this one single moment changed everything. You often experience these things as an evolution. And the essay does both. You give us the evolution, but you do also give us that one sparkling moment that's just so easy to remember.

And I imagine that when an admissions officer reads this and walks away, you know, if they think of Adam later, they'll think of that moment when the judge doesn't show up. So I think it does a great job of telling a story and motivating your application to law school. It also just helps us make a little more sense of your background.

Why are you even applying to law school, and where have you been up until this point? From my point of view, it is incredibly successful. So, great work, guys.

Adam: Yeah, I think about my essay is that when I have the story out, what the difficult part for me is that I have the story out but I can't, I can't make it a sandwich.

I have all the ingredients out, but I have a difficult time making it smooth as it logically connects one part to the other, and after it's finished as the personal statement, and we had multiple edits, and after the final edits, I was like, wow, it really logically connects everything as it presents it to the admissions officers, because admissions officers only read about, spend like three or four minutes on this essay.

And it's really important to let them understand what you're trying to tell and let them see how you had achieved all this. And then, so I think it's very important that we had it, and I really thank Selene and Daniel for their help on that.

David: You know, I once heard this analogy of writing. It's a David Lynch analogy.

He said that, for him, creating is like you're standing in the middle of a room and there's a closed door. And every couple hours, somebody slides a single puzzle piece under the door and you take that puzzle piece and you try to figure out what to do with it. And I think that's a great analogy because when you're done, a finished essay does sort of resemble a jigsaw puzzle.

You look at it and you're like, there's only one way this thing could have possibly been put together and it's this. This is the picture that makes sense. But it doesn't feel like that at all when you're putting it together. It feels like, where the heck does this go? To go back to our sandwich analogy, it kind of feels like, wait, does this bread go in the middle and the meat on top?

It's really confusing. That, I think, is the mark of a successful essay. You go through this process of confusion and you end up with something that feels totally inevitable. Of course it isn't, but that's the whole art of writing.

Let's turn to your optional essays, Adam. You had a couple, and I'm going to first turn to Selene. When it comes to the diversity statements, Selene, what were you and Adam trying to accomplish?

Selene: I actually like this diversity statement very much, because I feel like it complements Adam's personal statement, which provides a little bit of context for who he is and where he comes from. But then we launch into this very specific story and we talk a lot about how he analyzes the social structure, the political structure, the legal structure, and identifying the problem that he sees and how he wants to solve that problem, which are very important things that the admissions committee wants to know, but they're very sort of grand and not terribly personal.

Perhaps it speaks more to his professional goals than who he is. Who is Adam? Because I'm aware that when the admissions committee is reviewing applications, they're looking to put together, they're looking to assemble a class of people with all different backgrounds and interests and perspectives and experiences who can come together, learn together, learn from each other and with each other.

And so I felt like it was really important, knowing that there were going to be probably a lot of international candidates applying in this cycle, as there are in all cycles, that he distinguish himself from that crowd. The diversity statement, I felt like, should delve more into Adam, the person.

Who is this person who went to China and saw this problem and has these goals? What is his background? What perspective would he bring to the classroom discussion if we were to admit him? And so I saw the diversity statement as an opportunity for him to share things about him as an individual, the fact that he was very active in sports and that he was very active socially, and engaged not only with the faculty at OSU, but also other students.

And I thought that that brought out a lot of really attractive qualities in Adam as a candidate. And so I wanted to emphasize that so that we could layer that onto the sandwich, so that whoever is consuming his application would get like a full picture, a full meal of who Adam is.

David: Have we taken the sandwich metaphor too far? I think so, let's retire it. But to be clear, Selene, what you're saying is you thought the PS was great, but it left some stuff out, and you tried to fill the gap with the diversity statement.

Selene: Yes, and I think that the PS would have worked fine, but I felt like the diversity statement would add more. It would make him more interesting. I want him to come across as a fully formed, three-dimensional person.

David: Right. Adam, you mentioned that you played football and lacrosse, which is quite notable. My question for both you and for Dan is, how did you come up with the topics? How did you put it together?

Adam: Yeah, so for the diversity statement, also Selene played a huge part of this too.

