Big LSAT changes: What should you know?

If you haven’t heard yet, the Law School Admission Council has announced some big changes to the LSAT. What are they, and what should you know? Let’s dive in.

Expanded LSAT options. Starting in 2018-19, the LSAT will be offered 6 times per year instead of the 4 times per year schedule it’s been on for years.
What it currently is (4x/yr): June, September OR October, December, February
What it will be in 2018-19 (6x/yr): June, September, November, January, March, June, July (the LSAC year will start in July beginning in 2019) (Click here to view the upcoming schedule.)
Potential impact: The addition of the November and January tests instead of December and February could be a good thing. As a group, Illini performed worse on the December exam, which was during or right before finals. Taking it in November instead–right before fall break–at least prevents the dreaded LSAT/finals overlap. The January date is only two weeks earlier than the old February schedule, but for those who are taking it and applying immediately, saving two weeks that late in the cycle could be helpful. The July exam in 2019 will be helpful in providing another summer opportunity–this might be the best part of the new schedule for students.

No more limits. The LSAC has also decided to eliminate the rule that applicants could only take the LSAT a maximum of 3 times in any 2 year period. Now, there will be no limits on how many times a person can take the LSAT.
What it was: A person could take the LSAT a maximum of 3 times in 2 years.
What it will be: A person has no limits on how many times s/he takes the LSAT.
Potential impact: Probably not much. Although it will now be possible to continue retaking the exam after 3 times (and we’re sure many will), will the score really improve by doing so? Both LSAC’s data and our own show that on average, retakers score about two points higher on a second exam, and see less improvement on a third exam. Illini who took the LSAT 3 times had the same average score as those who took it once. And, about 15% of Illini retakers obtained a worse score upon retaking, so that’s another risk. At a certain point it becomes very difficult to sustain LSAT studying due to burnout and the time commitment involved. Of course there is also the issue of how a law school will evaluate an applicant with seven LSAT scores…remember that every single score will be seen by an applicant’s law schools.

Tablet-based tests. The LSAC is currently testing a tablet-based LSAT option. No word yet on when this format might become available. Right now the LSAT is a paper and pencil test and will continue to be until the LSAC decides otherwise.
What it was: Paper and pencil.
What it is now: Still paper and pencil, until we hear otherwise.

Khan Academy LSAT prep.  The LSAC has partnered with Khan Academy to create free LSAT prep which will be available to all. It’s expected to debut in the second half of 2018, so this could be a helpful resource for anyone planning to take the LSAT in late 2018 or after. See the press release here.

We will monitor all upcoming LSAT changes and share with you what we learn, so stay tuned!

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5 things to do after the June LSAT

June LSAT scores are just about to be released. If you’re done with the June LSAT and applying to law school this fall, now is the perfect time to reallocate all the hours you were spending on LSAT prep to other parts of the law school application. What should you do now?

  1. Get your letters of recommendation lined up. Have you already contacted your LOR writers and asked them to submit a letter for you? If not, do that now, because giving your writer all summer to write the letter is smart. Don’t wait until a super busy time for them–like September, for professors–to ask. Here are some tips.
  2. Register for the Credential Assembly Service if you haven’t already. This is the account you will need to complete your law school applications. Click here for more information.
  3. Order your transcript if you aren’t taking summer classes. If you are taking summer classes, put a reminder on your calendar to order your transcript after August 18. Note: You will need to order a transcript from every undergraduate institution where you took courses–even summer courses–so now is a good time to reach out to the registrar of any community colleges or schools from which you transferred. Here is where you order your UIUC transcript.
  4. Draft a personal statement. Your goal is to convey your passion, career goals, and important elements of your character in two double-spaced pages. Sound difficult? We’ve made several resources, including a video and handout, available over on our Compass page. A great deadline would be to complete a draft of a personal statement by the fall semester start so that you can set up a review appointment and have plenty of time to edit.
  5. Research law schools. You’ll want to have a list of 8-10 law schools representing a variety of elements including geography, admissibility, and programs of interest. You can find LSAT/GPA data, employment information, tuition, and more by using a resource like Law School Transparency’s Reports, which allow you to make direct comparisons, or the American Bar Association’s Required Disclosure reports.

And, if you’re planning on retaking the LSAT in September, register for it right away and start your studying! The test date, September 16, is only 10 weeks away! Many test sites will fill, so you’ll want to register early to get your preferred testing location.

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Tips on getting recommendations from someone who writes them

This is a tale of two recommendations that I have been asked to write. While names have been changed to protect personal privacy, the stories are 100% true.

What is it really like to write a recommendation, and why should you care? If you’re looking at law school or other graduate programs, your letters of recommendation are a big part of helping you stand out from thousands of other strong applicants. Later you will also need references for the bar exam and for jobs and internships, so asking for recommendations/references is really a lifelong skill. And, as you’ll see, HOW you go about this can have a big impact on your results. I have been teaching and advising for 10 years now and I have learned from experience some tips and advice to share with you about how to learn this skill.

