Elizabeth: If your goal is to apply into a matriculating law school and you're at this webinar right now and you're planning ahead, no, you shouldn't be looking for that March 1st deadline as when to submit. Most schools do some version of a rolling admission, so the earlier, the better in making sure that you have the most options available for admission and for scholarship.
J.Y.: Hello, and welcome to the 7Sage podcast. I'm J.Y. Ping, and on today's episode, the 7Sage admissions consulting team talk about the basics of admissions. You'll hear from a number of our consultants speaking from their experience as former admissions officers on various components of the application package and process. This conversation was recorded live, so towards the end, you'll hear Q&A from the audience. Without further ado, please enjoy.
David: Hello, everyone. Welcome to the webinar. I'm so glad you're here. If you don't know me, I'm David. I'm a partner at 7Sage, and I am joined by four illustrious colleagues, and I'm going to let each of you introduce yourselves. So, Tajira, can you start us off?
Tajira: I'm happy to. Hello, everyone. My name is Tajira McCoy. I also go by Taj. I am one of the admissions consultants. I'm also one of the program managers behind the scenes. Previously, I've worked at UC Berkeley as the director of admissions and scholarship programs, University of San Francisco as a director of career services, and others all over the country over the course of about 12 years. And I'm happy to be here. And I will pass the baton now to my colleague Jake.
Jake: Hi, everyone. I'm Jake Baska. Formerly, prior to joining the 7Sage team where I'm now a consultant, I worked as director of admissions and financial aid at Notre Dame Law School, and prior to that, I worked in undergraduate admissions at Notre Dame, primarily with international students, mostly from East Asia. So glad to see a lot of my clients jump on board who are based in China and Korea. So, welcome to this podcast tomorrow morning, as opposed to this evening here in the States. And now I'll turn it over to Elizabeth.
Elizabeth: Hi, everyone. I'm Elizabeth Cavallari. Prior to working with 7Sage, I was the senior assistant dean for admission at William and Mary Law School, and then I have another seven years of experience in undergraduate and then just general graduate school admissions. I'm happy to be here and talk to you about law admissions 101.
Tracy: I think that leaves me, Tracy Simmons. So I'm currently the assistant dean for admissions diversity initiatives and financial aid at the University of San Diego School of Law. Prior to that, I worked at the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law, Chapman University School of Law, and Golden Gate University School of Law. And so I've been doing this work for about 22 years or so, and I'm super excited to engage with my colleagues and also to help demystify the process a little bit. Welcome.
David: Well, thanks so much for joining all of us. Tonight's program is called Admissions 101, and we're just going to go over the basics of admissions. And I want to start by talking about the difference between the numbers and what some people call the soft factors. Could any of you, I'll just lob this in the air. Could any of you explain the difference between, you know, numbers and soft factors and how important each one is?
Jake: Man, that's the million-dollar question, right? That's the one that gets things moving on message boards. I tend to look at it as the numbers are the things that you can see on an Excel spreadsheet, and they're instructive because a GPA and an LSAT does have predictive validity for first-year law school success. It's not a perfect validity, but it has some validity. But it doesn't tell us who you are as a person, and it doesn't tell us your professional background, your legal interests, what you would bring to the class, what you would bring to the discussion, what you want to pursue postgrad, why you would be a good fit at this law school, or maybe not a good fit at this law school.
That's where everything else in that application comes into play, all those soft factors like the resume, but in the written pieces, but then also all the biographic and demographic information that goes into the application, all those questions that you wonder, why are they asking me about, am I a veteran, and do I have veterans benefits, and do I have this, this, and this? Well, it's because law schools care about having a diverse class, including people who maybe have served in the military, and they want to know, hey, do you have educational benefits that can help you pay for law school?
Or why are they asking about where I want to practice postgrad? Well, maybe because they're interested to hear where you want to go. Is that somewhere where we tend to go? Can we hook you up with some alumni if we admit you? Things like that, that's where all those soft factors come into play on your application.
David: That was super helpful. So, to be clear, I think that everyone knows, and I'm wondering if this is true, that your LSAT score and your GPA score probably matter more than anything else. Would you agree with that, Jake or anyone else?
Jake: I'll softly go. It's almost like getting a ticket into the game, but then once you're in the game, you still need to compete. And people who may statistically are outside those target parameters, there are still going to be people who are admitted who are below the medians, right? Otherwise the medians would be higher. Those people tend to excel on those soft factors.
David: Right. Another way to think of it, if you're in the middle of studying for the LSAT, is that a GPA that hits the median or an LSAT score that hits the median is usually, but not always, a necessary condition, aka it's not quite a necessary condition, but it's a necessary-ish condition. And then maybe the soft factors are a sufficient condition. It's not enough to have good numbers.
Tracy: Can I just jump in real quick, David? I would just, I would add that I think part of the issue is that the soft factors kind of help round out the picture. I think that, you know, Jake started with the idea of an Excel spreadsheet, and so the reality is that we've all done this for a long time and we could easily just put all our candidates in a spreadsheet and just say that, based on correlation data and based on historical data for our institutions, that we could just pick all these folks kind of top middle and just say they'll probably do okay.
But the reality is that what we know is that there are a number of reasons why people are successful and unsuccessful in law school, and so all those other factors that we're asking about in the application, things that you might put on a resume, things that you might put in a diversity or adversity statement, things that you talk about in your personal statement, will really kind of help us get an understanding of things like grit and tenacity and your work ethic and your ability to, you know, accept feedback and make adjustments and things of that nature.
