Almost two weeks ago, my friend Cici and I went to an LSAC Law School Recruitment Forum in Atlanta, Georgia. If you’re unfamiliar, the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) hosts exciting recruitment events in major cities, where the law schools come to you! (Well, some of them.) It seemed like a great way to learn about schools that we were interested in, pick up some application tips, and maybe make an impression on some admissions reps so we could do some name dropping when we visited. I want to share not only the hilarious narrative of our trip, but also some advice that we agreed any forum attendee should have.
Tip #1: Bring a friend.
Chances are, you’ll have to drive. Cici started driving at 5 a.m., to come pick me up at 6 a.m., so that we could drive the 4 hours to Atlanta and get there in time for “Forum 101,” a workshop they offered which promised, among other things, “insider tips.”
However, due to a slight miscalculation and a spider, we got there late and missed Forum 101.
We decided to go to the next one, which meant we had about 30 minutes to kill in the ball room, sans insider tips.
The forum was held in a massive hotel ballroom, and each school had a table. There were approximately one million tables. As we entered, a woman handed us a complementary LSAC tote, which I gleefully hugged to my chest, declaring it my “swag bag!” (Spoiler alert: there is no swag.) It had some information about the LSAT and LSAC, as well as a list of forum participants with a map of the room. “I’ll follow your lead,” said Cici. “I’m so tired, this all feels like a dream.”
After our third loop around the room without talking to anyone, Cici decided we needed another lead. “Let’s just talk to somebody!” she said. I was nervous. I had no questions, and an urgent desire not to sound like a moron. We walked up to George Washington University.
Sophia Sim, the Associate Dean was very patient with us. As far as I can recall, it went something like this:
“So, um. Do you… teach law?”
Tip #2: Prepare questions before you go.
Cici and I quickly decided that we needed to re-group, and sat in the lobby with a copy of The Princeton Review’s Best 170 Law School’s until Forum 101 started. We scanned the list of schools there, narrowed down the ones we really wanted to talk to, and looked them up to see what questions we might have that would give the admissions reps the impression that we had prepared. (Because we hadn’t.)
Before going in for round two, we slipped into Forum 101. We slipped right back out again about 10 minutes later.
Tip #3: If you’re reading this, or anything at all, you do not need to go to Forum 101.
We then decided to hit up the diversity seminar, hoping that diversity meant unique backgrounds and fun parts of the country and non-traditional students. It did not.
Tip #4: You do not need to go to any of the workshops.
In each workshop, the moderator would play a video (which are mostly available online) and then open up the floor to questions. I’ve been a panelist on a panel. I know people who have been panelists on panels. I was skeptical, and I was right. That isn’t to say that these sorts of things aren’t tremendously helpful to students who haven’t done a lot of research or taken the LSAT yet, but I think it’s safe to say that anyone reading a blog in their free time about law school application is all set in those departments. Additionally, most of the information, as I said, is available online or elsewhere (the LSAT fact sheets, for example, were just copies of the same two-page FAQ that appears in the front of every official LSAC prep book). Finally, as the day came to a close and we found ourselves having to budget time to fit in schools we really wanted to talk to, it would have been a shame to dedicate anymore time to what is really all information that we should’ve looked into at home.
Tip #5: Don’t ask questions if the answer is Google.
Or else Cici might call you out on it. We were waiting in line to talk to NYU and Cici overheard the girl in front of us asking about the application deadline. This type of question, I think, is counter-productive for a number of reasons. First, you have a limited amount of time to talk to representatives, especially if a line is forming behind you. Propriety will begin to demand, at some point, that you need to wrap it up, and you don’t want to waste time with anything that you can just as easily find out at home. Second, these admissions representatives will in all likelihood not remember you, and you greatly reduce the modicum of a chance that they do if you don’t have something different to say. One has to figure that they get pretty tired of answering the same questions all day about their median LSAT and GPA. Worse yet, especially at a better school whose potential admits may have come well-prepared, you may be remembered for being annoying. This is all conjecture and speculation.
“Why are you wasting time asking about application deadlines,” said Cici, probably a little too loudly.
Cici’s great because, sometimes, she says things a little too loudly. In line to talk to UC Berkeley, I accused someone of cutting an awful fart. “Don’t fart while you’re waiting to talk to law schools,” she said. A girl was walking by with a big Burberry purse. “I’m looking at you, Burberry.” She did not see that Burberry had stopped to talk to a table behind us. Also, at some point, I wrote a tip to myself to stop cursing. I wasn’t cursing at admissions reps, but if you want to talk to top law schools, you’ll be waiting in line. Cici and I often had to entertain ourselves (I told a hilarious story about first seeing the word “yarmulke” in print, for example) and you may forget yourself.
Tip #6: Watch your mouth.
Tip #7: Don’t chew gum.
It’s tacky and you’ll turn into a blueberry.
I should backtrack a little bit and pick up the story as Cici and I enter the ballroom for the second time.
Tip #8: Start talking to schools that you’re less interested in and work your way up.
