Taking a “Gap Year”

A “gap year” is a year (or more) between finishing your undergraduate degree and beginning law school. Typically, students take a gap year for one of a few reasons: financial considerations, retaking the LSAT, or determining whether law school is the correct choice. Beginning law school is a huge commitment so it is understandable that a student may just want some time off as well.

Whatever your reason is for considering taking a gap year, you should not worry that you will be left behind or that you will be the oldest person in school if and when you decide to return. The average age of 1Ls has been increasing across the board. Many schools look at work experience as an asset to an application. The average age of 1Ls at Northwestern Law School is 25. The Harvard Crimson recently wrote an article about Harvard Law School’s preference for students who have gained real world experience after college. Taking a gap year may soon be the new normal.

Some students are worried that taking a gap year will put them at a disadvantage academically. As if taking some time off may inhibit their ability to retain information or to study like they had in the past. This fear is overblown. Working actually makes studying more manageable. Many students who have worked before law school find that the work is not as demanding because they know how to manage their time more effectively.

Obviously, taking a gap year is not for everyone. Students who go straight through have also been very successful. No approach is better, but one may a better fit for some individuals. Transfer students, for example, may be stressed about trying to send in applications after only a couple of semesters under their belts at their new school. Perhaps a gap year would be a great way to spread the work out over a more manageable period of time. For more information on navigating the application cycle for transfer students, check out our video on the topic.

If you think taking a gap year may be right for you, please join us this coming Tuesday, April 12 in 1092 Lincoln Hall from 4:00 – 5:00 pm for “Making the Most of Your Gap Year (or Two).” We will have a current 3L and a 2014 graduate of the College of Law, who each worked 3+ years before attending law school, speaking about the advantages and disadvantages of taking a gap year. Bring your questions and we look forward to seeing you there!

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Negotiating Scholarships Roundup

Negotiating law school scholarships has become quite common in the last few years. While many students have successfully bargained for additional scholarship dollars, the process of negotiating can be risky and stressful. On February 24, PLAS welcomed two Deans of Admission–Rebecca Ray from the University of Illinois College of Law and Ann Perry from University of Chicago Law School– who shared their insights into negotiating scholarships with law schools. For those of you who were unable to attend due to the blizzard, here are some of the questions they addressed.

1. Under what circumstances should students negotiate scholarships?

  • Generally speaking, it is fine to contact schools about your scholarship as long as they do not expressly indicate that they will not reconsider your scholarship.
  • Most law schools are open to renegotiating/reconsidering scholarships under certain circumstances.  Specifically, it is appropriate to request reconsideration of your scholarship if you really want to attend that law school but are facing a financial hurdle that might prohibit you matriculating there.
  • Both deans discouraged the use of scholarship reconsideration solely to leverage offers at other law schools.

2. How can students successfully engage with law schools?

  • Follow the instructions provided by the schools that outline the process and procedure for reconsideration of scholarship offers.  It the school requests a separate email, write the email.  If the school requires the submission of a special form, complete and submit it.  If the school would prefer you call them, then make the phone call.
    • Note – if a school specifically states it will not reconsider scholarship offers then respect that and do not contact the school to attempt to negotiate.
    • Also – some schools, like the University of Chicago Law School, set aside a specific time frame (mid-late April) for renegotiation.  As such, pestering them for a final decision before their designated time for reviewing scholarships is not a good strategy.
  • Be professional, courteous and prepared. Before you submit anything or make a phone call, consider your demeanor and the quality of your submission.  Professionalism is key!
  • Both deans indicated that they were not persuaded simply by arguments that they “should match” another school’s scholarship offer.
  • Manage your expectations — full tuition scholarships are very rarely awarded so do not expect that result.
  • Both deans cautioned against turning the negotiation into something resembling haggling over a purchase of a used car.
  • Visit the law school.  There is no better way to convey your sincere interest in attending a school than to schedule a visit.  Tip – all admitted students should visit any school they are considering attending before submitting a seat deposit. You never know if the atmosphere of the school is going to match how it seems to fit you “on paper.”

3. What would make a law school deny a request to renegotiate/reconsider a scholarship?

  • Lack of additional funding.  This is important to remember — however much a law school might want to provide you with additional scholarship money, there are limits to their financial resources.
  • Lack of professional behavior by the requesting student.  See number 2, above.