And so I think it's really important to be thoughtful about the things that the law schools are asking, because when you're looking at certain schools, they're getting tons of applicants with the same exact profile numerically. And so that doesn't mean they have that many seats available, though. And so what are the things that they're going to use to help make a decision about how they shape their class?
We are creating and crafting a community, and so who do we want to be part of the community? We want veterans. We want single parents. We want folks who are third-generation attorneys, and we want folks who are first-generation college students, and we want women, and we want folks that identify as, you know, transgender and other things of that nature, because we know the law is not black and white.
The nuances of who you are through those soft factors will help create a much more robust conversation in the classroom, but ultimately will lead us to really creating a legal framework and a profession that really is reflective of our society.
Tajira: And I think it's important to note also that for those who happen to fall below the median, it doesn't mean that you're out of the game. The other soft factors can still help you knock it out of the park. And so it's really a matter of putting together the full package to make sure that you're putting every effort into the application, not just certain pieces.
David: Elizabeth, can you tell us when we should apply and how much the timing matters?
Elizabeth: So I always say apply when your application is the strongest, and that has a caveat, right? We want you to apply early. So I think earlier in the process, it does give you more options. However, there are some times that I think it's important for people to apply a little bit later, if there's kind of some difference in numbers.
So if you started off with a little bit of a lower GPA and it's been strong and continuing to go up and you're a college senior, and the fall of your senior year, you're going to have this stellar GPA and it's going to bring your numbers up a little bit over those schools' medians, I would actually say that's a better time to apply than applying early and then updating your transcript, because when you're getting that first review of the application, it's with your best foot and your strongest foot forward. However, if everything's already in place, I would say the earlier the better, but often it is weighing when's the earliest I could apply with my best possible application?
David: That's really helpful. Is it ever too late? I mean, are you naive and foolish if you, you know, apply when the application is officially about to close, at the deadline?
Elizabeth: If your goal is to apply into a matriculating law school and you're at this webinar right now and you're planning ahead, no, you shouldn't be looking for that March 1st deadline as when to submit. Most schools do some version of a rolling admission, so the earlier, the better in making sure that you have the most options available for admission and for scholarship.
Jake: If I can briefly add onto that. You can go read success stories of people who applied at the deadline and got into a great school and got a great scholarship. Those are the needles in the haystack. And we all sat in that committee room where we needed that one last student, hit this statistical profile and we're looking for these other characteristics, and, oh my goodness, this student applied on the last day. That is atypical.
You do, as Elizabeth noted, you want to apply when you can put your best foot forward, and if you're planning things out, applying in the fall certainly is more advantageous despite the random story you'll read from someone who got into Harvard, applying on the deadline, and isn't that amazing? I assure you, they were the needle in the haystack.
David: Taj, can you tell us a little bit about letters of recommendation? I mean, who should you be asking for these letters from?
Tajira: Well, I think it's always important to make sure that if, when possible, you're including academic letters, because you are applying to professional schools. You have to remember that admissions committees often have several faculty members. Faculty respects faculty. They want to be able to picture you in the classroom. They want to get a sense of how you're going to be involved on campus. They want to get a sense of how you're going to interact with your peers.
It's extremely important to have those particular letters because it gives us a window into how you're going to be a student on our campus as well. And so if you're within five years of law school or undergrad, excuse me, then that's going to be something that most schools will push for. Some schools outright require it. And so that's something that you've got to consider.
In those instances when you haven't kept in touch with professors, now's a good time to start reaching out, to start asking for like a Zoom coffee date where you give them an update on what's been going on with you. You ask them very kindly, you know, would you be able to write a positive letter of recommendation on my behalf? You want to make sure that you stress that for law school admissions specifically, admissions officers are looking for concrete, substantive examples, not just summative statements.
And so it's important to make sure that they are not just saying this person is extremely detail-oriented. They're giving you the "how" as well; the meat has to be with potatoes. And so you want to make sure that in these letters, we're really looking to get a sense of, a big-picture view of how you are as a student.
Similarly, for professional letters, you know, we're looking for substance over title. It does not matter who the president of the company is or who the highest titled person is. What we want to know is the person that worked closely with you that can attest to your professional demeanor, your work ethic, how you worked with other people, your proactivity, those are the things that we're trying to glean when it comes to your professional letter.
It's really important to make sure that you're not focused on getting, you know, that number one person. Instead, it's really about the people that can give you the very best substantive letter.
David: Tracy, what would you say to the applicant who's been out of school for a long time and just can't wrestle up a letter from a professor?
Tracy: The first thing I would say is that you need to pay close attention to the instructions from the institution that you're applying to, because there are some law schools that are really, really, really focused on academic letters for the reasons that Tajira just stated, because it's an academic program.
But the reality is that, you know, we understand for many candidates, for a variety of reasons, they're no longer in touch with those professors because it's been five plus years, et cetera. And so in that instance, I would say that you still want people who can focus on the same exact skillset that you just heard about, all the things that basically allude to your ability to be successful in a very competitive environment.
Your work ethic, your professionalism, your ability to accept feedback and adjust accordingly, your ability to tackle hard things and learn new concepts and things of that nature. And so in that instance, it's ideal to get something from a supervisor, get a letter of rec from a supervisor, not a peer, and because that's not the same. You want someone that basically was in a position to evaluate your work.
