Jill: I think that that's what is one of the best things about going to law school, is that there is not one direct path to law school. You don't need to be a certain major. You don't need to have a particular job. And that's what makes for such an exciting law classroom, is that you have such a variety of different voices and people in the classroom.
J.Y.: Hello, and welcome to the 7Sage podcast. I am J.Y. Ping, and on today's episode, admissions consultants Tajira McCoy, Christie Belknap, Elizabeth Cavallari, and Jill Steier of 7Sage host the Clubhouse Room to talk about creating a cohesive application package.
Tajira moderates the panel, asking the panelists to share their insights on what details to incorporate into a resume and how diversity statements, addenda, and other optional statements can build on required application materials to provide greater context, to build a big-picture view of an applicant's candidacy. The talk also includes Q&A with Clubhouse listeners.
So, without further ado, please enjoy.
Tajira: Good evening and welcome, everyone. I'm Tajira McCoy, but you can call me Taj. It's so refreshing to see so many new members to Clubhouse in our audience today. Thank you so much for joining us. I am a professional writer and law school admissions and administration professional. For 10 years, I worked in law school admissions at four schools, spanning public and private institutions, including two Jesuit schools, a T14, and an HBCU.
Most recently, I served as the director of admissions and scholarship programs at Berkeley Law. Currently, I am a 7Sage consultant and an author of a couple of books. Tonight, we have a fun conversation planned for you. Tonight's panelists, my colleagues and I, represent 7Sage.
For those preparing to apply to law school, 7Sage offers LSAT preparation, admissions consulting, and editing services. If you visit our website, 7Sage.com, you can create a free account, which gives you access to some sample lessons, an LSAT prep test, and 100 question explanations.
The free account also gives you access to our discussion forum, where you can ask questions about the admissions process, hear from others who are currently in the process, and learn about our events we have coming up. You can also follow us on Twitter. Our handle is 7Admissions, with an S at the end. The four of us on the panel are admissions consultants and have worked on admissions teams at various law schools across the country.
Tonight, we're going to be speaking to you about creating a cohesive application package with resumes and optional statements. So this talk is really for law school candidates still in the process of preparing their application materials, or for future applicants who are in the planning stages. There will be time for questions and answers for the last 10 to 15 minutes of our conversation.
I encourage you all to ping friends of yours who may also be interested in this subject matter. And if you're not already a member of Club 7Sage, I also encourage you to tap on the green house on your screen. It'll take you to our club page, where you can follow us and be notified of upcoming events.
Let's go ahead and get started. So, to my panelists, I'm going to call on you one at a time and I would ask that you please introduce yourself, share which schools' admissions teams you served on. I'm going to start with Elizabeth.
Elizabeth: Thanks, everyone. Hi, I'm Elizabeth Cavallari. I've been consulting with 7Sage for the past two admission cycles and I've spent over 10 years in undergraduate and graduate admissions, six of those years as the senior assistant dean for admissions at William and Mary Law School.
Tajira: Great. Jill?
Jill: Hi, everyone. Thank you so much for joining. I am Jill Steier. I've worked in law school and undergraduate admissions for around 10 years. I've worked at Columbia Law School, and most recently, I was assistant director of admissions at NYU School of Law.
Tajira: Great, and Christie.
Christie: Hi, everyone. This is Christie Belknap, and before working with 7Sage as an admissions consultant for the past three cycles, I practiced law in New York City for 12 years, and during that time, I worked in law school admissions at Cardozo Law School for two years as an associate director of admissions. Thanks for coming.
Tajira: Great. So our first question for our panelists is, what are you looking for when you review an applicant's resume? Jill, I'll start with you.
Jill: Great, thank you. So I am looking for cohesiveness between the personal statement and the letters of recommendation and the resume. So if a letter of recommendation from a professor talks about a particular research assignment that you worked on or an internship you've had, I'd love to see that on the resume.
If you talk about in your personal statement a commitment to working in, let's say, immigration law, I'd like to see your interests reflected on your resume. So whether that's work experience, internship experience, or a student organization that you may have been a part of, it's important that the resume kind of ties together all facets of your application.
Tajira: Great. Elizabeth, would you would like to add anything?
Elizabeth: I think it's also helpful to see what someone's path is. So not everyone's path is necessarily direct to law school, but knowing kind of what they've done over time, I think I'm really looking for succinct information, but even if someone is doing something that isn't directly related to law school, that their resume's still highlighting skill sets in that work that could make them be successful law students.
Tajira: Great. Christie?