Recommendation #1: Taylor Smith 

This spring I received the following email:

Dear Ms. Thomas-Ward,
We have recently interviewed Taylor Smith and offered him employment pending our reference and background checks. Please complete the attached form and submit to us by tomorrow morning. Failure to do so may result in revocation of his employment offer.

United States Justice Department 

My exact thoughts were: They must have the wrong person, because I have no idea who Taylor Smith is. I will tell them they’ve made a mistake. First let me look him up in the online system. No, I still have no recollection of this person. Let me review my files. Hmm, looks like he took my class over four years ago. I have not heard from him since, and I have no idea what happened to him after our class ended. What can I possibly say that is going to help him here, given how little I know about him?

I searched him on Google to find out where he went to law school. I almost did not complete the reference form. I read through it, and frankly the only reason I did complete it is because the questions were broad and vague enough that I felt comfortable sharing what little I knew about him. Plus, of course I didn’t want him to lose a great job opportunity.  So I completed the form with honest but vague details. I can’t imagine that the reference helped him much. I never heard anything back either from the employer or from the former student.

Recommendation #2: Ally Watson

Ally was a student in my class a couple of years ago too. We met before she graduated to talk about her post-graduation plans. I was happy to serve as a reference for a community-based public service program she applied for and got.

A few weeks ago, Ally called me out of the blue. We caught up for a couple of minutes over the phone about her current position, and then she told me that she is applying for a new job and asked if she could use me as a reference. Of course! I told her I am happy to do it, and asked a few brief details about the job so that I could give her a really strong reference. The whole call took maybe 10 minutes.

When the hiring manager called me for the reference, I was able to give specific examples that I had already considered thanks to Ally’s heads up. The recruiter asked me point blank: Should we hire this person? And I was able to give an honestly enthusiastic answer: Yes, absolutely and without question or reservation. I would hire this person in a heartbeat.

Ally sent me a quick email a few days later to let me know that she got the job, and to thank me for being her reference. The whole email was maybe 3 lines, and it was perfect.

The recommender’s perspective

When I give a recommendation, I am putting my reputation out there. I am saying to a law school or an employer that I am a trustworthy professional who provides accurate insight into the kind of student or employee that this person will be. I take it seriously, as I hope anyone writing a recommendation for me would. I think carefully about what I can say that will be beneficial, as well as how I can phrase it, and I edit my written work carefully because I wouldn’t want any sloppy writing or mistakes on my part to reflect poorly on the person I’m recommending. Personally, I enjoy providing a recommendation when I know I have positive things to say that will help my current and former students succeed. Their success makes me so happy!

When I am asked to write a recommendation for someone whom I don’t know, or someone who took my class years ago but I haven’t heard from since, or even on occasion someone with whom I have had very negative interactions, my first thought is: Why would this person use me as a reference? That shows poor personal insight and bad judgment. If I truly feel that I cannot provide a supportive reference, I will decline to provide it. When I am put in the middle–like with the Justice Department email–I resent being placed in a position in which I can’t decline without it negatively impacting the applicant. I don’t want to impede anyone’s success, but I do have an obligation to be honest and trustworthy in my recommendation.

Advice and tips for requesting references & recommendations

  • Ask the person’s permission to use them as a reference.. Experience has shown me that although this seems like a no-brainer, it needs to be stated. I can’t tell you how many people have listed me as a reference for the Illinois Bar without asking me, and that is a high stakes situation.
  • Give the recommender a graceful way out. Ask the recommender: Do you feel comfortable providing a recommendation for me? Is there anything I can provide that would be helpful (the job description, a transcript, a resume)? Will you have the time to provide this by the deadline of ____________?
  • Tell the reference that they might be called…even if your reference has provided an open offer for you to use them anytime. If you have gotten an interview, passed a background check, or have any reason to think that your references will be called, just send a quick email letting them know. What would have happened if the Justice Department called me for the reference? I would have told them I had no idea who they were talking about and hung up. For people whom I have extended an open offer to serve as a reference anytime, it makes the reference SO MUCH BETTER when I know what job they’ve applied for and how their experiences align. Just being able to say that I’ve spoken to the person recently improves the credibility of the reference. It’s always awkward when they ask when I last had contact with the person and the answer is: Ummmm…..maybe five years ago? 
  • Trust your instincts. Are you getting the feeling that your recommender isn’t enthusiastic? Is s/he avoiding your emails/phone calls, unresponsive, using a reluctant or annoyed tone, or expressing concern about the deadline? Then go with your gut and move on, because a lukewarm, unenthusiastic recommendation can be worse than none at all.
  • Follow up. Thank your recommender either through a card or email, and tell them the outcome. Did you get the job? Did you get into the law school? Let them know, and keep that connection alive through LinkedIn. You will need more references in the future, so keeping a group of people in mind who can vouch for you is truly a lifelong skill.

