Maximizing Dean Visits: Part I (Or, How to Make a Good Impression on a Dean)

We’ve already hosted one law school dean on campus this semester, and we’ll be hosting several more in the coming months. (Coming up in February: Dean Mitchell from Case Western Reserve and Dean Burns from DePaul. Visit our calendar here for more details on each.) In this post, let’s examine just how students can maximize dean visits. (We will look at how to maximize law school visits in Part 2.)

Students should go to these events. Frankly, I’m shocked that more pre-law students do not take advantage of the opportunity to meet an admissions dean who has come to campus. Why don’t they? Let’s do a brief cost/benefit analysis.

Admission Dean visit to campus
Cost: No money, an hour of your time
Benefit: Making a good impression on the dean can result in admission or scholarship offers. You’ll probably learn something valuable about the law school admissions process, or about the school itself. At the very least, you’ll give the dean a face to associate with your application, making your file more personal than the thousand files of people s/he has never met.

Many students think that attending a law school open house or meeting an admissions dean won’t influence their decision about whether to admit you to their school, or whether to award you a scholarship. In my experience, that is totally wrong. Why?

First, I think many people would be surprised to know how much power an admissions dean has over the final admissions decision. Many deans can make admissions decisions entirely on their own, or override a veto by a committee. I know deans–more than one–who have made an on-the-spot decision to admit an applicant–with a scholarship–while that applicant visited during an open house. Why? Because the dean was impressed by the applicant’s professionalism, passion, and maturity. In other words, a positive personal impression by someone with a lot of power over your admission can weigh heavily in your favor. After all, admissions is a human process–if it were ALL about the numbers, then machines would do it.

Second, many students think that the dean won’t remember meeting them. Not only am I impressed by the memories of admissions professionals, but I know that many take great pains to jot down the names of students they spoke with–sometimes during a conversation and sometimes right afterwards. Several deans have told me that as soon as they leave a meeting with students, they immediately review those students’ applications while their impressions are still fresh. At minimum, most deans will have students sign in and then use that sign-in sheet to see who was interested enough to make the effort to come and meet them. This will be noted in the applicant’s file.

Third, many students think that in a roomful of people, the dean won’t notice them, either for positive reasons or negative ones. By nature and by training, we lawyers are detail oriented and most of us are very observant. Trust me–even if we aren’t saying it, we’re thinking it. Here are some simple but powerful positive observations that deans have shared with me about particular students/applicants after visiting our campus:

  • S/he is very personable/pleasant/mature. How simple is that? Being nice gets noticed. Or, as one dean puts it, nobody wants a jerk in their school.
  • S/he speaks very well. A valued skill for a prospective lawyer.
  • S/he seems to truly care about ________. Examples: The environment, helping children, global security…This signals that the applicant has clearly articulated a passion and has asked insightful questions about a legal career in that area.
  • S/he would be a great fit for our school. This one’s a little harder to pin down, but just as applicants get a “feel” for a school by visiting, deans can get a similar feeling by meeting applicants.

The down side to being observant means that deans also sometimes have negative impressions of students and applicants. Some examples:

  • S/he never made eye contact with me/stared at the floor the whole time. Again, another simple gesture. In a first impression, eye contact demonstrates poise, confidence, and good interpersonal skills…all of which a lawyer needs in order to get and maintain clients.
  • S/he is very intense. This could mean that the person fired a barrage of questions at the dean, instantly name-dropped some “connections” (My uncle’s chiropractor went to your school and he’s writing a recommendation for me…), or shared some outrageous expectations (I deserve a big scholarship!) See above, about nobody wanting a jerk in their school.
  • S/he doesn’t seem to know why this law school is a good fit. Deans always like to ask what interests applicants about their school. Telling a dean that her law school is probably the best you can get into, or that it’s close to where your parents live, is a little insulting. Side note: I have observed applicants saying both of these to a dean. In both cases, the dean mentioned it to me afterwards…and not in a positive way.

While we’re on the subject of first impressions, please let me say that etiquette and dress say a lot about you. Two brief observations:

  • I have personally observed many students interrupt the dean of admissions to ask another question while s/he is speaking. This is extremely disrespectful and rude, and it will without a doubt be noticed and remembered by the dean.
  • No one expects you to show up wearing a tuxedo or bridesmaid gown. But wearing your bar crawl t-shirt, or worse, sweatpants, or much, much worse, pajama pants and slippers (yes, all of these actually happened) to meet a law school dean suggests a serious lack of professional judgment. A popular saying is to “dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” A button-up shirt or sweater and pants is perfectly acceptable and takes no more effort than a t-shirt and jeans. When in doubt, go business casual.

To summarize: Meeting deans of admissions and attending law school visits can actually make a big difference for your application. An admissions dean holds a lot of power over admissions and scholarship decisions, and personal impressions can and will be factored in. Do not make the mistake of thinking that attending these events is not worth your time.

During the visit: Be nice, be pleasant, make eye contact, wear business casual clothes, listen while the dean speaks, and don’t say anything too outrageous within five seconds of meeting the dean. Nothing too taxing, right?

In Part 2, we will examine how students can maximize law school visits.

 

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Illinois Law Open House Feb. 4

Are you interested in the University of Illinois College of Law? Good news: the law school is hosting an Open House event February 4 at the Law Building from 5-7 pm, and you are invited! This is a great chance to learn more about Illinois Law and get a feel for the law school and the student body.

At this Open House you’ll have the opportunity to:

  • Meet current Illinois Law students
  • Hear from Dean Smith
  • Meet professionals from Career Planning and Financial Aid offices
  • Take a tour
  • Share a meal! Food will be served.

Please RSVP to law-admissions@illinois.edu by February 1.