Christie: So I would just say, you know, we're already going to see what undergraduate school, graduate school, and your GPA, you know, from your transcripts and the LSAC report. So your resume highlights your work experience, obviously, and that can be in college or after college. And, you know, you want to highlight your responsibilities. You want to do that, I think, in three bullets or less.
You want to highlight your volunteering experience in college and outside of college, and your personal section should tell us a little bit about you and what interests you have outside of the law, if your resume already speaks a lot to why you're interested in the law, so it can be a little bit more fun and something that we don't know about.
Tajira: Great, thank you. I think it's also important to make sure that on your resume you're highlighting opportunities that you've had to be a leader. And so, in student organizations, if you held a specific office on the board, if you are part of professional organizations, if you're a volunteer and you've been doing that for a really long time, it's a great opportunity for us to see that you've taken initiative beyond being a member and that you're actually leading others, and what that might entail.
There's definitely power in that, especially when you happen to have been really involved on campus. If you list a whole bunch of student organizations, I would anticipate that some of those will include a leadership role. And so for our next question, and I'm going to pick on you a little bit, Jill, because you happen to have worked with NYU and Columbia, but do law schools expect applicants to take a gap year?
Jill: No, law schools don't expect applicants to take a gap year. If it was expected or required, it would be part of the application, it would be, we'd include it on the application. I think that that's what is one of the best things about going to law school, is that there is not one direct path to law school.
You don't need to be a certain major. You don't need to have a particular job. And that's what makes for such an exciting law classroom, is that you have such a variety of different voices and people in the classroom. I will say that law schools often like to balance their class and they think carefully about having a diverse class.
And that includes students with work experience and students coming directly from undergrad. And that number, often schools may choose to share that information. Often schools may let applicants know how many applicants come directly from undergrad and how many have a year out or more. But also keep in mind that these numbers may change each year.
So it depends on what the applicant pool looks like each cycle. I think the most important thing is that, you know, law schools want to see that you're doing something. And if you are coming directly from undergrad, they want to see that you feel that law school is the best decision for you right now, and that you feel prepared to take on law school, if you're coming directly from undergrad.
Tajira: Great. Christie, Elizabeth, anything to add?
Elizabeth: I think the only thing I might add is the average age for most law schools is between 22 and 24, so a good number are coming right from undergrad. So taking a gap year doesn't necessarily make you a stronger candidate. I think if you're planning to take a gap year, it's about the experience and what that might bring to the table for you as a law school applicant.
Tajira: And I'll just say, I think that there are times when specific schools might have a preference for folks who have some work experience. When they have that preference, typically they're pretty explicit about it on their websites. And so it may not be that they require a gap year per se, but they may say that they want to see at least a year of work experience under your belt, and that might've taken place while you're in college or in grad school.
It really just depends when we're looking at students who are going straight through, one of the things that we want to make sure is that you're ready. And so if we can see that from your materials, then going straight through doesn't really leave a question mark for us.
And so, Christie, I'll start with you. Are there any common mistakes that you see when reviewing resumes?
Christie: I would say that a common mistake can be formatting and making the resume really difficult to read. So when I look at a resume initially, and I see just blocks and numerous bullet points, that it's hard to just scan. It just makes the resume almost unreadable. So, you know, I think you just, a lot of it, obviously, the substance is important, but you also just want to make it very easy to read and highlight what's important to you.
The other thing I would say is, you know, when there's an unexplained gap of, say, three months or more, that just leaves questions for the admissions committee, which is not something you want to do. You want to be able to have, you know, it easy to read and be chronologically, just fill the spaces. So, you know, there's no question about what you're doing.
Elizabeth: So I think, along with that, in addition to formatting would be typos. And so being consistent in terms of commas, dashes, things like that. So whatever format that you're deciding on, that you're consistent and have that consistency flow between sections.
Christie also mentioned this, but I think the number of bullets, I think it's hard to discern when you want to include everything, but it is important to say, these are the three or four things that I think are really important that will apply to law school, versus trying to list everything you might have done in a specific role. So some information might be figuring out what's important to you versus what's important to the law school. So figuring out what might be a little bit more insignificant and what might be most important.
And this is something not just for the resume, but for kind of any application, is thinking about that email address. So what email address are you putting on your resume, on your application? How will it reflect on you? So most people have school email addresses or work ones, or setting up a generic Gmail with your name and making sure it's something professional, because that's one of the first things they're going to see when looking at your resume.
Jill: One of the most common questions that I ask myself when looking at a resume is what are the dates that somebody was committed to something, and what were the, you know, what does this commitment look like? When somebody is, you know, very vague about the dates that they were participating in something. So whether it's just like a year, like 2018 to 2019, or if it doesn't have any dates at all, that makes me wonder why.