Dealbreakers: When I refuse to recommend someone

  • Immediate turnaround. I typically will not provide any recommendation letter with less than 2 weeks’ notice. Don’t wait until the day before an application is due to ask for a letter.
  • Negative or no history. I have been asked to write recommendations or serve as a reference for people I’ve never personally met, for former students who did extremely poorly in my class, and for people who know that I am aware of their criminal history.  If I know the recommendation would obligate me to reveal negative information, I will not provide one.
  • Nothing to say. Sometimes a former student with a mediocre grade and almost no direct interaction with me will ask for a reference. If all I can say about you is that you took my class and got a B, I generally will not provide that reference because I know it won’t be helpful.



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Feeling anxious about the June LSAT? You have options!

June and September are the most popular LSAT administrations for Illinois students and alums. What should you do if you are feeling anxious as we approach the June LSAT?

First, it’s important to acknowledge that some anxiety is normal. The LSAT is a difficult test, and it’s perfectly natural to feel some anxiety about performing well on it. Of the thousands of students and alumni I’ve worked with over the past 10 years, I can probably count on one hand how many weren’t nervous about this exam.

If you are getting concerned that you will not be ready for the June exam: Know that you have options. Let’s take a look at each.

Option 1: Withdraw from the June LSAT now. This might be a good option if you know you didn’t spend enough time on your LSAT prep this spring, and/or you are not going to be able to focus on LSAT prep for the next few weeks. This option can take the pressure off, allowing you to refocus your game plan for September. You can withdraw and register for the September LSAT now (click here to do so). Advice for those who make this choice: DO NOT PROCRASTINATE. Once the pressure of the June LSAT is off, you will be very tempted to put your LSAT materials away all summer. DO NOT DO THIS, or you will find yourself in the exact same state of panic in August when you realize you are not ready for the September exam either. I have seen this countless times! Use this summer wisely, and take the time you need to be fully prepared for September.

Option 2: Keep going, and make a game time decision. This is more for the students who have been LSAT prepping consistently this spring but still feel they are pretty far from their LSAT goals. Crank up your LSAT prep–you still have 3.5 weeks, and that’s enough time to make some significant gains.Clear your schedule as much as possible and give it your all. Take a final timed practice test around June 9. Then, you can make a game time decision: You can withdraw from the LSAT as late as the day before the test (June 11). Withdrawals are not seen by law schools–you will only lose your test registration fee. In the long run, this is a small price to pay to avoid having a low LSAT score. Advice for those who choose this option: Really clear your schedule for the next few weeks and study as much as possible. If you truly want to see results, you will need to take this seriously and put in the time and effort. On the plus side, it’s only for a few weeks–you can still go to the pool later this summer.

Option 3: Know that you can cancel your LSAT score after the exam. This option is more appealing to those students who have serious test anxiety or whose LSAT prep shows inconsistent results–some days you do great, others are deeply disappointing. How will you feel on test day? It’s very hard to say. Keep in mind that if test day does not go well, you can go home and immediately cancel your score. You won’t know what score you received, which means you’ll need to retake, but there is some benefit to gaining the experience of taking an actual LSAT to make you feel more confident the next time around. Advice to those who choose this option: Follow the LSAC instructions carefully, as you only have 6 calendar days to cancel. (Click here for instructions.) Since you know you will be retaking, get back to your LSAT study prep right away–the September test is only 8 weeks after the June one, so you will need all of that time to prepare.

Option 4: Hope for the best. Continue your LSAT prep diligently, take the June LSAT, see what happens, and let this dictate whether you retake. This is a perfectly valid plan if you’ve been taking your LSAT prep seriously and you just have some general anxiety about test day performance. Advice for those who choose this option: June LSAT scores are projected to be released July 6. Given that the September exam is Sept. 16, you will not have much time to prep for a retake after getting your June score. Please keep an open mind about this suggestion: You may want to keep LSAT prepping after the June LSAT until you receive your score. Why? So that you can continue to make gains for the September exam. If you set aside your LSAT books from June 12 to July 6, you’re probably going to lose some ground that you’ll have to make up for. Another option: Be ready to make a decision almost immediately when you receive your score about whether to retake. Consider: Under what circumstances would you retake? For example, If my score isn’t _____ then I will definitely retake. Or, If my score isn’t within 2 points of where I was practice testing or If my score isn’t at the median of Dream Law School. The point is to consider this now so that you can prepare yourself for this decision, instead of waiting until the score comes out to even think about it. You won’t have weeks to bounce around the idea of retaking once your score is released–you’ll need to get on with it. Quickly.

Overall: Keep the big picture in mind. Do your absolute best to prepare and perform on this test. But don’t get sucked into tunnel vision about the LSAT and what it means. What the LSAT does is predict first-year law school performance. The LSAT does not measure intelligence, or your ability to make an impact on the world, or how successful you’ll be as a lawyer. A high LSAT score doesn’t mean you’ll be the best lawyer in the courtroom, just as a low LSAT score doesn’t mean that you can’t graduate at the top of your class and become a very successful lawyer. Being an effective lawyer requires many other skills beyond performing well on one test! Keep your chin up, give it your absolute best effort, and keep moving forward.

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Mark Your Calendars – End of Semester Edition – Farewell Class of 2017!

