Advice to 1Ls – Part II (Jim)

Next up is Jim, who contacted me while still waiting to hear back from admissions office.

Question 1:
Hey I saw your info on [Law School Numbers] and I’m applying to SMU’s evening program with pretty similar #’s [GPA & LSAT score redacted for his and my own anonymity]. I was wondering what you thought set your application apart that got you in [because] SMU is my top choice, any and all help is appreciated.

thanks again.

Answer 1:

Sorry for the delayed response. I’ve been away from Facebook for a few days. I would love to render service in your endeavors in any way I can, but to be honest, I could not tell you exactly what set me apart from other applicants to get into SMU.

As clichéish as this may sound, the best advice I could give is (and I mean this in the most genuine way possible) to do what works for you. Don’t be so swayed by what others are doing or telling you to do. Law schools aren’t looking for cookie-cutter applicants that meet their narrow set of criteria. True, if you have 175 and 3.89, any school would accept you barring a detrimental criminal record, but those of us that fall within the average range of applicant pool stand the best chance by just being who we are. Admissions committees can smell posers a mile away – there are hundreds of them every year. Don’t be one of them.

One thing I made a point of is not trying to hide my weaknesses. I told them right out that standardized tests always have been my arch-nemesis, but I have shown them a track record of me proving those numbers wrong time and again. I’m sure I wasn’t the first to tell such tale, but I think it’s a good idea to make your weaknesses into your strengths.

If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me. Best of luck in your application cycle!

Question 2:

Hey! Thanks for the info I definitely wrote an addendum about my LSAT score and I hope my essays portray how much I want to go there, SMU is my top choice. Were there a lot of people with scores similar to ours in the evening program? I just want to honestly gauge my chances. Good luck to you this year.

Answer 2:
Hi Jim,

I don’t really know the LSAT score ranges of my class, to be honest. All I know is that [my LSAT score redacted; you could probably dig further and find it out if you want, but I’m deleting it from here…] falls right on the 25th percentile line. I don’t know if that still holds true for this cycle.

Keep the question coming. 😉


[A month and a half later…]

Question 3:
Hey I don’t know if you remember me but I found your info on [Law School Numbers] and I sent you a FB message asking about SMU’s Part-Time Program. I was wondering if you had any idea the average time it takes to be notified? I applied 10/23, went complete 11/19 and the only reason was because I called them to ask them if something was missing on my application which of course there wasn’t.

Are they just slow and disorganized in general? or just with the people they don’t really want to accept :-\

Anyways have a happy holidays and an awesome Christmas break!

Answer 3:
Hi Jim,

(I just wrote a lengthy reply and was almost done when I accidentally hit the “Back” button and erased it all. Ughhhhhh….)

Of course, I remember our previous conversations. I’m glad to hear that you have already completed the application. The downside of being so on top of your game is that your waiting period is elongated by that much. No good deed goes unpunished. 🙂

I applied within the early notification period, but SMU was one of the last schools from which I heard back. Early April, I want to say?

Generally, schools reply very quickly in two cases:
1) if you have amazing LSAT and a respectable GPA that they want to snag you before another school does; or
2) if you have dismal LSAT and GPA and have no chance ever of getting admitted.

The rest of us fall into the third category of endless waiting. But look on the bright side: at least you become more certain that they don’t absolutely hate your application as your waiting period lapses.

But the direct answers to your questions are:
1) the admissions office can somewhat be disorganized, but the fact that you’ve ONLY waited a month (yes, ONLY; it could take couple more months before you hear back) doesn’t necessarily add to the evidence of their lack of organizational skills;
2) the admission file review process takes very long – once the file goes complete, copies are made, distributed to faculty review committee, they’re given time to read it, they deliberate, sort the applicants into groups, and all of this doesn’t start until Fall semester courses are over (so that the faculty no longer have final exams on their minds); and
3) at this early stage in the application cycle, they wait for more people to apply so that they can get the “best” people in regardless of when they apply (as long as it is within the deadline).

I know it is hard not to compulsively look at your mailbox three times a day, but take comfort in that it’s not WHEN you hear back that really matters but WHAT you hear.

Meanwhile, enjoy the holidays and best of luck!


Question 3:

Hey its Jim again.
I don’t wanna be a bother but I just wanted to ask a question. I wrote an LSAT addendum to all the law schools I applied to about how my score is really not indicative of my true capacity because I have a big problem with Test Anxiety which lead to a history of low scores on all standardized tests. I wanted to supplement this with copies of my two SAT scores [scores redacted]. Either way I contacted the college board and was unable to get paper copies because it was over 5 years ago so they were archived. The only way that I knew of was to login to my college board account and make a PDF snapshot of the web page that showed my scores and then also a second web page with the scores I sent them to back in high school.