So if you can, you know, I recommend that students be a little bit more specific. You know, it's fine if you write spring semester or fall semester. If there is a full-time job that you did during school, please note that it's a full-time job because we'd like to see, how did you balance work with school? Maybe this did impact your GPA. So that type of information is helpful.
Something else that I think is helpful as well is, and this is especially for students that may have a STEM background, if there are any acronyms or terms that are very specific to your field, that we may not be familiar with, please just kind of spell it out in lay person terms for us.
I find that to be pretty helpful. You know, we're not familiar, even though we've reviewed a lot of different types of applications, we may not be familiar with the very specific type of lab that you're working on, or the acronym or shorthand term that you use in the military that you may use to describe something on your resume. So just keep that in mind, that you may need to spell things out for us.
Tajira: Great, thanks. I would say something that I've been seeing recently is, I've had a couple of clients actually just completely leave things off of their resume just because they felt like they weren't there long enough. Maybe they worked an internship over the summer and they just thought, because it wasn't six months or more, that it wasn't substantial or it didn't matter.
And, you know, you don't want to lose the opportunity to tell us about your experience by leaving something off, when it, especially, you know, I've had folks leave off legal work experience and that's something that's extremely relevant to what you're doing when you're applying to law school.
I have been seeing a couple of hands raising, and we are going to have a question and answer period. It's going to be closer to the end of our program today, so I hope you'll hang in there with us and hang on to your questions.
The next question that I have is, you know, is it necessary to narrow down all of the experience someone has to a one-page resume? Elizabeth?
Elizabeth: I think for the most part, yes. But it also depends, which is sometimes you'll get that depends on the school, depends on the individual applicant. So the first thing is follow the instructions. Some schools will say they want a one-page resume, and then you should absolutely just include a one-page resume.
I think the other question when thinking about how much additional value and additional and related experience that you might have, if you're thinking it's not a ton, but it just shows kind of timeline a little bit more, then I think potentially squeezing that down to include it still in a one-page resume.
But if you really do have substantial and extensive work experience, particularly if you're an older applicant, I think it is okay to use a two-page resume. But I would say, more often than not, if you're coming right from undergrad or just one to two years out, more than a one-page resume can sometimes feel excessive.
Admissions officers are reading everything, but we do try to read things quickly, because we're going through a lot of applications. So the more concise that an applicant can be in their resume, I think is really helpful that we're able to pull out the key things that you want to show us in promoting your application and why you might be a good applicant for our law school.
Tajira: Anyone have anything to add?
Christie: Along those lines, I would say, so for the entire application, and this is kind of crushing to some people, I would say, on average, 7 to 10 minutes on the entire application. So the resume, you know, how much time is spent on that, maybe a minute, maybe a little bit longer, but so, that just goes to say a one-pager that highlights the most important things can often be most effective.
You know, again, if you feel, if you're an older applicant and there's a lot to include, maybe that justifies a longer-than-one-page resume. And obviously the instructions, if they allow more. But you don't want to use that to include those big block bullet points so that, you know, the effectiveness of your resume gets lost.
Tajira: Great, thank you. If I don't have legal work experience, is it okay to put other jobs on my resume? Jill?
Jill: Absolutely. You don't need to have legal work experience to go to law school. And actually, this is something that I often say, and I'm glad that you talked about, Tajira, applicants feeling like they should not include things on their resume.
I often speak with applicants who feel like they don't want to put on the resume that they were a cashier during school, or, you know, that they worked in retail, because they feel like those skills aren't valuable or it doesn't relate to the law, and I couldn't disagree more. First of all, we understand that not every applicant has the financial means to take on an unpaid internship.
And so we'd like to see that you're just doing something. I'd rather have somebody include on their resume that they were a leader and that they were committed to their job working in retail or as a cashier than to have somebody put in information about an internship that they didn't really care about or that they weren't that involved in.
So I really, it's absolutely okay to put other jobs on your resume, even if it's not related to legal work experience. But just keep in mind, though, if you don't have legal work experience, it is helpful, you know, if you put somewhere else in your application, like in your personal statement, reasons for why you've thought carefully about law school and why this is the right fit for you.
Tajira: That's great. Thank you, Jill. Go ahead, Christie.
Christie: I would say along those same lines, you know, I had an applicant who said, you know, I had so many different jobs in college and none of them are related to law. Should I include, like, for example, that I worked at Starbucks? And I said, definitely, and, you know, you don't have to list those out as separate entries in your resume.
