Mark Your Calendars: Week of September 11

September is a big month for pre-law students–scroll through to see why.

Pre-Law Events

Our Fall Event Calendar is posted! Here’s a preview of what’s coming up.

Perfecting Your Personal Statement and Resume for Law School–Tuesday, Sept.19, 4-5pm. The personal statement is one of the most difficult yet powerful elements of the law school application. Join us for this workshop, which will cover what the personal statement is, how to prepare for writing it, and some tips and suggestions for making it reflect an applicant’s strengths. We will also discuss how the personal statement and resume can complement each other to create a stronger law school application. Each session is the same, so select the one that best suits your schedule. Register here for this session.

The Pre-Law Honors Society is now taking applications! Here are membership requirements for joining:

1. Student must have a cumulative GPA of at least 3.30/4.00
2. Student must have completed 30 hours of campus credit prior to initiation
3. Student must complete 10 hours of community service each semester
4. Students must attend every meeting unless they emailed the board before the event with reason why they could not attend.

LAW SCHOOL APPLICATION WEEK is coming! Join us for any or all of these events!

Law School Admissions Panel–Tuesday, Sept. 26, 7:00 pm in 1002 Lincoln Hall. Are you wondering what law school admissions professionals really look for in an applicant? How do they weigh LSAT scores, grades, or work experience? What gets their attention–and what would make them deny someone? Join us for this expert law school admissions panel to discover this and more. Participants will have the opportunity to ask questions. This is a must-see event for anyone considering applying to law school!

Panelists include:

Law School Fair–Wednesday, Sept. 27, 10:00 am-2:00 pm in Illini Union A,B,C Rooms. It’s the biggest pre-law event of the year as 105 law schools visit campus to meet all who are interested in applying to law school. Learn about law schools, scholarships, and the application process while meeting the people who will be reading your law school applications. Application fee waivers and other freebies will be available. Stop by or stay the whole time! This event is free and open to the public. For more information click here to visit our website. No registration required.

Get to Know Northwestern Law–Thursday, Sept. 28, 6:00 pm in 1090 Lincoln Hall. Interested in Northwestern Pritzker School of Law?  Join us as Assistant Director of Admissions Sarah Rewerts discusses The Northwestern Law Difference.  Sarah will also share her inside perspective on Northwestern Law’s admission process, including:  the Early Decision program; the interview process; the recent decision to begin accepting the GRE (for the Fall 2019 entering class), and more!  This is a great opportunity to get to know Northwestern Law and to have your questions answered!

Campus Events

Constitution Day Panel Discussion: Legal Perspectives on Charlottesville will be held at the College of Law (Max L. Rowe Auditorium) on Sept. 15 from 12:00-1:00 pm. This event is free and open to the public, and lunch will be provided to attendees. Click here for more information.

The School of Information Sciences will be hosting an inaugural Fall 17 Open House event on Friday, September 15th. Anyone interested in the program—MS in Library and Information Science should attend. For details of the event please click here: http://ischool.illinois.edu/events/2017/09/15/ischool-fall-open-house

Fall Family Fest–Sept. 17th from 12:00-2:00 pm at Orchard Downs Community Center, 510 Huff Drive, Urbana. Attention student parents! The Women’s Resources Center and Orchard Downs Family and Graduate Housing are housing a family-focused social for student parents and their kids! Join us for games, food, crafts, a music show (sing-a-long), and resource fair for parents! This event is free and open to the public.

LER.Masters.Students.InfoSession The School of Labor & Employment Relations will be hosting an Informational Meeting on its Master of Human Resources and Industrial Relations program on Thursday, Sept. 28 from 5:30-7:00 in the Labor and Employment Relations (LER) Building, 405 E. Armory, Room 35. Dinner will be provided, and participants will learn more about a career in human resources along with application requirements to start the program. Click on the link for more details.

Career Center EventsClick here to visit the Career Center’s website for more information or to register for these sessions.