That's what we're really looking for, the professors on our committees, that's what they're looking for. Someone who can basically say, here's where I saw this person improve. Here's where this person started and why they were promoted. Here's how this person tackled this huge issue that we had in our company, and I expect they will be able to do the same thing in law school. And so I think it's really important to just, you know, strategize and think critically about who can be your best advocate in that kind of workspace, because, again, these letters of recommendation are just a reflection of an academic letter. They're just coming from a different person.
The last point I'll make here is that I do think that it is very similar to what you just heard about the title of the person, though. I think people fall into a really bad trap of thinking that the title of the person is somehow going to overshadow the substance of the letter, and it's really, really, really important that you be thoughtful about who can actually get in the weeds about your work, and how you work, and really describe who you are as a person, as someone who wants to learn and grow and develop. And, you know, those skills are going to be the same, whether it's coming from a professor or teaching assistant versus a supervisor. And so I think it's just important to be thoughtful and creative about who you ask and, you know, give them time to actually write and craft a really good letter on your behalf.
David: That was very helpful. I'm going to turn to the Elizabeths and the Jakes when I ask about resumes now. So just tell us what the point of a resume in a law school application is. I mean, you're not applying to a job, are you?
Elizabeth: You're not applying for a job, but you're entering into a profession, and what your background and experiences are not only helps enrich your law school class you're thinking about entering, but also provides experiences when you're going out into the workforce three years after graduation.
So, for me, the resume is a really good snapshot of how people spend their time, and people can do that in a variety of different ways. Not everyone has a linear path to law school. So some people's resumes read very much like, I wanted to go to law school since high school, and here's how I've planned it all out. Others meander a little bit, and you're able to see how their experiences have kind of helped them focus what their intentions are, and potentially sets them up for writing in their personal statement why one of these experiences helped them get to law school.
If you're coming right from undergrad, I want to see that you've been involved and active, being a leader in some way, shape, or form. If you're coming right from a professional experience, the quality and the type of work you were doing, so while you're not applying for a job necessarily, we do look at all of that to see who you might be in the classroom and how you'd be involved in our community.
Jake: Yeah, and to expand on that, and as Tracy mentioned earlier, we want to enroll a diverse law school class. The law touches on so many aspects of society. It's good to enroll students who have an accounting background who want to go into tax law and students who have a STEM background and want to go into intellectual property or cybersecurity. It's great to have people who've worked in policy and government on one side of the fence, and on the other side of the fence and at the state, local, federal levels, et cetera.
So, in the best interest of enrolling that diverse class, we want to see what people have been doing. We also want to get a sense of that leadership capability too, because lawyers typically are the future leaders of those local, state, and federal government offices. Additionally, if we go back to the stats and we talk about, hey, where do the soft factors come into play, one question I would ask our admissions committee back in the day for a really compelling student with a really strong resume but with lower stats would be this.
There's going to be a bottom 10% of the graduating class GPA-wise three years from now. There's going to be a bottom quarter to the class. If this student's stats are predictive and they are in that bottom 10%, that bottom 25%, are they still adding to this class significantly for the next three years because of their professional background, their leadership background, all these other skills, and per this resume, we are absolutely confident that they're going to get a job after graduation. And if we can answer that really affirmatively, that helps those students who are in that statistical area in the applicant pool.
David: I'll open this up to anyone. Can you give us a couple dos and don'ts for a law school resume?
Tracy: My immediate, like, knee-jerk reaction was please be thoughtful about listing high school information.
David: Make sure you list it?
Tracy: No, the opposite. Please do not, period. Now, I say that with the caveat, because I want people to understand that what we're not trying to do is we're not trying to discriminate against people who literally have not been able to be involved or engaged on campus because they had to work throughout undergrad to put themselves through school, and so maybe their only activities in sports and things like that were in high school.
We understand that, but this is where your work experience will become really important, and so you list the hours that you were working while you were in college, and that will kind of indicate to us that you weren't able to participate in a fraternity, or the business club, or the college Republicans, or things of that nature, because you just didn't have the time to do that. But I really do think it's a misstep to include high school information at this stage because you're applying to professional school, and so, you know, it's just something to be thoughtful about.
The last point I'll make here, David, is that I do have another caveat and that's for the folks who may have started college when they were in high school, and we have those young geniuses out there who were 14, 15, 16, taking college courses, and they're done by 18. We know that happens, and so in those instances, obviously, you need to list the chronological order of things, but for the most part, the majority of candidates applying to law school just generally should stay away from high school information.
Tajira: I would add as a don't, a lot of times we have these resumes where you can tell the candidate has taken great pains to stick to that one-page resume to their detriment. They have cut out all kinds of experience and relevant extracurriculars, leadership roles, and things that are very, very important to us that we need to see.
Don't assume that because something is not law-related, that it's not relevant, and make sure that if a school says that they accept a resume that's somewhere between one and three pages, you can go onto that second page comfortably and stop worrying that you're creating too much work for us. You're making us work harder if we can't find the information that we need. And so if you give it to us up front, it makes it so much easier for us to really consider the full big picture and have a clear big picture as we're making these decisions.
David: Well, we have many more questions about resumes, and we are going to have a Q&A at the end of this, but for now, I really want to keep going with our sprint and talk about the next, maybe the biggest single component of the application that you're responsible for after you take the LSAT, the personal statement. For anyone who wants to speak up, tell us in a nutshell what you're usually trying to do in the personal statement and how the admissions office uses it.