You could say as one bullet point under your college extracurriculars that you worked at Starbucks and wherever else to help finance the cost of your education. You know, I think that's very helpful for admissions committees to know what you did with your time and that you were still able to excel in undergrad.
Tajira: I 100% agree. A lot of times applicants don't think we do is, you know, if I have someone who's applying and they're a team lead, you know, somewhere in food service, I can glean from that that you can work with others, that you can be responsible for money, that you probably have great customer service skills, which means that you probably have a good amount of empathy.
There are things that we can glean from the skills that are required to do certain jobs that make it still relevant to us, because it gives us a sense of how you're going to operate on campus.
We've spent some time on resume, and so I think we're going to actually move on from there now. In considering whether an applicant should write a diversity statement, how would you define diversity? Elizabeth?
Elizabeth: Sure. So I think defining diversity or kind of what constitutes being diverse, it can be challenging because there's not a ton of guidance for a lot of applications about what this means. So some factors to consider would be race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, educational background, physical abilities, potentially adversity that people might've had to overcome.
This certainly isn't a comprehensive list, but just kind of some examples. So I think when people are writing diversity statements, it's not just saying, here's why I think I'm diverse, but it's also being introspective about it, so that the law school admissions committee can get a better understanding of how an applicant's individual set of experiences has shaped the world view and how potentially that applicant will bring these perspectives to their incoming law school class.
Tajira: Anything to add, Jill or Christie?
Jill: I think it can also be a great way to showcase your interest in a particular school. So if there is an affinity group that aligns to the diversity that you're talking about, feel free to make note of that in your diversity statement.
You know, note the student organizations or opportunities at the school that interest you because of your identity. Law schools really like to see that you are interested in contributing to the community once you attend their law school.
Tajira: I would also add, a lot of times the things that make us diverse are often also the things that are motivating us and driving us to go to law school or to succeed in law school. And so, you know, tying these things together, that's a part of why we're here tonight, to talk about creating a cohesive application package.
Each different piece of your application is like a puzzle piece, and the more that you bring those things together and they layer upon each other, it creates a nice, clear picture for us about who you are, what's motivating you to come to law school, why now is the right time, and where you see yourself going, how you see yourself contributing to a law school community.
And so as you kind of think through utilizing different optional statements, you know, how does your diversity statement build upon your personal statement? If they're about the same thing, then you've lost an opportunity, but if you can take a facet of yourself that's a part of you that makes you you and gives you the perspective that you're going to bring into the classroom, that part really makes sense as your diversity statement. And then you can kind of utilize another story that's kind of proximate to your diversity statement, but not directly overlapping.
What does an admissions officer, and maybe I answered part of this, Elizabeth, but I'm going to still ask you the question anyway, what does an admissions officer hope to learn from a diversity statement?
Elizabeth: Yeah. So I think you definitely touched on some of that already, Tajira. But I think we want to see how your background and experience has made you stronger, potentially, what you've learned from it, how you've gone through these different experiences or have this background that can be an asset to not only yourself, but also the community and the legal profession as a whole, knowing that people might look really the same on paper when it comes to numbers, but being able to glean some different information about an applicant that might not have fit within a personal statement.
So we're thinking about building classes, not simply on numbers, but diversity of experiences and backgrounds. And I think the diversity statement is a great way to get information that might not have a place in other parts of the application, but be able to make an applicant seem more whole, as we're doing this kind of holistic review process.
Tajira: Great, thank you. Jill, what are addenda?
Jill: So addenda are optional statements that you can submit that will provide additional context to something on your application. So, for example, if you have quite a large jump in your LSAT scores, we may ask ourselves why, what happened there? And so you may let us know that you decided to use test resources provided by 7Sage or that your testing environment changed over the summer.
If there is a gap on your resume, feel free to let us know why. Perhaps you were traveling, perhaps you were injured or ill. The last thing we want is to be left with questions about an application. And so addenda are there to help provide the answers to any questions that admissions officers may have.
Tajira: Anything to add, Elizabeth or Christie?
Elizabeth: I think the only thing I might add with addenda is if there's a question mark anywhere in your application, that if you feel like an admissions officer might ask what happened here, and it's not somewhere in another place in your application, I think this is where an addendum could potentially be helpful.
Tajira: Great. And so, with that, you mentioned taking the LSAT more than once and having a drastic jump. If I don't have a drastic jump but I did take the LSAT more than once, do I have to write an addendum? Christie?