We had a diversity statement up at first, but when Selene read it, she's like, Adam, I don't want you to tell a story about how Asian immigrants faced or how Asian immigrants diversity statement. It's about Adam personally, so we reworked the whole thing and we said it's a target on me personally, on how I personally overcome a lot of the stereotypes playing football as an Asian immigrant, and also lacrosse, playing varsity lacrosse as a junior captain, how my story was picked up.

And that was in the first introduction paragraph that I briefly talked about it, but then we decided to shift our focus on how I changed my perspective during college and how I used my understandings of the Asian perspective, as well as my American perspective, how I combined them into a synergy in college and how I would use that later on in life.

And so that's how Daniel and I started to take that approach after Selene gave us that recommendation.

Daniel: Yeah, I'll add that I think what's important here, what we tried to stress was not only what is this new perspective he's gained from his background and his experiences, but what has he done with it?

How did he use that to enrich his college experience? You know, one thing that Selene is always really good at is keeping us focused on showing the admissions committees what Adam is bringing to the table. Even just like, you know, as a sentence where, he has a sentence about being a teaching assistant and what his relationship was like with his peers as a teaching assistant.

And again, that's just another example of something that it's a very clear statement and description of what he brings to an incoming class that someone else might not.

David: So, Adam, are you saying that the first draft of your diversity statement focused on the experience of Asian immigrants in general, or it focused entirely on your experience as an immigrant when you came to the States?

Adam: I think it's all my personal experience on that, but I think my theme was around, it was too much, in a word, it's a stereotype that is commonly known. So that's how it was summarized. It's kind of like a story that, it becomes a stereotype that other people also share, which doesn't really make me distinctive.

And it's really never talked about how I utilized and achieved this. It's mostly me talking about what I experienced instead of how I utilized that experience and how I changed in college. That was the main issue with my first draft.

David: Yeah, I think what you did was really smart. For those of you who are not looking at the statement, Adam ended up telescoping that experience, it looks like, into a single paragraph, and that's the starting point.

And you use that starting point as a way to talk about these other things, how he overcame the stereotype, what he did in college, and then what he's going to do for the law school community. And it works really well. I noticed, though, that you did not write an LSAT addendum, or did you, and I'm just not looking at it?

Adam: I didn't, I didn't. Yeah, I had a talk with Selene and it wasn't really much. Maybe Selene can elaborate on that a little bit more, but we think that it's only one down curve. It's an upside-down V-shape, it's a bell curve. Yes, there might be some questions to be asked about why it went up drastically, but it also went down, a little bit down. It might raise some questions from the admissions officer's perspective, but we decided that there's not much to talk about.

People make mistakes, or there's, you know, we had a bad time on the exam. I don't think there's much more to be elaborated on that, but we decided to focus on the actual personal statements and the optional essays instead of picking on that LSAT score curve.

David: Selene, can you say a few words about that decision too?

Selene: Yeah, I feel like an LSAT addendum, it's part of the series of written pieces that the admissions officer sees in the PDF when they're reviewing applications from the database. And I felt like unless there was a really distinctive reason why there was this LSAT history, that any attempt to try to insert any sort of significance or drama to the LSAT history could potentially make the admissions officer feel as if he was trying to state the obvious or explain away the obvious.

Adam, I don't think that there were any extreme issues like your computer fried or there was a fire across the street, or if somebody was very, very sick, or anything like that, right? It was just, I did better on this one, not so good on this one. I felt like it would almost be like we were trying to fabricate an excuse to put in an LSAT addendum.

It would be very, very short and maybe it wouldn't even register when the admissions officer was reviewing his written pieces, because, oh, nothing to see here, nothing extreme. His LSAT history is what it is. We were just going to sort of leave it up to whoever was reviewing, whatever they wanted to think about it, but we felt like it was better to emphasize his strengths and maybe not draw attention to the LSAT history.

David: Adam, let's go back to the timeline here. So you put together this fantastic application. You send it in early decision, and then I understand you got an interview.

Adam: Correct. Yeah, so I emailed Penn to change my status to ED II, and they replied to me in early January.