  • CC-I Information Session, Sept. 11, 4:00 pm
  • Creating Your Powerful Resume
    • Sept. 11, 4:00 pm
    • Sept. 12, 4:00 pm
    • Sept. 13, 5:00
  • Career Fair Prep
    • Sept. 11, 5:00 pm
    • Sept. 13, 4:00 pm
  • Resume/Cover Letter/Linked In Review
    • Sept. 12, 2-4:30 pm
    • Sept. 14, 2-4:30 pm
  • Meet Handshake, Sept. 13, 3:00 pm
  • Finding an Internship, Sept. 14, 4:00 pm

Applications are due Sept. 12 for the Fall 2017 Career Certificate-International Students program. Click here for more information.  

College of Law Opportunities for Pre-Law Students

Prospective Client Volunteers Needed–Please consider volunteering to play the role of a prospective client with a possible legal issue for students in CFI: Interviewing, Counseling & Fact Investigation.  Volunteers are needed on September 13, 14, 27, and 28 at varying times.  You will meet with and be interviewed by your lawyer for approximately 15-20 minutes.  You will be given the fact pattern for the role you volunteer to play.  Please consider signing up for multiple sessions.  To volunteer or for additional details, contact Angela Martin (aymartin@illinois.edu).  Feel free to refer any non-law, or undergraduate friends.  Your time is greatly appreciated!

PAID Video Operators Needed– The Trial Advocacy Program needs video operators for the fall semester on Tuesdays and Wednesdays evening from approximately 5:30/6:00 p.m. – 8:30/9:00 p.m. at the Champaign County Courthouse, Urbana.  You can choose to do one evening a week or both evenings.  The pay is $8.25/hour.  For full job details and requirements, please contact Angela Martin (aymartin@illinois.edu).  Feel free to refer any non-law or undergraduate friends.

Scholarships

We’ve collected 275 scholarships–for both undergrads and incoming law students–on our Scholarships Spreadsheet over on our Pre-Law Compass page. It’s a wide variety of scholarships based on everything from being left-handed to making a video to tweeting, and deadlines vary, so check it out!

Internships

It’s NOT too early to start looking for spring/summer internships today! We post internships on our blog and our Facebook page. Check out this blog post for a plan on how to start finding spring and summer internships this fall.

Pre-Law Resources

Now is a great time to check out–or join–all of our pre-law resources! Click the links to explore. You can also search this blog for posts about the LSAT, law school applications, resumes, internships, and more!

Website

Facebook

Twitter

Compass page

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Mark Your Calendars – Week of September 4

Save the date for the Law School Fair! On Sept. 27 from 10 am-2 pm at the Union over 100 law school reps will be here to meet YOU! Click here for more details, including a list of who’s coming.

Pre-Law Events
Scholarships
Internships
Pre-Law Resources

Pre-Law Events

Our Fall Event Calendar is posted! Here’s a preview of what’s coming up.

Practice LSAT–Friday, Sept. 8 from 8:30-12:00. Whether you are taking the real LSAT in September or this is your first-ever baseline test, this is a great opportunity to take the LSAT in a testlike environment with a proctor. Seating is limited; register here.

Pre-Law 101–Monday, Sept. 11, 4-5 pm. This workshop is designed for incoming students who are new to pre-law or are interested in learning more about it. We will cover: What it means to be pre-law at Illinois, course selection, majors, and extracurriculars, building a pre-law resume, and what law schools are really looking for. We will outline a four year plan to maximize your undergraduate experiences in order to make a great law school candidate. We’ll also take any questions about law school and legal careers. Register here for this session. Each Pre-Law 101 session is the same. Incoming students should attend a Pre-Law 101 prior to setting up an individual pre-law advising appointment.

Perfecting Your Personal Statement and Resume for Law School–Tuesday, Sept.19, 4-5pm. The personal statement is one of the most difficult yet powerful elements of the law school application. Join us for this workshop, which will cover what the personal statement is, how to prepare for writing it, and some tips and suggestions for making it reflect an applicant’s strengths. We will also discuss how the personal statement and resume can complement each other to create a stronger law school application. Each session is the same, so select the one that best suits your schedule. Register here for this session.

Save the Date for the Law School Fair on September 27 from 10-2 in Illini Union A,B,C Rooms! Find more details here. We’ll be posting more about this, so stay tuned!

