Law School Discussion

Non-Racial AA... was I too naive?

Non-Racial AA... was I too naive?
« on: March 09, 2005, 08:50:42 AM »
Not trying to be provocative for the sake of being provocative; I want to know what people think about this stuff.

When I was filling out my applications way back in November, I was fairly confident that all the stellar stuff I did in college, my PS and recs, and my post-first year GPA would adequately compensate for my LSAT score at at least one of the top 30 schools I applied for. Now that I'm being rejected like it's my job, I'm wondering if I should have talked about some other things that can play into an admissions decision; more specifically, even though I'm as white as white can be, I'm queer and I grew up socioeconomically disadvantaged as the oldest of three kids in a single parent household.

As has already been pointed out in this section, there is RARELY an opportunity on a law school app to simply check a "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered" box the same way ethnic minorities can check the race box that corresponds to them. Some of the schools I applied to had a "if you're a member of a minority group, or have been disadvantaged, blah blah blah, check here, and then explain why the hell we should care." I had initially checked those boxes, but when I sat down to write my explaination, I found that I couldn't do it without feeling like I was just trying to make the AdCom to feel sorry for me. Yes, I've overcome a lot of "challenges" and have faced some "discrimination", but how do you describe that without coming off as just another a sob story? I've obviously accomplished a lot despite it all, so what's the point in dragging up what I see as irrelevant parts of my identity? Also, I couldn't help but think that there are probably a lot of people who have faced a hell of a lot MORE discrimination than I have so I don't really have the right to use AA for my advantage in the first place.

But now that I have little hope of getting in anywhere I applied, I'm starting to think I was naive and that I should have milked this stuff for all it's worth. What do you guys think? Do you think I was right to do what I did, or do you think I should have just sucked it up and written the essay about the winter our heat was shut off because my mom couldn't afford to pay the bills?


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Re: Non-Racial AA... was I too naive?
« Reply #1 on: March 09, 2005, 09:45:18 AM »
I think you should have brought up the things in your life that have made you unique, special, different from everyone else.

I read a lot of sample admissions essays before preparing my own. I noted that many people with difficult lives spoke about this in their personal statements. Of course the statements were well-written and they connected the past experiences to writer's present success.

A personal statement should be personal and tell the schools something about you. I figure now is not the time to hold back.

Re: Non-Racial AA... was I too naive?
« Reply #2 on: March 09, 2005, 11:36:55 AM »
I could be wrong on this, but it is my impression that GLB folks are not underrepresented in law school on average. So I don't know that being GLB would give you the URM status that AA deals with. That's one of the reasons there is no box to check. That said, I think showing in your ps or add'l essays that you have been motivated to study law because of discrimination you've faced can only make you a stronger applicant in that it shows good character, sensitivity, determination, etc. If you feel this, yes, yes, yes, write about it! But if you really don't feel like your sexuality is relevant to law school, then it will probably be hard to write a convincing essay about it, and you were right to leave it out. If you can't make yourself believe that it is relevant, how well can you make someone else see the relevance?

Socioeconomic disadvantage does correlate to under representation in higher education, though. Disclosing this info can only help your case, and you should do it. Most educators agree that factors like stress at home (and living without heat in the winter is certaintly a stress!) will distract a child from school.  It sounds to me like you didn't include this because you didn't think it affected your development too much. But maybe there was something -- religion, your mother's strength, the assistance of a relative or friend -- that allowed you to get through that tough time without too many negative consequences. If so, you could write about that... basically how you learned to make lemons into lemonade. That's one way to avoid the "sob story". 

At this point, there isn't much to be done. You submitted the best applications you put together at the time and that's that. But you could always re-do the essays and reapply next year if you are really set on attending one of the schools you were rejected from this year, especially if your numbers are within the schools 25/75 range.


Re: Non-Racial AA... was I too naive?
« Reply #3 on: March 09, 2005, 12:13:38 PM »
I could be wrong on this, but it is my impression that GLB folks are not underrepresented in law school on average. So I don't know that being GLB would give you the URM status that AA deals with. That's one of the reasons there is no box to check.

it is a super tricky subject, and i personally havnt found the research to prove one way or another.

we do know this about la wsc hool though : it USED to be rich, white straight men filling up the classes. the diversification over the last 30 years means bringing in anyone that isnt that.

i have mentioned before that alot of gay lawyers i know do not feel comfortable being out at work, because it is a reletivly conservative environment that they feel would not look positivly upon thier sexuality. so, to me, that is underrepresented.

also too, URMs feel very strongly (those i have talked to, on here, for example) that AA in law school is to give those who have experienced discrimination/hardships a hand, and to help battle the "strength in numbers" mentality in the work place by the "good old boys" network. if that is the case, then i too think lgbt could be a part of that. i dunno.

not to get off topic from the OP or anything...

and OP, i have no idea, but i dont know how much your being poor (unless you were REALLY poor) and your being gay (unless you REALLY had a miserable time coming out) would battle your lsat score at those t14s. i forgot what it was, but it wasnt a TOTAL t14 kind of lsat.

i think sometimes we just cant all get into columbia....

good luck with everywhere else though

Re: Non-Racial AA... was I too naive?
« Reply #4 on: March 09, 2005, 12:58:50 PM »
T Bone,

I have noticed you post on this issue often, and I am also interested. Please don't take my responses as argumentative -- I wonder about these Qs too. I don't really know if there's any research about GLB representation. I'd like to know! I am using mostly ancecdotal evidence and my experience to extrapolate on that one (not statistically valid, I know.) But I suspect that there is an underrepresentation of transgendered people in higher education and in high paying business professions, which in my opinion, would mean that URM status should be awarded to trans folks, as it is to other URMs who have a historical legacy of discrimination in the US.

