"If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion."

-- The Dalai Lama

Monday, July 26, 2004

Law School Applications

So there are only two major items on my "Apply to Law Schools To-Do List":  Write the personal statement, and settle on a final schools list. 

The only concrete decision I have made regarding the personal statement is that I am going to write one for each school I apply to.  My list is going to be short enough that there's no reason other than laziness not to get the "why I want to go here" questions answered in each.

I've spent more time lately thinking about what schools I want to apply to.  I started with a very long (20+) list.  I have since removed all the schools where the primary (and in some cases only) reason it was on the list was:

1.  It's ranked pretty high and I think I can get in.

Now I am down to 5 schools.  Yes, I did think I was that much of a prestige whore.  Here is my current list in no particular order with only the top positive reasons noted:

School 1

1.  It is a beautiful school with big, beautiful gothic buildings and I have always wanted to go to a beautiful school with big, beautiful gothic buildings.
2.  It has a national reputation
School 2
1.  I love the location - a busy city with lots of cultural opportunities and politics I agree with
2.  The school's politics and reputation
3.  Friends in the area
4.  The school's history
5.  Has a good reputation for the broad area of practice I am interested in
School 3

1.  I am instate - much cheaper tuition
2.  Would not have to leave my boyfriend and my family
3.  Has a decent reputation for the broad area of practice I am interested in
School 4
1.  Ranked #1 by USNews in the broad area of practice I am interested in
2.  Very small town (a good thing for me)
3.  Relatively very cheap cost of living
4.  From talking to people who go there it is probable I would receive some $$$
School 5
1.  The only school with a program in the specific area of practice I am interested in
2.  The only school with a journal in the specific area of practice I am interested in
3.  Well known (at least regionally) for the broad area of practice I am interested in
4.  I love the campus
5.  I love the location
6.  From visiting and speaking with current students I think I would be comfortable in the atmosphere there
7.  They offer study abroad opportunities
8.  They offer a clinical internship seminar in the specific area of practice I am interested in
9.  They have a loan repayment assist program if you go into a public interest job

Okay, so it's pretty obvious that #5 is my number one choice.  Since I think it is so perfect for me, I'm considering just applying to #5 with #4 as a backup.  My numbers are good to go at both of these schools.  My numbers are actually okay at any of these schools so that is not really a factor.  So what, I am asking myself, are the reasons to even apply to numbers 1, 2 and 3?  Up until now I figured I wanted to "see" and to "keep my options open."  Maybe I'm just wanting to see if the prestige whore in me will win out after all? 

Any and all opinions are appreciated.


stag said...

My list currently has 12. I’m not confident enough to apply to just 5.

We’re plenty early to add more to the list later if needed.

Janine said...

My list is hovering at 2-3, although I have geographic restrictions. I see nothing wrong with only applying to a couple of schools if your numbers are solid for your top choices. If you know you're fairly solid for your top pick and are happy with the back-up, I think the only other consideration is whether an app to a rival might shake out some money.

stag said...

Maybe I should reassess my list. Then again, I pulled out my transcript this weekend, and started getting nervous. My GPA is below EVERY school on my list, but my LSAT is strong. I just need to cast a wider net.

Shannon said...

I would rather have a strong LSAT/weak GPA than vice versa.

So what are your main criteria for picking schools?

Shannon said...

Janine, the $$$ point is a good one. Do you know if you can get more money out of a school just for being accepted to another school that is more highly ranked?

Are you happy with your 2-3 choices or do you wish you had more geographical freedom?

Anonymous said...

(Er, sorry, blogger will only let me post anonymously. Odd.)

Stag, you have a career! I know le job is causing you mucho angst right now, but your work experience is impressive, and with a happifying LSAT I'm sure your GPA will be fine.

WhyLaw, I'm not *certain* whether simply being admitted to a higher-ranked school will do the trick or if you have to actually have an aid offer to counter your top choice with if they don't pony up, but I imagine you might be able to work it if there's a huge prestige gap. I do know that the big thing is to express extreme interest/awareness of the program but stop short of telling your top choice that you're absolutely going there no matter what, because the schools use the money as an incentive to attract strong students they fear might not come elsewhere.

Re: geography: On the one hand, I do have the fantasy where I could just pick up and go wherever. On the other, the family situation which has me in this area now is still going to have me here when I start practicing, so going to a regional school and (knock on wood) getting through with minimal-to-no debt is a viable and appealing scenario. And I'm just not that prestige-focused, although I'm sure I'll have to give it some thought between the very, very different schools I'm applying to.

Anonymous said...

...they fear might not come *otherwise,* that is.

And that was me!


Shannon said...

Yeah, I completely second Janine on the career comment. I don't think you need to stress about your GPA *at all*, stag.

Janine, I'm glad to hear that your scenarios are appealing :) It makes life so much more fun when they are :)

stag said...

My main criterion is location, although anywhere along this coast is good (i.e. my location restriction is not that restricting). I’m not really factoring in areas of specialization/expertise, because I’ve learned in my current career that you can have an idea, but you still need to be flexible. I have a vague idea, but I’m open to being inspired by a passionate professor, or just working with people that I enjoy spending time with. (Doesn’t that sound so optimistic and rose-colored? I love being new to the field and eager to try anything, rather than hardened and bitter.)

Thanks for the reassurance on the work experience/career covering for the low GPA, but it still makes me cringe when I look at the transcript and compare that to US News. I realized midway into my freshman year that “free drinks for ladies” started in the middle of my calculus class. Free drinks won out every Friday. Now I’m drafting an addendum to explain all that.

You guys sound like you have good numbers. I’m sure it will work out for all of us. The uncertainty is nerve racking, but also what keeps it exciting.