So the 2011/2012 application cycle just ended and I'm happy to say I've chosen to go to The John Marshall Law School in Chicago. Out of all the schools I got accepted to, it's the best, most economical choice for me. I also have family in Chi, and it's a place I know I'll be happy living in.
Below are some words of advice for people who are thinking of law school/applying/have been accepted that have made my application process and decision making process easier. Hopefully this will help you too, as this is coming from someone who has gone through 2 law school application cycles and has visited a number of schools:
1. DO NOT choose a school solely based on its ranking.
Yes, it's important to go to the best ranked school for the best price because it'll improve your chances of getting a job, improve your resume, ability to network, etc. etc. BUT have you ever thought of what the rankings are based on? Who creates them? Who really knows! Rankings are important, but you don't need to rely on them solely when making your decision. There are a lot of other important factors to consider when choosing a school. There are a lot of really good schools that aren't in the top 50 or even top 100 that are worth your time and money. And who knows- the school you choose could rise in the rankings one day. You will become an attorney, you will not starve and you will not be an embarrassment if you go to a school with a less than stellar ranking.
2. DEVOTE YOUR LIFE TO THE LSAT.
Chances are, the LSAT will kick your ass. Even if you're a good test taker and smarter than the average bear, that doesn't mean you'll do well on this test. You NEED to take a prep course or, at the very least, use books to study. You need to study for months, not weeks for this test (ie don't pull an Elle Woods and only study during Greek Week- no I didn't do this). You have to learn how to take the LSAT and it takes time to figure it out. Make a study plan, study in a quiet space, get study buddies. I suggest forgetting about your social life for a few months, investing in a prep course and buckling down. I even quit my job.
3. Turn in your applications as early as you possibly can.
Even if you have a great LSAT score and other good things going for you in your application profile, your chances of admission go down the longer you wait to submit your application. Early in the application cycle, the schools are more lenient about the type of students they are willing to admit. The later in the application cycle it gets (especially after the beginning of the year) the more applicants there are competing for each spot. If you don't have a great LSAT score or GPA or if there's something else in your application that could count against you, be proactive and just submit your application early. It could be the difference between getting into the school of your choice and not.
4. Invest in the PowerScore books.
Buy them all, they really help raise your score. The logic games book really helped me. They're cheaper on Amazon than anywhere else. These books helped me way more than the 3 month Kaplan LSAT course I took and way cheaper. If you don't want to pay for a course, at the very least buy these books.
5. Don't be afraid to take the LSAT more than once.
A law school student once told me this, and I've found it to be true. It's not that big of a deal, and a lot of people take it more than once. You could really improve your score the second time around, and a score increase could actually look good on your application. It shows you studied even harder, aspired and met a goal, etc. It will not look good, though, if you take the LSAT twice and get a worse score the second time than your original score (an admission cousnelor told me this).
6. Choose a school in a place where you wouldn't mind spending 3 years of your life.
It might seem like an unimportant factor, but if you're unhappy in the place you live, it'll negatively affect your performance in school, your relationships, mentality, etc. You might be stuck living somewhere for years after you graduate if you get a job in the same city. So make sure you can stand living there.
7. Don't let your family influence your choice.
They're not going to law school, you are. You're the one who will be stuck with the consequences of the school you choose. You need to make yourself happy.
8. Visit law schools before you apply.
You need to see the neighborhood and city your school is in. Pictures law schools use to advertise their campus can be very deceiving. Schools can make their shitty campus look awesome by using a good photographer. You will also get a feel for the administration and the types of students who go to the school if you visit. You can't make a decision on a school based only on looking at their website. The visit might save you from choosing a school you would be unhappy attending.
9. If you're in college, have a trusted professor edit your personal statement, especially if they know something about law school admissions.
They've seen other personal statements and know what looks and sounds good to a law school and what doesn't.
10. Apply to a lot of schools.
You never know what each school is looking for in an applicant. Apply to a lot of different schools with different rankings. Include reach schools, realistic target schools and fallbacks. You might be surprised and get accepted to a good school that you didn't expect.
