Monday, September 21, 2009

Zenterview - Deferring Columbia Law

Our latest Zenterview is with another Teach For America alumna; however, we were interested in hearing her answers because she was accepted to Columbia Law School and deferred her enrollment until after two years of service.

She has some great insights on how your focus area within law can change because of life experiences, and how top law schools offer different strengths in terms of their specialties.

How would you describe preparing for the LSAT, in three words or less?

Manage your time
What methods/classes/tutors did you use to prepare for the LSAT?
I took a Princeton Review accelerated prep course for three weeks. During the prep course, I would score between 165 and 169 on the examination simulations. On my actual LSAT, I scored a 173.
To what schools did you apply, and what factors led you to those law schools?

I only applied to Columbia Law school early decision. As a government and politics major with a focus in international relation, I was really impressed with the quality of the course work and the externship opportunities available surrounding international law at Columbia. Columbia definitely had one of the strongest international law programs in the country and the prospect of being in New York City and having access to some of the top internal law agencies and firms was an exciting prospect.
What "soft factors" do you think helped your application the most?

I think in addition to a solid LSAT and GPA, my rigorous coursework in college in particular taking graduate level classes and learning Arabic helped in bolstering my application as well as the internship experiences I had throughout college ranging from working at CNN and other media organizations, working on Capital Hill and working for the law firm of Steptoe & Johnson all in Washington DC.
How would your application change if you needed to apply this cycle?

If I were to reapply, I think having worked both as a corps member with Teach for America and as a staff member are important factors that will affect the strength of my application. I not only have the experience of working on the ground so to speak as a teacher and working in the communities we service, but at the same time I have work experience as a staff member that has given me insight in educational inequity at a macro level, non-profit management, education and government policy that directly affects the work that we do with our students. In addition, I was appointed to my Community Board by the Borough President Scott Stringer, where I work at a grassroots level to ensure the delivery of services to residents of the Washington Heights & Inwood communities as well work with elected officials within our community to ensure the right things are being prioritized to ensure a high quality of life for the residents within our community board.
How has deferring Columbia fit within your career's timeline? Is Columbia still your top choice?

I applied to Columbia at the same time I applied to Teach for America during my senior year of college. I knew that I did not want to go straight to graduate school after college and wanted to have work experience that would inform what I would do in law school and post law school. Having made the decision to defer was a blessing in disguise because having decided to pursue Teach for America before law school helped me solidify my true passion for the law and what I wanted to do with my law school experience. While I am still considering Columbia, I am keeping my options open and exploring other schools that have a strong focus in civil rights and education law.
What was the best piece of advice someone gave you during your law school application process?

I would say to applicants to really be open and honest with who you are, first as you make the final determination to apply to law school and second, as you select the schools you want to apply. Knowing who you are and what you want out of your law school experience will definitely affect the quality of your application and your recommendations. It will come through authentically in your application if you truly own why you want to go to law school and how you want to use your law school experience in the future.
What do you want to do immediately after law school? 10 years after?

I hope to work for a non-profit or government agency that works specifically with children’s civil rights issues and education for example the Children’s Defense Fund or returning to Teach for America. Ten years after law school, I hope to work for the White House, Department of Justice or the Department of Education still working on issues related to civil rights and education.
How has Teach For America affected your career aspirations?

Having been a Teach for America corps member, my focus in what I want to do with the law has shifted from an international focus to a domestic focus. I want to work on domestic issues related specifically to educational inequity and civil rights. While I still have a passion for international law and human rights, my corps experience has brought alive in me a passion for the plight of children and young adults in the US.