Campus Events

The School of Information Sciences will be hosting an inaugural Fall 17 Open House event on Friday, September 15th. Anyone interested in the program—MS in Library and Information Science should attend. For details of the event please click here: http://ischool.illinois.edu/events/2017/09/15/ischool-fall-open-house

Illinois Abroad Day is Wednesday, September 6th all across campus.  Any interested students to stop by one or more of the following fairs to explore programs and talk to study abroad returnees.

Illinois Abroad & Global Exchange (all majors) Main Quad (behind the Union) – 11AM-3PM

LAS Main Quad (between Lincoln & English) – 11AM-3PM

Engineering Bardeen Quad – 1PM-4PM

ACES Heritage Room, ACES Library – 1PM-4PM

Business BIF Atrium – 1PM-4PM

Additional events:

Funding Your Study Abroad Experience: workshop & information session

4:30pm-5:45pm on September 6, 2017

213 Gregory Hall (810 S Wright St, Urbana)

Learn about the Illinois for Illinois (I4I) and Illinois International Programs (IIP) scholarships, nationally competitive awards, and other opportunities to help fund your study abroad trip. This information session will include a short workshop on how to budget for your trip.

Find the I4I and IIP Scholarships application here: http://international.illinois.edu/students/student-funding.html

Contact Sam Celmer at smcelme2@illinois.edu for scholarship questions.

 

Psychology Major/Minor Information Meeting – Wednesday September 6, 4:00-5:00PM

Psychology Building, Room 21

For UIUC students interested in learning more about the Psychology major and/or minor. A Psychology advisor will facilitate the 45 minute meeting. For more information, click here.

Women’s Resource Center Open House – Wednesday September 6- 4:30 – 7:00PM

NEW LOCATION 616 E. Green Street, Suite 202, MC-302, Champaign, IL 61820

Come see the WRC’s new location and meet the staff! For more information, click here.

Native American House & American Indian Studies Welcome Pot Luck Dinner – Thursday September 7, 4:00 – 6:00 pm  

Native American House, 1206 W Nevada St.

Native American House & American Indian Studies invite you to join us for a pot luck dinner to bring in the academic year. This is a welcome community event to meet, connect, socialize, and eat! The main dish is on us. Prepare your family or community recipe or bring your favorite side, dessert, or drinks to share. Sign up by contacting Native American House.

College of Law Opportunities for Pre-Law Students

Prospective Client Volunteers Needed–Please consider volunteering to play the role of a prospective client with a possible legal issue for students in CFI: Interviewing, Counseling & Fact Investigation.  Volunteers are needed on September 13, 14, 27, and 28 at varying times.  You will meet with and be interviewed by your lawyer for approximately 15-20 minutes.  You will be given the fact pattern for the role you volunteer to play.  Please consider signing up for multiple sessions.  To volunteer or for additional details, contact Angela Martin (aymartin@illinois.edu).  Feel free to refer any non-law, or undergraduate friends.  Your time is greatly appreciated!

PAID Video Operators Needed– The Trial Advocacy Program needs video operators for the fall semester on Tuesdays and Wednesdays evening from approximately 5:30/6:00 p.m. – 8:30/9:00 p.m. at the Champaign County Courthouse, Urbana.  You can choose to do one evening a week or both evenings.  The pay is $8.25/hour.  For full job details and requirements, please contact Angela Martin (aymartin@illinois.edu).  Feel free to refer any non-law or undergraduate friends.

Scholarships

We’ve collected 275 scholarships–for both undergrads and incoming law students–on our Scholarships Spreadsheet over on our Pre-Law Compass page. It’s a wide variety of scholarships based on everything from being left-handed to making a video to tweeting, and deadlines vary, so check it out!

Internships

It’s NOT too early to start looking for spring/summer internships today! We post internships on our blog and our Facebook page. Check out this blog post for a plan on how to start finding spring and summer internships this fall.

Pre-Law Resources

Now is a great time to check out–or join–all of our pre-law resources! Click the links to explore. You can also search this blog for posts about the LSAT, law school applications, resumes, internships, and more!

Website

Facebook

Twitter

Compass page

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Law School Admissions Update: LSAT or GRE?