3/31/12- Got an acceptance package from Loyola New Orleans today. I was accepted off the waitlist. I was pretty surprised because its still pretty early for people to be accepted from the waitlist. They even said I'm being considered for a diversity scholarship. At one point in the past I was pretty interested in this school, but I still think John Marshall will be a better, more economical choice for me. I want to visit the school, but I don't think I'll be able to.
2/29/12- I decided recently that going to John Marshall is the best choice for me. I had a very hard time making a final decision as to what school I want to go to. In the end it came down to either John Marshall or Southwestern. I liked Southwestern, a good law school with a good reputation and decent ranking. However, I absolutely HATE LA and could never live there, not to mention I would live in my car and spend all of my money on gas. Then there's John Marshall, with a not so good ranking and not an excellent reputation. But they gave me a great scholarship and I really want to live in Chicago. I ultimately decided that it's more important for me to live in a place where I will be happy, even if that means going to a lesser school. I will already be stressed and overwhelmed enough from school, and I don't need that from the city I will be living in as well. People can criticize me or think less of me all they want for choosing a 4th tier law school over better schools, but I am proud of my decision and am really looking forward to August.
2/21/12- Waitlisted at Willamette via mail
2/8/12- Admitted to Cal Western via email. They didn't give any information on scholarships, but maybe that comes with the official acceptance letter. I don't think this is the school for me. I have a friend who went there for 1 semester and quit. He said they have the hardest curve in the nation, in his opinion, and that the school fails out a lot of students. No thank you.
2/5/12- I found out this weekend that John Marshall and 2 other Chicago law schools are being sued for creating misleading student employment statistics. I sent JM an email with some questions about their career services office and OCI, etc. Hopefully they can provide some useful answers...
-Rejected from USF via email. I thought I might have at least a chance at getting waitlisted, but apparently not. I love San Francisco, so I'm disappointed that USF isn't an option for me.
-I got an email today from Chapman that my app has been put on hold and will be reevaluated in a month. I'm not sure if this is a good or a bad thing. Last year I got a decision from them around this time that I was waitlisted. If anyone knows exactly what the deal is with getting an app put on hold, please let me know.
-I'm going to be withdrawing my application/acceptance from the Santa Barbara School of Law probably today. I applied as a backup school, but now that I've gotten into ABA schools, I know I won't go there.
-Sent my withdrawal email to Whittier
2/2/12- Rejected from Loyola Chicago via email. No surprise, but I'm still bummed. Now I officially know my only option in Chicago is John Marshall.
1/31/12- Admitted to Thomas Jefferson via mail. No scholarship offer.
1/30/12- Got my acceptance packet for GGU. No scholarship offer.
1/28/12- I went to an open house event at Whittier today and I was really dissatisfied with the school. I had a number of problems with the school (some basic ones- it's located far from courthouses, the buildings have few or no windows, the applicants seem to be older people looking for a career change, etc.). Here are some more major issues I had. The administrators there were all either really young, recent Whittier grads or both. You'd think a school would want to hire more experienced people to fill the jobs of those who run the place. Most of them did not seem excited about the school at all. There were times where it seemed like the administrators were almost apologizing for the school, which I've never seen at a law school event.
The biggest red flag for me came during the student panel. The valedictorian of the 2011 graduating class was one of 2 recent grads on the panel. He admitted that he still doesn't have a job 8 months after graduation (!). The other alum (also class of 2011) said he had just recently gotten his first job since graduating. Assuming that the school was trying to showcase its best students, this is seriously the best they can do? If their valedictorian can't get a job, then what kind of situations are students in that were top 25% of the class? Top 50%? I've officially crossed this school off my list.
1/26/12- I haven't heard from any schools in a couple weeks and it's driving me crazy! I wish I could just find out which schools are accepting me already so I can make a decision about where I want to go!
1/21/12- I went to Southwestern for an open house program today and I have very mixed feelings about going to the school. It was in a super nice building and the admissions staff gave a good sales pitch, but I just don't know if I can handle living in LA. I've never liked that city and I don't think I want to live there for 3 years, even if I'm living in a nicer area of LA. At this point only a really awesome scholarship could sway me.
