5 Tips for Getting Application Fee Waivers

Those of you who are applying to law school now are finding out how expensive law school applications can be! Each school has an application fee and each school must receive a Law School Report ($25 each), which adds up fast. Here are five tips for getting application fee waivers.

  1. Apply for an LSAC fee waiver. The best fee waiver is directly through the LSAC. This fee waiver will waive the fees for two LSAT exams, your Credential Assembly Service fee, and four Law School Reports. In addition, most law schools will waive your application fee too if you received an LSAC fee waiver. You can apply for an LSAC fee waiver and find out more information here.
  2. Attend the Law Fair. If you are not eligible for an LSAC waiver, there are other ways to reduce your costs. First, come to the Law Fair on October 22 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Over 100 law schools will be sending representatives to talk with interested students about their programs and their application process. Many schools at the fair will be giving out fee waivers. (Tip: If the rep you are speaking with does not offer you a fee waiver, politely ask whether they have a fee waiver program, and how you can apply for one.) Here’s more info about the Law Fair.
  3. Also register for the Candidate Referral Service (CRS) in your LSAC account. This service asks you lots of questions about yourself–your background, interests, grades, etc.–and then “matches” you with law schools that are looking for students like you. Many law schools use the CRS to offer fee waivers, so it is worth your time to complete the CRS survey here.
  4. Directly inquire with your preferred law schools. Send a polite email to their admissions office asking whether they have a fee waiver program, and how you can apply. Some schools will simply respond with a waiver; other schools will have certain parameters (like GPA or financial need) to meet before waiving your fee. Take 10 minutes to craft a friendly form email and send it to all of the schools you’re applying to–it’s an easy way to collect a few fee waivers. It’s well worth your time.
  5. Attend law school visit or open house days. Sometimes when a school sees that you’ve made the effort to visit, they will reward you with a fee waiver.

One final tip–talk to your pre-law advisor! From time to time law schools will offer a few fee waivers to us (the Pre-Law Advisors) for students we know are interested in their school. So see a Pre-Law Advisor and let us know which schools interest you!

Breaking News for Northwestern Law Applicants

Are you applying to Northwestern Law this year? We have some good news for you.

Northwestern has just shared with us that they are WAIVING APPLICATION FEES (normally $100) for applicants until November 3 only. Applicants only need to fill out the form located here to get their application fee waived:  http://www.law.northwestern.edu/admissions/applying/. You can even view a little video showing you how to access the form here.

If Northwestern is a top choice of yours, you should also register early for an interview. Interviews are available only until all the slots fill, so you will want to schedule an interview time as early as you can. Go here to do it.

Want to see academic profiles of University of Illinois applicants admitted to Northwestern and other law schools? Check out our 2012 Applicant Data.

Good luck to all the Northwestern applicants!



The Application Process: LSAC Tips

Here is a short list of tips for working with the Law School Admission Council (LSAC).  If you have specific concerns about LSAC’s service or your account, contact LSAC directly via telephone (215) 968-1001, or by completing their online help form, accessible at http://www.lsac.org/jd/help/contact-candidate-services.

  • Seniors — if you are applying this fall, set up your LSAC Credential Assembly Service (CAS) account ASAP!

It is important that you begin this process early because you will need certain forms (Letter of Recommendation (LOR) forms, Transcript Request forms) that are only available to applicants with a CAS account.  This is a rolling admissions process so you need to make sure that you have everything completed as early as possible so as not to delay the review of your applications!

  • If you are looking for detailed explanations of LSAC’s processes and helpful hints, check out the tabs on the right hand side of each page in your CAS account.

LSAC has made some very helpful modifications to the LSAC CAS account format to allow you to have many of your questions, particularly about LORs and Evaluations, answered via information now available in your account page.  Therefore, in most cases you no longer need to navigate away from your account to the main section of the LSAC’s website.

  • Most law school applications are now available online. Check them out ASAP!

In fact, applications for all 9 ABA-accredited law schools in Illinois (University of Chicago, Chicago Kent, DePaul, U of I, John Marshall, Loyola, Northern Illinois, Northwestern and Southern Illinois) are already available online through the LSAC CAS.

  • What is the Candidate Referral Service (CRS)?

The CRS is a free service offered by LSAC that makes information about law school candidates available to law schools. Law schools may recruit potential applicants on the basis of specific characteristics; for example, LSAT score, undergraduate grade-point average (UGPA), age, race or ethnicity, and geographic background. Once you establish an LSAC.org account, you may opt to authorize release of your credentials to law schools participating in the CRS. LSAC recommends that you authorize release since this may help you identify a school you might not have discovered through your own research.  In addition, some schools may offer you application fee waivers!

