"If I'm applying to law school this fall, should I have my transcripts sent now at the start of the summer or wait until the fall?"
If you are planning on applying to law school this coming fall, go ahead and order your transcripts now. That's the case whether you have just graduated (congratulations!), you have already been out of schools for a while, or you are a rising college senior. You'll be submitting transcripts reflecting any classes up through the end of the spring term that just ended. If you end up taking classes over the coming summer or during the next academic year, you can (and must) send updated transcripts once those grades are finalized.
You do NOT need to wait until you have decided on your exact list of law schools to which you'll be applying. That's because LSAC collects and processes all your transcripts, and then you can tell them later which exact law schools should be receiving copies. The transcripts just stay parked at LSAC in the meantime.
In fact, LSAC serves as the gatekeeper and transmitter for almost all of your law school application components — your LSAT score, your transcripts and Academic Summary Report, your recommendations, and the applications themselves — so now is a good time to familiarize yourself with LSAC's website and process. Here are some links to get started:
- Overview of the process
- More overview (make sure to read both overview links)
- The Credential Assembly Service for your transcripts and recommendations (aka CAS)
- Rules governing which transcripts you need to be sending and how to send them
You'll ask the registrar at your various undergraduate and graduate institutions to send your transcripts to LSAC. You can download the form to give your registrar once you have signed up for the Credential Assembly Service (linked above).
Law schools typically will NOT accept transcripts that you arrange to have sent directly to them, and your application will be deemed incomplete if you do so. You MUST route them through LSAC to apply to U.S.-based, ABA-approved law schools. Here is the list of schools requiring you to use LSAC's Credential Assembly Service for processing your transcripts. (In that list, note that rules can be different if you are applying to non-U.S. law schools or non-ABA approved law schools. Transfer applicants should also check with their respective target schools whether they are required to use CAS for their transcripts.)
It's best to start ordering your transcripts now rather than later because it can sometimes take a while for registrars to send them out, or you might have to clear up problems in order to have them sent (for example, if you owe that school fees of some kind, or you discover errors on your transcript that you need fixed). Additionally, LSAC takes several weeks to process your transcripts once they receive them, so it's best not to push your luck with the timing.
Former Dean of Admissions at the University of Chicago Law School, Anna Ivey founded Ivey Consulting to help college, law school, and MBA applicants navigate the admissions process. Read more admissions tips in The Ivey Guide to Law School Admissions and How to Prepare a Standout College Application. Follow Anna on Twitter (@annaivey).
How many times have you been told to "follow your passion" when you're embarking on your professional life?
A lot of 20-somethings I cross paths with find themselves more paralyzed than anything else when they're told to "follow their passion." They're getting out of college, the job market is tough, more often than not they don't even know what their passions ARE yet. Some people don't find them until middle age! They hear things like that famous Steve Jobs graduation speech and are wondering, "How do I find THAT?" (And his passion in college was calligraphy!)
I ran this conundrum by my pal and superstar designer Jake Barton. Talk about following your passion! And making a living doing it! He just won a big design award by the Smithsonian/Cooper Hewitt Design Museum, and you can learn more about his fabulous career here.
Given his huge success doing what he loves, you'd think he must have put his head down and focused single-mindedly on this one professional track for years and years, but his story is more interesting than that. He was generous enough to share these words of wisdom for 20-somethings feeling adrift about their professional passions:
"I had very conflicted experiences about my passion in my 20s, so I can really relate.
I did theater early, worked on Broadway as an assistant set designer, quit that to be a doctor, started post-bac classes for that, and got a job designing exhibits as a day job.
My main advice to every young person is the same that was given to me, and that's to try and experience whatever is of interest. Don't talk about it, or dream, just try it. Find a how-to video and make it. Find the company and intern there. Find the startup and tweet helpful things at it. Research the writer and beg for an interview with them for a review of your work. Teach a skillshare class to see if you like education. Sell a product to test a startup. Try whatever it is that you're interested in.
There has never been a better time for access to whoever or whatever will turn you on, whether it's a CEO or an artist or a technique. So many things are factored into a passion or a career: money, skill, work/life balance, travel, ethics, values, etc. Just see what it's like.
