Law School Discussion

Applying to Law School => Law School Admissions => Topic started by: V00Jeff on April 05, 2005, 10:45:10 PM

Title: The answers to all your questions
Post by: V00Jeff on April 05, 2005, 10:45:10 PM
Hi.  I'm a college grad that will be heading to Columbia next year.  I've noticed something about this board: most of the posters seem to be asking a varient on the same question: "I know I want to be a lawyer, so what do I need to do before/during college to get into a good law school?"  I thought that I'd try to give my best general answer to this question, and then let other college grads give their answers, so that there's one thread that covers almost all the bases.  So let's go through the big ones:

Choosing a college:

I think the general consensus is that you definitely do not need to be a slave to USNEWS rankings.  Law schools do seem to put some weight in where you go to school, but this is a relatively minor factor when compared with the important things: your LSAT and GPA.  And even when law schools do consider where you went to school, they don't discriminate with too fine a comb.  What I mean by this is that they'll probably think there's a sizeable difference between Harvard and Pacific Western Montana U., but they won't really make much of the difference between Harvard and Dartmouth.  Of course, there is a lot of value in going to a great school besides what it can get you in terms of law school admissions -- you will get a better education, be around more interesting students, have a better network, and have better job prospects if you decide to bail on the lawyer thing or want to work in the real world for a few years before law school.  But I would definitely look for a school that you will be happy with, because you will want to enjoy your college years, and if you are happier, your grades will probably be better too.

Choosing a major: 

Rule number one: don't pick pre-law.  For whatever reason, admissions people at the law schools seem to really look down on this one.  Otherwise, major in something that you're interested in.  The different majors offer different advantages for a pre-law student. Political science, history, and philosophy make you a good writer and give you a good background for some parts of the law.  Sciences will give you a good technical background if you want to go into intellectual property law.  Economics also is a good major, especially if you want to go into business-related law.  But the most important thing with your major is that you pick something that you like.  This will make you more likely to get a good GPA.  Also, though, you want to have a background in a major that interests you, because you will want a background for the field of law that you will eventually choose.  By that I mean: don't major in science if you hate it just because you think it will make you a good intellectual property lawyer; if you hate science, you'll probably hate intellectual property law, too.

Another thing about majors:

The above deals with what the choice of major as it relates to law school admissions.  But let's forget about law school for a second.  As much as you want to be a lawyer, you probably don't really know what being a lawyer entails yet, and there's a good chance that you might end up wanting to do something else with your life, and your major.  This is especially true for people that don't have first-hand experience with legal work and want to go into law because they like Law and Order, think it looks flashy,  or like to argue, etc.     

If I could do college over, I would definitely have made sure that I had at least one major in a field that could lead directly to a real-world job.  I majored in political science, which meant that my only options going out of college were to go to law school, teach, or try to find a job in Washington.  Jobs in Washington are hard to come by (I went to Duke, speak chinese, and graduated with distinction, so it's not like I was a weak candidate either), and teaching does not pay enough to raise a family.  I would strongly recommend majoring in one of the following: biology, economics, computer sciences, math, physics, engineering, or one of the related fields.  These majors will get you good jobs.  Women's studies, sociology, anthropology, and the like won't.  Of course, if you are really interested in these things, then get a double major or a minor.  This is just one piece of advice...you can take it or leave it.

The rest of college:

Find an activity or two that you love, and devote yourself to it.  Try to put yourself in place for some kind of leadership role when you become an upperclassman.  This will look good for your law school app, and it will also give you another set of friends, and generally increase your satisfaction with college.  But don't go crazy -- you don't need to kill yourself.  Enjoy college for what it is.  Make lots of friends, go to lots of parties, spend lots of time just sitting around with the people in your dorm/frat, etc.  You will miss college when you leave, and if you go into a legal career, you will definitely have at least a few years of workaholism.  Enjoy college for what it is...not just as your stepping stone to law school
Title: Re: The answers to all your questions
Post by: legends159 on April 06, 2005, 05:48:57 PM
Thank you so much for this advice  ;D

So what do you think are the top 5 mistakes of every college freshman? and what do you think is the biggest NO-NO for those who want to get into a great law school?