Jake: This is the really key component after those stats, because this is really your opportunity to introduce yourself. We are going to start going through the biographical and demographic information, your name, your hometown, parent information. I had some committee members who had cell phone or area codes memorized, so they would know like, oh, hey, the student is applying from Florida, but they have a 317 phone number. Oh, that means they're actually from Indianapolis. Okay, they're kind of close to Notre Dame.
We're building this image of you, but it's not until we get to the personal statement and then the subsequent written pieces that you are actually communicating to us who you are. You are introducing yourself to us, and so we put a lot of emphasis on that in the committee room. I think the main questions that we're trying to address through the entirety of the application are, who are you, why law school, and why us? And you don't need to address all those questions on the personal statement, but you want to keep in mind through the course of your entire application, how are you communicating that to us?
So if the "why law?" isn't as obvious from your resume and your background, you may want to talk about that a little bit. So for those of you who are maybe coming from the performing arts, or I saw a couple veterans throw Q&As on there, certainly there are aspects of the law that touch on those professional areas, but we see that a little less than students coming from poli sci, government, history, English. So having that "why law?" is going to be really important.
And also having that feel for who you are so that when we get to those letters of recommendation that we were talking about earlier, what we hear about you from those professors or those managers aligns with the image we've created of you from all of your written pieces. So it's really weird when you read from the letter writers, this is the funniest person, I know they're so jovial, they bring a ray of sunshine, but the written pieces are so serious and sad. Like, who are these people? So those are the main things I try to encourage applicants to keep in mind: who are you, why law, why us? And then where's the best place to communicate that to us, particularly with that eye towards a personal statement.
David: Elizabeth, to, I don't know, the nearest third decimal point, what percentage of the personal statement should be professional and what percent should be purely personal?
Elizabeth: I can't really give a percentage. I mean, it depends, and I feel like we give that answer a lot. It really does depend on the individual applicant and kind of what their story is. I mean, I think a lot of it, in the personal statement, should be personal, because this is the one chance we get to hear your voice. The rest of the application, we're looking at your numbers, your transcript, we're hearing about you through letters of recommendation, we read a resume, but you don't really get to articulate who you are necessarily through that.
But there is a point where a personal statement can get too personal. So having someone look it over and make sure that you're coming across as someone who's ready to join the legal profession, even if you're sharing something difficult, as Jake was saying, we want to know why law somewhere, but it's also the part in the application we really get to hear about who you are, what makes you tick, and why we should admit you.
David: I will say, having, you know, worked with a number of applicants, one very common and very effective pattern is to try to find a turning point in your life and to tell a story that begins before that turning point, that encompasses the turning point, and then tells us briefly what you learned or how it changed you. And then if the turning point was not about why you want to be a lawyer, and it's perfectly fine if it is, you usually, or at least you may want to pivot to law in the last paragraph. You may want to say how this lesson is going to prepare you for your career as a lawyer.
That is not the only way to write a personal statement, but I think it's a very useful framework because it forces you to tell a narrative about yourself, and that's probably the best way to communicate your personality. For Tracy or Taj or, really, any of you, can you give us a few dos and a few don'ts for the personal statement? Might be easier to say the don'ts?
Tracy: There's so many. I mean, this is such, you know, I saw Jake when he started and I giggled because I was like, I know we as admissions folks can talk about this literally for, like you could spend a whole session, meaning a whole full-day session, just on personal statements, because there's a lot of misinformation out there and there's a lot of really bad information and advice out there.
A couple quick ones so we can turn to Taj. One, I think the important thing to remember is that this is the one big chance you have in the application process to really use your voice. And I think that, you know, part of the problem and challenge for us as admissions professionals is exactly what Jake alluded to in terms of us trying to kind of get to know you and building this, we're building the story in terms of who you are by where you went to undergrad and what you focused on and how many times you changed majors and where you worked or didn't work and things of that nature.
And I think that people forget that the personal statement is, it is a writing sample, but it really is a chance for you to tell us who you are outside of just your numbers. And I think that oftentimes it's underutilized in a lot of different ways. I would also note that I think it's important that you be thoughtful about how your personal statement fits into the narrative of your entire application.
I really don't think people spend enough time kind of strategizing about how to think through what they want to communicate with their personal statement as it relates to the resume, the transcripts, the letter recommendation choices and adversity statement, diversity statement, optional essay, et cetera, assuming that you're applying in a state that you can submit those other things. And so I think that, strategically, I think that this could be a powerful tool.
And I'm not saying that what David said earlier about the LSAT score and GPA being super, super important, it is not true, because it is very, very true, but this is where, when we have room, particularly early on in the process when we're not so wedded to, like, I still got 200-something seats left, this is where the folks who are splitters, the folks who maybe a couple number, one of the numbers is not as close to the median as some of us would prefer for, you know, ensuring success in law school, this is where that statement can really make a difference.
And then my last point before turning to Taj is that I think there's some misinformation out there about the fact that these personal statements need to be somehow like sorrowful, or like a woe is me, or it has to be that you tell the story of like death and dying and things of that nature, and it's just not true. If you have lived a life that has been pretty pleasant and things have come together for you and you had a good family and a good upbringing, and you've known for a while that you wanted to go to law school and you've kind of played your cards right, and all these things fell together, that is okay. We want those people in law school too.