And so with the time approaching with a decision date releasing in end of January, I was pretty panicking. But then on a Monday before that decision release, I got an interview invite, which I looked up Reddit, I looked up talk to alumni, and they rarely give out. So Selene told me that Penn recently started doing this only to their ED applicants, only to selective ED candidates.

So I'm not sure how that interview was purposely made, why they gave me an interview, but I decided to take it. And so we had an interview scheduled, and during that interview, it was pretty casual. The interview was pretty casual. I could tell kind of her intention was trying to let me speak more about my experience with Penn and why I applied to their ED II program, because I know Penn only gives out an interview to a very small group of people, only their ED pool.

So, many people don't have an interview. So, you know, during the interview I talked about, honestly, talked about what I, how I know about Penn. And I know, actually, I know Penn Law ever since the Ohio Law Fair. I talked to one of the alumni from OSU and I had a great talk with her. And I told her about this experience.

Also, I did a lot of research on Penn, how their cross-disciplinary program was really their main focus, and so how I want to utilize that, what they offer, and how that will contribute to my experience in the future. And so, yeah, the interview was very casual.

So I think from the interview, I can tell that she wanted to see whether I applied ED II to only boost up my chances, because ED is a bounded, like David previously said, it's a bounded process. She wanted to tell whether I can prove that I applied ED because I was really interested in Penn, that I really think Penn was my best choice, or I only applied ED II because, for other reasons, you know, I want to boost up my chances or something.

And I think, looking back from the result, I think that I did convince her that what my true intention is, is that Penn was really fitting me. I really fit Penn and how Penn really fits me. So that's how...

David: What were the interview?

Adam: I did get the decision that Friday after. I was extremely happy. She called me over the phone that morning.

David: Just to clarify, I was under the impression at first that you applied originally to Penn as an ED applicant, but now I understand that you had already applied to Penn. And then when you were deferred by Columbia, you called Penn, or you emailed them and asked to switch your outstanding application to ED. Is that right?

Adam: Correct. Yeah, I applied to Penn and all T14s around early November. So through the regular process RD program. And so after Columbia ED was deferred, I emailed Penn instantly to tell them that I wanted to switch to ED II, and I did sign the form afterwards. It was a pretty easy process.

David: That makes sense. Selene, what did you make of this request for an interview?

Selene: Well, given the cycle, I don't think it's surprising. I feel like admissions offices are using interviews more. And, you know, when you're trying to figure out ED and you have someone who comes in a certain way, but then wants to make a switch, it's the easiest, fastest way to find out if the candidate is serious about that school. The school doesn't want to extend an offer if they don't already know that the candidate is going to accept it.

I think Adam and I did a fair amount of interview prep before this, with, you know, just him being able to be comfortable expressing his answers for why law, why now, why Adam is great, and what he wants to use his law degree for.

So I think Penn benefited from, you know, being sort of later in the cycle, and Adam had probably gone through a couple of these interview rounds and was fairly practiced in expressing himself confidently. That goes a long way. I think, Adam, you said it wasn't a terribly long interview, so you must've been able to express yourself very clearly and succinctly.

Adam: Yeah, it ran pretty short. It ran about 15 minutes and then she started asking me whether I have any questions for her, and I brought up some fun facts about Penn's student associations, which I had actually researched and reached out to, and she was impressed as well. So yeah, the interview lasted around 15 to 20 minutes.

David: I realized I forgot to ask you earlier about the Penn core strengths essay. Here's the prompt. These are the core strengths that make Penn Carey Law the best place to receive a rigorous and engaging legal education. And then they talk about some of their strengths: integration with disciplines, great scholarship, et cetera. These qualities define Penn Carey Law.

What defines you? How do your goals and values match Penn Carey Law's core strengths? What are they asking here, and how did you answer it?

Adam: It's not just a way of just describing what Penn offers. It's more about how Penn and you could complement each other or how you could utilize their resources and how they could benefit from you as well.

I think the key point is they want you to incorporate both how you will fit in Penn as well as how Penn will, what Penn offers you. So, yeah. Then maybe Daniel can talk about how we elaborated on that.