To find out more about Illinois Law before your visit, explore their website at https://www.law.illinois.edu/

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LSAT Prep Scholarship Essays Due Tomorrow–Plus, a new addition!

A quick announcement: We have an addition to the LSAT prep scholarships! Princeton Review has donated one LSAT LiveOnline course! To find out more about Princeton Review, visit their website here.

When you submit your essay, please indicate which of these scholarship(s) you are applying for!

Here are the details from our original Jan. 7 post:

Are you taking the June LSAT but not sure you can afford a prep course? Pre-Law Advising Services is pleased to announce several LSAT prep course scholarships. Thanks to our sponsors, who have kindly donated scholarships, we are able to offer the following scholarships to University of Illinois students:

If you are interested in applying for one of these scholarships, please submit the following: 1) Your resume, AND
2) A short essay (no more than 600 words) that addresses each of the following:

  • Which of the scholarship(s) listed above are you applying for?
  • Have you taken an LSAT prep class before?
  • What is your financial need? (It is not necessary to provide exact numbers, just give us a sense of your financial situation and why a scholarship is necessary.)
  • How can this scholarship help you achieve your goals?

Email your resume and essay to Judy Argentieri via email only at jargenti@illinois.edu by Wednesday, January 23 at NOON.

Winners will be announced quickly–by Monday, January 28–so that you can make necessary plans for spring LSAT courses. Good luck!

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Even Supreme Court Justices have to work on their writing.

NPR’s Legal Affairs Correspondent Nina Totenberg recently interviewed Justice Sotomayor about her soon-to-be published memoir. In this clip (below) Justice Sotomayor tells a fascinating story about how she learned to improve her writing in college. Even though the Justice was an excellent high school student, in college she quickly found that she had room for improvement. She took it upon herself to work on her writing all summer. It’s refreshing and inspiring to hear someone in such a powerful legal position admit that getting there took a lot of effort!

Writing well is critical to being an effective advocate. Justice Sotomayor’s story is inspiring, and hopefully it motivates prospective law students to be very engaged in your education, both inside and outside of the classroom.

You can listen to or read the interview with Justice Sotomayor here.

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LSAT Prep Course Scholarship Announcement!

Are you taking the June LSAT but not sure you can afford a prep course? Pre-Law Advising Services is pleased to announce several LSAT prep course scholarships. Thanks to our sponsors, who have kindly donated scholarships, we are able to offer the following scholarships to University of Illinois students:

If you are interested in applying for one of these scholarships, please submit the following: 1) Your resume, AND
2) A short essay (no more than 600 words) that addresses each of the following:

  • Which of the scholarship(s) listed above are you applying for?
  • Have you taken an LSAT prep class before?
  • What is your financial need? (It is not necessary to provide exact numbers, just give us a sense of your financial situation and why a scholarship is necessary.)
  • How can this scholarship help you achieve your goals?

Email your resume and essay to Judy Argentieri via email only at jargenti@illinois.edu by Wednesday, January 23 at NOON.

Winners will be announced quickly–by Monday, January 28–so that you can make necessary plans for spring LSAT courses. Good luck!

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Great opportunities for pre-law students–with approaching deadlines!!

I hope you’re enjoying your break and using this time productively! This time off is a great chance to compile applications for internships (see our big Internships Newsletter here) and for these upcoming opportunities. Note that their deadlines are looming.

LegalTrek–a summer program for undergrads–Applications open Monday!
Do you have dreams of being a lawyer?  Are you interested in attending law school?  If so, consider applying to LegalTrek.  LegalTrek is a ten-week summer program sponsored by Northwestern University School of Law, designed to provide a hands-on, comprehensive overview of the legal profession to diverse college students and recent grads.  LegalTrek meshes traditional legal learning with opportunities to build legal skills.
LegalTrek’s mission is to diversify the legal profession by encouraging and supporting students from historically underrepresented groups to attend law school.  We are seeking diverse applicants from racial/ethnic minority groups, as well as socio-economically disadvantaged students, LGBT students and students with disabilities.
LegalTrek offers practical, fun and engaging weekly seminars taught by law faculty and practicing lawyers at Northwestern Law.  Students will participate in classroom lessons and participate in a variety of exercises, including: a mock jury trial, a simulated client negotiation, a moot court appellate argument, a client interview and much more.  With the help of our partner, the Chicago Committee on Minorities in Large Law Firms, students will also be assigned an attorney mentor from one of Chicago’s top law firms, and will receive extensive one-on-one curricular advising and personal statement preparation.
Classes will meet one per week from 1-4 p.m. from June – August of 2013.  Our application process will open by Monday, January 7, 2013 and run through mid-February.

For more information, please contact Audra Wilson at audra-wilson@law.northwestern.edu or go to the website here.

Court Appointed Special Advocates–Applications Due January 11!
Champaign County CASA will be conducting training classes for potential new advocates to speak up for the more than 400 abused and neglected children in Champaign County Court. These advocates become the “eyes and ears of the Court” and work with the child and social service agencies to ensure that the best interests of the child are met throughout the court process.

“The need for additional advocates for the abused and neglected children of Champaign County continues to be high. All of these children deserve to have a voice in the courtroom helping to ensure their best interests are met.” said Rush Record, Executive Director of CASA.

CASA provides all the training necessary to become an advocate. No specific experience is required however, you must be at least 21 years old.

The 30 hour training program for new advocates begins on Tuesday January 15. Through a generous donation from Carle, most training sessions will be held at the Mills Breast Cancer Institute. Training will be held three times per week until graduation ceremonies on Wednesday February 6th.  More information about CASA can be found on their website at www.casa4kids.org or by calling the CASA office at 384-9065. An application deadline has been set for January 11th and a background check is required.

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