Christie: No, I would say if there is no big jump, then it's not necessary, and you've taken it more than twice. I guess the only time maybe, I mean, even then, I would say no. If there's no discrepancy between the scores, then I would just leave it, leave it quiet, and because we can interpret what that is.
Jill: Also, you know, I always tell candidates, go into the LSAT with a mindset that you are only taking it once. I think that's a helpful mindset to go in because you want to go in feeling completely prepared.
But often that is not the case. Most candidates take the LSAT, I'd say, two times on average, two to three times maybe. So, you know, I would say, and this varies for each school, but I would say if you take the LSAT five times or more, we may ask ourselves some questions.
Tajira: So if I've taken it five times, I should write an addendum then?
Jill: Again, it varies for each school, but it would be helpful, because if you've taken it five times and there's no change in scores, that's another question that I may be asking myself, you know, are they changing their test prep? What is their goal? Why are they taking it so many times? These are questions that I would be asking myself if I was looking at quite a large number of LSAT scores.
Tajira: Great. Elizabeth, when is it best to write a GPA addendum?
Elizabeth: I think there's several different circumstances where a GPA addendum might be helpful. I think if there's a pattern of Cs throughout a transcript, or Cs or lower, I think that's helpful to include, you know, why on these particular ones.
But I think if there's also trends, so if you had a rough start and then you took a little while to hit your stride, I think that's helpful to put it in context, but I also think there's a really fine line between an explanation and an excuse. So in writing a GPA addendum, making sure that you're just providing the facts and not trying to excuse away behavior, but, more so, saying this happened, here's how I learned and grew, and this is how it led me to be the student I am today.
One place where, and some of the consultants might disagree, sometimes we'll see people switching from pre-med to pre-law. For me, that doesn't necessarily require a GPA addendum. I can look at your transcript and I can get a really good sense, based on the number of applications I've read over the years, if someone has made that switch.
So if you have orgo and biochem or calc one semester, and then the next semester you're switching to political science courses, I understand that switch and also kind of take potentially lower grades for those pre-med classes into account without you including additional information in a written addendum.
Tajira: Now, I know that at least one instance was mentioned, but are there other instances, outside of an LSAT jump or kind of a GPA dip or change, where it might make sense to go ahead and write the addendum and kind of proactively answer a question?
Christie: I think maybe this is the one you were thinking about, but a gap in your resume where it's not clear what you were doing for three months or more, you know, you might explain unusual circumstances, and some of the applications will actually ask you to or require you to write an explanation for any gap that's longer than three months.
Tajira: Any others that come to mind, Elizabeth? Jill?
Elizabeth: I was also thinking if you took some time off of school, but I think I mentioned this earlier, if there's any kind of question marks on an application, so gap in resume, just other kind of personal circumstances that you think might glean something, it's helpful to have all that kind of written in advance, where some schools, as Christie mentioned, will ask, is there a gap on your resume? Explain. Did you take time off of school?
So instead of kind of writing it on the fly, as you're filling out these applications, that you have everything prepared, and then you can discern in an individual application, okay, do I want to include this or that? Having it pre-written, so you feel like you're putting your best foot forward and answering all these questions on the applications.
Tajira: And I completely agree. I think, you know, the hard part is, there's not a ton of time, as Christie mentioned, you know, we're reading through applications relatively quickly. There's not a lot of time to kind of go back to an applicant and ask them questions.
And so, as we're reading through these applications, if we're left with a bunch of question marks, it's really hard to get to a favorable decision. If you can proactively, you know, just kind of look at your application, think about, you know, okay, as they're reading through this, what might they have concerns about?
What might they be curious about? Where are the gaps, or are there any kind of holes here? If there are, those are good opportunities for you to kind of give us that context up front because the fewer questions that I have at the end, the easier it is for me to go ahead and make that favorable decision.
So the next question is about "Why this school?" statements. So some schools allow for "Why X school" statements. When would you advise an applicant to write one, or should everyone? Elizabeth?
Elizabeth: I think if a school allows for it, you should write one. In a lot of cases, if they say it's optional, with the exception of maybe a diversity statement, I would say optional isn't really optional. But if a school doesn't ask for one, I think it's okay not to include one, that I would much rather spend time in the 7 to 10 minutes I have at an application reading through what we have asked for as an institution versus what the applicant is like, well, I'm going to throw this extra thing in.
So if a school says, "Why X?" they really want to know why you're interested in their specific school, what program, potentially clinics, alumni, faculty you're interested in. These "Why X" statements, they want to know that you've done the research and have a genuine interest in the school. But if a school doesn't ask for a "Why X" statement, I don't believe that you'll need to include one.