4. Why do law schools ask to see other scholarship offers as part of the negotiation process?

  • Schools typically ask for this to verify the conditions and amounts that the student is claiming she has received.
  • Note — there is nothing wrong with such a request.  This is simply good lawyering by the admissions office.

5. What is a “peer” institution? Why is this relevant?

  • Generally speaking, schools with similar admitted student profiles consider themselves “peer” institutions.
  • A peer institution could be a school with similar GPA and LSAT medians.
  • A peer could also be another law school in the same region or grouping of schools, e.g., Big 10 law schools, Chicago-area law schools.  The definition is subject to interpretation by each law school.
  • This designation is important because most law schools consider scholarship offers from peer institutions to be more relevant in the reconsideration process.

Final Thoughts — Dos and Don’ts for Negotiating Scholarships


  • Follow each school’s directions for scholarship reconsideration
  • Decide what you are able and willing to pay for your education before you ask for reconsideration
  • Conduct yourself professionally by being prepared and courteous
  • Show your interest by visiting the school


  • Ignore specific instructions for contacting the school about scholarships
  • Become demanding and difficult if the school cannot accommodate your request
  • Expect to get a full ride/free legal education – those situations are extremely rare

Still not sure what to do or have specific questions to discuss?  Please contact our office 333-9669 and make an appointment with an advisor.

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Next Steps in the 2015-16 Application Cycle

  • Learn as much as you can about the finances involved in pursuing a legal education. Each law school will have a different cost of attendance so be sure to check out their specific websites for more information. Understand the various costs that you will need to account for such as tuition, books, and housing.
  • If you have not done so already, complete your FAFSA. For information on deadlines and answers to other questions, visit https://fafsa.ed.gov/.
  • Review scholarship offers, weigh your options and take the time to learn how to negotiate with law schools. Join us on Wednesday, February 24 at 5:00 pm in IUB 514 for “Negotiating Law School Scholarships” with Deans of Admission – Rebecca Ray from the University of Illinois College of Law and Ann Perry from University of Chicago Law School.
  • Look for scholarship opportunities outside of the law school. Many bar associations, religious groups, business entities, social groups and others organizations offer scholarships. Putting in some work now could save you money in the long run.
  • Start thinking about where you will submit your seat deposits. Seat deposit deadlines vary from school to school, but most are due in April or May. Make sure that you have these deadlines in mind because you do not want to lose the spot you earned. Also, if you know you will not attend a specific school, send them an email and let them know. Then they can offer your spot to someone else.
  • If you do not know anyone with whom you will be attending school, take the time to sign up for a roommate matching program. Alternatively, you can begin searching around your new campus for available apartments. Students often sign leases for apartments early and you will not want to live somewhere that is either far away from the school or not as nice as you would like it to be.

Keep up the hard work!

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Mark Your Calendars – Week of March 16th  

PLAS Events

Financing Your Legal Education: An Access Group Webinar: Friday, April 3, 2015, 1:00 – 2:00 PM (online). How will you finance your legal education? This workshop features Joni Bradley-Scott from Access Group, a nonprofit providing excellent resources in support of financial education for graduate students. Joni will provide an overview of law school financial aid including how it works and what students can do to maximize aid. She will share many helpful resources students can use to effectively finance their legal education. Registration is limited to the first 25 students. To register, go here.

The Path to Practicing Law in the US: An International Law Student Panel & Discussion: Wednesday, April 5, 2015, 4:30 – 5:30 PM in IUB Room 514. Are you an international student considering attending law school in the U.S.? Join us as we host a panel of international law students from China and Brazil. PLAS welcomes four current College of Law international students, Ning Ning, Andre Reis, Zhiqi Wu and Xi Zhou, to answer questions and discuss their experiences studying law in the U.S. After the panel, students will get to talk to the speakers in small groups. Bring your questions! For more information on the event and the panelists, go here. Food will be served. No registration necessary.

For more info about these and other PLAS Events, go here.


June LSAT Update

Are you planning on taking the LSAT this June?  Registration is open and spots are beginning to fill. LSAC tells us that one Chicago LSAT Test Center, Loyola-Chicago, is already full.  Consequently, if you know you are taking the June LSAT but haven’t registered yet, you should do that ASAP.  For more information and to register, go here.