  • Want to learn more about the application process?  Make sure you attend the PLAS Applying to Law School Workshop on Monday, September 23, at 4:00 pm in Lincoln Hall 1027!

Jamie Thomas-Ward will be talking about how to create an effective application strategy and will provide a detailed overview of how to navigate the LSAC’s CAS.  If you are applying this fall, you do not want to miss this event!! No registration required.


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


Fall Applicants: Tips on Getting Great Letters of Recommendation

‘Tis the perfect season to be lining up your letter of recommendation writers. If you haven’t yet found your 2-3 willing souls, now is a great time to get some firm commitments on the table. I hear of a lot of students say things like “well, I talked to someone about it” and “I mentioned it to a professor”. That is not a commitment! A commitment means you asked and the person said yes. It means that you both know what is expected, and by when.

So, how can you go about getting the best recommendation letters? Here are my Top 5 Tips for Getting Great Letters of Recommendation.

1. Don’t procrastinate. Seriously, do it now. Right now.
The number one challenge I see is applicants waiting to ask for a recommendation until it’s a bad time for the recommender. Many students are surprised to find that their professors’ schedules are a bit different than student schedules. Remember that in addition to teaching this course, your professors and other university administrators are: teaching other courses, grading papers/exams, taking sabbatical, doing research, publishing articles, hiring and training graduate assistants, taking classes, serving on committees, supervising staff…the point here is that the person asking for the recommendation should consider the schedule of the recommender. A good general rule is to allow at least six weeks for your recommender to complete a recommendation. The best time to ask? During the summer, or at the beginning of the fall semester (for people applying to law school this fall). The worst time to ask? Anytime after midterms, or during winter break. This is when professors are busiest–or gone.

2. Consider your approach.
Give an out
. Remember that for law school your goal is to get GREAT recommendations. It’s competitive admissions, after all, and a lukewarm “this student took my class and got a B+” is not much help. When you approach your letter writers–whether via email or in person–you should always ask if they feel comfortable that they can write a great letter for you. Give them a chance to say no. If you sense hesitation or your recommender is uncertain, it is in your best interest to move on. I can’t tell you how many times I hear from law school deans that lukewarm letters are simply not helpful. What a waste of everyone’s time!

Also, get it in writing. In addition to being great legal advice generally, this really applies to letters of recommendation. Get the details in writing. You’ll want to confirm the recommender’s commitment and the time frame by which s/he will submit the letter. It doesn’t have to be formal; you can simply send an email that says “Thanks so much for agreeing to write my recommendation! It sounded like you could submit it by October 1, which is great because I hope to complete my applications around October 15. Please let me know if there is anything else I can provide to assist you with the letter.”

3. Think carefully about who knows you and your academic skills best.
Actually, this requires you to think about what law schools want to know. First, they want to know that you are likely to succeed academically in their program, and this means that they want to hear that you have great writing, analytical, problem-solving, and communication skills. Which of your professors can speak to those skills? You’ll also want to pick an upper-level class in which you excelled; it hardly helps to have a recommendation from a professor (or TA) who taught you and 300 other people in an intro class three years ago.

Side note: This process requires that you make an effort. Many students will reach senior year and then say something like “It’s a big school and I never went to office hours or talked to any of my professors.” Well, here’s the thing: that is a wasted opportunity. Yes, we are a big institution. But if you want any kind of good academic recommendations (whether for law school or any graduate program), you need to take the time to attempt to get to know a few professors. Go to office hours. Ask questions about the course. Or just have a conversation about their career path. Most professors become professors because they want to teach and mentor–and they like getting to know their students. They were once where you are, so don’t feel intimidated. Like the general population, some professors are friendly and others aren’t, so please don’t be discouraged if you approach one professor who seems disinterested–just move along to someone else.

4. Round out your academic recommendations with a different perspective.
After law schools are convinced that you have the academic skills to succeed, they want to know what else you bring to the table. They want to see qualities and values such as leadership, responsibility, ethical behavior, ability to manage money, working as a group, or a commitment to volunteering or to a certain cause. In other words, every school wants its students to be smart and to reflect well on the profession. Who can write a recommendation that shows qualities beyond academic brilliance? It could be a work supervisor, internship supervisor, volunteer site supervisor, a mentor, or a coach. Think about the qualities that you have demonstrated outside of the classroom, and ask your recommender if s/he can speak to those specific elements. This can really round out your recommendations and add a new perspective to what makes you a great candidate.

