03/20/09: The last two schools are in this week. Waitlisted at both UVA and Penn. Immediately withdrew my application from both institutions. My fiance and I have decided to accept our full tuition and fees scholarships at UT Austin, and given our aspirations to stay in Texas, don't believe there is any better place for us to be. This has been a great application cycle for me, and I couldn't be happier with the results. Sure, I was probably a bit overconfident at first, and it was humbling to fall short of my expectations of speedy admission to every school, followed by a crowd of competing scholarship offers. But in the end, a full scholarship to my first-choice school is hard to complain about. In truth, very many of the schools I applied to were schools I had no intention of attending; I simply applied for fun and out of curiosity since I received an application fee waiver (not an implied guarantee of admission, by the way). I probably won%u2019t update much more, if at all, since the cycle has basically come to a close for me. It%u2019s not as if my profile was one of the more popular ones on this site anyway. I did, however, glean some very useful information from perusing LSN during my cycle, and would like to take the opportunity to leave a few of my final thoughts and lessons from my cycle for future classes, if anyone cares to seek them.
It%u2019s not all about the numbers. Mine are pretty good. They%u2019re not perfect (especially my GPA), but they%u2019re very solid. This did not assure me admission to most of my picks. I don%u2019t necessarily think that the %u201Csubjective%u201D factors (personal statement, resume, letters) are more important than I originally though, but that there are plenty of considerations besides your numbers.
Schools care about whether or not you will attend when they make their admission decisions. Apparently, several of the top schools %u201Cyield-protect,%u201D a concept I had never heard of until well into my cycle. This means that they waitlist or reject many great candidates that they feel will go elsewhere in an effort to keep their ratio of admitted to matriculating students as high as possible. I%u2019ve even heard of Penn (I believe) applicants going from waitlist to admitted with a scholarship in a matter of days because they contacted the admissions office and told them they would attend if admitted. I believe that if you%u2019re in this situation, an additional essay or letter of rec. would also do the trick. A final thought on this; if a school has an optional %u201Cwhy are you interested in ____%u201D section of the application, fill it out thoughtfully if you want to be admitted there. I omitted this section in several of the above mentioned %u201Conly because they waived my fee%u201D schools, and was not admitted. I have to imagine that they know some kids do what I did, and it works against efforts to yield-protect. They must control for this, and reject/waitlist applicants who don%u2019t show a serious interest in their school, regardless of qualifications.
Historical behavior does not necessarily predict future behavior. That means that combing over who got accepted and with what size scholarship on LSN cannot possibly predict, with complete accuracy, how you will do. Let me provide a specific example that could have changed my life a lot. My fiance and I decided that, based on last year%u2019s LSN entries, the only top-20 school that we were almost assured of receiving full rides at was WUSTL. Thus, we made the decision to attend there last October, before even having been admitted there. We spent a good chuck of money flying to St. Louis over the Christmas break, met with their dean and assistant dean of admissions (really great people who provided us with a tremendous experience), and expressed a serious interest in attending despite being well above even their 75th percentile GPA & LSAT numbers. I even considered declining my offer at Texas when I received it in November because we were so sure of our decision and confident in our scholarship chances there. Well, things (economy, budget, endowments, attitudes, preferences, etc.) change, and we were wrong. Their scholarship structure is much different there this year than last, and they didn%u2019t even notify us of our offers until last week (after we had made a decision to attend Texas and signed a lease on an Austin apartment)! And, when our offers did finally come in, I wasn%u2019t even offered full tuition! Don%u2019t be hasty, and don%u2019t base decisions on last year%u2019s LSN stats.
Don%u2019t be overconfident. I was very cocky after I got my LSAT score back. Remember that the top schools really do care about other things, too. Pay attention to each of your school%u2019s application instructions, and follow them to a tee, even if you think your numbers are so high that you don%u2019t really need to. You do, even with your 175 . For example, Cornell asks for a dean%u2019s form. As far as I know, they%u2019re about the only one who still does, but they want it. Send it if you want to be admitted. They also specify that they want two letters from professors. Again, one of the only ones with this requirement, but you need to do it if you want to be admitted there; otherwise, you%u2019re not showing a serious interest in that school. As a side note, I can%u2019t overstress the importance of academic letters of recommendations. I only had one, plus one from an employer, and believe this seemingly small issue really hurt my chances at some schools. Remember, the bottom line to schools is how good of a student you are. Who better to make that assessment than those who have taught you?