Daniel: It is sort of like a "Why X" essay, but I feel like when people think about it as a "Why X" essay, sometimes the approach to this essay can get a little weird, just because, as Adam said, one thing that we talked about was the emphasis is on the candidate. It's on you. So it's really tough to kind of hit on some of these core strengths and match them up to yours in a convincing way, without sounding like you're just sort of improvising.

And I felt like this essay, we work on a lot of these, and I feel like Adam did just a really good job of matching up his interest with these core strengths in a really convincing way, and in a way that sort of echoes other parts of his application, things that we brought up in the personal statement, things that we brought up in the diversity statement.

So it's not like you're just picking a core strength out of the blue and saying, oh yeah, I totally align with that. There are elements that you've already discussed that are part of your background and you're just kind of going into a little bit more depth into how those elements match up to Penn. So, yeah, I think the strategy with this essay for me is always to focus on the candidate first and be like, well, this is what I bring, and this is how it matches up to X, Y, and Z.

David: So, Adam, what are you doing with yourself before you start your 1L year?

Adam: Yeah, I'm actually, I've been back to China. So I was in the States all the way, suffering the whole time through the pandemic, and I realized when I graduate, I only have one summer left before going through a law school route of working and studying. I just bought a ticket and came back after a whole month of quarantine, two weeks of quarantine in the hotel and one-half week of self-quarantine at home. I'm out and totally free.

And I decided to utilize this summer, first of all, to gain more sleep, and second of all, just to explore my hometown, to travel, also to exercise a little bit more, to keep my body healthy. I'm actually on a vacation trip with my girlfriend right now in China. Very enjoyable moment for me.

David: That's wonderful. Here's how I want to end it. I'd love it if you and Dan and Selene, in any order you want, to share one last piece of advice, either for law school applicants in general, or specifically for international law school applicants.

Adam: I can start. I have advice for Penn. I also have advice for overall applications. So Penn really focused on matching. I think this term matching is that they really want to see who they want to pick out. They really have a low-yield acceptance, meaning they want to keep their acceptance low and keep their yield of commitments high. And so they're really targeting those students that really fits in their law school. They have a really small class.

So if you want to really interest in Penn, you really have to show how you match Penn, how Penn matches you. I think that's what, also what their optional essay's offering. And also for applications for this cycle, I think that applying early definitely helps. A lot of people that I know with higher stats or, you know, all we know is their stats, so with higher stats were either waitlisted or rejected because they applied in late February or even late January. So applying early definitely helps.

David: Dan or Selene, do you have any last pieces of advice?

Daniel: Yeah, I think one lesson from Adam's application and one's inexperience, maybe I touched on this a little bit before, but if you're writing about corruption and human rights in your personal statement or anything else, I just think it's really important to be really specific about what aspect you're interested in working on with your law degree.

And just avoiding being vague and saying, oh, I want to work on corruption or I want to work in human rights, and just, really, specificity is the key.

Selene: My advice to international candidates, whether they are coming directly from abroad or whether they have come to the States and maybe gone to college here and now are applying to law school, I would say try to clearly indicate in the application why it makes sense that you want to pursue a legal education in the US. I think that that is a question that is at the front of admissions officers' minds as they're reviewing an application from an international candidate. And so that's my first bit of advice.

My second bit of advice would be to be aware that the audience is the admissions committee and they are going to be reading many, many applications from international candidates. And you want to make sure that the stories you choose to tell and the strengths that you choose to highlight in your candidacy, that you've thought them through and that they're going to be specific to you, unique to you.

Because the review process is all about distinguishing one candidate from the other. And even though two candidates may have had similar experiences, similar life experiences, what they did with those experiences make them unique. And you want to emphasize the part that makes you unique.

David: That's great advice. Well, thanks to everyone here for joining me. Adam, congratulations on a fantastic outcome. I know that you're going to excel at Penn and I hope you have a really great summer.

Adam: Thank you very much, David.

Daniel: Good luck, Adam.

Adam: Thank you, everyone.

Daniel: Great working with you.

Adam: Thank you, everyone.

David: Bye, everyone.

J.Y.: Hi, it's J.Y. again. Thank you for listening.

As always, if you're studying for the LSAT, applying to law school, studying for your law school exams, or studying for the bar, come visit us at We can help.

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