The American Bar Association (ABA) requires that ABA-accredited law schools use some sort of entrance exam in the admissions process. The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) has been the exam used by ABA-accredited law schools for admission to their Juris Doctor (JD) programs for over 50 years.  That changed in March of 2016 when the University of Arizona Law School announced that it would begin accepting either the LSAT or the Graduate Record Exam General Test (GRE) for applicants to its JD program beginning in the Fall of 2016.  Harvard Law School followed suit in March of 2017, announcing that it would begin accepting either the GRE or LSAT with this fall’s application cycle. In August, Georgetown University Law Center announced its plans to do the same, also with this fall’s applicants. A day before Georgetown’s announcement,  Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law stated that it would begin accepting either the GRE or LSAT next fall, for the class that would begin in the Fall of 2019. Click on the links provided to learn more about the application process for each of these schools. Note: Northwestern’s Assistant Director for Admissions and Financial Aid, Sarah Rewerts, will be here at UIUC on Thursday, September 28, 6pm, 1090 Lincoln Hall, to discuss this and other admissions-related topics.

So — what does this mean for a prospective law school applicant?  As of right now, unless an applicant for this cycle is planning on applying ONLY to the three schools listed above that will currently accept either the GRE or LSAT (a strategy that PLAS does not recommend), applicants will still need to prepare for and take the LSAT.  But since this topic is getting a lot of attention in the news, we thought it would be helpful to provide a brief overview of both standardized tests.  As always, we encourage you to do your research and learn more about this issue.

What is the GRE?

Content/Format: It is a computer-delivered standardized test, administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), that evaluates test takers on the following areas:

  1. Analytical Writing (one section with two separately timed tasks). Measures critical thinking and analytical writing skills.
  2. Verbal Reasoning (two sections). Measures your ability to analyze and evaluate written material and synthesize information obtained from it.
  3. Quantitative Reasoning (two sections). Measures problem-solving ability suing basic concepts of arithmetic, algebra, geometry and data analysis.

The GRE also includes both an unscored and a research section.  Per the GRE’s website, the Analytical Writing section will always be first. Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and unidentified/unscored sections may appear in any order so test takers should treat each section as if it counts toward your score.  For more information about the GRE content and structure, check out the ETS website: https://www.ets.org/gre/revised_general/about/content/.

Cost: $205, which includes 2 free practice tests and a diagnostic tool; other practice materials are available for a fee on the website.  Go here for more info: https://www.ets.org/gre/revised_general/prepare/.

Location/Time: The GRE is available any day but Sunday. You can select the U of I Testing Services Lab on Neil Street for administrations during the week. 

What is the LSAT?

Content/Format:  It is a paper and pencil test (although it has begun piloting a computer-delivered format), administered by the Law School Admission Council (LSAC). Per the LSAC’s website, it is comprised of the following:

  1. Reading Comprehension (one scored section): Measures the ability to read, with understanding and insight, examples of lengthy and complex materials similar to those encountered in law school.
  2. Analytical Reasoning (one scored section): Measures the ability to understand a structure of relationships and to draw logical conclusions about that structure.
  3. Logical Reasoning (two scored sections): Assesses the test taker’s ability to analyze, critically evaluate, and complete arguments as they occur in ordinary language.
  4. Experimental Section (one unscored section): This will be an additional section of the types of questions identified above, but the test taker will NOT know which section is experimental so test takers should treat each section as if it counts toward your score.
  5. Writing Sample (one unscored section): Although this is unscored, copies of your writing sample are sent to ALL law schools to which you apply.

For more information about the LSAT’s content and structure, go to the LSAC’s website: https://www.lsac.org/jd/lsat/about-the-lsat.

Cost: $180

Location/Time: The LSAT is currently offered four times per year, although as we mentioned in a previous blog post, that will be increased to six times per year beginning in the 2018-2019 testing cycle. The upcoming dates of LSAT administration are as follows: September 16, 2017; December 2, 2017; February 10, 2018; and June 11, 2018.   There are multiple test sites, including UIUC.  Go here for a list of regular administration LSAT locations: https://www.lsac.org/jd/lsat/testing-locations/regular.

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Welcome Back, Part 2: Top 3 Things That Happened Over the Summer and Mark Your Calendars!

