Tips on Building Relationships with Law School Admissions Offices

ICYMI: Recently Nicole Vilches, Assistant Dean for Admissions at IIT-Chicago Kent College of Law visited to share her insight about how to effectively build relationships with law school admissions office professionals. Here are some highlights and tips she shared.

Why should you make an effort to build these relationships?
For prospective students–You can gain more insight into an institution and enhance your chances of admission.
For admitted students–You can develop your networking skills and begin to build your legal reputation.

Making a good impression at a law fair

  • Dress well–casual but neat is fine at a fair. Business casual is a good bet for most events.
  • Make eye contact and use a firm handshake.
  • Bring specific questions–beyond what you could easily get from a website. (For example, instead of asking for median LSAT scores, ask about a clinic or externship offered by the school.)
  • Don’t approach representatives as salespeople or challenge them to “tell me why I should attend” their school. They want to share information and help you make the right choice.

Tips for law school open houses or school visits

  • Realize that everyone you interact with–from the receptionist to the dean of the law school–can influence the decision of whether to admit you.
  • It’s okay to bring parents, but don’t let them dominate the conversation. It’s your career–you should be the one asking questions and engaging with the law school community.
  • Don’t overindulge (in alcohol) at admitted student events. View it as a business function rather than a happy hour.
  • Pay attention to titles and roles so that you can ask appropriate questions in a respectful way. (Don’t ask the dean about campus parking–ask him/her about the school’s employment outcomes or recently developed programs.)
  • Don’t ask very personal questions in a public forum. Ask for a private conversation or appointment.

Correspondence 

  • Create an appropriate email address (meaning one that is not offensive or unprofessional) and check it regularly.
  • Take care to edit all of your written correspondence the same way you would edit your personal statement. Remember that you are still making an impression and typos or overly casual emails will be remembered.
  • Proofread. Make sure to submit final versions of all of your documents rather than drafts.

Linked In Etiquette

  • Don’t send Linked In requests to admissions professionals of schools where you were denied admission. This is very awkward for them.
  • Realize that many professionals only accept Linked In requests from people they know. Don’t be offended if your request is not accepted.
  • Don’t request admission status or information from admissions office professionals via Linked In.

Our thanks to Dean Vilches for sharing her insight during her visit. For more information about law school admissions, visit her website at http://ask.kentlaw.iit.edu/.

Twitter Linkedin Digg Delicious Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Posterous Email

Best Financial Aid Resources for Law School

It’s that time of year again! Applicants have gotten their acceptances and thoughts now turn to “how will I pay for this?” Great financial aid resources are out there, and we’ve done the work of finding them for you. Here is our Best Financial Aid Resources roundup.

If you’re trying to understand how law school financial aid works:

If you’re entering law school this fall–even if you don’t know where just yet:

  • It all starts with filling out your FAFSA. Grab your W-2s if you worked last year, and submit this as soon as possible. Priority deadline is March 15 for many schools. https://fafsa.ed.gov/ If you don’t know where you’re going yet, just list each law school that you might attend or each one that has admitted you.
  • It’s time to check your credit report! Many law students will receive both federal (government-backed) loans and private (lender) loans, and private lenders will base your interest rate on your credit score. Check your credit report and correct any errors that may exist BEFORE your lenders see it. Go to the only government-provided free credit report: https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action
  • Make sure to visit the financial aid websites of all the law schools where you’ve been admitted. There you will find scholarships specific to the school–and many have deadlines NOW, before you may even have committed. Go ahead and apply–it is always better to turn down a scholarship than not to apply for it at all because you haven’t decided where to attend law school yet!
  • Spend some time searching for other scholarships offered by the American Bar Association or local bar associations or other legal organizations. (John Marshall Law School provides an excellent scholarship listing here.) Searching for “your county” and “bar association” is a good start too.

 

 

 

 

 

Twitter Linkedin Digg Delicious Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Posterous Email

I decided on a law school. What now? A checklist.

Many Illini have already gotten their admissions offers and decided on a law school. Congratulations! So…now what?

Post-decision Checklist
1. Follow instructions from the school to tell them you’re accepting their offer. Usually this is done online, followed by making a seat deposit payment.

2. After you’ve accepted Law School A’s offer of admission, contact the other schools to let them know that you’ve made your decision. They are waiting on you to decline your offer before they can extend offers to more applicants. Either follow their online instructions for declining admission or send them an email with your decision. This can be brief: Thanks very much for your offer of admission, but I have chosen to attend Law School A. Best wishes, Me.