So take heart. You don't have to have it all figured out yet in your 20s."
More on this subject:
- Economist Tyler Cowan's advice to a young graduate on NPR: "I Know I'm Supposed to Follow My Passion. But What If I Don't Have a Passion?"
- Cal Newport's excellent book So Good They Can't Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love
- A little thought experiment on my Facebook page (feel free to comment!)
What do YOU think?
Most of you probably aren’t even thinking about college applications now. Instead you are focused on your end-of-year school work and standardized tests. And that is where you focus should be. That being said, I do encourage juniors to spend just a little bit of time thinking about their recommendations now. Why? Because thinking about your recommendations now is a way to work smarter, not harder. Invest an hour or so now and you’ll both save yourself at least two hours next fall (when time will be at a premium) and end up with better recommendations! Definitely the smarter way to go about things.
Here’s how I’d suggest you use that hour:
Educate yourself. (20 minutes)
There are a core set of recommendations that will be required in one combination or another for virtually every college that uses holistic admissions (a/k/a the selective colleges). That core set consists of a counselor recommendation (usually part of the school report) and one or two teacher recommendations. Before you do anything else related to recommendations, you read the recommendation forms these people are asked to complete so that you have a sense of what they are being asked to evaluate and comment upon. Download the Common App versions of these forms here.
Meet and/or check in with your college counselor at school (20 minutes).
Your college counselor will be writing one of your core recommendations (usually as a part of what is called the school report). If you haven’t met him or her yet, don’t end the school year without having done so! If you have met him or her, just do a quick check-in. Your goal in this meeting/check-in is to make sure that you are developing a good relationship with your counselor and that you’ve done everything that your school requires you to do to be on track with college applications.
Identify your likely teacher recommenders and consider whether you should ask them now. (20 minutes).
When it comes to teachers, admissions officers at top colleges are most interested in hearing from teachers who have taught you in a core academic subject — Language/Literature (English or other), Mathematics, Science, or History/Social Studies) — in 11th grade. In other words, the teachers you have now! Which two of these teachers would be your best recommenders? Since 11th grade teachers are often swamped with requests to write recommendations, it is not a bad idea to consider asking two of your teachers now if they would be willing to be recommenders for you next year. Ask now if you are sure that they will be your preferred recommenders OR if one or both are leaving the school at the end of this school year. Be sure and ask any teacher who is leaving for contact information that will be “good” after their departure (a cell phone number and a non-school email are best).
Alison Cooper Chisolm heads the college admissions consulting practice at Ivey College Consulting. She came to private consulting after working in admissions for more than 10 years at three selective universities (most recently at Dartmouth College). She works with students and families throughout the U.S. and abroad. Alison is the co-author of the forthcoming book, "How to Prepare a Standout Application: Expert Advice that Takes You from LMO* to Admit." Follow Alison on Twitter (@IveyCollege)
Are you staring at your resume and experiencing a mild sense of panic wondering how you're going to beef it up between now and the time you submit your applications this fall?
You may be tempted to sign up for a flurry of impressive-sounding activities, but remember that quality matters a whole lot more than quantity. Admissions officers know what resume padding looks like. In fact, they have a finely tuned antenna for that sort of thing. Any activity where you list your main contribution as "member" — i.e. just showing up — isn't going to count for much.
You’ll also have to list start dates for your jobs and activities, as well as hours per week, when it comes time to apply. It will be completely transparent if all of a sudden you discover a grand passion for immigrant aid volunteering, or sustainability work, or the inner workings of the Dodd-Frank Act three months before you apply. Track records matter.
What about life-altering and horizon-expanding trips abroad? If you have the opportunity to take a once-in-a-lifetime trip this summer, go for it. Nobody will fault you for that, and the chance may not come again. But don't feel pressured to spend time and money trekking around Nepal just for your applications. Truly, you do not have to trek around Nepal to make yourself a good admissions candidate. (Side note: And no admissions officer — not a single one — needs to read another essay about how you went to Guatemala for three weeks and encountered poor people and had an epiphany because they are so happy and now you're a better person.)