5. Follow up with your recommender.
You’re dealing with a professional adult who said s/he would submit the letter. You shouldn’t have to remind them. It is frustrating that some professors and other professionals agree to write recommendations but aren’t professional enough to submit them–either in a timely way or sometimes at all. But it happens all the time. (And, in fairness, we all sometimes have extenuating circumstances.) There isn’t much you can do except stay in contact with your recommender. Check your LSAC account to see if the recommendation has been submitted by your agreed-upon time frame. If not, be “pleasantly persistent” about it. It’s better to resolve any delay in October than to wait until January and finally reach out, only to discover that the recommender has been on medical leave and isn’t expected back for another month. Trust me, this happens more than you would expect. Put a note on your calendar to follow up on the agreed upon “due date”, and again two weeks later if the letter hasn’t been submitted.

So there you have my best tips on getting great LORs. For another perspective, check out the tips (along with an awesome Flight of the Concords song!) from consultant Anna Ivey. Then go and talk to your recommenders. Today.



A Refresher on Grade Replacement and Law School

We’re posting this grade replacement refresher while you can still add and drop courses…it may help you make the decision of whether to re-take a class!

It’s a little confusing how grade replacement works in light of law school applications. This Q&A refresher will help to clarify how grade replacement impacts law school applicants. It is critical that pre-law students understand how grade replacement will be viewed by a law school admissions dean.

Students should discuss your particular situation carefully with your academic advisor before making any decisions about re-taking a course.

Q. What is the campus Grade Replacement Policy?

A. Starting in Fall 2010, the University revised its Grade Replacement Policy. You can find the new Grade Replacement Policy in the Student Code, §3-309.

Students who meet the qualifications set forth in the Policy may now re-take up to 10 hours of UIUC courses and replace a grade of “C–” or below with the grade received the second time the course was taken. The original grade will no longer be factored in to the UIUC GPA.

An example to illustrate:

Let’s say Mike took Math 220 at UIUC in Fall 2011 and he earned a D+. He decides to re-take the course, gets approval for grade replacement from his department, and re-takes Math 220 in Spring 2012. He receives a C in the course this time.

In Mike’s UIUC GPA, only the C from the Spring 2012 Math 220 will be calculated. However, both grades will appear on his transcript.

Q: How does this impact my law school application?
A: Both Math 220 grades
will by considered by law schools.

When students apply to law school, the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) re-calculates the GPA and submits this calculation to law schools. (You can find more information about how the LSAC re-calculates a GPA here: http://www.lsac.org/policies/transcript-summarization.asp). Basically, applicants will have two GPAs: A UIUC GPA and an LSAC GPA.

This means that law schools will receive both your UIUC GPA and your re-calculated LSAC GPA. Our office has confirmed with the LSAC that they will continue to factor both the original and the second grade for a repeated course into your LSAC GPA, even if you qualified for Grade Replacement, and even if your UIUC GPA does not include the original grade.

In short: Both Math 220 grades will appear on Mike’s transcript AND both grades will be factored into Mike’s LSAC GPA.

Thus, applicants will not be able to “hide” the original grade from law school admissions. Law schools may use one or both of the GPAs to assess a candidate’s academic qualifications.

An example to illustrate: When Mike applies to law school, his LSAC GPA will factor in both the original D+ AND the C for both of the Math 220 courses. This GPA will be included in the reports sent to each law school to which Mike applies. The law school will also receive an official UIUC transcript with UIUC GPA.

Q: Should pre-law students ever consider grade replacement?
A: Maybe. Don’t do grade replacement just to improve your GPA for law school application purposes. If your goal is to improve your GPA, you’d be better off taking a class that suits your strengths that is the same number of credits as the class you want to replace. You’d have a better chance of doing well and balancing out that low grade.

However, there may be other reasons to go for grade replacement. Two examples: You need to understand the material in that course in order to do well in other courses; or you need that specific course to graduate.

Questions to consider before making a decision about re-taking a course:

• Do you need the course? Is it required, or necessary to master the material for a required sequence?

• Realistically, how much better will you perform in the course a second time?

• Since you cannot “hide” the low grade from law school admissions, might you be better   off taking a different course that interests you and suits your strengths?

If you decide to retake the course, consider what you can do differently this time, and realistically assess the situation. (Was it really that the professor just didn’t like you? Or was the problem that you never went to class?)

If you have questions, please discuss your specific situation with your major advisor, who can help you make this decision.