Jill: Yes, I agree with Elizabeth. Something that I want to note as well. You know, one of the biggest mistakes I see with the "Why X" statement is that candidates may often just tell us facts. "I want to go to X school because this clinic does this type of work." Well, we know that, but how do you want to be involved in it? What, you know, what kinds of things do you want to bring to your research with this particular faculty member? How will this tie into you?
Something else I think that can be helpful and that students don't often think about, you know, it is okay to include external reasons for one of the reasons why you want to attend a particular school. So, you know, if you have a spouse that has a job in the same city as this law school, feel free to include that information.
If you have family members there, if you are an ice skater and there is a particular ice skating rink that you will go to because it is close to this law school, you know, it is okay to include that information. Don't feel discouraged. Intrinsic and extrinsic factors are okay to talk about.
Christie: Yeah, I mean, I totally agree with all of that. I think the most important thing is you find out about the school, either, you know, hopefully you can visit, you can attend law school forums, you can talk with admissions officers, friends, alumni who go to or went to a particular school, and then you, it's really important for it to be genuine. And the way you do that is by tying it into the things that you love to do and what you can see yourself doing at the law school based on what you've done in the past or what you hope to do.
Tajira: Those personal connections really do make a "Why X school" statement stronger, and, you know, if you're not able to visit campus, maybe you can do a virtual tour or maybe you can sit in on an info session.
All of the faculty is listed right on the website. If there's a specific program that you're planning on listing within your "Why X school" statement, is there a faculty member that you can reach out to, to talk about their research or how that particular program is impacting the local community?
There's ways for you to create personal connections to the schools that where you think that there's a really good fit, and seeing those personal connections helps a law school admissions officer see that you actually really have thought about how it fits, how you fit within their community and how you might contribute in the future.
So, in addition to diversity statements, "Why X school" statements, and addenda, some schools also offer their own optional essays to supplement applications. Does it look bad if I opt not to write any? Elizabeth?
Elizabeth: I think that it does. Schools are asking for you to submit these optional essays because they want to make sure that you have a sincere interest in their school.
So again, if a school is asking for something, even if they say optional, with so many applicants out there who've taken the time to say, yes, I'm interested in this school, for me, if I was asking for something and someone decided not to do it, it would make me feel that my school wasn't as much of a priority as potentially other schools they're applying to.
Jill: Absolutely. And you know, you have limited real estate with a law school admissions application. So, you know, please take any opportunity that you have to showcase your writing skills, showcase your personality, and showcase your interest in that particular school.
Tajira: Anything to add, Christie?
Christie: Along those same lines, I would say, you know, in order to show your personality, like some of these optional statements, I'm thinking of Columbia's fun facts and Georgetown's, one of the options is a top 10 list. I mean, that's a great way to showcase something else about your personality that they might not know, you know, so they can get a sense of who you are aside from your interest in law.
Jill: I will say, working at Columbia, the fun fact was always something that I made sure to read. It was always like a little, like a special treat to be able to read that part. And I was always, I always appreciated when somebody took the time to write a thoughtful fun fact.
Tajira: I really want to drive home the point that, you know, these optional statements are extra opportunities. If a school is giving extra opportunities to learn more about you, take every opportunity that you have. If you think about, you know, the fact that law school is the start of your legal career, well, then your law school application, pretend that's your first case and you're the client, you know?
So are you going to really advocate on behalf of yourself by taking advantage of all of these opportunities to let them know who you are and what you're about? These statements really are meant to give a really clear picture. And so it, as I was saying earlier, these are just additional puzzle pieces that make the big picture even more clear.
And so my final question before we get to Q&A is for each of our panelists, and it is, is there any strategy that you recommend an applicant employ when deciding which optional statements to write? And I'll start with Christie.
Christie: So I would say a diversity statement, if you have a valid diversity factor, number one, and then just as you were saying, any optionals that allow you to show another side of your personality or background would be great. Another piece of the puzzle to show us, you know, the whole picture of who you are.
But in terms of tackling, like in terms of the order that I would go in, I would say personal statement, diversity statement, "Why X" essays, and then the other, maybe fun kind of.
Jill: Yes, I agree with that order as well. I touched on this in the beginning and it's included in the title because it's so important, but really having it be cohesive is something that I think is incredibly impactful.
So making sure that whatever is discussed in your statements are reflected in your letters of recommendation, the courses that you've taken, the organizations that you've been a part of, the work that you've done, your personal statement, your optional statements, your diversity statement can also tie into "Why X."