We hope you had a great summer and that your semester is off to a good start. Beginning next week, PLAS will resume our Monday “Mark Your Calendars” edition, followed by a midweek blog post addressing a host of topical issues.  But since you’ve been away, some important pre-law related events and updates have occurred.  Here are the Top 3:

  1. If you haven’t heard yet, the Law School Admission Council has announced some big changes to the LSAT. Want to learn more?  Check out this July PLAS blog post.
  2. PLAS has updated its list of available scholarships for undergrad and law school students.  The tally is now 275!  Go to the PLAS Compass page to learn more!
  3. PLAS recently published a blog about the best way to get an internship for Spring and Summer 2018.  Click here for more information.

And have you heard? Three more law schools have announced that they will begin allowing applicants to use either LSAT or GRE test scores for admission to their schools!  Want to learn more?  Check out our midweek blog post, coming this Wednesday, August 30.

Also — last week our blog featured a list of upcoming PLAS events, including our FREE PRACTICE LSAT, set for Friday, September 8 and the Law School Fair on Wednesday, September 27, Illini Union A, B, C, 10am-2pm. Check out last week’s blog for information on other upcoming PLAS events.  If you are interested in taking the FREE practice LSAT, note that space is limited so interested students should  go to our PLAS Events Calendar and register ASAP!

Campus Events and Activities

University Counsel’s Office — PAID Internship!

As we announced on Friday on the PLAS Facebook page, University Counsel’s Office is hiring 1-2 undergrad pre-law students as PAID interns for 2017-18! Required: At least sophomore standing, minimum 3.0 GPA, and consistent weekly availability. This is a GREAT opportunity to meet a variety of attorneys, see the practice of law, and contribute to the success of a legal team! Applications due Sept. 8. See attached position description for more details.

 

Provosts’ Undergraduate Student Advisory Board – Call for Applications

Provost’s Undergraduate Student Advisory Board is looking for students who:

  • Are undergraduates for the current year who will be on campus—not studying abroad or graduating early—both this fall and in Spring, 2018;
  • Have a strong record of academic achievement as evidenced by a 3.0 GPA or above in their college courses or, for first-time new freshmen or transfer students, as evidenced by what you would consider a “very strong” high school or prior institution record;
  • Are interested in academic affairs initiatives and activities on campus;
  • Are involved in both academic and extracurricular activities here or, for first-time new freshmen or transfer students, were involved at their previous institution.

Please be aware that a primary requirement for participation is availability during the set meeting times for the fall, no class or work conflicts. Though we certainly don’t expect you to vet this in the nominees, know that this will be the first question we ask any of them. Fall meeting dates are Wednesday, October 4; Friday, November 10; and Friday, December 8, all from noon to 1 p.m. with lunch provided.

Applications can be completed here and are due by Friday, September 8th at 5p.m. Questions can be directed to mschaefr@illinois.edu or students can call (217)333-6677.

Career Center

One big change that occurred over the summer at the Career Center is the transition away from I-Link to the new job and internship portal called Handshake.  Click on this  link to learn more about this new search engine and to register to set up your own Handshake page!

Information Night for International Students — Friday, September 1, 6-7pm, Room 143 at the Career Center International students will be introduced to services, programs and resources of The Career Center. A short tour of The Career Center will follow.

National and International Scholarships Program – Luce Scholars Program: Information Sessions

The Luce is for U.S. citizens under the age of 30 who are young professionals, seniors and graduate/professional students. The Luce fully funds a one year internship in East or Southeast Asia for those with little significant academic or personal experience with Asia.

Thursday, August 31, 2017: 3:30 to 4:30 p.m.—Information session and discussion with a former Luce Scholar
Friday, September 1, 2017: 3:30 to 4:30 p.m.—Workshop on how to craft a Luce Application

All sessions are held in the Illini Union Bookstore, 5th Floor, Room 514. If you would like to discuss the Luce before the next information session please contact the NIS Program to schedule an appointment. For more information about the Luce Scholars Program, go here.