So I think that misinformation about the fact that if you don't write a story about how hard your struggles have been, that you're not going to get in, I have seen it on the internet, it is not true. And trust us, after you read a couple hundred applications, you really are looking for these bright spots. I want to find some happy people who have been blessed enough to make it this far without having to overcome a lot of tragedy, and kudos to all the folks who've overcome tragedy and to get here.
But for those of you who don't have a down-on-your-luck story, you're going to be just fine, and you're going to write a great personal statement that is indicative of who you are and how successful you'll ultimately be, and we are excited to read your statements too.
Tajira: And I would just say, you know, the alternative or the opposite of that, for those of you that do have kind of those stories, don't be afraid to share, and don't worry about someone else having a story that might be similar to yours. There are so many candidates that are constantly worried, well, what if I say the exact same thing as other people? My story is no different. It's different because it's yours and that's what makes the difference. Tracy and I could have the exact same background, have gone to the exact same schools, have done the exact same things, but how we tell our story is going to be different, and so you need not worry about that piece, okay?
When it comes to don'ts, I really hate quotes, and I know most of my colleagues are smiling because they do too. The honest truth is, you know, Aristotle, sure, profound, great. If it's not relevant, it's not relevant. Don't include it. It's just taking up extra space in something that's supposed to be about you. Now, if it's a quote that happens to be your mantra, what gets you through the day, then that is something that I would like to know. But if it's just randomly put there to be profound, don't do it.
If you are looking to kind of try to make a splash in some way, understand that things that stand out a lot from everybody else's often is not taken well. You know, if you're trying to have some really funny narrative and it's not quite hitting the mark, or if you're trying to do things in verse or, you don't really need to do all of that. Really, what we're trying to do at the end of the day is we're really trying to get to know who you are, and you don't need to use your personal statement to address things about your application that you perceive to be weaknesses.
That's what addenda are for, and leave that to those documents, because this is supposed to be about your strength. This is where we introduce ourselves to each other and get to know you. You don't need to go straight towards, well, my GPA wasn't what it was supposed to be. You're using space that you didn't need to use for that if you're doing it in your personal statement. I think those are my big ones. As Tracy said, we really could go all day specifically on this subject, but personal statements are important. It's your introduction, it's your opening statements for your case where you're advocating on your own behalf.
Tracy: Can I add one quick thing, David? Just to follow up, to repeat something. It shouldn't be a regurgitation of your resume. And so, again, this is where the strategy comes in. It requires that you be very thoughtful and about what you're putting together and how you're pulling together. For those of us that require a resume, for those that suggest it, FYI, a suggestion is like, consider it like a requirement, don't regurgitate what's already there because, again, you're wasting an opportunity to use your voice in the space to convey why you're a good fit for that law school and why they're a good fit for you.
David: All right. Well, let's move on. And this is for, you know, anyone. Elizabeth, Jake, if you want to speak up, go ahead. What's a diversity statement? Because I noticed that a lot of applications don't actually say the word diversity statement. So is it real? And if it's real, what is it and what's it for?
Jake: So, hey, Elizabeth, if I can take this one, because at Notre Dame, we did not call it a diversity statement explicitly. For most schools, again, we've hit on this point a couple times that schools want a broadly diverse class, and that's for any number of reasons: to serve the American general public, which is an incredibly diverse populace, to build that future leadership group for America.
But also, let's go back to the classroom. It's a Socratic learning environment where you are fleshing out shades of gray in case studies, and it's incredibly valuable to have different voices in the room. And so what voice are you going to add to the class? And what we found over the years at Notre Dame was that if we called something a diversity statement, a lot of our applicants would just gloss over that because of the thought of, if I'm Caucasian, if I'm male, if I'm heteronormative, et cetera, I have nothing to contribute to diversity.
But then later in the application, we'd find out they're the first in their family to go to college. They grew up on a farm and, you know, had to get up at four in the morning every morning to put in labor on the farm, or we find out on the resume they've been in the military for a couple years. You know, we find out all these things that they could really contribute to the conversation in the classroom, but they didn't think that we wanted to hear about it.
And so we reframed our question to be more encompassing, to say, hey, what's the voice you're going to add to the class? I offer that anecdote because every school has a different prompt on the diversity statement, but I think essentially we're all trying to get, all the different law schools, kind of at that same question: who are you? What's your background? How are you going to make the class better? How are you going to improve the conversation?
And so if you have something that you can point to, it's really great to learn about that through your application. And, as Tracy mentioned, it's more space to play with too. You don't need to go through a regurgitation of everything on your personal statement if you can then mention something in more in-depth measure on your diversity statement, because it's another page or two pages for you to play around with.
Elizabeth: And I would say along with that, for me, the diversity statement, we think about kind of quality rather than quantity in kind of producing these, so for diversity statement or whatever the school might call it, it's not required. A lot of times we say something is optional, but you should do it. The diversity statement is not that.
For me, the diversity statement or whatever a school might call it is a place where if there's something so integral to who you are that you need to include it, and we found it nowhere else on the application, that is the place to include it. So it's okay to pass on a diversity statement. I would much rather have a really, really strong personal statement than a really strong personal statement and a lukewarm diversity statement. And so the diversity statement should be additive to your application rather than kind of taking away from it.
David: Okay. So if anyone has anything else to add, just jump in. Otherwise we're going to continue with our sprint so we do have some time for Q&A. I want to talk about addenda. What's an addenda? It's a funny word. What does it mean? What's it for? What do you do with it?