Information for Graduating Seniors and Alumni

Congratulations and best wishes to our UIUC graduating Seniors!  We would love to hear from you so please keep in touch.  In fact, we have created a Linked In Group, entitled “Illini Pre-Law Alumni.”  This is an opportunity for PLAS to stay in touch with all of you and for you to stay in touch with your classmates and other UIUC alums. You never know when you might end up in a new city and need to network to find a new job or information on law school. Please go to LinkedIn to join our group.

Information for Fall Law School Applicants

Our events have concluded for this semester but we do have a public service announcement.  Fall law school applicants — do not forget to identify and meet with people whom you would like to write letters of recommendation on your behalf BEFORE you leave campus!  If you wait until the fall to make the request(s), you will likely find yourself waiting in line behind others who asked first!  For information on how to solicit letters of recommendation and some other application tips, go to our April 26 blog post.  If you would like a helpful overview on letters of recommendation that you can share with letter writers, go to the PLAS Compass Page and check out our “Guide to Letters of Recommendation” in the “Application Pointers” section.

Information for June LSAT Test Takers — Reminder about day of exam!

LSAC provides a list of day of test reminders here. It is absolutely critical that you look at this list well in advance of June 12 so that you follow the LSAC’s instructions to the letter. Any violation of LSAC rules constitutes grounds for you to be dismissed from the test.  

PLAS Summer Activities and Office Hours 

Although we will only be posting to our blog a couple of times per month, we will occasionally post information of interest on Facebook (Pre-Law Advising at U of IL) and Twitter (@UIUCPreLaw).  Keep checking in – you never know what interesting opportunities we will hear about and share.

If you need to schedule an appointment with a pre-law advisor over the summer, remember that PLAS Summer Hours are in effect and appointments are available in advance.  Just call the PLAS office at (217) 333-9669 to make an appointment. Enjoy your break and look for announcements about our fall calendar when you return in August.

Have a great summer!

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Heading to law school this fall? Here’s the inside scoop on what to know, buy, and do

Congratulations to all Illini who are completing the law school application cycle! It feels like it’s over, but actually, a whole new stage is just beginning. What should you do now and throughout the summer to make sure you are ready to enter the legal profession?

First Things First: Final Application Tasks

  • Seat deposits. Now is the time for making those seat deposits to save your seat. While some people will submit multiple seat deposits, if you’ve done your research and completed your visits, you need to only place one seat deposit at your selected school. Remember that starting May 15, every law school can see each deposit that applicants have made–meaning that they will know if you’ve put down multiple deposits.
  • Follow up on wait lists. It is very common to be on one or more wait lists. Revisit this blog post for tips on what to do.
  • Withdraw your other applications. By this point, applicants have narrowed down their law school to one or two top choices. Contact the schools you know you won’t be attending to formally withdraw. This allows those law schools to offer your seat/scholarship to someone else. Some law schools will have a webform to do this, whereas at others, a simple email like this will do. Dear Dean of Admissions, Thank you very much for the opportunity to attend Your Law School. However, after careful consideration I have decided to attend X Law School (or, I’ve decided to attend law school in the midwest/east coast/elsewhere), so I will not be placing a deposit.  I very much appreciate your time and consideration of my application. Best wishes, Applicant.
  • Send a final transcript. After graduation, you must provide a final transcript to the law school you are attending.

Professional details–You are taking an important step toward beginning your professional life. Start off on the right foot.

  • Get online.
    • Clean up your social media presence like your Facebook and Twitter sites. Would you want an employer or law school representative to see every picture you’ve posted? If not, take them down, and set privacy restrictions for future posts.
    • Set up a new, professional-sounding gmail account (not lawguy14 or hotty100). Learn how to use google calendar–if you haven’t been much of a planner until now, this is a good time to start getting in the habit of planning your days/weeks. Here’s a good video to learn some tips and tricks.
    • Create a Linked In profile.
    • Update your resume.
    • Subscribe to free online news and legal resources such as the New York Times and the National Law Journal to get into the practice of keeping up to date on legal issues.
  • Follow up with your professors/recommenders. Here’s the thing: You are going to continue to need recommendations for scholarships and for applying to jobs at the end of 1L year and beyond. Plus, it is simply good practice to begin developing long term connections.  At minimum you should:
    • Send a thank you note to your law school recommenders and let them know where you’ve decided to attend law school.
    • Provide your gmail or other non-Illinois email so that they can stay in touch with you after you graduate.
    • Ask if you can connect with them on LinkedIn.
    • Extra credit for delivering an inexpensive token gift such as a coffee gift card or chocolates. You don’t have to spend a lot of money–and shouldn’t–to express your appreciation.
  • Network. Ask lawyers you or your parents know if you can take them to coffee and learn about their practice area. Use your networking skills and begin reaching out to any contacts in industries that interest you. Remember, everyone needs a lawyer eventually, and most people know or have hired a lawyer. Plus lawyers know lots of other lawyers and can introduce or recommend you. You can already start thinking about what kind of 1L summer job you’d like and build the network for that.
  • Create a Google Doc to help with your bar exam application. List every address you’ve ever had, every landlord you’ve ever had, and every speeding and parking ticket you’ve ever received. Get all the records you can for these and for any academic or disciplinary action against you during your undergraduate years. You’ll be applying during your 2L or 3L year to sit for the bar in your chosen state and you will not remember these old details! If you’d like to know what details you’ll be obligated to report on your Illinois Character & Fitness application, visit the Illinois Board of Admission to the Bar application here–be sure to click on the drop down menu to see all the questions in Sections A through J. Click here to explore other states’ bar application requirements.