Campus Events

Career Center Workshops

Unless otherwise indicated, all workshops are held at the Career Center, 715 S. Wright Street. For more information or to register, go here.

Creating Powerful Resumes and Cover Letters, Monday, March 16, 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM

Career Fair Prep: Maximize Your Experience, Monday, March 16, 5:00 – 6:00 PM or Tuesday, March 17, 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM

Diversity & Inclusion Networking Exchange, Tuesday, March 17, 5:30 – 7:30 PM, held in the Illini Union Ballroom

Coffee Chat at the Career Center, Wednesday, March 18, 4:30 – 5:30 PM

Getting the Job: Interviewing Tips, Wednesday, March 18, 6:00 – 7:00 PM

Strategic Use of LinkedIn for International Students, Thursday, March 19, 4:00 – 5:30 PM, held in The Interview Suite, 616 E. Green


 Remember — the All Campus Career Fair is this Wednesday, March 18, 12-4pm, at the ARC!


Illinois in Washington – Spend Fall Interning and Taking Classes in Washington, DC!

Fall is the best time to come to Washington – lovely weather and less competition for internships. Plus you can apply for internships over summer instead of during the school year!

Illinois in Washington is an academic internship program open to all Illinois undergraduates. Students live in Washington, DC, for a semester, intern 4 days a week and take U of I classes. Students intern in a range of positions from nonprofits and government agencies to think tanks and consulting firms.

For more information on IIW and our application, see our website and check out ourFacebook page. For views from students, visit our blog If you have any questions, please email Susan Halebsky Dimock, PhD, Interim Director, Illinois in Washington, at sdimock@illinois.edu. We look forward to your applications. Fall 2015 Application Deadline: April 1.


Off Campus Event

Chicagoland Law Fair: Thursday, March 26, 6-8:30pm

Harold Washington Library, Multipurpose Rooms A & B

Lower Level, 400 South State Street, Chicago

Hosted by Chicagoland Law Schools:

This event is sponsored by the Chicagoland law schools.  It is designed to help prospective law students assess whether law school is the right choice for them.  The program presenters will provide information about the legal market and the application process.  The structure is similar to large regional law fairs but the intent is that with a smaller group of law schools, participants in the program will enjoy a more intimate setting.

Schedule of Events

6:00 – 6:30 p.m. The Future of the Chicago Legal Market
6:30 – 7:00 p.m. Hot Topics for Law School Applicants
7:00 – 8:30 p.m. Law School Fair: Meet with representatives from seven Chicagoland law schools

Registration is required – the deadline is TODAY, Monday, March 16, 2015.  For more information and to register, go here.


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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.






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Mark Your Calendars — Week of February 16

Pre-Law Events

Penn State Law Presents: Law School Admissions & Employment Webinar Illinois students and alumni are invited to participate in a free, interactive webinar at 7 p.m. EST (6 p.m. CST) this Wednesday, February 18 to learn more about law school admissions and potential career opportunities that await after graduation. Hosted by  Penn State Law and the University of Illinois’ Pre-Law Advising Services, the live webinar will feature presentations by two Penn State Law deans and an opportunity for participants to ask questions.

Amanda DiPolvere, Penn State Law’s assistant dean for admissions and financial aid, will walk participants through the law school admissions process and discuss some of the new academic programs at Penn State Law.

Neil Sirota, Penn State Law’s assistant dean for career services, will describe how his office works with students and employers to help students secure internships and full-time employment around the country, including in markets like Chicago.

The event is open to anyone who is considering law school. To participate, please register here: https://fap.lsac.org/prospect.aspx?data=MjIwMgEBOA%3d%3d-NCmEJfHhQ7M%3d

The University of Chicago Law School Presents After the Application: Scholarships, Wait Lists and Interviews — NEXT Wednesday, February 25, 5-6pm, 514 IUB

Ann Perry, Associate Dean for Admissions at the University of Chicago Law School, will share the inside view of what happens in law school admissions after you submit your application. What are they looking for in an interview, and how to they decide whom to invite to interview? How does the wait list work? Is there anything applicants can do to improve their wait list chances? Bring your questions for Dean Perry about what’s really going on in the admissions office after your applications are submitted!

Campus Events

Career Center Workshops Unless otherwise indicated, all Career Center events will be held at the Career Center, 715 S. Wright Street. For more information or to register for any of these programs, go here.