A better approach would be to dig deeper into the things you're already doing, whether it's a job or an activity. Take on more responsibility. Demonstrate leadership ("demonstrate" means you have to be able to prove it). Commit more of your brainpower. Find creative solutions to problems. Work on skills you want or need to improve. And learn from people around you. Bring your A game every single day. That's the absolute best thing you can be doing for your resume this summer.
Former Dean of Admissions at the University of Chicago Law School and a recovering lawyer, Anna Ivey founded Ivey Consulting to help college, law school, and MBA applicants navigate the admissions process. Read more admissions tips in The Ivey Guide to Law School Admissions, recently updated and available as an e-book. Follow Anna on Twitter (@annaivey).
Before you sign on any dotted lines and send in your deposit to go to law school, remind yourself that you DO NOT HAVE TO GO.
DO go to law school if you want to be a lawyer (based on what knowledge?), and you are going to a school — and at a price point — that sets you up to reach your goals. Do you know what your goals are? Do you know why you're going? Are you going to hit the ground running from Day 1? If not, don't go.
DON'T go because your parents want you to.
DON'T go because you think a law school diploma will somehow validate you as a smart person.
DON'T go because you think law school—even a top law school—is a safe bet. It's not.
You're looking at the offers in front of you, and you're feeling really good. You should. And now is the time to reassess those options and decide whether they still make sense for you. Keep your head screwed on straight.
Around this time of year, many applicants have been hearing back from law schools. While a final decision is usually welcome (even a rejection eliminates the frustration of waiting...), there are some situations where a school's response does nothing but add to your uncertainty.
Typically, these "limbo" responses from schools fall into two categories: waitlists and holds. A waitlist letter means that a school will probably not revisit your application (or give you a final decision) at least until after the first deposit deadlines have come and gone, typically in April, and you will be admitted, if at all, only on a space-available basis. That means you'll receive an offer only if the school needs to fill a particular slot as they manage their deposits and their yield over the course of the summer. They don't want to be oversubscribed or undersubscribed when orientation rolls around, and they use waitlists to fill any gaps that emerge over the course of the summer.
In contrast, a hold this time of year doesn't mean anything one way or another. It's a non-event and a non-decision, not even a decision to put you on the waitlist. It's just the polite alternative to telling you nothing. It means they want more time to review your file, and to compare it to more of the applicant pool before they make a decision on you. If you receive a hold letter from a school, you may hear from them next month or not until August. Anything is still possible when you are on hold.
Once deposit deadlines have passed, however, it doesn't really matter what schools call your limbo status, whether they've put you on a "waitlist," put you on "hold," or told you nothing at all. If you haven't received a final decision by the first deposit deadline, you are at that point effectively on a waitlist.
Anna has written extensively about the frustration of being waitlisted (or put on hold). These letters usually include some or all of the following:
1. An explanation of that school's waitlist or hold process
2. An invitation to remain on the waitlist (by either doing nothing or specifically replying to the school)
3. An invitation to withdraw from the waitlist if you're no longer interested
4. Some indication (though it's often vague) of what applicants can expect from the school in terms of definitive response later in the application season
5. An explanation of what additional documents, if any, the school is interested in receiving from people on the waitlist or on hold
Whether you have been waitlisted or put on hold, here are some tips to guide you:
1. FOLLOW DIRECTIONS
Each school handles the hold / waitlist process differently. Above all, you should follow the directions included in the school's hold / waitlist letter. If they specifically invite additional documents, feel free to submit them. Pay close attention to how the invitation to submit is phrased. Saying that you may submit one additional letter of recommendation OR an additional essay OR a letter explaining your interest in the school does not mean that you should submit all three. If a school wants more information, they know how to contact you.
If a school is more vague about what it is looking for, think carefully about what communications or documents (if any) would benefit you the most. A letter saying you may "supplement your file" with any information you think "may be helpful to the admissions committee" is not an invitation to submit everything under the sun. One high quality letter explaining your particular interest in and fit with the school is going to be more effective than five additional recommendation letters, an "updated" resume showing one new volunteer activity, and a mini-thesis on the state of the legal profession.