I know pledging early in your undergraduate career is a big mistake but what other things should prospective students avoid?
Title: Re: The answers to all your questions
Post by: thisis1984 on April 06, 2005, 06:03:21 PM
Thank you so much for this advice  ;D

So what do you think are the top 5 mistakes of every college freshman? and what do you think is the biggest NO-NO for those who want to get into a great law school?

I know pledging early in your undergraduate career is a big mistake but what other things should prospective students avoid?

I think one important thing is getting to know profs.  It's tough to do your first year, but even so, take advantage of visiting professors and TAs (they can be a valuable ally) during their office hours.  Once you get into smaller classes, try to develop a relationship with your professors.  Actively participate in class (not because you're a brownnosing dweeb, but because you have a genuine interest in the subject) and ask them follow up quesitons during their office hours.  You'll have to get a feel for your profs/department, but the profs in my department (at a HUGE state school) LOVED having students come visit them to just shoot the breeze and talk about class, current events, etc.  Try to take seminars.  Ask around if any profs are looking for an undergrad research assistant.

That's my advice.  I was fortunate enough to fall in favor with the profs in my department and had a blast.  It's a wonderful feeling when you have to turn down a professors offer to write you a LOR because you already have more than you can submit!
Title: Re: The answers to all your questions
Post by: hilljack on April 06, 2005, 08:10:14 PM
Thank you so much for this advice  ;D

So what do you think are the top 5 mistakes of every college freshman? and what do you think is the biggest NO-NO for those who want to get into a great law school?

I know pledging early in your undergraduate career is a big mistake but what other things should prospective students avoid?

Top five mistakes:
1. Drinking too much
2. Not going to class
3. Taking too many difficult classes
4. Eating crappy food
5. Thinking that a good start is not paramount

Number one NO NO:
Don't cheat or get a felany - these things will kill you, almost anything else can be overcome.
Title: Re: The answers to all your questions
Post by: V00Jeff on April 06, 2005, 09:05:16 PM
I don't think there's much you need to worry about as a freshman, except that, like has already been said, you don't want to do something that will be put on your permanent record.  I would just encourage you to get good grades, participate in activities that interest you, and try to have a good social life.

As for pledging, don't most people usually do it first semester of your freshman year?  At Duke it was different...you had to wait until the second semester.  Whenever you do it, your grades are going to suck.  If you know you want to, you might as well get it over with first semester.  It will be easier to explain crappy grades on your law school app if they come first semester than if they come later.

My personal opinion is that it's better not to join a frat.  Of course, the greek scene varies a lot from school to school.  But I just thought the whole scene got very old after Freshman year. 

Oh wait, I can think of one mistake: don't go crazy at a party and do something dumb that will give you a bad reputation for the rest of your college career.   :)
Title: Re: The answers to all your questions
Post by: legends159 on April 07, 2005, 12:10:03 PM
Awesome advice everyone. I wonder if taking classes over the summer would be easier? I know this is true for most high schools since the only people taking the summer classes are people who have failed the class and the teachers dumb everything down because of that.
Title: Re: The answers to all your questions
Post by: ace0260 on April 10, 2005, 01:01:59 AM
Ok well you discussed the quality/reputation of the undergrad school not being a paramount factor in law school admissions....However, on LSN, almost everyone getting into the T-14 come from Top 30 undergrads

Of course this may be because the caliber of kids at the Top 30 schools is higher, with more ambition etc but I have noticed that kids from outside the Top 30, 40, 50 are put in a back seat...I know most law adcoms wont favor Harvard over Dartmouth or Cornell but there is surely a distinction between Harvard and Boston University (which is still quite a good school)

How much of a distintcion is this...For example, if two applicants had identical credentials, everything the same except for GPA's, who would get in if the Harvard grad had a 3.4 and the BU grad had a 3.65
Title: Re: The answers to all your questions
Post by: ace0260 on April 10, 2005, 01:06:24 AM
I have another question about undergrads...I am thinking about going to Canada for undergrad...I have heard that University of Toronto and McGill (and possibly UBC) are the only schools in the Great White North whose reputations are known in the States

