Law School Discussion

Seeking wisdom from current students...

Seeking wisdom from current students...
« on: November 14, 2007, 04:57:25 PM »
I am a 25 year old female who graduated from Berkeley in 2004 with a cumulative GPA of 3.575, and an LSAT of 158 (I know, not great).  I have worked for the sole Campus Counsel of a very prestigious University for the last three years.  In college, I had plenty of extracurriculars including being the editor in chief of the History Undergraduate Journal, and running one of the largest student organizations on a campus of 35,000+ students.  It is now November, and my applications are staring me in the face.  This year my father passed away (February), the year before that he had a stroke, the year before that the man I thought I would marry broke up with me and I had to move and start over (sounds like a sob story, but it was pretty traumatic).  It's been an intense three years.  To be quite honest, I have been extremely stressed for such a prolonged period of time that I am wary as to whether I can dish out my "A" game for my first year of law school, should I attend next year.  Therefore, I am at a crossroads:  to apply or not to apply for admission in 2008?

I would greatly appreciate it if anyone could shed some light on the following:

1)  Did anyone have a similar low LSAT moderate-high GPA, and get into a good school?

2)  Has anyone successfully explained away the low LSAT by exhibiting a history of   consistently poor standardized test scores?

2)  Do extracurriculars matter at all?

3)  I have considered getting in somewhere decent and transferring.  Has anyone transferred to a first tier school and had a positive experience?  As a transfer student,  did you feel in any way inferior to your peers, or at a disadvantage in any way?

4)  Given my numbers, how important is it to apply in the VERY beginning of the application cylce?

5)  How stressful is the first year, really?

I realize I am a newbie to this board, and that you all are already in school and probably have better things to discuss.  Yet, if anyone could share a little bit of wisdom with me, I would greatly appreciate it.  THANKS!

Re: Seeking wisdom from current students...
« Reply #1 on: November 14, 2007, 05:55:48 PM »
Your numbers matter more than anything else. Typically, the soft factors only come into play when applicants with similar numbers are being considered (I'm sure there are exceptions to this rule but nobody really knows what those exceptions are.) Don't try to explain your numbers away with a history of poor standardized test scores - That will give the adcomms the impression that you might not be able to pass the bar and nobody wants that. It's very important for you to apply early given your numbers. The first year is not that bad - There's a lot of work but it's manageable. I don't know the answer to any of your other questions.

Re: Seeking wisdom from current students...
« Reply #2 on: November 14, 2007, 07:30:34 PM »
1)  First of all, since when is a 158 low?  That score could get you into some pretty high T2's and possibly some T1's.  Also if you apply to a lower ranked school you might be able to get a scholarship (if money is an issue).  So yes, you can get into a good school (depending on what your deifnition of a good school is).

2)  No, don't do this.

3)  They can, depending on what they are.  Perhaps its something you'd like to highlight in your PS.  Are any of them extremely impressive?  Something that many people have not done?

4)  Can't answer this but it is definitely feasible to transfer to a more highly ranked school if you do well during 1L.

5)  Not sure about this (applied a while ago)  The pre-law board can help you

6)  It had its moments.  During the end of the semesters it can get pretty intense especially with legal writing.  However, second year is a lot better.

Good luck. 

jacy85

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Re: Seeking wisdom from current students...
« Reply #3 on: November 14, 2007, 07:37:14 PM »
When did you take the LSAT?  Sounds like it may have been in the last 3 years, for which you've been very stressed.  Now that schools take your highest scores, you may be able to take it again.

1L may not be as horrific as a lot of people make it out to be.  It wasn't for me anyway, but there is a huge amount of work with a steep learning curve. Beyond 1L, though, law school on the whole is one long sucky marathon.  As a 3L, I'm just so ready to be done.  While most times the stress didn't peak that much for me (no ulcers, insomnia, etc.), stress has been a fairly constant part of my life.

While stress is just a part of life in varying degrees, you may benefit from working for a year or two since you've had an especially difficult couple of years.  You may also find you'll do better on the LSAT (even if you have had historically lower test scores, lots of stress didn't help any).  Overall, you may be able to save some money before school, get some more work experience, raise your LSAT, and be in a better place mentally and emotionally before law school.

As for your other questions, I don't think you'll effectively explain anything away with a history of bad standardized testing.  Some adcoms may consider it, but Dr. is right - your numbers are most important and can't really be explained away.