1/16/12- I got my acceptance packet from Southwestern a few days ago, and no scholarship offer. Despite it being the best school I've gotten into, that could affect my decision of whether or not I choose it. Also- I got a strange email from Willamette today. An admissions officer asked me to email him explaining why I want to go to their school since I have no ties to the school or Oregon...? Maybe because I wanted options for law school that might not have been in my state? It was very unusual- I've applied to a lot of law schools in the last 2 admissions cycles and I've never been asked to explain myself like that. It's one thing to be asked to write an essay, but another to get an email out of the blue.
1/9/12- Accepted to Southwestern's full time day program via email!! I'm really surprised I got in this year, because last year I was only accepted off the waitlist into the part time program with the Summer intro to Southwestern course. This is the best ranked school I've gotten into so far, and I'm so happy I have a better option for the fall!!
1/6/12- Rejected from Chicago Kent via email. I pretty much expected it but I'm still bummed. Ideally, I want to end up in Chicago, and I was hoping that I might get into one of the middle tier law schools there. Since Loyola Chicago will most likely reject me, it's looking like my only option in Chicago will be John Marshall. Oh well...everything happens for a reason, right?
1/4/12- In the process of e-mailing my updated resume to all the schools whose decisions are pending. I'm getting impatient to hear back!!
1/3/12- Whittier sent me an email this morning with scholarship info, and they gave me $10,000 for the 1st year.
-Admitted to Whittier via email
-App in review at Golden Gate as of 12/21
12/22/11- My status checker for USF changed the date of the status, but not the status itself. It now says "Application Complete, 12/20/11" instead of "Application Complete, 11/29/11". I wonder if this is a sign of a decision coming soon...?
-I got my acceptance letter from John Marshall, and they granted me a Deans Scholarship in the amount of $12,000 a year, on the condition that I stay in the top 1/3 of the class. Johnny Marsh is looking like a pretty good option right now!
-App in review at Chapman as of today
12/19/11- My status checker for Loyola New Orleans changed to waitlisted today.
12/16/11- IN AT JOHN MARSHALL!! I could not be happier!
-Just got an e-mail from Catholic U. of America to check my online status, and they waitlisted me! I was expecting a denial from them, so this is a pleasant surprise!
-Rejected from Santa Clara via mail :( That was my dream reach school.
12/12/11- Rejected from Stetson via email
12/10/11- SCU status checker says decision has been mailed.
12/5/11- App in review at Cal Western
12/1/11- Just got my rejection email from DePaul. Oh well, I wasn't expecting on getting in anyway.
11/26/11- IN AT SUFFOLK! THANK. GOD.
-App at Loy NO is in review with the Ad Com. Apparently this is the phase the app goes through if the dean can't make a decision. Keeping my fingers crossed!
-Added 1 more application- Stetson
-Accepted at SB School of Law via call from the Director of Admissions.
-Checked my status checkers today and I'm in review at DePaul, Whittier, Chapman, Southwestern, John Marshall, Chicago Kent and Santa Clara.
11/21/11- App in review at Loyola New Orleans as of yesterday!
11/10/11- Finally submitted the last of my 17 apps today (Chapman). I also decided to apply to Santa Barbara School of Law as a backup. So now I wait...
10/31/11- I visited a few law schools in Chicago over the weekend- John Marshall, Chicago Kent and Loyola Chicago- and came to the conclusion that John Marshall is now one of my top choice schools. I don't think I have much of a chance of getting in with my numbers, but I would definitely go if I had the chance. Really friendly staff and great location in downtown Chicago.
10/25/11- So this is my second time around applying to law school- last year didn't work out for me so well. Last year when I applied I had a 3.03/149. I retook the LSAT in October 2011 and am now reapplying with a 3.17/150. Since I didn't really improve my score, I decided to change my strategy and apply to 3rd & 4th tier schools I can more realistically get into. Last year I made the mistake of applying to schools I couldn't realistically get into with my LSAT score and GPA, and I ended up getting rejected from most of them. These were the results of my 2010 application cycle:
Loyola U. Chicago-----------Rejected
U. of San Diego--------------Rejected
Loyola Marymount U.------Rejected
U. of Oregon-----------------Rejected
U. of San Francisco---------Rejected
Santa Clara U.---------------Rejected
Chapman U.------------------Waitlisted, Rejected
Southwestern U.------------Waitlisted, Accepted
We'll see how this year goes.