  • Careers in the Federal Government: TODAY, Monday, Feb 16, 4-5pm
  • Finding An Internship: Tuesday, Feb 17, 5-6pm
  • Career Fair Prep: Maximize Your Experience: Tuesday, Feb 17, 6-7pm
  • Creating Powerful Resumes & Cover Letters: Wednesday, Feb 18, 5-6pm
  • UIntern Information Session: Monday, Feb 23, 4-5pm, The Interview Suite, 616 E Green Street

Gilman Scholarship for Study Abroad: Info Session & Workshop

Are you interested in study abroad but concerned that it is not financially feasible? Are you a recipient of the Federal Pell Grant?

If you answered ‘yes’ to the above questions, there is a study abroad scholarship just for you! The Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship aims to diversify the kinds of students who study and intern abroad by offering awards to U.S. undergraduates who might otherwise not participate due to financial constraints.

Eligibility: U.S. citizen undergraduate students receiving Federal Pell Grant funding

Timeline: The Gilman Scholarship is available for semester-long, year-long, and summer programs (must be at least 4 consecutive weeks in a country). The next deadline is March 3, 2015 for Summer 2015, Fall 2015, and Academic year 2015-2016 study abroad programs.

2-Day Info Event in Room 514 Illini Union Bookstore:
Tuesday, February 17, 2:00-3:00pm – Info session: Get an overview of the scholarship and hear from Illinois Gilman Scholars
Friday, February 20, 3:30-4:30pm– Workshop: How to craft a competitive Gilman application
For more information, please contact the National and International Scholarships Program at topscholars@illinois.edu.

Off Campus Events

Midwest Law School Virtual Fair: February 18, 2015, Co-Sponsored by the Midwest Alliance for Law School Admissions and the Midwest Association for Prelaw Advisors. Attention students! Whether you are looking at attending law school this fall or in a couple of years, this online law fair is a free and convenient way to interact with law school representatives right from your computer. Please click here to register to chat with Midwest law schools on February 18 (available chat times for each school are located on the fair website). Here is a list of the schools attending:

Case Western Reserve University School of Law
Chicago-Kent College of Law
Creighton University
Drake Law School
Indiana University Maurer School of Law
Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law
Marquette University Law School
Michigan State University College of Law
Ohio Northern University College of Law
Saint Louis University School of Law
Southern Illinois University School of Law
University of Dayton School of Law
University of Illinois College of Law
University of Iowa College of Law
University of Kansas School of Law
University of Minnesota Law School
University of Missouri School of Law
University of Nebraska College of Law
University of St. Thomas School of Law – Minneapolis
University of Wisconsin Law School
Valparaiso University Law School
William Mitchell College of Law

Have a great week!

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After Spring Break — PLAS Financial Aid Week!

As you head out for Spring Break, don’t forget that PLAS Financial Aid Week begins March 31, with a very informative workshop on how to navigate the law school financial aid process.  In addition, PLAS will be offering appointment slots for those of you still trying to understand and decide among your various law school offers.  We have designated Tuesday, April 1, for those meetings.  Call 333-9669 to schedule your appointment!
Financing Law School Workshop, Featuring Julie Griffin, Assistant Director of Financial Aid at the College of Law and Donna Davis, 3L and PLAS Grad Assistant
Monday, March 31, 5-6pm,
UIUC College of Law, Room F, 504 East Pennsylvania Avenue
Financial aid at the law school level is quite different than for undergraduates. Join us for this in-depth workshop to learn: What forms of financial aid exist for law school? What should you be looking for in an aid offer? How can you budget for law school expenses in advance? What are common pitfalls for students who don’t understand the aid process? Julie Griffin, Assistant Director of Financial Aid at the College of Law, and Donna Davis, current 3L and Pre-Law Advising Services Graduate Assistant, will share their experience and expertise with financial aid from both the expert and the law student’s perspective. This is a must-see for anyone considering law school! No registration necessary. This event is part of Financial Aid Week.
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Financing Law School – Presentation Links

Financial Aid Presentation for Open House13

Thanks to those who came out tonight for our event between the UIUC College of Law and the UIUC Pre-Law Advising Services Center!  We hope that everyone left feeling more empowered in the process of navigating the financial issues that accompany attending law school.