I also think its VERY important to apply early in the cycle, but other people disagree and there are lots of theories about when the best time to apply is.  If you head over to the pre-law side of the board, you'll find every theory ever thought of re: timing; the best you can do is hear them all, decide which one you think is "right" and then plan your application cycle accordingly.

Best of luck.

K-Bomb

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Re: Seeking wisdom from current students...
« Reply #4 on: November 14, 2007, 08:02:45 PM »
My general advice is this:

158 is NOT bad at all.  It's not exemplary, but it's solid, especially with your solid-to-high GPA.  I had a 3.3 and a 165 and got into a T1.  Have you heard of admissions index?  Almost every school has an index they use to weigh GPA and LSAT into one number to consider against other applicants.

Poke around the schools' websites to find out the median LSAT and GPA.  Then, Lawschoolnumbers.com has a calculator that figures out your index for each school, and you can plug in the 25% and 75% LSAT/GPA numbers, figure out the range, and then your own to see where you fall.  It's a pretty good indicator of how you'll fare for each school.

AND

As for 1L, it's work.  Lots.  But it's seriously not that bad.  It's what work feels like.  It doesn't feel like undergrad, flying on the seat of your pants and get an A, not that.  But it's work.  You sound like you've been out in the real world for a while.  Trust me, that's great.  You'll know what real work feels like, and you won't be overwhelmed.

In short, don't sweat your numbers, you'll be fine during admissions, and 1L is not horror, nor horrible.  It's a grind, to be sure, but it's often *gasp* FUN!

juliemccoy

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Re: Seeking wisdom from current students...
« Reply #5 on: November 14, 2007, 09:01:31 PM »
Your numbers are fine for the T2 schools and some of the lower T1 schools. Your EC's don't count for much unless comparing students of like numbers.

Don't count on transferring --> even if you have great grades it is no guarantee. Apply only to those schools you would actually attend, even the schools you apply to as safeties.

1L is a lot of work and you're a poor student again. But it isn't horrible. First semester has been stressful, but I think that is largely due to the learning curve-- being in a new place, getting used to a new way of thinking and doing things, etc. Law students work hard, but tend to be very social.

Apply now. It's a year ahead of you and it will give you something to work toward this year. At worst, you decline an offer of admission and you're out some time and money from the applications process.

Re: Seeking wisdom from current students...
« Reply #6 on: November 15, 2007, 11:43:15 AM »
Don't try to explain away your LSAT score.  It is above average and high enough to get into all but the top 25 law schools.  If you try to explain it away as a problem with standardized tests, the school will wonder if you will be able to pass the bar exam.  Many schools will turn you down if they think it's a possibility because the higher pass rates keep their reputation up.

Re: Seeking wisdom from current students...
« Reply #7 on: November 16, 2007, 11:48:25 AM »
Thanks to everyone for taking the time to respond.  Your advice has been quite helpful (especially in NOT explaining away the LSAT).  Thanks!

Re: Seeking wisdom from current students...
« Reply #8 on: November 19, 2007, 05:32:15 PM »
Truthfully, a 158 is not great and will likely preclude you from the top schools even with a stellar GPA.  1L is very hard and it is the ONLY YEAR THAT MATTERS.  Even one bad semester (or even grade) may end any chance of working at a large firm.  Applying early may not help with your stats at top schools b/c you will be a borderline candidate, meaning they will not decide on your status until they get more applications.  That said, you should still apply and see where you get in.  You can always defer admission. 

Re: Seeking wisdom from current students...
« Reply #9 on: November 20, 2007, 01:22:15 AM »
Truthfully, a 158 is not great and will likely preclude you from the top schools even with a stellar GPA.  1L is very hard and it is the ONLY YEAR THAT MATTERS.  Even one bad semester (or even grade) may end any chance of working at a large firm.  Applying early may not help with your stats at top schools b/c you will be a borderline candidate, meaning they will not decide on your status until they get more applications.  That said, you should still apply and see where you get in.  You can always defer admission. 

Not everyone wants to work at a large firm.  If you don't want to work at one, or if you can't due to grades, then your 2L grades do matter as many midsize/small firms wait until later in the year to hire.  Also, if you want a clerkship, your 2L grades certainly matter.