Tajira: An addendum is an explanatory statement. Typically, it's used to provide context that you can't get anywhere else in the application. Often candidates will utilize space to explain something having to do with the LSAT or their GPA, they may be explaining a gap in education or employment, they may need to, they may be required to provide a character and fitness statement, or they may be trying to provide any other context.
Often addenda are utilized to explain a perceived weakness in the application. So for the LSAT, if someone's taken it a bunch of times and they're trying to provide context for why they decided to take it as many times as they did, if their score fluctuated over time, if they had a drop in GPA, if they started school and maybe they're first-gen and they have kind of a transition period when they get to school, if they decided, you know, in their first year that bio wasn't for them and that they're going to move on to poly sci or sociology.
There's all kinds of reasons why they might want to provide us with some context, and it's important that, you know, candidates do this proactively because often admissions officers don't have time to follow up with questions later on, and so this is a way for you to give us those answers up front to the questions that you think that we're going to have as we page through your application. Giving us those answers helps us to get to a favorable decision, because if we get to the end of an application with a bunch of questions, typically the answer's going to be no.
David: You know, I think of a two-question test, and I would be very happy if any of you just knocked this down and said it's a terrible idea, but I often tell applicants, you know, you should ask, first of all, does this addendum tell the admissions committee something that they would not know otherwise? And second of all, does it seem more like an explanation than an excuse?
And a really, really clear example of that is if, in your second semester of your freshman year, maybe somebody in your family was ill or something, and you were going home a lot and you were caring for your family and it put a lot of stress on you, and that semester, your GPA dipped precipitously and then went back up the next semester or in two semesters. That is sort of like the clearest, most ideal case, I think, for an addendum, because it's going to raise a question. Somebody looking at your transcript is going to say, what happened? And when you say what happened, that is an explanation. It's not an excuse.
Jake: And on the note of explanations instead of excuses, oh, sorry, Tracy, that also ties in with character and fitness, and the, I saw that we had a question a minute ago about, do I need to disclose speeding tickets? So the character and fitness questions are typically separate, but if you answer yes to them, you'd have to include additional information, which is kind of also related to this field. And similarly there, you want to provide a clear explanation of matters. What happened, what was the resolution, et cetera, as opposed to having the admissions committee try to guess.
So in the case of speeding tickets, I received two speeding tickets. One was five years ago in this location. I was pulled over for going 70 in a 55, and I paid my ticket, et cetera. The other one was last year, I was pulled over for going 45 in a 25. As opposed to, I've gotten two speeding tickets, I paid some money. Okay, what are we talking about? Was it like going 80 in a school zone with the lights flashing? Because that's bad, as opposed to going 70 in a 55 and you got pulled over and paid a hundred-dollar fine. So make sure you provide that explanation.
Tracy: I just want to jump on the test that David put forth in terms of, you know, explanation versus excuse, and I do think that Elizabeth said something that's worth repeating and it's, does this add something to your actual application? I'm going to go back to the strategy analogy. You need to think through the questions that are posed by the law school, and then look at your materials and have you answered all those questions, and then stop and think, would this committee have any additional questions for me based on what I've already put together?
And if they would, then that's when you might have to consider writing an optional essay or an addendum related to your grades or your LSAT score, et cetera. I also think that it's important to, this is where kind of the short and sweet while not being dismissive is important. Jake's example with the speeding tickets is one that you all should hang onto because I think that's a perfect example of being a little too flippant, which is not received well in our world, because this is such a big part of our profession.
And so if we ask you a question, you need to be thorough and thoughtful and provide as many details as you can. This is where a lot of candidates get themselves into trouble because they say, oh, well, my cousin who's a lawyer said I didn't have to tell you that. If the law school asked that question, you need to answer that question and provide all the information you have, because the reality is this: most people don't get into law school or get dismissed from law school because of what they did; they get dismissed or their application withdrawn or the offer is withdrawn because they fail to disclose.
And so, again, this is a judgment, it's part of the strategy. It's asking the question, it's taking advantage of a team like this who has experience in this space and asking those tough questions. But again, it's all about strategy and it's about being thoughtful and being very intentional with your language and being intentional with each tool that you're given to basically round out this picture of who you are in the application process.
David: Well, with that, I think it's time to open it up to your questions. So we see your questions that you've written out, but we really like to hear your voice. And so we are going to give priority to anyone who raises their hand, we're going to call on you, and if we get through all of those, then we will go to the Q&A, but I'm going to call on Annalise first because you were the first hand that I saw, so, welcome.
New Speaker: Thank you guys so much. First of all, this has been so helpful for a nontraditional student like myself, but speaking of, so a nontraditional student with a limited budget, would you recommend putting your limited budget into LSAT tutoring to boost your score or for admissions consulting to try and help those soft factors?
David: I'm going to take the first crack at this, actually. Look, Annalise, the LSAT matters more. I mean, that's, I really feel like that's the bottom line. Everything matters, obviously, to maximize your chances. You do not want to give anything short shrift, but at the end of the day, you know, if you're going to invest in this process, I think a dollar goes farther if it helps you get a better LSAT score. Admissions officers, you know, of course, feel free to disagree.
Jake: No. I mean, the way I usually put that to applicants is that it's not just for admission. It's also for potential scholarship too. You know, investing in that LSAT course and bumping yourself from the median to three points above the median, that may mean a difference of like $10,000 a year in scholarship. And additionally, as far as the consulting side of things goes, you're going to find a lot of, just to pick on us for right now, you're going to find a lot of resources on the 7Sage website. And also you can connect on an hourly basis with a lot of us if you have some pretty quick questions.