However, I am most interested in Queen's University, which has the best reputation in Canada

Will Law schools adcom realize that Queen's is a top-notch university or will they see it as just another ordinary university in Canada

Would it be ok if I emailed someone from American law schools and asked them this question? If so, who?
Title: Re: The answers to all your questions
Post by: thisis1984 on April 10, 2005, 04:09:31 AM
Ok well you discussed the quality/reputation of the undergrad school not being a paramount factor in law school admissions....However, on LSN, almost everyone getting into the T-14 come from Top 30 undergrads

Of course this may be because the caliber of kids at the Top 30 schools is higher, with more ambition etc but I have noticed that kids from outside the Top 30, 40, 50 are put in a back seat...I know most law adcoms wont favor Harvard over Dartmouth or Cornell but there is surely a distinction between Harvard and Boston University (which is still quite a good school)

How much of a distintcion is this...For example, if two applicants had identical credentials, everything the same except for GPA's, who would get in if the Harvard grad had a 3.4 and the BU grad had a 3.65

I haven't noticed this.
What I have noticed is that a lot of people are puting "Top 50 public" or "Top 30 LAC" which would pretty much include every somewhat decent school in the US.   
I went to a big state and am going to T-14, and law schools themselves say that quality of UG school is a very very minor consideration. 
Title: Re: The answers to all your questions
Post by: ace0260 on April 10, 2005, 12:24:48 PM
Yeah I thought the same thing...but after a while I realized that those who put down "Top 50 Public" really mean they attend a Top 50 school that is public....not a Top 50 Public university, which would be any decent state school in america

For example, someone would put down "Top 50 Public" and their city would be: College Park...you can infer that they attend Univ. Maryland
Title: Re: The answers to all your questions
Post by: legends159 on April 10, 2005, 01:27:57 PM
Lets think about this logically, Who gets into the top UG? Kids who have the best grades get into the top UG. How do they get such great grades? Study habits, devotion, motivation, innate abilities e.g. In addition, those who get into the top UG also have top SAT scores and there is a correlation, however miniscule between the SATs ann the LSats.

So who are the students that get into the top law schools that come from not so top notch UG?
-Usually those that screwed up in HS but had the potential to get into those top UG
-Those who chose a lesser UG because of financial, location or other reasons
-Late bloomers

The thing with Law school admissions is that determination and perserverence alone will not get you in. The Lsats is studyable but someone without the inborn potential to score in the top percentile (165+) may never be able to accomplish such a task. Collegeboard always eliminates any part of the test that is studyable, which is why some people can walk in and get a 170 without studying while another who preps for years can barely manage a 160.

Still, a 4.0 at Harvard would be weighted more than a 4.0 at Boston University even if Harvard inflates grades.
This is why the Lsat carries so much weight.
Title: Re: The answers to all your questions
Post by: V00Jeff on April 10, 2005, 10:41:10 PM
Ok well you discussed the quality/reputation of the undergrad school not being a paramount factor in law school admissions....However, on LSN, almost everyone getting into the T-14 come from Top 30 undergrads

Of course this may be because the caliber of kids at the Top 30 schools is higher, with more ambition etc but I have noticed that kids from outside the Top 30, 40, 50 are put in a back seat...I know most law adcoms wont favor Harvard over Dartmouth or Cornell but there is surely a distinction between Harvard and Boston University (which is still quite a good school)

How much of a distintcion is this...For example, if two applicants had identical credentials, everything the same except for GPA's, who would get in if the Harvard grad had a 3.4 and the BU grad had a 3.65

My advice to you is this: go to the school that fits you the best, unless that school is a whole tier below another school that you got into.  In other words, if you get into a couple of Ivy leagues, go to the Ivy league that fits you the best.  If you get into one Ivy league and a few lesser-known state schools, go to the Ivy League unless you can't afford it or think that you'll absolutely hate life there.  If you get into a top-50 school and a top-300 school, go to the top-50 school.  Etc. 

I think law schools look more at "tiers of prestige" than the USNEWS ranking of undergrad schools.  Basically, I think it works like this: if you go to a top-15 (or so) undergrad, that gives you a very small advantage.  If you go to a top-100 undergrad, you will be OK.  If you go to a non-top-100 undergrad, it will work to your disadvantage.  Of course, those are broad guidelines; I wouldn't stress too much about going to whatever school is ranked #101 if that's where you really want to go.