We post this link here for you to take advantage of the incredible resources hyperlinked within – all you will need to be educated and empowered!  Remember that the Heather Jarvis webinar is available through our recent blog post!

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Financing Law School – Workshop & Tools

Are you utilizing all the tools available for financial planning for law school?

Don’t be fooled by all the offers!  Join me at the University of Illinois Financial Planning event next Monday (April “not so fooled” Day), April 1, from 5:00 – 6:00 p.m. at the College of Law. There will be a unique combination with the presentation by the U of I law school financial aid office and the Pre-Law Advising Office.  I’ll bring the information from the office  and the perspective of a current law student with significant debt and recently going through this process.

LSAC has a simple list of questions that should be answered:  http://www.lsac.org/jd/finance/financial-aid-questions.asp

Come with your own questions!  Whether or not your plan for financing law school will include incurring significant debt – you should attend and strategize about approaching your offers from law schools!


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Spring Break Edition: Things To Do

Spring Break starts at the end of this week.  Here are some suggestions for how to use the break wisely.  

Seniors Applying This Cycle

1. Applications. If you haven’t already done so….submit your applications!!!!!  I know several law schools have extended their deadlines but this is a rolling process and many schools have few if any seats (or financial aid) left to give to applicants.

2. Decision Time.  For those of you that submitted applications much earlier this cycle and consequently are now weighing all your options — really evaluate your offers and try to come to a decision in the next couple of weeks.  Those of you who have been in to see me have been advised to create a table or spreadsheet listing the items most important to you (i.e., cost/scholarship, employment numbers, bar passage rate, location) to help you decide among your offers.  Also make plans to visit the law schools if you haven’t already done so — you would be surprised about the number of students who love a school on paper but are not thrilled with the school once they visit.  Law school is a HUGE investment — find the time to visit the schools!!!!

Juniors Applying in the Fall

1. Letters of Recommendation. Start thinking about whom you should ask to write your letters of recommendation and plan to request your LORs BEFORE you leave campus for the summer.  Applicants frequently make the mistake of waiting until fall to approach their professors and then find themselves waiting quite a while.  Your professors are busy so you need to plan ahead to give them enough time to write your letters… and the letters that others are requesting.

2. Attend PLAS Programs! Attending our upcoming PLAS programs will help you get a jump start on your applications.  Remember — most law schools admit applicants on a rolling basis so the earlier you apply, the better!

  • Financing Law School, Monday April 1, 5-6pm, College of Law, 504 East Pennsylvania Avenue, Classroom A. Our Financial Aid Series continues! With so many different aid offers from various law schools….how do students choose? Julie Griffin, Assistant Director of Financial Aid at the College of Law, and Donna Davis, a current 2L and Pre-Law Advising Graduate Assistant, are here to walk you through it! Ms. Griffin and Ms. Davis will show you what a law school financial aid offer looks like and demonstrate how to evaluate aid packages and make fair comparisons among schools. No registration required. 
  • Applying to Law School — A Workshop for Fall Applicants — Monday, April 15, 4-5:00 pm, Room 1027 Lincoln Hall. Applying to law school early in the application cycle can result in more admission offers, more aid, and much less stress. This workshop is designed for students who will be applying to law school this fall and want to maximize their law school opportunities. We will provide an overview of the law school application process and share a timeline for optimal application results. No registration required.
  • Personal Statement Workshop for Fall Applicants — Thursday, April 18, 12-1:00pm, Room 514 Illini Union Bookstore Building.  Law school applicants consistently say that the personal statement took much more time to write than they expected. This workshop will provide an overview of the personal statement and the resume for law school applications. Please register by clicking on this link http://illinois.edu/calendar/list/2508 to our Event Calendar. Once there, please select this event and then click on “register.”  Registration is required so that we can provide enough seating and materials for everyone.

All Pre-Law Students

1. Find and apply for summer internships NOW.  Not sure where to start?  Go here, http://publish.illinois.edu/prelawadvising/2012/12/20/internship-newsletter/, to access our Internship Newsletter that was originally posted on December 20.  It contains 17 pages of information on internships and jobs.  Many of these postings have March deadlines so start looking now!

2. Stay informed… about all of our PLAS Programs, information sessions, updates on the legal profession, etc.  How???

 Enjoy your break!

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