Law School Discussion

"soft factors" vs "hard factors"


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Re: "soft factors" vs "hard factors"
« Reply #20 on: July 16, 2006, 11:45:40 AM »
I think the thing that keeps me lying awake at night is the "close call".  My GPA and LSAT are both just above the 25th percentile for Harvard.  Are they really going to admit someone else over me just because they correctly answered two more questions on the LSAT?  Or because their GPA was .03 points higher?  Or is that the point when soft factors DO come into play?

Give them a reason to admitt you.  If you are just above the 25th percentile that means you are below average for one of their admitts so give them a reason to say "ya hes lower than what we are looking for, but he has x, y, and z.......

Also URM status makes quartiles, a less than accurate measure.


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Re: "soft factors" vs "hard factors"
« Reply #21 on: July 16, 2006, 11:46:06 PM »
Some reactions to austen_girl

First off, congratulations on your successful cycle. I just read your old posted essay, and I think it was very interesting. I'm looking forward to meeting you at Columbia. I don't think, however, that your advice is fully sound.

2 issues: First, it is almost always a bad idea to write a 7 page personal statement. Very few people are good enough writers to pull something like that off, and an admissions committee is more likely to be put off by logorrhea than they are to look favorably on it. Also, I question your assertion that writing a long essay is the best way to stand out. I think you stand out much more with the quality of your writing than the quantity, and a very well-written 750 words is much better than a 7 page essay that covers the same ground.

Second, your case is somewhat exceptional, but not unbelievable. Your LSAT is over the 75th percentile at Columbia, and your low GPA can easily be explained away by the fact that you went to school in Singapore and dodged the LSDAS formula, something that Chiashu didn't take into account when it gave you a 1% chance. It's still true that numbers are by far the most important factor. I'm sure if your LSAT had been five points lower, your essay could have been Pulitzer-worthy but you would probably not have gotten the acceptances you did.

That being said, there is one aspect of your post that is very important for people to understand. That is the importance of unique soft factors. Adcomms won't be impressed by the applicant who is the president of five clubs and had two law firm internships, because there are dozens of others with the same soft factors. I'm convinced that a lot of the people who talk about their "good soft factors" are talking about things like this that probably don't get a second look from adcomms.

The factors that do get a second look are those that make you absolutely unique. I'm convinced (and in the case of Columbia, I know for a fact) that my application was helped by the fact that my job was relatively unique, not so much by my accomplishments in college. Had I worked for two years as a paralegal for an elite law firm, I think they would have been suppressing yawns upon reading my resume.

Essentially, the lesson is to not do the things that you think look good on a law school application, but to explore your passions and interests wherever they might lead you. Ultimately, you become a better applicant when you stop trying just to be a good applicant, if that makes sense.

One more note: I hope you won't take offense at this, but the "Catholic missionary with the 157 LSAT who's going to Harvard" story has a distinct whiff of urban legend. I'd like to believe it, but please tell me that this really is someone whom you know directly, and not a "friend of a friend."

Jolie Was Here

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Re: "soft factors" vs "hard factors"
« Reply #22 on: July 17, 2006, 09:59:38 AM »
There is a distinct possibility that I'm rephrasing what others have already said...chalk it up to "Jolie likes to 'hear' herself talk." ;)

Soft factors matter much more if you're a splitter, or otherwise difficult to plug into a matrix like austen_girl.  Even then, soft factors help in as much as they serve to counterbalance the weakness in your numbers.

For splitters, the important thing to remember is that (anecdotally, at least) high LSAT tells them that you're capable of the work and high uGPA tells them that you'll bother to do the work over the long haul.  In my case, I offered an addendum explaining the verrrry low uGPA and a very strong transcript from my masters degree.  Even still, my cycle was a bit unpredictable...that's just the way it goes for splitters (and, to a lesser extent, non-trads.)

Believe me, I have my moments when the system makes me bitter.  It's hard to believe that with all of the successes I've had over the last decade, my grades from 10 years ago continue to close certain doors for me.  But the reality is that there are plenty of people more successful than I who can also offer sterling ugrad grades.  They deserve to be accepted over me. 


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Re: "soft factors" vs "hard factors"
« Reply #23 on: July 17, 2006, 10:25:47 AM »
Anna Ivey wrote about this in one of her "Ask Anna" articles on


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Re: "soft factors" vs "hard factors"
« Reply #24 on: July 17, 2006, 10:51:09 AM »
"You demonstrated a strong sense of entitlement in the way you phrased your question, and if any of that bled through in your applications, you didn't stand a chance."

I completely agree with Anna on this point.