Also, remember that there is a value to going to a good school beyond what it will do for you in terms of law school admissions.
Title: Re: The answers to all your questions
Post by: ace0260 on April 11, 2005, 12:18:24 AM
Thanks alot...but my situation is somewhat different

Im an American in Canada but I grew up in the states...I didn't study for the SAT because I was an arrogant moron and I got a sub-par score...Now, im paying for it in American admissions...I have been rejected at Wake Forest and Tufts, waitlisted at Tulane, Case Western, etc and the only acceptance I have right now is from Boston University (im still waiting for some others)....However, I have also applied to Canadian universities (which are generally very good)...In Canada there is no standardized test and Im in the top 6th percentile of my class so Ive gotten into/getting into everywhere from University of Toronto to McGill,UBC, Queen's Western etc

Now I have to think about what I want to do...I dont personally like UofT and McGill (which are ranked 1 and 2) and I prefer Western Ontario and Queen's...

How do the "reputation tiers" work in this case? Its like comparing apples to oranges except Canada is much more similar to the US than other nations...

If my options were: University of Western Ontario, Queen's University, Boston U, Univ. Miami, and George Washington...which ones are more reputable?

Sorry that its so long but im sure you can see that this is a little more confusing than picking your best area state school. Thanks



Title: Re: The answers to all your questions
Post by: V00Jeff on April 11, 2005, 08:21:03 PM
Sorry, I ignored your earlier question because, to be honest, I don't really know what law admissions officers think of the top tier Canadian schools.  So I won't BS you.  I would recommend asking an admissions officer (if you can), or post on other sections of the board to try to find Canadian students going to law school in the U.S.  Also, you can look around Law School Numbers to see how people from Canadian schools have fared.
Title: Re: The answers to all your questions
Post by: mli on May 15, 2005, 01:23:22 AM
Aw no, does this mean that that as an undergrad, I should look to fill my transcript with as many community service, leadership roles, and other various activities? As a high school students, it's already tiring, I can't see going through it again for four years. Granted, the stuff I did I was interested in and genuinely wanted to do, but being in 7 clubs, 3 of which are honor societies, and doing a lot of other crap is very tiring. Are co-curricular activities a big deal for grad school admission? Or is it like what I've been hearing, just gpa and LSAT?
Title: Re: The answers to all your questions
Post by: V00Jeff on May 15, 2005, 05:19:15 AM
Just find a few things that you like and do them well.  Extracurriculars do matter, but they're not as big of a deal for grad school as they are for getting into undergrad. 
Title: Re: The answers to all your questions
Post by: 180 on May 25, 2005, 08:35:50 AM
Aw no, does this mean that that as an undergrad, I should look to fill my transcript with as many community service, leadership roles, and other various activities? As a high school students, it's already tiring, I can't see going through it again for four years. Granted, the stuff I did I was interested in and genuinely wanted to do, but being in 7 clubs, 3 of which are honor societies, and doing a lot of other crap is very tiring. Are co-curricular activities a big deal for grad school admission? Or is it like what I've been hearing, just gpa and LSAT?

I don't do extracirriculars.  Never have, never will.  My Dean, prelaw advisor and a number of professors have all said the same thing: extracirriculars mean squat.  Sure, at top, top schools they will separate the 179 superstars, or compensate for a few low-number admits.  But, they don't matter in most cases.
Title: Re: The answers to all your questions
Post by: 180 on May 25, 2005, 12:14:22 PM
What do you do with yourself all day? If i hadn't done sports, student groups, and volunteer service, i would have had a lot of friggin free time with nothing to do.