But some of your other points made me think this...
I have to disagree that being closeted = being underrepresented. If an immigrant comes to the US for law school, and finds s/he has to disguise/misrepresent religion, accent, or culture in order to be better received in school, does this mean that s/he ceases to be an immigrant? Not in my opinion. But certaintly it does indicate that s/he is facing discrimination, which s/he has to put up with and work around in order to continue. And that is not right! But s/he is still attending the school, and therefore adding to the representation of that ethic group at the institution.

I think most people think AA should give a leg up to those who've had it hard. And schools that consider adversity/disadvantage statements in admissions are doing that. But schools that accept lower scoring applicants based on URM status without any additional indication of adversity or disadvantage are either a) saying that adversity/disadvantage is a given for URMs or b) it's not adversity/disadvantage that matters, it is URM status. Not that I disagree with that, but it is different from a policy that says "if you ask us to in a special essay, we will consider adversity/disadvantage in admissions." Which is a policy that might be less controversial, but may not have the same effect in increasing the representation of URMs.


Re: Non-Racial AA... was I too naive?
« Reply #5 on: March 09, 2005, 01:28:11 PM »
Being poor is relative, so ... it depends. Where you competing with kids who were waaaay waaay more privlidged than you? If you were to look around, where there some people you knew who came from the same background as you, or were you the only poor kid? If this is where you came from, then yes! I would have --- and did myself -- included an addendum of sorts. It's a delicated balance between recreating the context in which your grades and achievements came about and asking people for pity, but it doesn't mean it can't be done.


Re: Non-Racial AA... was I too naive?
« Reply #6 on: March 09, 2005, 02:22:34 PM »
While maricutie makes a great point about whether or not others around you in school were way better off than you were, I don't think it matters. Either way, if you were surrounded by Richie Rich, you were disadvantaged because they more than likely had the "educated" parents to help them with homework, didn't have to worry about things like heat, a necessity in the winter months... If you went to a school where everyone was less well off, then I bet you are among few who made it to this level, and that too is a testament to your hard work. So either way, because people who are poor, even kind of poor, don't often make it to this level (you're probably the first in the family to go to graduate school, or even college. I know I am.) you are special in that you did.

I'm sure your parent(s)' financial situation affected you in college too. You more than likely weren't writing home asking for an allowance, or for your rent to be paid. I bet you worked. A lot (unless you lived on loans.) Having to work and just working 'cause you want to are two totally different beasts, the former being more of a strain and having more of a potential to screw with your studies.

So my advice is to let the adcomms see how special you are. Let them know where you came from. While it may be too late this time around, see where you get in. Contact schools that are still out on you by sending a special adendum. Or, just cross your fingers and pray. I believe that no matter what, however far you get from your destined trail in life, if it was meant to be, it will be. No matter the mistake that gets you off track, God (or whatever divine power you may believe in) will get you back on. And if it wasn't meant to be, well, then it just won't. So if the outcome is less than favorable, apply again, showing them the real you and cross your fingers...

Hope that helps.


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Re: Non-Racial AA... was I too naive?
« Reply #7 on: March 09, 2005, 02:29:51 PM »
Being poor is definetly something to talk about on the PS. Unless you are some sort of gay rights activist or active in the gay community being gay should have no bearing on your admission. GLBT is not URM and will not help schools reach their URM % targets.


Re: Non-Racial AA... was I too naive?
« Reply #8 on: March 09, 2005, 02:32:13 PM »
Perhaps the OP's problem is that he applied to too many reach schools and didn't apply to enough safeties.  I can't imagine why American would be his sole target-safety, given the well-known fact that top schools are LSAT whores.

Re: Non-Racial AA... was I too naive?
« Reply #9 on: March 10, 2005, 07:56:46 AM »
Wow -- I have to say, I am blown away by the advice and insight you all have given. Thank you thank you thank you!

I think my conclusion is that I'll see how the cards fall for the rest of this app cycle (I still have five schools left to hear from, and I think with my numbers alone I have a reasonably good shot at American), but if I do have to do this again I'll take another crack at an addendum about the kinds of things I faced growing up.

Just a few responses:

Maricutie: In high school, I fell somewhere in the middle of the socioeconomic spectrum. There were definitely kids who were much, much poorer than me, but no one was particularly wealthy. It was when I got to college that it really hit me that my high school was not so hot and that I had to compete with a bunch of people who had gone to prep school or a wealthy public school. My grades were not great my first year because I just didn't know how to study, but I didn't think that needed explaining because all AdComs say they take into account an upward trend in grades. But I suppose you're right that coming from a poor (or at least poorer) background and being able to outperform a lot of rich kids is something I could have pointed out.

TBone (and on the subject of being queer and affirmative action in general): I'm torn on the idea. For me, it didn't pose THAT many challenges because I've been lucky; I've always been in a liberal environment my mom didn't disown me or anything. But that's obviously not the case for everyone, and you might be right that there are situations in which it should give certain students a leg up in the competition. Additionally, when I started to rethink my approach, I realized that I might not always be so lucky in the legal world, or that perhaps diversity would be an equally good reason to bring it up. I don't think it will get me into a T14 despite my low-160's LSAT score, but right now I'm really aiming for a T30.

Lil token: First of all, I'm a chick, hence the "lady" part of my handle ;) But, yes, I obviously didn't approach this the way I should have. I overestimated all of my non-LSAT credentials and underestimated my LSAT score. Thanks for your astute observation.