3. Complete your FAFSA and any other scholarship materials that Law School A requests.

4. Join your law school’s incoming class Facebook or Google group. Ask the admissions office for leads on new roommates or information on housing. Many law schools will offer a guide on housing options and roommate matches.

5. Make sure to submit all seat deposits on time. Usually there are 2 seat deposits, and failing to pay either one by the deadlines given will not secure your law school seat.

6. Explore all of your housing options. Think carefully about what you need from housing: Where will you study? If you plan to study at home, you must consider roommate interruptions and how quiet you will need it. If you plan to study at school, you will want to consider proximity to school and how much time you want to spend commuting.

7. Follow up with the financial aid office. Make sure you understand your financial aid offer. Is your scholarship contingent on maintaining a GPA? Is it renewable? How and when will it be disbursed? Remember: You will need to make a rent deposit and buy books before your financial aid will be disbursed. Budget accordingly.

8. Send a final UIUC transcript after you’ve graduated to your law school.

 

Twitter Linkedin Digg Delicious Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Posterous Email

Top 5 Professionalism Tips for Law School Applicants

As you begin the law school application process, you now have increased opportunities to interact with law school professionals. This can be a great way to make a strong impression on the people who will be deciding whether to admit you and award you precious scholarship dollars. It can also mean more opportunities to make those same people doubt whether you’re ready to enter the profession! Here are 5 simple and effective ways to make sure you maximize your chances to make a great impression.

1. Clean up your online image. Many law schools we know will search publicly available Facebook, Twitter, and other online records. Sometimes a law school rep will be interested in an item on your resume and will look for more information online. It is also not uncommon to check up on a candidate before offering a significant scholarship. Make sure your online image is clean–not only of profanity and alcohol, the usual suspects, but also consider whether your image looks professional. Make sure that your online presence doesn’t raise any questions about your judgment.

2. Take care to communicate professionally throughout the entire application process. It seems that applicants know this prior to being admitted. Once admitted, though, those same people sometimes think it is now acceptable to make scholarship demands, call relentlessly, and even insult the school in an effort to get more scholarship dollars. So many law school deans have told me stories of a once-polished applicant acting like a completely different person after being admitted. Make sure that you are taking care to communicate professionally throughout the entire application process. This includes responding in a timely way to any requests from the law school, such as whether you want to be included on their wait list.

3. Dress carefully for visits.  Like the old adage “dress for the job you want rather than the job you have”, your look should demonstrate that you know that law school is not like undergrad. (There is a reason it is called “professional school.”) Although law students at some schools dress casually (jeans, t-shirts, button down shirts, sandals, etc.), when you visit, you want to make a good impression. Business casual is a good compromise between not being overdressed (in a full 3 piece suit, say) or under dressed (flip flops and shorts are not the look you’re going for). A button down shirt or sweater and non-jean pants are always appropriate for a law school visit, or a nice blouse and pants or skirt of appropriate length for ladies. For a good guide to appropriate dress in any situation, visit this website.

4. Shake hands, look people in the eye, and practice your telephone skills. It’s disappointing how many people have a limp dog handshake or avoid looking directly at the person with whom they are speaking. Similarly, an overly casual, rambling, or vague voice mail message isn’t going to help convey your professionalism. (Hint: Practice what you want to say and make sure to include the basics: clearly enunciated name, telephone number, why you are calling.) It’s the absence of these small but important behaviors that really gets noticed. It might feel a bit awkward being so formal at first, but these are expected courtesies in a professional (not undergrad) setting.

5. Consider the law school’s perspective. The essence of etiquette is to consider the other person’s side. How might a law school interpret this email/phone call? What might they consider a reasonable time frame for a response? What information can you provide that might make this conversation flow more smoothly? Are you requesting rather than demanding action? Always be as polite and as prepared as possible when interacting with a law school.

Do these things really matter? Yes, yes, yes. We know LOTS of applicants who were admitted on the spot during a law school visit, or who were admitted from a wait list because they made a strong, professional impression. Remember that law schools still have a lot of discretion to decide who they want to admit and who to give their precious scholarship money to, so applicants should maximize every opportunity to interact professionally.

Twitter Linkedin Digg Delicious Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Posterous Email

So you’ve selected a school . . . NOW WHAT!?

