Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Applying to Law School Series: New Theories on the Importance of GPA and LSAT

Photo Credit
Declining numbers in law school application submissions each year has some saying that the importance of GPA and LSAT scores is not as great because schools purely want to fill seats.  Some schools are forced to lower their standards on GPA and LSAT scores to avoid closing their doors like some branches of the Thomas M. Cooley School of Law had to do recently.
Other schools are altering their programs so as not to require the LSAT at all.  For instance, the University of Washington’s four-year dual degree (which combines a law degree with a Masters in Business Administration) has eliminated the need to take the LSAT if the student gets into the program through the MBA program, which requires a different standardized test called the Graduate Management Admissons Test (GMAT).  Before, the university had required both exams to acquire admission into each program separately before the student could enroll in the joint degree program.
What does this mean for you?  Well, if your GPA and LSAT scores are high or even what used to be average, there’s a greater likelihood for scholarships during the application period.  Further, you have a greater ability to gain acceptance to schools that may have been more of a “reach” school before the application slump.  Also, GPA and LSAT scores are still an indication of the likelihood of success a student has in law school.  This means that if your scores are high/old-average and the majority of those accepted into your class are low scorers, the competition in your class as a whole may not be as great and you have a better chance of ranking in the top, which opens you up for more scholarships as well as better employment opportunities.
Whereas, those who have lower GPAs and LSAT scores now have a better chance of acceptance into a school than in years past.  If you’re still worried about these components hindering your odds of acceptance, take measures to boost other areas of your application that you can do for free.  Get great letters of recommendation.  Boost your résumé by taking on additional extracurricular activities or find an internship at a law office.  If you’re a non-traditional student, use your real-life experience in your personal statements to show why law school is the right next step for you.  For other ways to improve your application, read Chapter 3 of my book.  However, as mentioned above, GPA and LSAT scores are an indicator of your likelihood of success in law school.  While the standards for admission may have lowered, the ability to do well and succeed has not changed, and low scores may be a sign that law school is not for you.  This is a very expensive decision and the job market has still not returned to pre-recession levels, so choose carefully.

You Might Also Like:

Until Next Time,
Jenny L. Maxey

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Applying to Law School Series: The Magic Number – How Many Law Schools Should You Apply To?

Photo Credit

Is there a magic number for law school applications?  The rule of thumb is typically no more than fifteen, but don’t let this magic number be the end-all-be-all to your decision-making.  You may not need to apply to fifteen schools; it’s a lot and the price of applications easily adds up!
First, narrow the list of schools to which you apply. This one is obvious, of course, but it’s easy to fall into a trap of “just one more!” If you’re confined to a certain location, this will help narrow your list to only schools in that area.  Create a limitation by using school reputation.  If you’ve already decided on a specialized area of practice, only apply to schools that will help you reach that goal.  Consider that each application represents a definite, significant fee. Unless you’re truly interested in attending that law school, and will happily attend, don’t apply!
If you’re not sure, then the answer is “No.” Don’t spend your money on fees if you’re not even sure you would attend—and you should be certain you would attend if you’ve done your research.
Law schools give you the admission statistics of previous years’ classes, including the median LSATs and GPAs. This is helpful in determining your odds of admission before you apply. To find the probability of your admission, offers a free program that calculates these results. Once you enter your LSAT score and undergraduate GPA, the program will show your likelihood of acceptance into each law school.
Also, U.S. News provides the 25th percentile and 75th percentile statistics for each school to help prospective students decide their likelihood of admission. These results will save you money on needless application fees and LSAC charges—but of course we often don’t like seeing that our chances to our “dream” school are low. If there are schools beyond your reach that you would still hope to attend, the factors described in Chapter 3 of my book can increase your likelihood of acceptance.
As to “safety schools,” there are two trains of thought: the first is that you should apply to several, so that your time and efforts will not have been wasted. The contrary view, however, is that a safety school might be a bad bet. This is so precisely because it is a safety school: as a rule, the easier it is to get in, the lower the school’s reputation, and thus the less valuable is that school’s degree. So, be sure that you should attend that school, using the research we’ve discussed, if you’re going to apply.
Finally, save money by researching application fee waivers. Some schools offer application fee waivers if you apply electronically instead of by paper application. Other schools offer waivers if you apply before a certain deadline. There may be waivers available for those who are in financial need and for those who are active in the military or certain public service organizations. If you received a waiver from LSAC, some law schools will honor that waiver and will also waive their application fee, but may also require a separate application for you to receive the waiver. Be aware of these deadlines and separate applications because, although it may only be a $50 to $75 waiver, it adds up when you apply to multiple schools.  Besides, if the bulk of the schools you apply to have their fees waived, then you can afford to cast your net a bit wider.