I work 20 hours a week (full time during breaks).  I hang out with my friends and smoke pot.  I spend too much time lurking on this board.  Yeah, pretty much nothing.  I do wish I participated in soccer in some form.  However, those who recruited me for my mind offered me more than those who were seeking my golden foot. 
Title: Re: The answers to all your questions
Post by: dollarbill on June 26, 2005, 03:15:13 PM
Extracirriculars don't matter for *&^%, and it makes no difference where you go or what you major in, unless you make disastrously bad decisions.  In that case, you probably weren't bright enough to go to a decent law school, anyway.
Title: Re: The answers to all your questions
Post by: alb on July 05, 2005, 07:35:00 PM
As for attending a Canadian undergrad, be careful about GPA.  I think I remember reading that Canadian universities have a lot less grade inflation than their american counterparts.  While law school admissions may take that into account as a soft factor, numbers are numbers, and UGPA is a number that counts.
Title: Re: The answers to all your questions
Post by: Raskolnikov on July 09, 2005, 03:45:07 PM
For soon-to-be college students, here's my five mistakes:

1)  Screwing off and getting mediocre grades as a freshman.  They will stick with you and will make you regret having assumed that you could put in high school-levels of studying and still get an A.  Chances are, by the time you're a senior, you'll know what's expected and can coast to good grades, but as a freshman, don't assume this to be true, because you'll still have to adjust even if you took 12 AP classes.

2)  Not settling on a major immediately.  This goes contrary to popular wisdom, but the sooner you decide and stick with it, the better.  You can get your requirements done sooner and leave the fun electives to your junior or senior year.  Also, if you get the requirements done quickly, you can take much smaller classes or graduate level courses in your major where profs will get to know you well and serve as great references.

3)  Not drinking before college.  This goes along with number one, but I drank about twice before college, mostly because I had a lot of Mormon friends.  Suck it up and get drunk with Dad some night over the summer--the more you get used to that feeling, the smarter you'll be with alcohol.  I laugh at this now, but four years ago I wasn't alcohol-adverse, I was just completely inexperienced and figured "I'll do it in college."

4)  Should have gone to the best school I got into, or a good public school.  I just got a great feeling at my school when I visited there, but seeing people who attended worse schools, have less debt, and have similar jobs to me kinda sucks.  Either shoot for the top, or go to a good public school and work your ass off to distinguish yourself.

5)  Interned.  I worked for my state governor's policy office, which sucked major balls, before my senior year while my friends were at financial and consulting firms.  When I applied for jobs this fall (after deciding to let law school wait a year), interviewers weren't particularly impressed or convinced I was interested in that career path.  All I got out of the dumb summer was the knowledge that I don't ever want to work in government.
Title: Re: The answers to all your questions
Post by: The5thAce on July 14, 2005, 11:35:37 AM
I don't think there's much you need to worry about as a freshman, except that, like has already been said, you don't want to do something that will be put on your permanent record. I would just encourage you to get good grades, participate in activities that interest you, and try to have a good social life.

As for pledging, don't most people usually do it first semester of your freshman year? At Duke it was different...you had to wait until the second semester. Whenever you do it, your grades are going to suck. If you know you want to, you might as well get it over with first semester. It will be easier to explain crappy grades on your law school app if they come first semester than if they come later.

My personal opinion is that it's better not to join a frat. Of course, the greek scene varies a lot from school to school. But I just thought the whole scene got very old after Freshman year.

Oh wait, I can think of one mistake: don't go crazy at a party and do something dumb that will give you a bad reputation for the rest of your college career. :)

I also graduated from Duke and will be heading to NYU Law in the Fall.  I double-majored in engineering and still had time for fraternity events.  I have to say that it is not easy to manage your time during pledging; however, it is very possible to maintain your grades while doing so.  I am personally very thankful that I joined a fraternity, but that is a decision you all must make individually.  I just don't want anyone to think that its unwise or impossible because of time constraints. 
Title: Re: The answers to all your questions
Post by: SkullTatt on August 12, 2005, 10:44:22 PM
So what do you think are the top 5 mistakes of every college freshman?

I know my biggest mistake was going into college as a biochemistry major. I was not cut out for it and I started getting C's and D's and F's. If something similar happens to you, figure it out quickly and change course, so you only have 1 or 2 semesters of sh*tty grades rather than 3 or 4.
Title: Re: The answers to all your questions
Post by: LaneSwerver on August 12, 2005, 10:45:21 PM
Why do mattresses have those warning labels on them?