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Posts Tagged ‘LSAT’

Elle Woods, Reese Witherspoon‘s character from Legally Blonde, studies ferociously for the LSATs on her exercise bike, as sorority sisters and Bruiser the chihuahua cheer her on. Harvard Law School‘s admissions committee watch her stylish video application, dumbfounded, as she makes her case for admission in a bikini poolside at her home in Southern California.

The stunned admissions officers reason that Ms. Woods “did get a 175 LSAT score” (the magic number), and “a 4.0 GPA.” When one disbeliever questions her “A in Polka Dots,” another notes that they’ve never admitted a Fashion Merchandising major before. Shaking his head and shrugging helplessly, the Admissions Director acquiesces: “Well, Ms. Woods… welcome to Harvard.”

Somehow there is this urban legend that law school admissions is only about the numbers, in contrast to, say, graduate business school. The student forums cynically proclaim that it’s only about your LSAT and GPA, as if nothing else matters. This belief sounded a bit too simplistic to me, so I dug into the class profiles of the top twenty U.S. law schools to see what they look for in JD applicants.

These elite institutions’ acceptance rates range from 6 percent to the low 20’s. Their LSAT and GPA 25th-75th percentiles range roughly from 160-175 and 3.6-3.9, respectively. So an aspiring law school applicant cannot simply hope to compensate for lame scores or grades with some colorful work experience. However, applicants with impressive LSAT and GPA numbers are not so rare that they don’t need to do anything else to qualify for a top law school. With so many baby boomlet applicants competing for admission, elite JD programs can “have it all”: the numbers, diverse backgrounds, and water-walker resumes.

Harvard Law states on its Web site: “Quantitative factors, while informative, do not play a decisive role in our selection process. We have no computational methods for making admission decisions, no mechanical shortcuts, no substitutes for careful assessment and good judgment. All completed applications are reviewed in their entirety with the LSAT as one factor in an overall assessment of academic promise, personal achievement, and potential contribution to the vitality of the student body.” I believe this statement is more than a nod to “holistic admissions,” especially when one considers the incredibly fascinating credentials and “circuitous route” experiences matriculants bring to elite JD programs.

Penn Law’s Web site describes its 2013 Class “Beyond the Numbers”: “They hold PhDs in neuroscience, neurobiology, philosophy, and political science… They include teachers at all levels, including former members of the Peace Corps and Teach for America… patent examiners, CPAs, journalists, entrepreneurs, grant writers, and engineers; commissioned officers in the Army and Marine Corps… a science, tech, and weapons analyst for the CIA… a former professional basketball player… players of every instrument you can imagine from the bugle to the pipe organ; members of improvisational comedy troupes and several DJ’s…” You get the picture: it’s not just about 175.

As I analyzed the entering class statistics for individual institutions, I found an average age of 24 or 25, with age ranges between 20 and mid-40’s, so applicants who are accepted to elite law schools are not typically freshly minted college graduates. In fact, only about a third of matriculants come directly from college, and somewhere between 10 and 20 percent of matriculants hold advanced academic degrees.

It is true that entrants to top MBA programs tend to be slightly older with more “real world” experience. If top law students typically matriculate after two years, top MBA students matriculate after four. Applicants to both types of programs, however, are doing something pretty impressive during those intervening years.

Related reading: How to Get into the Top Law Schools, 4th Ed., by Richard Montauk; The Best Law Schools’ Admissions Secrets: The Essential Guide from Harvard’s Former Admissions Dean by Joyce Curil; The Law School Admissions Game: Play Like an Expert by Ann K. Levine. Related posts: Does Your College GPA Matter?

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You’re a junior in college, beginning to sweat about getting a job after graduation, listening to all the horrifying urban legends about recent grads from elite colleges who are still unemployed. But there’s not much you can do yet about your future, except nailing a good GPA, posting your profile on LinkedIn, and checking in with your college’s career services office about summer internships.

Ok, so here’s a thought: take the GMAT (or the LSAT, or the GRE–or even all three, what Grad.spot calls the “unholy trinity of graduate school testing) while you’re “still smart.” Within the first three years out of college, you will probably want to apply to graduate school. Especially if the job you are able to get out of college is not what you want to be doing the rest of your life.

But once you get out in the young professional world, it will not be so easy to prepare for grad school. You’ll be getting up early, commuting, working long hours, perhaps with travel. At the end of the day, the last thing you’ll feel like doing is attending a prep class, doing a course online, or even practicing from a book.

Your test-taking chops will not be as sharp after a few years in the professional world. It’s hard to imagine now, because you take exams all the time. But remember doing a varsity sport in high school? In-season you were in great shape. Off-season, if you didn’t work out at the gym or go out for a daily run, you got rusty. If you didn’t continue to play the sport in college, you wouldn’t even think of walking in cold to a competition.

Testing is that way too. The farther you move away from an academic environment, the more rusty you become. So take the tests now. And if your’re not sure what kind of grad school you may be interested down the road, you might want to…take them all.