Financial considerations

  • Apply for scholarships this summer! We posted a Scholarships Spreadsheet over on Compass listing over 200 scholarships for incoming law students (and many which are available to undergrads also).
  • Most federal loans will not be disbursed until AFTER classes begin, so you will need to pay security deposits and the first month of rent as well as buy books and necessary items (below) all before getting your loans. Save up this summer!
  • Buy some important items.
    • You will need a suit and dress shoes the very first week of class.
    • You should also bring at least 3 business casual outfits that you can wear to networking events.
    • You may need a new or upgraded laptop–check with your law school to see what technology they recommend and what is compatible with their IT systems. Your law school may also offer discounts. A printer is very helpful but you should speak to your roommate(s) to see if they have one before purchasing.
  • Make a budget. Each law school is required to provide a budget in your financial aid package, or you can find it online. You are not required to take the full loan amount; remember that your loans start accruing interest from Day 1 so any amount you do not borrow will save you the interest too. Sit down and carefully consider your living expenses so you can budget accordingly. Remember that your loan disbursement is only designed to pay for 9 months of living expenses, and it is not designed to cover elements like car payments, credit card debt, or daycare. 

Personal details

  • Make living arrangements. Whether you are living in an apartment, with parents, or staying in on-campus housing, you should be figuring out where you will live as soon as possible. Additionally, you should be trying to locate a roommate if you plan on renting an apartment with someone else. Join social media groups for your law school class or speak directly with your school to see if they have a roommate matching system.
  • Take care of anything and everything in your personal life that you can. Get your car serviced, change your cell phone plan, go to the dentist, book necessary travel arrangements, open a bank account in your new city…do anything that you can take care of now. You will not want to spend precious free time on these things later.
  • Go to the doctor and update your vaccinations–law schools will require it. Start or maintain good exercise and eating habits–it’s easier to maintain these than to start them during the semester!
  • Embrace starting over. You have been given the gift of a clean slate, so use it wisely. Don’t start law school by being the person who brags about their big scholarship/LSAT score/undergrad accomplishments. Conversely, don’t be intimidated by people in your class with a higher LSAT score/scholarship–frequently the people who will end up at the top of the law school class are not who you would have predicted. You have made it here, you deserve to be here, now embrace the opportunity to start with a clean slate!
  • Finally, WORK HARD from Day 1! 1L grades and class rank are VERY important and will determine things like: whether you can write for a law journal, whether you can participate in moot court, and whether you can interview with law firms before your 2L year in On Campus Interviews (OCI). Start developing a consistent study schedule and the discipline to stick to it. 1L year is not the time to sit back and coast while you adjust to a new life. Remember that law school classes are curved, so by design, everyone will NOT get an A. It is critical not to fall behind on your coursework during the first semester.


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Early Bird Blog for Fall Applicants: Three Tasks to Do Now and This Summer

Fall Law School Applicants – Now is the time to get organized and start preparing your applications for the fall.

Here are three tasks for fall applicants to complete over the summer.

First, request your letters of recommendation NOW.

  1. Who should you ask to submit a LOR on your behalf?
    1. Your letters should be written by professors or supervisors who are both in a position to evaluate your work and capable of expressing enthusiasm about your relevant talents and abilities.
  2. What is the best way to approach a possible letter writer?
    1. Make an appointment with your recommender to discuss your request. Explain your interest in law school and provide helpful information to assist the writer.
    2. This might include a copy of your transcript, a personal résumé that lists academic distinctions and accomplishments, and a copy of your personal statement or an explanation of why you want to attend law school.
    3. You may also wish to provide your grade point average and your LSAT score. If you are unsure as to what the writer needs, ask him or her.
  3. What do I do if I am graduating and planning to apply to law school in a year or two?
    1. Stay in touch with people whom you think would be able to submit a strong LOR on your behalf.
    2. Several of the law schools that require applicants to submit LORs prefer to have at least one of those letters come from faculty, even if you are not coming straight from undergrad to law school.
  4. How does the recommender submit the LOR?
    1. The process is handled through the applicant’s Credential Assembly Service (CAS) account which is set up via the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) website.
    2. Every law school applicant is required to apply to law school through their CAS account. Click on this link to learn more the LOR process.
    3. You can also check out our Compass page for a very helpful handout on this topic.

Second, draft your personal statement.