Most published information about law school admissions is over-representative of those who were successful. This induces a bias that might make folks think their chances for admission are greater than they really are. Take, for instance, published 25th/median/75th LSAT and GPA numbers. They only speak to those who did get admitted. These say nothing of the percentage of applicants at each number point who did not. Numerically, a school could easily have a 162/165/169 LSAT distribution, but have rejected 100 percent of applicants with 175 LSAT scores. Of course, this is strictly illustrative and a very unlikely scenario, but you can see that there could be, and in many cases are, plenty of people who aren%u2019t admitted all along the number distribution of the folks who are admitted. Also, I%u2019ve observed a bias among LSN users to immediately update when they get good news, but not necessarily when they get bad news. There are probably a whole bunch of %u201Cred%u201D & %u201Cyellow%u201D dots interspersed throughout the %u201Cgreen%u201D dots on any given applicant graph that you can%u2019t see. You might look at a graph and say, %u201Cwell no one was rejected with my GPA/LSAT combo or higher;%u201D yeah, either that or those who were did not post it on LSN. This just introduces another bias into the information available to you. Of course, published numbers provide a good guide, and I maintain that for the most part, if you%u2019re above both the 75th percentile GPA & LSAT numbers for a given school, you%u2019ll probably be admitted. Just take this as a precaution against overconfidence and view information critically.
If I think of anything else, I%u2019ll update.
03/01/09: I checked my Cornell status checker one more time before I contacted them, and my status has changed back to "applied." Again, I have declined a request for an additional academic letter, and have also failed to send them a "dean's form" (only one of the 13 top-20 schools I applied to that requires it; why would you do that?). I went ahead and requested to withdraw that application as well. I'll also be withdrawing my Michigan app., as I have no interest in being placed on their wait-list, or attending for that matter. Still no word from Penn. or UVA, and no additional scholarship offers.
02/26/09: I received an e-mail this week from Columbia requesting a fall transcript. At this point, I don't really have any intention of attending Columbia, so I didn't see any reason to waste any more of their time looking at my application, nor my time and the time of my university's registrar messing with another transcript, so I requested to withdraw my application there. In other news, my Cornell status checker reads "decision," as of 1/28, and says to allow about 10-14 days for the letter to arrive, yet I haven't received it yet. Not sure what's going on there, but I suppose I'll contact them if I don't get it soon. Honestly, I don't have much hope of admission since a few weeks ago, they requested an additional academic letter of rec. (I only included 2; 1 from a prof. and 1 from an employer), and I declined to send another (again, no motivation to waste my time with it b/c no intention of attending). Finally, my first official decision that wasn't an admission: waitlisted at Michigan. Oh well...
02/13/09: I haven't updated in a while, but have been accepted to a couple of additional schools since I last updated my "additional information," as can be seen above. I had not gotten any admission or scholarship notifications in quite some time until today, when I received a letter in the mail with a $33,000 offer from Chicago. Jury is still out on Columbia, UVA, Penn, Michigan, and Cornell.
12/7/08: 5 for 5 at this point. I've gotten into UCLA, Duke, and most recently (today) Vanderbilt, in addition to the first two. Vandy sends you a huge box via priority mail! No additional scholarship offers yet in addition to the full ride to Texas (which we're reconsidering as a serious possibility?).
11/17/08: Received my full tuition/fees scholarship offer from Texas last Friday ("Chancellor's Scholarship"). Guess they decided they liked me after all!
*Note: I followed what seemed to be the convention at this website among Chancellor's Scholarship offerees and reported it as a $120,000 scholarship. I since decided that this is a fairly inflated figure, especially for in-state applicants like myself. I revised the number to represent three years of tuition and fees as reported for the '08-'09 year on the UT Law website.
11/12/08: 2 for 2 so far. Admission letter from Georgetown today, and Texas last week. No scholarship offers (yet?); my fiance was offered full tuition/fees at Texas within a couple days of receiving her admission letter, so they must not like me that much! We'll see...
10/22/08: I guess I was mistaken in thinking that my Cornell fee had been waived through CRS when I initially added that app to my LSAC cart. I spoke with their admissions office yesterday and they don't do automatic online CRS fee waivers. I'm just going to return the paper fee waiver they send me with a paper copy of my app. It'll be in the mail be the end of the week. I still haven't finished all the writing for the others.
10/16/08: Submitted most of my apps. Finally got my last letter of rec. in yesterday, and finally got my UT fee waiver last week (the last one I got, weeks after my fiance w/ comparable numbers got hers). I held off on Cornell b/c I received a fee waiver in the mail weeks ago and it told me my fee was waived when I added the app to my cart about a week and a half ago, but when I checked out, the fee was back. I need to figure that out. I held off on a couple more that require some additional writing for admission/scholarship consideration. Hopefully I'll get around to that within a week or so.