You Might Also Like:

Until Next Time,
Jenny L. Maxey

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Applying to Law School Series: Competition for Top Schools Has Grown More Fierce

Photo Credit
Everyone knows that attending a school with a prestigious reputation is an important factor – if not, sometimes, the factor – to acquiring a job in today’s legal market.  Unfortunately, the focus of many pre-law students is just trying to get into law school and not on the job market 3 to 4 years from now.  It’s time to change that troubling perspective, and with that perspective maybe the decision to go to law school altogether.
So what are some good indicators that the schools you apply to are going to get you a job in the end?  An obvious option is to look at the law school ranking reports – and not just over the last year.  Look at multiple years for rankings.  Who is consistently in the top 10?  Are there any schools that jumped a lot of spots to get into the top recently?  How and why did that happen, and is it a good reason to consider them?
Ivy League law schools are always going to be a given. Harvard reported that 96% of their 2012 graduates were employed, while at the national level only 65% of 2012 law grads were employed (and this includes the underemployed).  Clearly Harvard’s reputation affects the odds of its student’s employment upon graduation.   Even if an ivy-leaguer law school doesn’t rank within the top 10, the clout provided by the undergraduate level is often enough. 
Another option is to look at rankings for schools based on their employment reports.  While this data has been questionable over the last five years or so, the information can help you begin to weigh your options, and you can dig deeper into these statistics once you’ve narrowed your list.  Here is a helpful rank provided by Forbes for the top law schools for career prospects in 2015.
If you’re only looking at lower-tiered law schools, you may want to reconsider applying to law school at all.  Again, the job market is extremely competitive and doesn’t appear to be changing any time soon.  Some law schools are closing, such as branches of the Thomas M. Cooley School of Law, and others are struggling to keep their doors open.  Do not get stuck with one or two years of law school debt only to be left out to dry when the school closes before you graduate or are able to transfer.  Even worse, having three years of law school debt and no job opportunities!  Find better investments for your time and money.

You Might Also Like:

Until Next Time,
Jenny L. Maxey
Author of Barrister on a Budget:  Investing in Law School…without Breaking the Bank

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Barrister on a Budget Book Tour Recap

Available on Amazon
It certainly has been a fun and busy several weeks!  But, if you’ve missed some of the tour, don’t worry! Below I’ve provided links to all of my gracious hosts.  Some of the book contests are still continuing, so be sure to click on those links to find out how you can win! 

Guest Post on LSAT Blog:  Choosing the Right Law School Location

Twitter Chat with College Financial Aid Advisors on #CollegeCash:  See the conversation!

Guest Post on Law School Toolbox:  Thinking Outside the Box to Find Employment

Guest Post on Legal Job Blog: Building a Legal Network on a Budget

Guest Post on The Girl’s Guide to Law School:  6 Tips for Applying for Bar Admission on a Budget

Book Giveaway and Bonus Podcast on How to Pay for College HQ: Contest and Podcast

Guest Post on Pen and Chisel:  Taking the LSAT on a Budget

Book Giveaway with Julie Schechter:  @Off_The_Charts_

Guest Post on POCSmom:  Planning a Budget for Grad School

Guest Post on How to WIN College Scholarships:  A Primer on Law School Scholarships

Guest Post on Social Assurity:  How to Use Social Media for Admission to Law School

Because next weekend is one of my favorite food holidays (THANKSGIVING!), there won’t be any new posts next week (11/26), however I will be re-running “Thanksgiving is NOT a break” on my website for tips on how you should spend the week to best prepare for finals.