  1. What is a personal statement?
    1. The personal statement is a 2- to 3-page essay that, when done well, introduces who you are and what unique qualities you bring to the institution while also highlighting your strengths and demonstrating strong writing skills.
  2. Check out Pre-Law Advising Service’s Personal Statement Do’s and Don’ts.
  3. Have someone else take a second look at your personal statement.
    1. Have someone else like a family member, professor, or friend review your personal statement or set up an appointment with one of the Pre-Law Advising Services advisors by calling the PLAS Office at 333-9669.

Third, update your resume.

  1. Pay attention to length.
    1. Some law schools have a strict 1-page limit, while others are flexible. Check the requirements indicated on the application or the school’s website to determine the appropriate length.
  2. Consider the two Rs: recent and relevant.
    1. Ideally, each item on your résumé should be both, but at minimum each item should be recent or highly relevant.
  3. Ask us to review your résumé.
    1. The same process for personal statement reviews applies; please make an appointment by calling 217-333-9669 and email us your résumé 2 business days prior to the appointment. We’ll review it and be prepared to discuss it with you at the appointment time.
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LSAT Preparation: Some Thoughts from a UIUC Alum

Today’s guest blogger is Cary Shepherd, a graduate of the UIUC College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, where he studied History.  Cary received a 171 on the LSAT, which is the 98th percentile (scores range from 120-180).  After taking the LSAT, Cary became an LSAT tutor, working with students at UIUC and in Chicago. Cary is currently in his second year at the University of Chicago Law School.

To read an extended version of this article, please visit the “LSAT Preparation” tab on the UIUC Prelaw Compass page. The Compass version contains important details about the preparation process, and links to LSAT studying materials.


If you choose to attend law school, taking the LSAT will likely be one of the most important events of your career. Much like marriage, this pivotal event is not guaranteed to change your life for the better. Roughly 50% of marriages nationwide end in divorce; roughly 40% of law school graduates fail to find long-term jobs as attorneys. But there is good news. If being an attorney is the job for you, it is possible to improve drastically on the LSAT, and a great LSAT score will help to get you into a great school, maybe with a great scholarship! That said, doing well on the LSAT is no easy task. This article will provide you with the basic steps to success on the test.

First things first – for the best results, you need to spend at least six months studying for this test. This next part is important: it is not possible to cram for the LSAT.  Even if you study 40 hours a week, it takes time to absorb what you are learning. Success requires that you study for two hours per day, six days per week, for at least six months. I’ve tutored numerous law school candidates, and the ones who work hard generally improve an average of 1.5-2 points per month.

During those two hours a day, your studying is going to be divided among an assortment of tasks at the beginning stages, and gradually narrow down to a more simplified set of responsibilities. Here’s a look at the fundamental steps:

  1. Purchase and take an LSAT preptest that is no older than 2012. You need to do this at the earliest possible stage so you know your base-level performance. This will help you to focus your study efforts, and it will allow you to gauge how long it will take for you to reach your target score. It also allows you to better understand the advice given in your preparation guides.
  2. Purchase and carefully read a high-quality LSAT preparation book. Then reread it. Now again. If you purchase books divided into the three section types, start with the logical reasoning, then read the logic games, and finally the reading comprehension guide. You can read them all simultaneously, but if you start reading them one at a time, do it in that order.
  3. After you have been reading your study guides for about two weeks, it is time for you to start taking an LSAT preptest on a weekly basis. Carve out a time of the week that you always have free and take a four-section preptest. Make sure to use a digital proctor, a wooden pencil, an analog watch, and never give yourself extra time or extra breaks. When you finish the test, take a break and then correct your exam.
  4. Record your performance. Create a spreadsheet and input the date you took the preptest, the preptest number, your score, and how you performed on each section. This will allow you to track your progress and focus your efforts on the areas that need improvement.
  5. Once you have grasped the fundamentals of the sections types, you should start taking individual sections under real test conditions daily (i.e. take one 35-minute section each day). After you have taken your section, score it and correct the questions you answered incorrectly. Make sure you understand why you were mistaken on your incorrect answers, as if you fail to do this, you will fail to improve.
  6. Once you have reread your LSAT books ad nauseam, you can put them on your shelf for a while. Use this extra time to increase your preptest schedule to twice a week, and spend more time taking individual 35-minute sections. The key to this phase is correcting both your answers as well as your habits. For example, if you find yourself becoming unfocused, note this, and labor to resolve that issue. If your records indicate you are regularly missing “parallel reasoning” questions, reread the chapter on these, and check out what other reputable LSAT guides say on the topic.

A lack of obvious improvement can be demoralizing. Mental health aside, this will make it hard to keep studying for dozens of hours every month if you haven’t seen your score increase in weeks. But if you are studying intently – even if your score doesn’t show it today – you will improve eventually. I’ve gone as long as six weeks without seeing any improvements. When I finally did make that next breakthrough though, it was well worth it and the results were apparent. Good luck, and try to enjoy yourself!

Author’s Note

Please note that there is more than one way to prepare for this test. I’ve had considerable personal success using this approach, and many of my tutoring students have benefited from these practices as well. Additionally, these points only scratch the surface of the best preparation methods. Many students benefit from additional practices ranging from meditation to reading National Geographic.