College of Law Opportunities for Pre-Law Students

Prospective Client Volunteers Needed–Please consider volunteering to play the role of a prospective client with a possible legal issue for students in CFI: Interviewing, Counseling & Fact InvestigationVolunteers are needed on September 13, 14, 27, and 28 at varying times.  You will meet with and be interviewed by your lawyer for approximately 15-20 minutes.  You will be given the fact pattern for the role you volunteer to play.  Please consider signing up for multiple sessions.  To volunteer or for additional details, contact Angela Martin (aymartin@illinois.edu).  Feel free to refer any non-law, or undergraduate friends.  Your time is greatly appreciated!

PAID Video Operators Needed– The Trial Advocacy Program needs video operators for the fall semester on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings from approximately 5:30/6:00 p.m. – 8:30/9:00 p.m. at the Champaign County Courthouse, Urbana.  You can choose to do one evening a week or both evenings.  The pay is $8.25/hour.  For full job details and requirements, please contact Angela Martin (aymartin@illinois.edu).  Feel free to refer any non-law or undergraduate friends.

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University Counsel PAID Internship Opportunity!

University Counsel’s Office is seeking 1-2 PAID undergraduate interns for 2017-18! This is a great opportunity to meet attorneys with a variety of expertise, experience the practice of law up close, and contribute to the success of a legal team.

Required qualifications: Must have at least sophomore standing; minimum 3.0 GPA; consistent weekly availability. Preference will be given to candidates with availability over breaks.

For more information on the position, including specific duties and an overview of the office, see the attached position description. Applications include a cover letter and resume and are due by 5:00 pm on Friday, September 8.

Counsel’s Office Internship

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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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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.

Sincerely,
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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So many MORE scholarships!

Hopefully you’ve already seen our posts about our Scholarship Spreadsheet that we added over on Compass. It started with about 220 scholarships, and we just added many more. Now it lists over 250 scholarships! Some scholarships are for continuing undergrads, and others are for those of you who are starting law school as incoming 1Ls this fall–and many of the scholarships are available to both undergrads and law students. There is something for everyone.

$1,000 may not seem like a lot towards a legal education, but consider that at 6.8% interest every $1,000 you borrow will cost $1,597 to pay back over 15 years. Every dollar you can avoid borrowing in loans really helps.

Here are just a few examples of scholarships that we’ve recently added.

The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans supports thirty immigrants or children of immigrants pursuing graduate school by paying 50% tuition plus up to $20,000 per year in living expenses.

Resume Genius Scholarship is not based on grades! It awards $1000 scholarships to college students who submit a resume for a fictional or nonfiction character from tv, film, literature, history, or myth.

Pelican Water Sustainability Scholarship awards from $500 to $1,500 to undergrad or graduate students with a 3.5 minimum GPA who submit an essay on water conservation and a recommendation.

2017 Margarian Scholarship awards five $1,000 scholarships to undergrads or grad students who demonstrate commitment to heritage, community, and society through persistence, dedication, success, and humility. Deadline is June 1, so hurry!

The Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Scholarship awards $4,000 to an undergrad or graduate student who is a cancer survivor or who has had an immediate family member fight cancer.

Head over to our Compass page and start applying–the scholarships have deadlines ranging from June 1 to December 31, with many due over the summer months.

 

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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: Week of May 1

Pre-Law Advising Services
Pre-Law programming is finished for the semester, but you can still connect with us!

  • Graduating seniors: Connect with Jamie or Judy over on LinkedIn!
  • May appointments are still available for those of you considering applying to law school this fall! Meet with us to get a jump start on your applications.
  • After May 15 we will switch to summer scheduling. Appointments will still be available but on a more limited basis. You can still schedule a phone, Skype, or in-person appointment by calling 217-333-9669.

Internships
We hope that you have been keeping up on our blog and Facebook posts about internships job opportunities. If you still don’t have a summer internship/job lined up, check out these resources:

  • Continue to utilize 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.
  • Internships.com is another good resource for nationwide opportunities.
  • Fastweb is also a good resource that allows you to set guidelines for types of internships you’re seeking and it will email you a digest of listings.

The Career Center still has drop-in times and appointment slots for resume reviews, job search information, and Peace Corps drop-ins. Check out their spring workshop calendar on their website at: https://www.careercenter.illinois.edu/events. 

Scholarship Opportunities 

Please check out this 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 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 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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