Congratulations!  Many Pre-Law students have evaluated their law school offers and have selected the law school where they will start in the fall!  If this is you, you are probably enjoying checking off your last major responsibilities as an undergraduate!  Here is a practical checklist of the actions you should take this summer!

1.  Professionally let other schools know that you have made your selection.  Follow the Email Etiquette advice from our recent blog post!

2.  Start looking for housing / a roommate.  Usually the school you’ve selected will provide a resource for you in completing this task.  Consider the major financial benefits of having a roommate.

3.  Join the facebook group of your class – or ask the admissions office what other media groups exist where you’ll see some social opportunities once students arrive to the area.

4.  Check your new email account.  Decide whether you want to connect the new account to your personal email or maintain an entirely separate account.  Get in the habit of checking the account.

5.  Prepare your finances.  Assure you have the money to buy books, pay a security deposit and your first month’s rent, and any moving expenses BEFORE the first loan disbursement – which is usually well after these expenses have occurred.

6.  Send your undergraduate final transcript to your new law school.

Twitter Linkedin Digg Delicious Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Posterous Email

Email Etiquette — “Hey” Doesn’t Cut It!

Email etiquette is a critical skill whether you are communicating with law school admissions officers, potential employers, professors or your pre-law advisors! Remember: these contacts are formal and therefore VERY different from emails sent to friends or family members. A lack of professionalism and/or respect can create very negative impressions, which then likely lead to unhappy admissions or employment outcomes.  Want to avoid common email pitfalls? Read on for some practical and easy tips.

1. Salutation: DO NOT begin your email with “Hey” or “Joe”.  You should ALWAYS err on the side of being more formal: “Dear Dean Jones” or “Dear Ms. Smith.”  First names or casual openings are for friends and family only. NEVER address individuals you encounter in a professional setting by their first names until you have been invited to do so!

2. Subject Line:  Never leave this blank.  Instead write a brief but accurate description of the content of the email.  Examples: “Application Status Inquiry” or “Interview Follow Up.”

3. Organization:  Collect your thoughts (what are you trying to say?) and then organize your email into an introduction, body and closing.  The introduction states your reason for contacting the person.  The body details the information you are trying to convey.  The closing wraps up your email, including whether you will be contacting them in the future or if you would like them to contact you.

4. Proofread:  Nothing leaves a bad impression like a careless typo or typos.  Draft your email and reread it, checking it several times for any spelling or grammatical errors.

5. Manners:  Say “please,” “thank you,” and sign your emails with a courteous sign off, such as “sincerely” or “best.”  Remember: anything you put in writing is there forever.  Do you want to be remembered as the polite, interested candidate or the clueless jerk?!

For more info on these suggestions and for other tips about composing professional emails, read “10 Professional Email Tips” by Elizabeth Hoyt, March 10, 2014, at fastweb.com.

http://www.fastweb.com/career-planning/articles/4197-10-professional-email-tips?utm_source=nlet&utm_content=fw_c1_20140326.

Twitter Linkedin Digg Delicious Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Posterous Email

What to do if you are waiting, wait listed, or seeking more aid

We’re hearing from a lot of students who have submitted their applications and now find themselves either waiting to hear back or trying to negotiate financial aid packages. Here are some helpful tips and pointers from the Pre-Law Advisors and from Dean Burns at DePaul Law to help you position yourself in the best manner for admission and aid!

If you’re still waiting for an admission decision…
You are NOT alone! Many students tell us they have been waiting weeks or months. What is going on? It could mean:

  • The school is essentially “wait listing” you, but not calling it that, by waiting to respond to you until they see the rest of the applicant pool.
  • The admissions office is understaffed or inundated with applications.
  • You applied so late in the cycle that a backlog of applications must be reviewed before yours.

What can you do?

  • IF it has been at least 4-6 weeks or whatever time frame the school has indicated, reach out and gently inquire about anticipated time frames for a decision.
  • Follow the law school on Twitter; many deans have taken to updating applicants about expected decisions there.
  • Don’t: Complain about their slowness or criticize the school’s process, tell them you’ve already heard back from everyone else or from “better” schools, give the school a deadline. Sometimes patience is key.

If you’ve been waitlisted…Understand what this means: that you are an admissible candidate but the school needs to hit its institutional goals before they can admit you. Institutional goals could be LSAT/GPA related but could also be related to balancing the class with regard to gender, diversity, in state/out of state, age, etc. Very few schools can accurately predict how many applicants–and with what qualities–they will be pulling from a wait list. When the school tells you they don’t know, it is very likely true.