If you have any questions, or if you are interested in tutoring services, please feel free to email me at I offer a free introductory tutoring session, and I am always happy to hear from UIUC students.



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Mark Your Calendars – Week of April 17

PLAS Programs

Applying to Law School: A Workshop for Fall Applicants – TODAY, April 17, 4-5pm, Room 514 IUB

This workshop is designed for students who plan to apply to law school this fall. We will provide an overview of the application process, including: Understanding the Credential Assembly Service, getting recommendations, creating an application strategy, researching law schools, budgeting for the application process, suggested resources to use, LSAT considerations, and more. Time for Q&A will be available. This workshop does not cover writing the personal statement, which is covered in the separate workshop on Perfecting the Personal Statement and Resume for Law School.  

Perfecting Your Personal Statement and Resume: A Workshop for Fall Applicants – NEXT Tuesday, April 25, 4-5pm, Room 514 IUB

Planning to apply to law school this fall? This summer is a great time to focus on crafting the perfect personal statement and resume, which are very important elements of the application process. This workshop will provide an overview of the personal statement and resume required for law school applications, plus it will cover: Brainstorming topics, how to begin, creating a timeline, how to make the resume and personal statement complement each other, and we will provide a four step plan to approach crafting these critical documents. Please register so that we can ensure enough seating and materials for everyone.

Campus Opportunities

The Office of Volunteer Programs is hiring PAID undergraduate office staff positions School year student employees work regular office hours as well as special events that occur in the mornings, evenings, and on weekends. Applicants must be enrolled in Fall 2017 classes at the start of employment. Starting pay rate is $8.25/hr. To apply: please complete an application at the Illini Union Employment website, and after you have filled out the form, send a cover letter that includes your interest in the position along how you will contribute to the success of the office; a resume; phone and email contact information for two references; and availability for a potential 30-minute phone/Skype/in-person interview during the next three weeks to John Race, Program Advisor, by email at

Apply to be a Women in Leadership Intern. The YWCA of the University of Illinois is seeking Women in Leadership interns for the 2017-18 school year. Women in Leadership is an intensive, two semester leadership and project management internship. Structured as a group consulting project, the program allows interns to work directly with local human services agencies to learn about the nonprofit sector; identify organizational challenges; and research, propose, and implement solutions. Throughout the year, interns receive training focusing on professional development, leadership skills, and building a working team, all of which are applied to their projects. Interns are guided through this process by mentors drawn from Urbana-Champaign’s excellent professional and graduate student pools. Open to all UIUC students. For more information, please contact Amarin Young at To learn more and apply, visit: Applications are due April 30th.

We hope that you have been keeping up on our blog and Facebook posts about internships and summer pre-law programs.  Time is slipping away – summer will be here before you know it so if you don’t have anything set, now is the time to work on securing something! Another resource you should continue to utilize is our 20 page Internship Newsletter over on our Pre-Law Compass page that we posted in December! (Click here for instructions on how to access our Compass page.) The Internship Newsletter has lots of job and internship listings for spring, summer and long-term opportunities from Champaign to D.C. and beyond.  In addition, you should regularly check iLink to see if summer internships have been posted there.

The Family Resiliency Center is currently accepting applications for the HDFS 494: STRONG Kids undergraduate research course.  The STRONG Kids Research Program provides a unique, team-based, hands-on research experience working with over 450 families with children aged 3 months-4 years. Applications are due THIS FRIDAY, April 21st!  Applications will be reviewed and interviews conducted the last week of April. The link to the application is below.

Students are eligible if they:

  • Will have sophomore, junior, or senior class standing by Fall 2017
  • Are available to work regular hours on an assigned research project for 6-9 hours per week
  • Have two, 3 hour blocks of time each week (including one evening)
  • Are able to attend class every other week on Tuesdays from 4:30-6:00

The purpose of these two-semester year-long supervised research course is to provide students with a first-hand experience working as part of a research team as well as to help them develop a working knowledge of the theory and applications of transdisciplinary approaches to obesity research.

This course is divided into 3 components: Obesity prevention, professional development training, and applied research.

Additional information about this course, as well the application can be found on our website at:

Fulbright Scholarship Information Sessions

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program awards approximately 2,000 full scholarships annually to students for studies, research, or English teaching in any of 140 countries worldwide. The National and International Scholarships Program will provide a comprehensive overview of the grant and include advice from recent Illinois Fulbright recipients. There will be lots of time to get your questions answered and enjoy free pizza. The session is targeted to juniors, seniors, and graduate students who wish to explore Fulbright opportunities and ready materials for the Fulbright Priority Deadline of June 29, 2017 for grants beginning in fall 2018.Interested in pursuing a Fulbright Scholarship?  Here

Fulbright Information Session – Tuesday, April 18, 3:30-5:30 pm, 180 Bevier Hall Sponsor: National and International Scholarships Program, including speakers from the Graduate College Office of External Fellowships and recent Fulbright grantees

Fulbright Informational Webinar for Illinois Alumni and Students Abroad – Thursday, April 20, 12:00-1:00pm CST Sponsor: National and International Scholarships Program

If you are not currently on campus to take advantage of our Fulbright Information Session, join us remotely for this webinar!  The same detailed overview will be provided for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, including: eligibility, grant types, and application advice.  There will also be plenty of time for questions and answers.

