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September 5, 2008
I noticed that there are two new questions on the application that ask whether I took an LSAT preparation course or had any assistance in preparing my application. Will it hurt my chances of being admitted if I took an LSAT prep course? Is it still okay to have an admissions consultant give me guidance on my application?
I have a feeling that your questions are on a lot of applicants' minds, so I'm glad you asked! Let me address the LSAT and application assistance questions separately.
For the LSAT, it's become the norm to take some type of preparation course (this is a change from one or two decades ago, when a relatively smaller portion of the applicant pool took such courses). Taking a course -- which helps students understand the test, gives guidance and practice on the different kinds of questions, and gives test-takers a psychological confidence boost -- can significantly help one's score. Of course, applicants who have a lot of self-discipline and organizational skills can self-study with the same (and sometimes better) benefits. But my guess is that most people aren't always as organized or disciplined, and generally take a course if they can -- for which they won't be penalized. These courses, however, are pretty pricey, and not all applicants have access to one. So, if I am looking at an application where a student self-studied, to me it's another piece of data in reviewing the application. That's not to say that a student who doesn't take a course and gets a lower score will get a "pass," or will have a lower standard applied to him or her, but it does allow me and other file readers to consider the resources that were or were not available to the applicant in preparing for the LSAT and weigh that along with the strengths and weaknesses of the other parts of the application.
With respect to the assistance received in preparing your application, I want to make sure that all applicants are evaluated on a level playing field. Most students take the time to prepare their application on their own, and will probably reach out to friends and family or the prelaw advisor at their college or university for guidance on essay ideas or proofreading. That's fine, and we hope and expect that you'll use these resources (though you should still disclose it on your application). However, some applicants go much further. For example, some students pay a lot of money for professional consultants -- some of whom are former admissions officials -- to help package their applications, which usually involves significant help on their personal statements. Others may get a similar level of feedback and editing from people they know. Now, a student who receives assistance on his or her application won't be automatically penalized or rejected. But I would like to know if a student received any help and to what extent: after all, I'm interested in evaluating the ideas and writing of the applicant, not those of the people who helped him or her. Most importantly, I want students who don't get a lot of assistance, or choose not to spend $500 or $5,000 dollars on a professional packaging service, to feel confident that their application -- even if it is not as slick and polished as some others -- will still get due, and fair, consideration
If you are considering getting an admissions consultant, think about why you need one. There's no blueprint for a law school application, and the most important thing about a personal statement, in my opinion, is authenticity. The only way to achieve that is to write your personal statement yourself, in your own voice. Honestly, there's not a lot of feedback about your personal statement that a "professional" consultant can give that someone who knows you well -- a friend, family member, or a trusted professor or college advisor -- couldn't give as well. Moreover, your PS is not necessarily the most important part of your application. The other aspects of your application, including your academic record, and your recommendations, tell admissions committees volumes about you, and no consultant can change or package those. Finally, remember that whatever type of assistance you receive, you must certify that your essays are your *original* work, which means that no one should be redrafting or rewording your essays except for you. My advice? Save your money for law school -- you're going to need it.
Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Just to clarify, will I be penalized if I check the "Yes" box and explain in an addendum that I discussed the admissions process and my application with my university's office of career services? The way the application is structured makes it difficult to differentiate between the basic assistance supplied by my university and the intensive help offered by paid consultants.
No, your application will not be penalized if you took advantage of the resources offered by your career office. In fact, we hope applicants will utilize their prelaw offices, friends, and family. You've probably read your essay and statement countless times, so it's a good idea to have a fresh set of eyes look over your writing.
October 18, 2009 1:07 PM
Thanks so much for taking the time to open up the world of YLS admissions through this blog. I've found this site as well as the career services section with the list of books and links to be highly informative. My question revolves around the question on the YLS application regarding the LSAT prep course an applicant may have taken prior to applying to the law school. I have not seen the application myself so I'm not sure how the question is worded, however as someone who is a self proclaimed LSAT nerd I am curious about whether or not and how much this question allows for a delineation of the myriad forms LSAT prep can take these days. Allow me to explain. As you stated in your post above a decade or two ago LSAT prep courses were not nearly as ubiquitous as they are today. I am not sure as to the exact number, but if I were to place a bet I would say that there are probably anywhere from 50-100 companies selling some form or another of LSAT preparation. Anybody who has spent any serious amount of time with the test will very quickly realize that not all LSAT prep is created equal. In fact as you've noted in your above post "applicants who have a lot of self-discipline and organizational skills can self-study with the same (and sometimes better) benefits." I agree wholeheartedly with this statement, but think the underlying reasons for these results are often more complex than one student being more self-disciplined and organized than another. In fact I think an argument could also be made that certain companies materials might put an applicant in worst shape than they might have been had they not taken the course. While this might be hard to evaluate objectively I don't know if it can be said to be any less fair of a criterion which asks for someone to answer a simple "yes" or "no" on whether or not they utilized a prep course in their studies.
In addition to prep courses being more ubiquitous than they were 10 - 20 years ago the proliferation of self study guides has also changed the way that students self study for the exam to such an extent that an argument could be made that students who self study with certain guide books these days are also at a significant advantage to students who self studied 10 - 20 years ago along with the added fact that many of these guides are not cheap. In which case some students who have self studied also can be said to have a kind of access which might place them at an advantage to other students who might not have had such access. I could go on and on about how complex and nuanced each students individual prep can be, but I think you get the point by now=) I guess the bottom lineis this: How is the question worded exactly? And does it encourage students to be as specific as possible in how they went about preparing for the test so as to distinguish those who naturally had the ability vs. those who had to work hard for it vs. those who studied for 1 week, 2 weeks, 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, 1 year, 2 years, etc. vs those who had no financial resources to prepare vs. those who had some resources vs. those who had a LOT of resources?
Thanks once again! I look forward to hearing back from you!
October 4, 2011 2:04 AM