Related posts: Your College’s Career Center, Can I Get an MBA if I Wasn’t a Business Major in College? Preparing for Business School: GRE or GMAT?, Time to Apply to B-School?, So You Didn’t Get That Summer Internship…What To Do?

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Summer internships, especially paid ones, are tough to land in any economy. But it is especially difficult during a period of  high unemployment. And you are competing with the huge population of baby boomlet students, just as you did in the college application process. So it is possible that you were not able to get an internship for this summer. However, there are many valuable alternative ways to spend a college summer, which will be personally gratifying and resume-building as well. Here are ten ideas:

1. Take a course. Get a requirement out of the way, especially a hard one. Give it full focus, perform better, and have an easier workload this fall. Or take an elective at an accredited school near home if your college will give credit. If you attend a private college, take summer courses at your state university to save money on tuition. For exposure to elite academics in a stimulating urban environment, consider Harvard Summer School, London School of Economics, Georgetown, GWU, Columbia, NYU, or USC, to name only a few.

2. Attend a workshop. Gain professional tools as valuable as an internship, or perhaps more.  If you didn’t land that Wall Street summer gig, how about four weekends at the CFA-accredited Investment Banking Institute, offered in ten U.S. cities? Its student price is a bargain compared to executive education at prestigious universities, and you’re free during the week to do hourly work to pay for it.

3 Beef up your technical proficiencies. Add to your professional toolkit for a future job. Let’s say you are a fine arts student interested in exploring applied visual arts, such as digital graphics, videogaming, web design or animation. Buy a software program through Academic Superstore, which offers reduced prices for students. Or enroll in a non-matricultant online course (i.e.,  Academy of Art University.) The fine arts metaphor translates to any field.

4. Do volunteer work in your field. For medical, education and helping professions, it is essential to develop your human contact capabilites, not just academic skills. Volunteer work can help you assess the rewards and frustrations of dealing with clients in your prospective field, as well as different working environments. It may strengthen your grad school application. And it will undoubtedly enhance your experience as a human being. You will never have more time than you do right now to “give back.”

5. Do research. What about approaching a professor  to do unpaid research? Structure an independent study for academic credit. Undergraduate research is expected for graduate school applications in academic, science and medical fields (see Science Magazine‘s Science Careers and Student Doctor Network). If you plan to go into the workforce after college, research demonstrates your initiative and deep knowledge of your field. Your professor may also have connections that may lead to an entry level position.

6. Travel. Do one of your own college’s study abroad programs led by your own professors, other schools’ renowned programs (i.e., NYU, Syracuse, Boston U), or external programs that partner with universities (i.e., IES, CSA). You will enrich your experience in your major, or in your life, and you will never have as much time as you do now.

7. Take grad school prep courses and exams. If you plan graduate school straight from college, take advantage of this time window (vs. during a regular semester). If you plan to join the workforce and are considering eventual graduate work, take the test now. Tests are valid for five years. You’ll never be “smarter” than right now! Click here for GMAT, LSAT, MCAT, or GRE.

8. Learn a foreign language. Master a language for an employment edge in the future, such as Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, Arabic or Hindi. Enroll in a college course or Berlitz program, or buy Rosetta Stone (this incredible software could even teach me, the most “unlikely to succeed” language student!). Consider Middlebury‘s renowned language schools, University of Chicago’s intensive language program, or University of Virginia’s Summer Language Institute.

9. Do informational interviews and job shadowing. What do you want to do when you grow up? Finally you have time to find out! Unless you grew up under a rock, you know adults in careers that hold interest for you. Your parents, extended family, family friends, neighbors, teachers, doctors: and people they know. It’s a Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon thing. Whether they are young professionals or high-powered veterans, they’re likely to agree to an informational interview, since you are not specifically asking for a job.

Ask about rewards and frustrations, long term career path, and lifestyle. Remember, people love to tell their story and give advice, so let them!  Ask to “shadow” an individual for a day and find out what “life in the trenches” is really like. The bonus of this approach is, it often leads to landing a project, internship or job later on, directly or indirectly. Every time to meet with an adult professional face-to-face, you will learn something that will help you in career exploration, job interviews, or career decision-making.

10. Earn money. If you can find a semi-skilled summer job, that can also fit the bill. You may be able to take a workshop or online course in your spare time. The money you earn may allow you to do some educational travel at the end of the summer. Working during the summer may free you from having to do part-time work during the school year, resulting in stronger academic performance.

There is nothing more noble and than self-sufficiency, responsibility and elbow grease, and you can be sure future employers will be impressed with a proven work ethic. A summer job requiring physical labor in an outdoor environment can actually be a refreshing break from academia. There is always something to be learned from every experience, from supervisors, co-workers and customers. Soak it all in.

Related posts: Liberal Arts and the Real World, Your College’s Career Center, What I Did on My Summer Vacation, Er-Internship, Take the GMAT While You’re Still Smart, Why Should a College Student Be on LinkedIn? Does Your College GPA Matter? and What Is Informational Interviewing?

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