We just want to make sure that this is all a cohesive package and that it makes sense.
Tajira: Great. Elizabeth?
Elizabeth: And I think along with that, you're also showing that through your application how you'll be successful as a law student. So I'm thinking of applications I've read where applicants have had a little bit of a checkered past, and that ties into their transcript and their GPA addendum.
And it's spelled out in the personal statement. And sometimes with these applicants, they spend so much time talking about what happened in their past that I lose a little bit of who they are today, where what I want to see, yes, I want to see that they've grown from their past and that's not who they are today, but sometimes I lose a little bit of how they're going to be a great law student because they spent more time explaining what happened in the past than who they are today will help them in the future, if that makes sense.
And so, again, making sure it's cohesive and well rounded, but also thinking about, how will this application show an admissions office that you're ready to kind of tackle the rigors of law school?
Tajira: That's great. And I would add, you know, one of the things that we're always looking for as we're reviewing applications is to determine, after graduation, how is this person going to contribute to our community? Are they going to be somebody who sticks around and, like, really is ingrained within our community, they're going to volunteer or they're going to mentor, they're going to donate.
They're going to do any number of ways that they can kind of contribute, whether that is in hiring later on, whether that is in, you know, really being a part of and helping to build programs or even come back and teach. Has this applicant thought about the different ways in which they intend to really submerse themselves in a specific campus community when they're talking about fit?
All of those things really play a part. And the other great thing about optional statements are, you know, as an admissions officer, like you can see how much effort someone puts into an application when they're doing all of these optional statements, when they're taking all of those opportunities and really running with them versus the person who, you know, just kind of gives you the bare minimum.
There's no way to really know then with that person, are they really serious? Because they didn't necessarily show me that in their application. So I'm going to leave that there and we're going to get to our question and answer period. But first I would love to thank my panelists, Elizabeth, Jill, and Christie. Thank you so much for your answers and for your candor tonight. I think this has been a really fun conversation.
We're going to open it up to questions. And so, with that, I will bring up our first person. And it looks like I'm bringing up Tanisia.
Jenifer: My question is when it comes to the "Why X" statements, I know some schools will ask for them and I wanted to know, because a lot of other schools, they, in the personal statement, they'll like a small, maybe like a tidbit of why you want to go to that school.
So in the event that a school asks for a "Why X" statement, should you still include that small tidbit in the personal statement?
Elizabeth: So I think that if a school is asking for a separate "Why X" essay, if you're potentially providing different information for both, you could, although I think I would err more on just including a"Why X" and not including the tidbit, but if you are including something about why you want to go to a law school in your personal statement, I urge you to make sure it's cohesive.
Sometimes I'll read a personal statement, and it's a really strong statement. And then at the very end, they throw in a paragraph about, "and I want to go to this law school because," and it almost takes away how impactful the personal statement is because they threw something in at the end that doesn't quite fit.
So just make sure it's cohesive if you're adding it at the end. But if a school is asking for a "Why X," I don't necessarily think you'll need it in both places.
Tajira: Great. Does that answer your question, Tanisia?
Jenifer: Yes. Thank you so much.
Tajira: Okay. And so the next person I'm going to bring up is Nathaniel.
Jenifer: Hi, thank you so much for taking my question, and thank you for all this great advice. So my question is about a resume addendum due to COVID. So I'm assuming lots of people, or I guess law schools understand, you know, that people may have been unemployed for more than three months due to COVID. And I just wanted to know if you all thought it would be a good idea to submit an addendum for that.
Christie: Yes, so I would say, hopefully you can say what else you did during the time when you could not find a job. Yeah, so I think it would be if you have something that you can point to, that you did productively with your time, yeah, I mean, I would say yes, that would be something that I would like to know. Hopefully you were not just doing nothing, even if it was just reading interesting books that got you more interested in, you know, XYZ, I think it would be helpful to know.
Tajira: Thank you, Nathaniel. Okay, I'm bringing up Jaylin.
Jenifer: Hi, my name is Jaylin. Thank you for hosting this event. It's very helpful. My question is, in addition to the traditional three-year program, some schools also offer an accelerated two-year JD program for foreign law school students.
If I qualify for both and I want to apply both simultaneously, will this hurt my application, because I'm concerned they will think my goals are too big. Thank you.
Tajira: Any panelist.
Christie: So, you know, just speaking based on my experience with Cardozo, I know they have a two-and-a-half-year program or a three-year program. You can start in May versus starting in September. With that program, you had to decide which one you were going to apply to. You could not apply to both.