Intimidated by our lack of charm the first time around, we decided to try out some of our questions on less competitive schools. This accomplished a couple of things. When you get your non-school-specific questions together, you can try them out on other schools and get a sense of what works. For instance, it seems futile, after having been to the Forum, to ask whether the environment at the law school is “competitive” or “collegial.” Everyone will say “collegial,” all the time, so it’s probably better to reference student surveys in books like Princeton Review’s 167 Best Law Schools. It also helped amp us up a little bit before talking to schools that we might have been intimidated by. It’s nice to hear from a couple of schools that would offer you scholarships and stipends. Puts a little swagger in your step. Lastly, as I mentioned before, I worried about the sanity of these admissions representatives, and I can’t imagine it hurt things for Cici and I to develop a nice back-and-forth as we traded asking questions, as well as a small repertoire of jokes.
Tip #9: Collect business cards or write down the name of anyone that you talk to.
As I mentioned before, we thought this might come in handy on school visits. One can imagine how much more pleasant it would be to drop by the admissions department and ask if Randy/Paula/Simon is in. “(S)he answered some questions for me at the Law School Forum in Atlanta last fall and was really helpful! I wanted to stop by and say thanks.”
Tip #10: This goes for law school visits as well.
When we stopped by to talk to Kevin Petty from the University of Chicago, I got the chance to tell him I had visited the law school last month and that Bob, the facilities manager, had given me a tour. “Bob gives the best tours!” he said. (I told you.) “We have students come and ask for Bob.” (Ask for Bob.) It was a nice ice-breaker.
Another ice-breaking moment we had was at the Vanderbilt table, where we talked to Ryan Willard. When we told him we were MTSU students, he said, “That’s great! You know… I’ve heard there’s some crazy rumor that we only take one MTSU student a year.” He handed us some printed materials and Cici and I told him we’d just been talking about that. “I don’t know where that comes from,” he said. “We’d be glad to take any qualified applicant from MTSU.” Cici turned over the brochure he’d given us. The brochure broke down last years incoming class by undergraduate institution, and last year, only one MTSU student had been admitted. Cici pointed that out and he grinned. His grin said “any qualified student.”
It was Mr. Willard who also told us about the best personal statement that he’d ever read.
The best personal statement Ryan Willard ever read:
“A kid is from an old rust-belt town in New York, and he describes how the colors of the town are just fading away. And he’s off at college–”
“Is it Cornell?” interrupted a girl who had broken in on our two-man operation.
“Yeah, I think it was.”
“My alma mater,” she says. We were all very proud.
“Anyway, his friends all go off to summer jobs and exciting vacations, and he just is drawn back to his hometown and this pool that he’s a lifeguard at. And there are all these kids there, whose parents just leave them there all day, because they’re working. And the guy is pulling one kid around in a float at the end of a long day and one of the kid’s friends asks, ‘Who is that?’ in Spanish. But the guy knows Spanish, and hears the kid answer back, ‘This is my father.'”
“I call bullshit,” said Cici, later. “I mean, if a kid is in a pool, they’re old enough to know that the lifeguard is not their father.”
We got into the habit of asking the admissions reps about the best and the worst personal statements they’ve ever read, an idea we must’ve gotten from Forum 101. One of the panelists was explaining that personal statements are not for airing your dirty laundry, and that sometimes there’s “T.M.I.!”
The worst personal statements that people have ever read:
An admissions counselor told us that, she didn’t remember the whole thing, but the first word was “masturbation.”
One student wrote an entire essay comparing their life to the life of a bee. “The word ‘buzz’ was used. Several times.”
Someone scrawled their essay on notebook paper, and wrote about their back-stabbing friends. It was largely misspelled.
Another admissions counselor couldn’t remember the content, just that the letter started with the phrase, “Boy, do you have balls!”
One hopeful applicant wrote about his part-time job at Circuit City where he “macked on chicks,” which he felt was indicative of his promise as a lawyer.
One student wrote: “I’m not writing this fucking letter.” Other admissions counselors chimed in and attempted to count the times they had seen that on the LSAT writing prompt.
In a similar vein to our Circuit City employee, a Rugby player wrote about having his epiphany that law was his calling while at a strip club with his team. “It was… very graphic.”
The best letters, however, are something of an enigma. Some counselors didn’t remember, others didn’t want to tell us (for fear that I, too, would write my letter about my time in the Persian Gulf), and most just got misty-eyed and recalled letters of such heart-wrenching sincerity, such hope, and just a dash of humor that made them grin in spite of themselves. “Be yourself,” they said. So the lesson here is:
Tip #11: When writing personal statements, be yourself so much that people choke up thinking about it, and avoid adding pornographic content, if at all possible.
Finally, on the long ride home, we both lamented that we hadn’t made a fun weekend of it.
Tip #12: Make a fun weekend of it.
As fun as the search for a law school can be anyway.
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I just wanted to note, quickly, that I saw Jack Purcell at the grocery store the other day and he mentioned my blog and said that he enjoyed it and thought it was funny. I wanted to say thank you, if he’s reading again, for making me feel like a little celebrity! Thanks as well to everyone reading. :)