What can you do?

  • Follow the school’s directions carefully. Some law schools will ask you to confirm that you want to be on their wait list–if you don’t do so, you will not be considered.
  • Update your application by sending an updated resume, a new recommendation, or a letter or email expressing continued interest in that school.
  • Stay in touch–no more than once every week or two–to demonstrate your interest in the school. IF the school is your top choice, then say so.
  • Continue to make other plans. No one should proceed by “expecting” to be pulled from a wait list…even if this does happen, it can be anytime up to the day classes begin. You need to start making other plans if you haven’t heard by April or so.

If you are seeking more financial aid…
Understand that a law school must offer many more admissions and scholarships than they can actually sustain to achieve the class they want. (For example, they may need to admit 3-4 people to fill every one seat in the class.) This means that at this point in the cycle, a law school is waiting to see how many people accept the offers that have been extended.

What can you do if you want to seek more aid?

  • Start by closely examining your aid offers. Are they for one year or multiple years? Are they contingent on maintaining a certain GPA? How much is the admission and cost of living at each school? Does the school “freeze” its tuition, or should you expect it to rise every year? Make sure you understand your out of pocket expenditures for each offer before you start making comparisons.
  • Call or email the school and politely inquire whether additional aid opportunities exist. Consider including relevant information about your financial status that is not apparent from your application. Examples: Indicate if you are servicing a large debt from undergrad, or if you are supporting family members.
  • It is fine to share your other offers with a school, but know that schools may not consider your other offers to be from comparable institutions.
  • Don’t: Give ultimatums or threats, and don’t expect a law school to “match” another institution outright. Sometimes a law school truly does not have aid left to give, even if they think you are a great candidate.

Financial aid at the law school level is complex, and we’ve developed a special workshop to help! Please join us for Financing Law School on Mar. 31 at 5:00 in the Law Building. Click here for more info.

And, as always, feel free to make an appointment to discuss your offers and next steps with a Pre-Law Advisor! Call 333-9669 to set up an appointment.

 

 

Twitter Linkedin Digg Delicious Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Posterous Email

After the LSAT: What do I do now?

You did it! The LSAT is over! Take a deep breath.

Right about now, most people want to take the next few weeks off before thinking about their applications. Smart applicants will really maximize these next few weeks by focusing on the remaining elements of their application so that they can get those applications out early, qualifying them for the most aid.

Now it’s time to dive in to the rest of your applications. What’s your time frame for completing them? A good time frame to submit your applications is anytime between Halloween and Thanksgiving. But you will need to consider some of these elements:

Deciding whether and where you’re going to apply early decision. You can only apply to one school through a binding early decision program. It’s time to consider whether you want to choose this option, in which case your early decision application will be due (depending on the school) on November 1, November 15, or December 1–in any case, a deadline you need to know. Applicants should carefully consider this option. In the case of binding early decision programs, you need to decide: how committed are you to this school? How important is aid to you? Would you go there even if you had to pay full price? Would you be willing to withdraw all of your other applications if X school admitted you? That is the level of commitment that binding early decision requires. Take some time to research and consider this big decision.

Letters of recommendation. We’ve been talking about these for ages. Hopefully, you’ve already got your letter writers lined up. If not, RUN, don’t walk, to your recommenders and get them lined up. You should expect at least 6-8 weeks for your recommender to write the letter, submit it, and for the LSAC to process it. That means if you want to apply by November 15, you need to get your recommendations lined up NOW!

Personal statement. Yep, it’s time to take that energy and time you were focusing on the LSAT and devote it to your personal statement. In addition to our personal statement workshops (which you can find on our event calendar here), we also have some tips and suggestions for the personal statement on our website. Spend some time thinking about your values, your goals, and what makes you stand out from the crowd. Then write a draft, set it aside for a few days, and revisit it. Don’t worry if you don’t love the first draft–no one does. Start now so that you can spend 3-4 weeks thinking, writing, and editing. When you are ready for some feedback, you can make an appointment for a Pre-Law Advisor to review your personal statement and discuss it with you. (Call 333-9669 to set up a personal statement review appointment. Please email us your statement and resume two business days prior to your appointment so that we have time to review them.)

Transcripts. You’ll want to order a transcript from each undergraduate institution you attended. Visit the LSAC here, http://www.lsac.org/jd/applying-to-law-school/cas/requesting-transcripts, for more information on the transcript ordering process.