But I don't know the specifics, if it's the case that you can apply to both at the same time with Pepperdine, then I don't think it would affect your chances. You know, you're just saying, I would do either program and I'm happy to do either program because I really want to go to your law school.
But I would definitely check in with Pepperdine or whatever school that has separate programs like evening versus daytime programs, whether you can apply to both simultaneously.
Tajira: Sometimes the application itself will limit you. It depends. So I worked at Southwestern and they had a two-year accelerated program, but their application cycle was completely different than the standard JD application cycle.
And so for Pepperdine, it may be that they're both on one application and you can rank. If they're separate applications in the LSAC system but the application period is open at the same time, you're actually only going to be able to submit one of those applications. That's a rule in their system. So I would get clarification specifically from Pepperdine about their application.
Jenifer: Thank you for answering my question.
Tajira: Thank you so much for joining us. And next I am bringing up Dalia.
Jenifer: So my question is I'm a minority and, obviously, being a minority on these type of applications is like a big flag. But my question is, with regards to your diversity statement and your personal statement, where do you draw the line with, like, I'm a minority, so I've been through, like, crap in the South. Where do you draw the line with regards to that specific thing? So like, obviously, diversity statement is like hardship, but for personal statement, how do you separate that?
Tajira: So, no one is saying that you have to separate these things out. When it comes to your personal statement, can it be about an experience that you had that you experienced simply because of your background? Absolutely. However, when you're trying to create a cohesive application, you're trying to build one thing on another.
And so, like, your diversity statement then can still be about you being diverse, but maybe instead it gives a picture of what it looks like with your family seated around the table or something that is important in your culture. It doesn't have to necessarily touch on the same facet of your diversity in the same way.
And so, like, when you're kind of thinking about these things, your personal statement, you're either telling a story or you're giving us anecdotal information, or you are providing law schools with kind of a lengthier version.
And so, you know, while your diversity is 100% a part of you at all times, you have different facets to you as a person, and you have tons of stories to tell. And so it's just a matter of determining, okay, when it comes to my personal statement, I think I want this one to be about this.
And then for my diversity statement specifically, because I want to talk about the perspective I'm bringing to the classroom, I want to talk about, you know, how my family does this together, and it's important to us because this, and I intend to bring that with me through law school and find others who, hopefully find others or create community even where there is none. And that looks like something because I also built that community while I was in college, et cetera. Does that make sense?
Jenifer: Yes. Yeah, it does.
Tajira: Okay, good. I'm going to bring up one more, and then for anybody else, please go ahead and ask us questions on Twitter. Our account is 7Admissions and use the hashtag 7SageonCH. So the last question is for Cindy.
Jenifer: Hi, I'm Cindy. Thank you for doing this. It's been very helpful. So my question is I took the LSAT the third time in January, but I had a score dip. It was quite a large one, it was a five-point dip. I'm wondering if I should include an addendum explaining this, or it's actually not necessary since it's quite common to see those score dips if you take the LSAT several times.
Elizabeth: So a five-point dip is within a score band, generally. Most people score within like four to six points of when they're taking the LSAT. But I think if you're thinking about an addendum, you'll think about the reason why. So if there were circumstances that affected the LSAT performance, and there's been a lot of technical issues with the LSAT-Flex, if you were sick, things like that, I wouldn't potentially include an addendum.
But if there weren't other circumstances besides for you just happened to score a little bit lower that day, then I wouldn't necessarily include an addendum. Again, you're trying to provide an explanation of what happened and if you can't really have a circumstance for an explanation of it, then the addendum might fall a little flat.
Jenifer: Okay, but is retaking the LSAT again a better solution, since if I can bring my score back to my normal level, does that help?
Tajira: I would have you think long and hard about taking it again because you can score higher, but you can also score lower. And so you need to be really, really, really confident that your score is going to improve.
But also know that that means that's yet another score that the admissions office is going to have to consider. Now, the highest score is the one that's reportable, but once you have, you know, a handful of scores, it becomes harder to discern which one is an accurate reflection of your abilities. And so you want to be really careful about continuing to retake.
Jenifer: Okay, thank you.
Tajira: Thank you so much. And thank you to everyone who joined us this evening. Again, to my panelists, thank you so much for joining us this evening. You're wonderful. And everyone have a wonderful night. Thank you.
J.Y.: Hi, it's J.Y. again. Thank you for listening. As always, if you're studying for the LSAT, applying to law school, studying for your law school exams, or studying for the bar, come visit us at 7Sage.com. We can help.
That's it for this episode. Take care of yourself and see you next time.