And although we've been very verbose this evening, we also can get right down to business. So, you know, you want to talk about, hey, how do I present myself on this application? I got one hour. My reaction is, okay, sister, let's go. Boom. And it will fly by. Okay, but we're going to make sure that we cram everything in there. Like everyone's going to be a little different. If you're practicing at a 177, okay, maybe don't invest in the LSAT prep. You're good to go. That's going to be, that's going to be pretty rare, though. That's going to be pretty rare.
Tajira: I will say there is invaluable information within the discussion forum on the 7Sage website. There are admissions consultants that are kind of trolling around looking to see if there are people who have questions that need answering. There are tutors who are trolling around, there are previous 7Sagers who've been through the full process, who've been admitted, who are still answering questions for others. There's some great resources where you can get some of those questions answered in terms of your soft factors without having to spend a dime. And so there's definitely some resources there if you want to put your money towards the LSAT first.
David: Good luck, Annalise. We're going to move on to Sophia.
New Speaker: Hi, thank you for giving me this opportunity and for everything you've been sharing with us tonight. Sorry, if you hear any noise, my sons may be making noise, but my question is the fact that I've been in the construction industry, I earned my bachelor's degree, and I've been working in that industry. However, applying to law school is very well connected with my, what I want to do for the rest of my life, but it has nothing, it's not necessarily connected to the construction industry. It's still, you know, from experiences I've had in the construction industry, but it's not exactly, you know, a construction lawyer or something like that.
Do you think that can negatively affect my application? People will think that, oh, I'm here today, tomorrow I'm there. Today I'm in construction, tomorrow I'm in, you know, I go to law school and then, do you think that might be an issue? Thank you.
Elizabeth: I can jump in here. I don't think it's an issue at all. I mean, every person comes in with a different path. I think it'd be really important in your personal statement to connect why law and why this is the right next step for you, whether it's professionally or personally you've had these experiences. And also, as you're talking, it sounds like you've had experience with lawyers in the construction field and out.
You can also then talk about this and include any of those skills that you think are relevant in your resume. So as you're reading your resume, it might not say I have a legal, a very strict legal experience, but we can pull out those really strong transferable skills in your application. We read people with all different backgrounds. One of my favorite applications I read was a nurse who wanted to go to law school, and while she didn't have any legal background prior to that, she had a really compelling reason but why law was the next step. And it was someone I was so excited to add to our law school community because her voice was going to be so different and vibrant than some of the other people that we were bringing in that year for, in admissions.
David: Well, thanks, Sophia. Good luck, and goodnight to your son. Christine, love to hear your question.
New Speaker: Okay, wonderful. Thank you guys so much. I really appreciate your time this evening. Just to give a little bit of context for my question, I'm 11 years out of undergrad. I first started planning to go to law school around 2016, and I was able to get an academic-sourced letter of recommendation back then, but, actually, I had to delay preparation for law school and taking the LSAT, et cetera, for quite a few years. I'm now ready to apply for admission for next fall. And I tried reaching out to the professor from whom I received the letter and to see if she could redate or refresh the letter so we could resubmit that through CAS.
She had, in the interim years, retired, and she said that as a general policy, she didn't provide recommendation letters anymore to any of her former students. So I'm a little worried because I do want to submit a solid academic letter of recommendation, and besides a quasi-academic letter I have from a certification program I completed after graduating, this letter is like the only one I have. So I was wondering if it were advisable to include or exclude this very dated academic LOR, and if I do, is a separate addendum explaining some of these circumstances warranted?
Tracy: I don't think you need to include it, and you definitely don't need to include any kind of explanation as to why you don't have an academic letter. If you're out 11 years, the expectation for you specifically is that you're going to have really strong professional letters.
David: Any other takes on this?
Jake: Yeah. Once you get past that five-year mark, and I think Tracy mentioned that earlier, as admissions officers, our expectation is the professional letter. And occasionally you see that faculty member who you have maintained contact with or who is still willing, and that can be valuable, but it's not expected, so don't worry about it, don't stress about it. If you have those two managers or partners you work with in a business, supervisors who can provide that feedback, that's really what admissions officers are going to be looking for. And then your resume is going to be far deeper than the majority of the applicants that they're going to see too. So in case you're worried about that, don't be.
David: All right. Well, good luck, Christine. Hi, Mary. You can ask your question.
New Speaker: Hi. So I'm wondering what are some important things to put in an early decision essay, and then how much schools pay attention to your interest in them, such as visiting in person?
Jake: That's a good one. Can I go first on that one? Okay. So early decision, at the heart of matters from an admissions standpoint, is a way to identify the students who are telling us, hey, if you admit me, I'm going to, you are my top choice clear and far away. And then from the admission standpoint, it's really useful for enrollment management purposes to be able to ID that cohort and get that cohort admitted and deposited before you move into the big chunk of your file reading later on in the winter.
So from the student standpoint, I would always advise it can be beneficial to apply early decision for a lot of schools. It can be advantageous as far as gaining admission, because again, they're going to read your application with an eye towards, they have identified us as their clear top choice.
But from a student standpoint, is it your clear top choice? If you're admitted, you're going because there was such very different financial aid and scholarship models with early decision policies from different schools, so you want to make sure you research that, and are you going to be really happy at the end of this process? Once you get that letter of admission from this school, you know in your heart of hearts you're good to go.