2. NO MORE DOCUMENTS MEANS NO MORE DOCUMENTS
If a school's waitlist or hold letter specifically says that you should not submit additional information, that is the end of the story. At this time of year, admissions officers are buried in application materials. If they take the time to include a "no new material" section in their waitlist or hold letter, you should take them seriously. What about that one extra recommendation letter that you received after submitting your original application? Or a really short "essay" explaining all of the things you love about the school? Don't bother. Even if those materials speak glowingly about your candidacy, submitting them identifies a more obvious (and damaging) aspect of your candidacy: you do not know how to follow directions.
3. UPDATES AND LETTERS OF CONTINUED INTEREST (LOCI)
It's fine to update your application (provided the school allows it) only if there is a legitimate update to provide the school since you submitted your original application (a new set of grades, a new job, etc.). If your original application essays did not discuss your specific interest in the school, your "update" letter can also include a substantive discussion that explains why you're such a good fit for the school, but only if you're expressly invited to submit more materials. If there is no legitimate update during the hold period, however, or you have already discussed your fit with the school in your original application, do not force feed them a letter just because you think they want to hear from you.
If you're on hold, and it's before late-April, it's not appropriate just to express your continued interest (a LOCI, which is shorthand for "letter of continued interest") separate from a legitimate update. It's assumed you're interested simply by virtue of the fact that you applied, and admissions officers might conclude you're wasting their time if you expect them to drop everything so you can tell them, only months after applying, that you're still interested. Stand-alone LOCIs don't become appropriate until after April, when many other applicants have made other plans or have lost interest in that school for one reason or another, and you want to be explicit about saying, "Yes, I'm still here and I'm still interested!"
Questions? Concerns? Conundrums? Ask away below.
Gregory Henning is a graduate of Harvard College and the University of Virginia Law School. After graduating from law school, he clerked for Judge R. Lanier Anderson of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit and then became an Assistant District Attorney in Boston and a charter school teacher. As part of the Ivey Consulting team, Greg works with law school applicants. Learn more about him here, and read more admissions tips in The Ivey Guide to Law School Admissions.
The time you have been waiting for has come. Decision season is about to crescendo. In the next ten days, the last round of decisions from “regular decision” applications will be released. What do you do now?
Warning: The advice that follows is not of the “warm fuzzy variety” that you might expect. Instead it is ruthlessly practical and action oriented. Why? Because you have plenty of people who know you and can help you manage the “feeling” aspects of decision season, but those same people are not equally well equipped to help you with the “action” aspects of decision season. But I am; so I will be giving you that adivce.
Now that you have been duly warned, let’s review what you should do.
1) Shift gears.
You’ve been in a waiting mode. Now you have to shift into a decision-making and action mode. And you have to shift gears quickly because you have to make your choice about where to enroll by May 1.
2) Take a breath and take inventory.
Where do you find yourself with the colleges on your list? Here are the possibilities:
- Haven’t heard.
You should prioritize (sequence) your “to do” list as follows.
- Follow up with those colleges you haven’t heard from immediately. Here’s a guide for how to do that.
- If you have been denied, consider your options. Unless you have been denied everywhere you have applied, you should move quickly on to the next set of tasks.
- If you have been admitted, decide where you will enroll. Try our recommended decision making strategy – it is a great way to go about making this important decision. Whatever strategy you employ, you need to buckle down and make this decision and get your deposit to the chosen school by May 1!
- If you have been waitlisted, you’ll have to decide whether you want to remain on the waitlist or not. If you do, then you’ll have to do some follow-up. You can read more about our recommendations for when to hold a spot and what to do to maximize your chances for getting in here.
Alison Cooper Chisolm works one-on-one with college applicants and families from the US and abroad. She came to private consulting after working in admissions for more than 10 years at three selective universities (most recently Dartmouth College). Follow Alison on Twitter (@IveyCollege).