At the risk of looking unprofessional I sent it with an apology and also asked them if they knew of any other ways to get “official score reports” and if so that I’d be happy to go and get them that way.

In any case, I was wondering if you knew if my SAT scores would be sufficient as a means of helping my case with proving the legitimacy of my LSAT addendum.

Answer 3:
Your undergraduate institution should have your SAT/ACT scores on record as well (though this advice seems belated). I sent my scores to some (not all) schools as well. To be honest, I don’t really know of any other way to “legitimize” your LSAT score. But do find peace in the fact that admission committees realize standardized tests are not necessarily the best way to gauge a student’s abilities.

And, no, you’re not bothering me. Drop me a line whenever you have a question. Just no guarantee that I will be able to give you a satisfying answer.


Comment to Answer 3:

Thanks for the quick reply, I am afraid i’ll have to disagree with your assessment of AdComms, call me a cynic but I think they’re way more concerned with the potential impact of a “lower LSAT” on their Ranking. But such is life, anyways thanks again and if I have any other questions i’ll be sure to send’em your way.

thanks again

[About 5 weeks later…]
Question 4:
Hey i’m not sure you remember me cause it’s been a looong time but I somehow got your info from LSN or TLS or something and I saw you got into SMU’s PT program.

I def[initely] retook the LSAT and got a [score redacted] (not an earth shattering score I know, but i’m hoping with my GPA it’s good enough to get into SMU’s evening program).I wanted to ask you firstly what you think my chances are with a [number redacted] GPA and a [number redacted] LSAT. and Secondly I wanted to ask you about how (if at all) this economic downturn is affecting law students and their employment prospects in the Dallas/Fort Worth Area. SMU is my top choice because I want to end up in Dallas so it seems like a perfect fit.I appreciate your help and I look forward to hearing from you.

Thanks again!

Answer 4:
Hi Jim,

My apologies for the delayed reply. As I get older, my memories do start to fail me at times, but it is not quite so bad yet so I remember you very well. Thus you won’t have to start any subsequent messages reintroducing yourself.

I applaud your efforts in dragging yourself through another round of LSAT. I know how tough that must have been. Congratulations on your improved score. With such large pool of applicants, showing the admissions committee that you are continuing your efforts to improve and set yourself apart from the rest can only help. I regret to inform you, though, that neither can I give you an assessment of “your chances” nor would my opinion really be of any benefit to you. They gave you the numbers that would be most helpful in gauging your chances, i.e. Median, 25th and 75th percentiles, and beyond that your guess is as good as mine. I apologize that I could not be of more help on that issue.

To your second inquiry, however, I may be able to offer some insight. One does not have to look very hard these days to see just how bad the economy is, and, though people say that Dallas area has relatively been sheltered from the hit, I have definitely seen some changes in the legal employment climate. I keep receiving these news emails saying how large firms are cutting law student clerkship positions, staff and even seasoned attorneys. I myself have been trying to get a part-time job to no avail thus far. But what does this really mean for you?

1) the general maxim that law school applications go up when economy goes down has not quite panned out yet according to the ABA Journal. Either the increase is waiting to hit during the next application cycle or people are applying to different programs. Who knows? But the good news is that your odds are not any worse than it would have been a year ago.

2) if you are currently employed and you like your job, keep it for now as you start school. Some people in the evening program leave their previous jobs thinking that they would like to transition to a legal job while in school. While that would be ideal, competition is very steep nowadays. Wait out the storm for now.

3) if you get admitted this year, you’ve got 4-4.5 years, so the legal job market will improve by then. I am certainly hoping it would be so for my sake. 😉 If you are staying in Dallas, there is no place like SMU to get your law degree. You’ve probably heard that there are more SMU law alumni among DFW area lawyers than any other schools. Not only is it so much easier to get a job with such extensive alumni network around, those people tend to come back to their alma mater to find new recruits. Also, SMU has the highest bar passage rate in the state of Texas, even over UT and Baylor. If you know you want to stay here, you’re making the right decision to attend SMU.

Hopefully, I’ve answered your questions and not have scared you off too badly. I wanted to give you an honest assessment rather than sugar-coated answers.

If I have been of any help, feel free to continue asking questions as you encounter them.

Best of luck.


Jim was very worried about his prospects of getting into SMU Law. His tireless efforts paid off and he was admitted. Congratulations, Jim.


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