Thursday, August 13, 2009

Zenterview How to: Scholarships for Law School

Our second Zenterview is with a fan of Zen of 180 who is just finishing orientation at the University of Louisville Louis D. Brandeis School of Law.

EF spe
nt two years after her undergraduate studies working and applying to medical schools; although she interviewed with several top programs, she decided instead to drop medicine and turn to law school.

She was accepted to 10 out of the 11 law schools she applied to, and received full scholarship offers from most of those schools. Her interview is the first in a series we'll conduct with law school applicants, each of whom were exceedingly successful but chose to attend very different schools.

  • How would you describe preparing for the LSAT, in three words or less?
"Intense and systematic."

  • What methods/classes/tutors did you use to prepare for the LSAT?
A good friend had taken the LSAT before I did. He got a phenomenal score, so it made sense to use the study methods of someone who shared my learning style. Most of the studying I did was PrepTest after PrepTest. My average practice score just before taking the LSAT was 164, and I scored a 166 on the actual LSAT.

  • How was preparing for the LSAT different from preparing for the MCAT?
Preparing for the LSAT requires one to practice in a more time-intensive manner. What I mean is that how one uses their time weighs more heavily on the eventual score. The same principle is generally true for the MCAT, but it isn't nearly as pressurized as the LSAT.

For the LSAT, it is absolutely necessary to run practice tests exactly as the actual exam. Otherwise, one would have an excellent grasp of the material and strategies, but fail miserably because they did not know how to allot time effectively. Also, the LSAT is by far more focused on how you use your intelligence; there is no regurgitation of learned material. The MCAT is purely content and thus has to be prepared for quite differently.

  • To what schools did you apply, and what factors led you to those law schools?
I applied to Boston University, William and Mary, Notre Dame, Baylor, the University of Illinois-Champagne, the University of Georgia, the University of Toledo, the University of Cincinnati, Cleveland State University, the University of Kentucky, and the University of Louisville.

Each university had something unique that appealed to me. For Boston University it was the strong welcoming climate for LGBT students. For William and Mary, it was the high regard it holds in the legal community, along with being in an appealing small-town in a beautiful area of the country. Notre Dame was simply a place that I felt I needed to apply, because of its reputation and standing. Baylor recruited me aggressively, and so I applied there almost out of thanks for the aggressive recruiting.

The University of Toledo appealed to me because I have family in the area, and one of my aunts graduated from their law program. In Cleveland and Cincinnati, I also have family. I applied to the University of Kentucky because that is where I did my undergraduate work, and I was living in Lexington during my application cycle. I applied to the University of Louisville because it is closest to my immediate family, and the campus is one of my favorite places in the Louisville area. I now feel I should have gone there for my undergraduate work instead of the University of Kentucky, and I was impressed by the genuine warmth the admissions staff had for their applicants.

  • What did you write your law school personal statement about?
I wrote my personal statement on contradiction, the role it has played in my life, the role it plays in the law, and how it was an asset to be familiar with contradictions both personally and professionally.

  • Your unique education and work backgrounds combine nicely with such an interesting essay; it makes sense you received so many scholarship offers! Would you mind sharing part of your statement?
"Someone once told me that my life is a series of contradictions. Interested, I considered why a person close to me would say that, and whether it was a positive or negative statement. The latter thought was the easier to answer. I chose to take it as a positive statement. Alfred North Whitehead once said, 'In formal logic, a contradiction is the signal of defeat, but in the evolution of real knowledge it marks the first step in progress toward a victory.' I agree with that and I think that my life being a series of contradictions might indicate that I have been on my way to really learning about the world."
  • What "soft factors" do you think helped your application the most?
I think the fact I had been out of school for two years helped. They knew I had "been in the real world," and decided to come to law school to better my career options. I would, from their perspective, potentially work and strive harder than other applicants fresh out of college who didn't realize what the world was like and what their careers could be like should they fail law school. The other thing that helped was my student organization leadership background, particularly the year I served as the president of UKLambda, now UKGSA, which is one of two of the LGBT student organizations at the University of Kentucky.

  • How would you compare med school interviews and law school scholarship interviews? Most people don’t have to be interviewed by law schools, so we’re interested to see how you’d describe them.
Med school interviewers don't outwardly take the interview as seriously. There's an argument to be made that they don't take it seriously at all, unless you completely foul up. Law school interviews are more probative, especially in the sense that they want to make sure you know what you put in your application. If you don't know, they assume you're a liar and that's it for your chances. Med school interviewers are happy to just hear you say the answers they want to hear; law school interviewers care if you're disingenuous.

  • What made Brandeis the best decision for you?
U of L was the best decision for me because of financial and personal reasons. U of L's in-state tuition is roughly $7000 per semster, and I was awarded a $10,000 per year scholarship, making a semester's tuition of professional school less than a semester's tuition at my undergraduate school. Also, I was familiar with Louisville and have always enjoyed my time spent in the city. I was not interested in leaving the comfort of having my family nearby.

  • Which other law schools did you turn down, and why?
Of the other eleven law schools to which I applied, only Notre Dame waitlisted me. As soon as they informed me, I told them to take me off the list. I knew there would be someone out there who really wanted to go to Notre Dame; since I did not, it was not fair for me to remain on the waitlist.

The other ten schools accepted me, and most offered me some sort of scholarship. The University of Louisville was the second most generous; the University of Toledo offered me a full ride. Baylor, the University of Illinois, and William and Mary all offered me full rides, minus the difference between in- and out-of-state tuition.

I turned down all these other offers simply because Brandeis felt, in a metaphysical wishy-washy way, right. When I visited the campus, I got the distinct feeling I was meant to be there, and the warmth of the admissions staff assured me I was right. I've gone through my orientation, and so far I stand by my decision.

  • What was the best piece of advice someone gave you during your law school application process?
Get a good LSAT score.

If you have a good LSAT score, you can go almost anywhere, and you get a lot of perks for a good LSAT score. That's where scholarship money gets decided.

  • What do you want to do immediately after law school? 10 years after?
Immediately after law school I want to work for a firm with the best financial offer, because I'm a capitalist.

Ten years after, I want to be practicing in healthcare law, neglecting most other things in life because I know I’ll enjoy my work so much. After the whole med school process, I realized what part of healthcare I’d rather be working in.