What's the ideal LSAT timeline? Your mileage may vary, and your LSAT instructor will be able to give you advice customized to your individual situation. But in a perfect world, here's how I like to work backwards from the end goal:
Plan to submit your applications in early November (or even sooner, but early November is plenty early). In order to maximize the time you have on your applications, and to let your brain focus on — and master — one thing at a time, that November submission date means I like to see people take the LSAT the February before that.
However, I find that many applicants aren't paying much attention to their application timelines that early (you'd have to start prepping for the February test in the previous calendar year), so what's the next best alternative if you plan on submitting this fall and you didn't take the February test? Easy: Take the June test. Do not wait until October. And that means you must start thinking about your LSAT prep timeline right now.
Why so early? A couple of reasons:
1. The LSAT is ridiculously important to admissions outcomes.
Your combined LSAT + undergraduate record are very likely to have the biggest impact on your admissions results. Other factors matter too, but in the hierarchy of factors, LSAT + undergraduate record sit at the top and look down from their Olympian heights at all the other stuff. You might hear people suggest that you can write your way around poor numbers, or you might hear a recommender say he has so much pull with a school that he can get you in. Yes, the rest of the application does matter. Yes, having the right connections sometimes helps. But I would advise healthy skepticism.
Of course there are outliers for everything, including law school admissions, and there are people out there whose life stories are so improbable and impressive, or whose immediate network has such pull, that their numbers become secondary. Even in that case, though, they can't be bad numbers (where "bad" numbers are relative to a given school's normal pool).
In particular, many parents tell me how "unique" their children are and that therefore their sub-par numbers won't matter so much. Oof! There's a 99% chance their children will learn the hard way that their parents are simply wrong. From an admissions officer's perspective, there are a lot and lots of unique snowflakes out there.
Because the LSAT is such an important factor in admissions outcomes, don't coast on your ostensible "uniqueness."
2. The LSAT is hard.
For most people, the LSAT is not just a cognitively challenging test, but also a test of endurance, time management, and anxiety management. Those are all mental muscles you need to build during your training period, and that's not a process that happens overnight. It can take time to work yourself into the necessary LSAT zen state. Never walk into an LSAT unprepared. Take the test very seriously, and give yourself enough time to reach your maximum performance. For some people, that means two months of intensive, consistent training. For others, it's more. Train like an elite athlete.
3. Working with a real score is better than working with a fantasy score.
You'll get your score back in late June, and then you can spend July, August, and September (with October for cushion) working on all the other parts of your application with the benefit of your score. That last part matters, because it's very hard to know what law schools you should be shooting for without an actual LSAT score, and your particular list of schools can affect your positioning in your applications, what kind of essays you write, if and where you apply Early Decision, etc. If I had a dollar for every time an applicant has told me, "I'm getting 175's on my practice tests, and I'm confident I'll score in the 170's, so let's plan around that," I'd be sipping pink-umbrella cocktails on my private island somewhere. You're much better served working off of an actual LSAT score rather than the one you fantasize about.
That's the perfect world timeline. We don't live in a perfect world, of course, so a lot of people take the LSAT for the first time in October. Best case scenario: the score turns out to be good, but they have to wait until the end of October to get their score back, and that pushes back their timeline for the other components of the application (and important application strategizing, which is impossible to do without the score).
Another possible scenario: You wait until October to take the test, you aren't happy with the score (or wig out and postpone, or wig out and cancel), retake it in December, and then have to wait until the following January for their score. January is awfully late in the game to be applying (and by then you've also missed Early Decision opportunities), and in the meantime, you're trying to pull your applications together without even knowing what schools you'll be competitive for. It's an option, but it's far from ideal. I don't recommend it.
So for those of you who will be submitting your applications early in the coming season, now's the time to get up to your elbows in LSAT prep. Dedicate the next couple of months to slaying that dragon, and then turn your full attention to all the other application components.
Former Dean of Admissions at the University of Chicago Law School and a recovering lawyer, Anna Ivey founded Ivey Consulting to help college, law school, and MBA applicants navigate the admissions process. You can find more admissions tips in The Ivey Guide to Law School Admissions. Join the conversation here in the blog comments and on Twitter and Facebook, or email us a new question for the blog.