If you can very clearly say those things, then it can be something to look at. But again, look at that financial component because some schools guarantee certain scholarship levels if you're admitted early decision; others will give you just need-based aid later on down the road. How do you feel about that, right? And different students have different priorities on the financial component of matters versus this specific school. If I'm into this specific school, then the financial components are a moot point. So hopefully that makes sense, Mary.
David: All right. Good luck, Mary. We're going to go to Monica.
New Speaker: Hi there. Can you hear me?
David: We can.
New Speaker: Amazing. Echoing others, thank you so much for being here and giving us all this great advice. I know I am probably not the only one who's been taking a lot of notes. My question also has to do with applying early decision. I was wondering if you could talk just a little bit more about, you know, if applying early decision does hurt your financial aid chances, and if schools tend to have that information available on their websites, or if that is an information that you should call the university to talk about.
Tracy: I mean, I think, like Jake said, the big thing is that the benefit to the law school is that you're basically committing without them committing to you on the financial aid side of things. And so you basically are saying that this is your top choice and that you are willing to forgo any potential scholarship negotiation, et cetera, et cetera, by accepting this offer.
And so I think, you know, it really is a benefit-burden type conversation, a cost-benefit analysis that you have to do for yourself in terms of whether that's going to be worth it, whether you've saved enough, whether you financially are in a good place to kind of afford that, because for some candidates, while it's definitely appealing, the reality is that the opportunity to see what scholarships they are offered by other schools is a lot more alluring than maybe being wedded to this one school.
But that's a really individualized, personal, familial-type choice you have to make because there are risks. But again, there are huge benefits, because for some candidates, that may be their way into a school that later in the pool, they might not be as competitive in. And so I'll let Taj and Elizabeth and Jake say more, but I do think that that financial piece is really, really a significant part of this, and you may not find the information you're looking for on the web because they don't really have to provide it, because you're already, the instructions are clear. You are committing and generally committing to withdraw your other offers, et cetera, et cetera, by virtue of even us submitting that application.
Elizabeth: I would say, in looking at early decisions, oh, sorry, Tajira, I didn't mean to cut you off, in looking at early decisions, you want to see what schools put out there in their literature. So some schools will say right up front, like, this is your scholarship package that we'll be offering you. And generally, when a school is offering scholarship with early decision, they're looking for the stronger part of their pool. And for other schools, if they're not offering scholarship, as everyone else said, it's not guaranteed, it's likely not going to happen.
And that's where they're looking that they can take a little bit more of a chance on someone because they're not necessarily expending any merit aid that they can then expend it to other people in the process. So you're going to have to weigh, is going to this school worth it without financial aid, or is it better to kind of weigh my merit scholarship options at the end and make the best financial decision with all the opportunities given to me?
Tajira: There are very few schools that offer guaranteed scholarship for early decision programs, and that is something that is available online. You can look that up. There's only a handful of schools, though, that do it, and with that award, can you negotiate that up? Rarely. And so it's important to know, you know, if you're looking to have, I know that I need at least a half scholarship. I know that I need this much.
If you know that up front, then you want to preserve your ability to negotiate scholarship. And so that means, typically, you're not going to be applying early decision because that ability is taken away from you simply by applying early decision. And so you want to make sure that as you're thinking this through, what are your priorities? Are your priorities scholarship? Are your priorities rankings? Are your priorities just getting in?
You know, like what is it at the end of the day that you need to accomplish when you're getting into these schools? Are you hoping to have multiple offers to consider? If you apply early decision, are you going to have FOMO in thinking about the schools that you didn't hear from in time? That's a big thing, and that can follow you later on. And so if the answer is yes, early decision might not be for you, and that's okay.
You know, so it's just a matter of thinking things through and considering, you know, what are your priorities, and if money is a big one, then you may want to really research the early decision programs that do offer guaranteed scholarship and see for those schools, because it's guaranteed scholarship, the expectation is going to be likely that you're going to be above both medians.
David: Well, unfortunately, that brings us to nine o'clock, so we're out of time. I'm so sorry that there are a lot of questions here that we just don't have time to answer, but we're all going to be around on the forums. I'm going to beg everyone here to come back to the forums, to spend all night on the forums. So, please, ask your questions on the forums. We want to hear from you. We will do our best to get back to you. We'll do another one of these webinars soon.
And let me also just say that, look, I know this process is, let's be honest, horrible. I mean, first you have to live inside the LSAT for six months or however long it takes you to study, and then like you come up for air and you're like, and you're like a castaway on this island, and I mean, my metaphor is decaying, but it's like the island of the place where you have to now write a bunch of essays about yourself.
But, if this is any reassurance, I want to also tell you that the instructions on applications are very good. You will get so far by just following those instructions. Schools really, really say what they mean. There is not another secret set of instructions that you have to know about. You don't have to do the secret handshake and slip somebody a 20 to get the real dirt on what to do.
Follow the instructions, and when in doubt, just step back and, I think, Jacob, you're the one who said this, try to convey who you are, why you want to be a lawyer, why you want to go to this school in particular, and think about what you might uniquely contribute to the school. That's basically your job. All of these essays are different ways of getting at those questions. So, all of you, good luck. You can do it, and I hope to see you on the forums. Thank you so much.
J.Y.: Hi, it's J.Y. again. Thank you for listening. As always, if you are studying for the LSAT, applying to law school, studying for your law school exams, or studying for the bar, come visit us at 7Sage.com. We can help.
That's it for this episode. Take care of yourself, and see you next time.