Take a look at our earlier post called “The Application Process: LSAC Tips”, http://publish.illinois.edu/prelawadvising/2013/09/18/the-application-process-lsac-tips/, for even more application details.

 

Twitter Linkedin Digg Delicious Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Posterous Email

Are you ruining your chances of getting a great letter of recommendation?

“Regardless of what stage of the [law school] application process you are at, if you haven’t started to think about who you will want to write your letters of recommendation – you’re late.”

There is an abundance of fantastic guidance on getting great letters of recommendation for the law school application process.  Anna Ivey, the former Dean of Admissions at the University of Chicago Law School, has given specific instruction on how to avoid the “generic” letters that most frequently reach the admissions committees.  You can find some of her smart and practical advice here, and also on her website found here.

But in thinking of putting together a quick list to serve as a reminder for the strategies to get letters of recommendation that mean something and stand out, the article that I’ve stolen the title from for this very post stood out above the rest.  Sometimes when things are written in the positive it is too easy to believe that some watered-down version of what we are doing is actually meeting a bare minimum.  But this article smacks you across the face for doing five, likely very common, things.  It is written towards pre-med students, and if there weren’t more effective uses of time I would cut and paste and replace all those with pre-law, because it is so relevant.  Check out this article (linked above), and be certain that you aren’t ruining your chances of securing what should be your first priority after LSAT and GPA in the admissions scheme.

5 Easy Ways Students Ruin Their Chances at Great Letters of Recommendation:

1.  CHOOSE THE WRONG PEOPLE TO WRITE YOUR LETTERS

2.  PERFORM POORLY IN CLASS OR AT WORK

3.  TALK ABOUT EVERYTHING BUT WANTING TO BECOME A [LAWYER]

4.  ALLOW FOR ONLY A LITTLE BIT OF TIME TO WRITE YOUR LETTERS

5.  HOLD BACK ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ABOUT YOURSELF

Wherever you are on your timeline for applying to law school, be certain you are not falling into these common traps that will ruin your chance of securing a strong letter of recommendation.

Twitter Linkedin Digg Delicious Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Posterous Email

Professionally Prioritizing Your Goals

As a third year law student, I should not be surprised that life hasn’t slowed down as I enter the last year of school.  But even with a job offer and the confidence that provides for post-graduation, I still found myself struggling to analyze what opportunities and responsibilities I could feasilby manage this year while continuing to strive for success and the ability to make what I felt was a meaningful difference in my various communities.

After an all-day orientation for an incredible clinic at the law school, I spent the first weekend back on campus asking myself if I could realistically commit myself to these clients seeking legal help, and I found myself feeling bad when I realized that the answer was “no”.  [If you don’t know what clinics are – check out your law schools of interest and see what they offer in terms of these practical classes that typically serve under-represented clients].  So I decided to carry out my “drop” from the course in the most professional way possible.  I sent a brief email to my specific supervisor and the director, explaining my decision and offering my services as a consultant for other law students that may find themselves in the particular area I have extensive knowledge that might of use towards serving these clients.  The next morning I stopped in the office to thank them for the opportunity and take care of any necessary paperwork before the drop deadline passed (there was none – but it is a good “line” in terms of having a task to get you into the office). 

Those steps may sound intuitive or even too simple to type out into text, but it would have been easy just to go onto the university web app and drop the course without taking these steps.  Being honest from the beginning and then professionally carrying out the tasks not only continued to foster the type of professional career that I’d like to always be striving towards, but it also helped me lose the “guilt” of letting go of an opportunity that would have been too much in the mix of all the other activities I have this semester.

I would be lying if I denied that I have also carried out these rather mundane tasks without the appropriate degree of professionalism.  Just recently I let a project run over the deadline and experienced the guilt of delaying before letting my coordinating professor know, when in the end she was incredibly graceful, respectful, and understanding – and everything worked itself out.  When you hold yourself out as consistently professional, opportunities will present themselves, and you will earn a reputation that makes you stand out above the rest.  Challenge yourself to integrate an additional “professional habit” this week – maybe in your attire, or in the way you send emails, or arriving to each class 5-10 minutes early.  If you’d like to share your goal or any interesting outcomes, email us at uiucprelaw@gmail.com.

If you are weighing all the activities on your plate right now, you might like these practical tips from Robert Pozen, a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School whose accomplishments include a partnership at the Washington, D.C. firm of Caplin & Drysdale:  www.entrepreneur.com/article/224675

 

Twitter Linkedin Digg Delicious Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Posterous Email