Fulbright Personal Statement Workshop – Friday, April 21, 3:30-4:30pm, 514 Illini Union Bookstore Sponsors: National and International Scholarships Program and the Writers Workshop

The two main sections of a Fulbright application consist of 1) an essay describing your Fulbright project and how you will spend your year—Statement of Grant Purpose, and 2) an essay describing why you should be the one to do this project—Personal Statement.

We will dissect the key components Fulbright reviewers are seeking to glean from the personal statement, review and discuss past winning Fulbright personal statements, and assist you in beginning to sketch and portray your own story.

You need not know your desired destination or specific Fulbright project to benefit from this workshop. The session is targeted to juniors, seniors, and beginning graduate students who wish to apply for any type of Fulbright grant and ready materials for the Fulbright Priority Deadline of June 29, 2017 for grants beginning in fall 2018.

The Career Center has posted its spring workshop calendar on their website at:  Now is a great time to update your resume, plan your job search or summer internship, and get to know their office and resources.  Scroll down for information about that and other upcoming workshops.

  • Resume, Cover Letter and LinkedIn Reviews — April 17, 2-4pm, Career Center Resources Center; April 17,7-9pm, Undergrad Library, Consultation Corner. This workshop is offered on several other dates. Click here for more info.
  • Finding and Applying to Federal Government Jobs — April 17, 3-4pm
  • Acing Your Interview — April 17, 4-5pm
  • Peace Corps: General Information Meeting — April 18, 6-7pm

Scholarship Opportunities 

Please check out last Wednesday’s blog post on scholarships.  You can also go directly to our Compass page for a list of over 200 scholarships for undergrads and incoming law students!

NEW–The Abraham Lincoln Marovitz Public Interest Law Scholarship is accepting applications until May 19. This scholarship awards $40,000 over 3 years to an incoming law student attending any Illinois law school who intends to pursue a career in public interest law. Click here for more details and to apply.

The Aspiring Attorney scholarship awards $1,000 towards law school. Application due April 30. Click here to apply.

The Earl Warren Scholarship awards $10,000 to entering law students for each year of law school (totalling $30,000). Applications due May 1. Click here to apply.

The Lawson Law Scholarship provides $2,000 towards tuition for young Christian law students. Applications due April 30. Click here to apply.

The Moses & Rooth Scholarship will award $1,000 to an incoming 1L student. Applications due June 1. Click here to apply.

The O’Connor, Runckel & O’Malley LLP Scholarship will award $1,000 to an incoming law student. Must demonstrate proof of acceptance to law school. Applications due July 15. Click here to apply.

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Taking a Gap Year: Decisions, Timing, and General Advice

The decision to take a gap year is a personal one and the choice is up to you. There are many factors to consider when you are thinking about taking a gap year versus going straight through to law school. Here are some questions and answers commonly associated with taking a gap year.

First, what is a gap year?

A “gap year” is a year (or more) between finishing your undergraduate degree and beginning law school. Students take a gap year for many reasons, such as:

– financial considerations

– retaking the LSAT, and

– to determine whether law school is the correct choice.

Second, if you decide to take a gap year, where should you work?

University of Illinois students have chosen different jobs for their gap year(s). There is not a perfect job to take during your gap year, so do something you enjoy or a job that will provide you with transferable skills. These can include:

  • Project Assistant/Legal Assistant
  • Paralegal
  • Teach for America
  • Peace Corps
  • Accounting/Finance
  • Engineering
  • Campaign work/politics
  • Nonprofit work
  • Anything you want!

Third, if you decide to take a gap year, what should you do before your graduate?

– Find a professor that you are willing to keep in contact with for a letter of recommendation. Ideally, you want to have a recent letter, so keeping in contact with a professor during your time off is the best choice. When asking your professor for a letter of recommendation – provide information about how you did in their class, work from that class you completed, and give the recommender enough time to write a letter.

– Try to take the LSAT! It is much easier to take the LSAT while you are in school than when you are working. Your LSAT score is good for 5 years.

– Set up a CAS (Credential Assembly Service) account and make sure to submit your official transcripts from the University and have them on file with the LSAC.

– Start networking early! Don’t be afraid to reach out to lawyers/others in the legal sector early on, even as an undergrad. A diverse and broad network will help you later on in your legal career and can provide for opportunities for mentorship.

Fourth, what skills should you focus on during your time off that will be helpful in law school?

  • Attention to detail
    • proofreading, if possible
  • Setting professional and personal goals and deadlines
  • Maintaining a good work ethic
    • showing up on on time
    • being accountable for your work product
  • Working with different personalities and understanding your audience
  • Networking

Also, keep in contact with Pre-Law Advising Services. We happy to make appointments with alumni as well as current students. Call 217-333-9669 to schedule an appointment with us.

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