Because it’s the time of year when applicants aiming for Fall 2014 intake are just beginning to think about the admissions process, we wanted to focus today on one element of the application that candidates often underestimate: extracurricular activities.
In order to understand why this category is important, candidates should keep in mind that the adcom is responsible for crafting a dynamic class each year. The aim is to admit individuals who will support a vibrant campus community and step into leadership positions. In other words, as admissions officers consider each applicant, they ask themselves “what’s in it for our school?” An applicant who has previously demonstrated a talent for writing, for example, by contributing to a nonprofit’s newsletter, will really catch the adcom’s attention if she also expresses her intent to contribute to a specific publication on campus.
Volunteering is of course a great way to expand one’s extracurricular involvement. However, many applicants participate in the occasional fundraising walk or an annual corporate outreach day; those who demonstrate ongoing involvement in one cause or organization will be of special interest to the admissions committee, especially if it is related to their current or future career. A candidate who has contributed over a longer period is likely to have developed his or her responsibilities beyond ladling soup or stuffing envelopes. What’s more, this can be a particularly important opportunity for applicants who are currently living and working outside of their home countries; for example, an Indian applicant who works and volunteers in Africa will stand out as being particularly engaged and well adapted to his or her foreign environment.
Candidates who are older or younger than the average applicant should recognize that their extracurricular involvement is particularly important. A younger applicant who lacks leadership responsibilities at work might demonstrate his talent for motivating others outside of the office. Meanwhile, older applicants can use their extracurricular involvement to reassure the adcom that, despite family responsibilities or distance in age from one’s classmates, the broader life of the community remains important to them.
Lastly, applicants will have a much easier time writing their application essays if they have a variety of experiences from which to draw. While applicants can certainly respond to most essay prompts by reflecting on their professional experiences, relying exclusively on one’s work is a mistake. With each essay, the applicant should aim to share a different side of him or herself—submitting five essays about electrical engineering or investment banking is not the most effective way to do this.
We hope that this sheds some light on the opportunities and value that activities outside of work provide with respect to one’s b-school candidacy and applications. Should you find that area of your application lacking upon reflection, the good news is that there’s still plenty of time to address this before the deadlines. Whether that means volunteering your professional services to a local nonprofit, joining a community mentoring organization or brushing up on your competitive square dancing, Class of 2016 aspirants should aim to make this an especially active and productive spring and summer!
Get in touch with our team for a free assessment of your candidacy as the admissions season begins.
About Clear Admit:
Ivey Consulting is proud to partner with Clear Admit to provide comprehensive admissions information and consulting services to business school applicants. Learn more about Clear Admit here.
It may not be time to start preparing for the June LSAT, but it’s definitely time to start preparing to prepare. If books are your preferred medium for LSAT study, we’ve got a brand new one you’ll want to add to your pre-prep shopping list.
Enter The Blueprint for LSAT Logic Games — a 565-page deluge of study guide awesome sauce. If logic games were a lion, this book would be sparkly pants, a whip, and a chair. That makes you a lion tamer. Look at you, lion tamer.
The book utilizes “Blueprint Building Blocks” for tackling the dreaded Analytical Reasoning section. Using the same insight and humor found in the Blueprint LSAT Prep course, The Blueprint for LSAT Logic Games breaks down 35 real Logic Games released by Law Services and shows you how to efficiently classify and dissect any game type.
Each book also comes with a free Blueprint LSAT Prep account so readers can log into Blueprint’s website for a year after purchase and watch fully-animated HD video explanations for every game in the book. The videos are the same as those used in Blueprint’s online LSAT prep course and feature Blueprint co-founder Matt Riley. Matt authored the Blueprint Logic Games curriculum and has never missed a Logic Games question on a real LSAT.
Analytical Reasoning can be one of the most intimidating sections on the already menacing LSAT, but it’s also one with a lot of potential for improvement The Blueprint for LSAT Logic Games — available now through June 1st for the introductory price of $49.99 — shows you exactly how to do it.
Now go out and show that oversized Logic Games feline how to behave.
For more information on The Blueprint for LSAT Logic Games, visit Blueprint’s LSAT book page.