In Pursuit of FLEP (the AF kind)

sylvernight
Posts: 31
Joined: Mon Nov 29, 2010 7:19 pm

In Pursuit of FLEP (the AF kind)

Postby sylvernight » Tue Nov 30, 2010 6:04 pm

I'm an active-duty Air Force officer, currently serving in Cyberspace Operations. I commissioned through AF ROTC, and I have five-and-a-half years prior service from the Air National Guard. Despite my complicated service history, I've wanted to be an Air Force JAG for the past nine years, and this winter, I am applying (again).

I created this blog because the low selection rate for JAGs in general, and for the Air Force FLEP program in particular, means that getting information from anyone who has participated in the process can be difficult. Going forward under the assumption that fellow hopefuls would benefit from a chronicled view, I will continue posting as I complete each step towards my FLEP application, and hopefully, beyond.

sylvernight
Posts: 31
Joined: Mon Nov 29, 2010 7:19 pm

Re: In Pursuit of FLEP (the AF kind)

Postby sylvernight » Tue Nov 30, 2010 7:10 pm

Some information about FLEP:

FLEP stands for Funded Legal Education Program, and is a program through which an active duty officer can attend law school while receiving full pay, benefits, and tuition. As far as I know, all services offer a FLEP program, but as I am only interested in the Air Force, this is what I will be discussing.

Qualifications for FLEP:
- Active duty officer, O-1 through O-3, with 2-6 years active duty service (the active duty part is important to me, because my National Guard service only counts as a little over one year).
- Must apply and be accepted to an ABA-accredited law school, subject to tuition limits stated below.

Limitations of FLEP:
- Under FLEP, tuition is capped at a relatively low number (currently $16K/year), and cannot be supplemented with personal funds or loans. Academic scholarships may be used, but must be approved. This means that unless you're offered a hefty academic scholarship, you won't be attending any Tier-1 schools under this program.

My personal dilemma: I've been accepted to two very good schools, UT Austin and Baylor. UT Austin is my first choice, but since their tuition is roughly $30K/year, I have to hope they offer me a minimum $14K/year scholarship. Alternately, Baylor has offered me a full-ride. If UT doesn't come through with the funds, I'll have no choice but to go to Baylor, or to find another school that meets the tuition threshold. I'm still trying to find out why the tuition limit is so low, but so far, no luck.

The companion program to FLEP is ELP, the Excess Leave Program. ELP is for O-3s and below with 2-10 years of active duty time, and allows you to attend law school on your own dime. You do not receive pay or tuition, but you are also not subject to tuition limitations as with FLEP.

ELP is my fall-back program. I am not going to apply to ELP this year, but I am keeping it under consideration for next year, just in case. (My reasoning here is mostly financial; I only have two years of active duty service right now, and if I wait one more year, I will qualify for the new GI Bill. If I had the GI Bill to pay partial tuition and my housing allowance, I would be more comfortable taking ELP, and I wouldn't have to borrow quite so much money).

I obviously haven't touched on all the details associated with either program, nor would I want to here (it gets pretty complicated).

There are various sites where one can find more information, but the official one is --LinkRemoved--. You can also call 1 (800) JAG-USAF and talk to a JAG recruiter.

For detailed rules and regulations, check Air Force Instruction (AFI) 51-101, Judge Advocate Accession Program.
Last edited by sylvernight on Sun Dec 05, 2010 6:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.

sylvernight
Posts: 31
Joined: Mon Nov 29, 2010 7:19 pm

Re: In Pursuit of FLEP (the AF kind)

Postby sylvernight » Wed Dec 01, 2010 5:15 pm

My Personal To-Do List:

I've been deployed for a good portion of the past year, and I'm about to go back home. Since applications are due pretty soon (1 Jan - 1 Mar), I've compiled a list of things I need to do before then.

- Get full-length photo - This is like a digital first impression, and will be the first thing the selection board sees in my application. I've already scheduled a photo appointment with Public Affairs, and I just ordered an update to my ribbon rack to add the awards I've earned during this deployment. I might want to check my service dress fit, though, since I haven't worn it since May.

- Order Transcripts - This can be a little time-consuming, especially when you live overseas and you attended four undergraduate institutions (local community college, Community College of the Air Force, university I attended for ROTC courses, and university from which I actually graduated). I've also started courses towards my Master's, so I'll need that transcript as well.

- Solicit letters of recommendation - I heard from a current JAG who posts on TLS that it's a good idea to submit as many letters as possible (the current limit is five). Commanders, supervisors, volunteer work supervisors, and professors generally make the best candidates for LORs.

- Start writing Personal Interest/Motivation Statement - As law applicants, we're all familiar with these. The biggest problem is that the statement is limited to one page, double spaced. I've also been advised to avoid blanket patriotic statements like, "I love my country;" this statement needs to be personal and unique enough to grab the board's attention. I'll be spending a lot of time on this.

- Decide on a writing sample - This is optional, but since my degree was in Writing, it can't hurt. I'm finishing a class on Conflict in Afghanistan right now, and I will most likely use my final paper for this requirement.

- Gather prior military records - Because EPRs are optional in the Air National Guard (yes, I know--weekend warriors, blah, blah, blah), I don't have any enlisted records to worry about except my DD 214. In the National Guard, it's actually called a "National Guard Bureau Report of Separation and Record of Service", but it's the same thing. I also need a copy of my current officer SURF, my ASBC training report, and my one and only OPR. I've kept on top of my records, and my OPR looks good, so no worries here.

- Obtain Conditional Release from AFPC Functional Manager - I have absolutely no idea how to do this, but I emailed my new supervisor last night, and he's looking into it for me. He's also checking out what I need to do to obtain an earlier DEROS (Date Eligible to Return from Overseas). My current DEROS is Sep of next year, but if I'm accepted, I'll need to PCS by early August to get set up before school starts.

- Print LSDAS (I think they mean LSAT) report - The AF IMT 1759 says this is only required for ROTC applicants, but the JAG website lists LSAT percentile printout under FLEP requirements, so I'm going to do it anyway.

- Print Law School Application Forms and copy Law School Letters of Acceptance and Academic Scholarship Letters - This is going to be interesting. I was accepted to Baylor University two years ago when I applied for Education Delay. They offered me a full scholarship, and seemed pretty understanding when I couldn't attend. They actually offered to hold my admittance and my scholarship for two years, which means I was probably the first person admitted to the Baylor Law Class of 2014. The only school I wanted more than this was the University of Texas, and I just found out I was admitted two days ago. I probably won't receive a scholarship offer until early Spring, but UT is still my first choice. Because of this, I'm going to need to investigate some third-party academic scholarships in order to get tuition below the $16K/year threshold.

- Update and print resume - I updated my resume last month when I applied to law school, so this should be pretty easy. I'll give it one more look-over, and make sure everything is current. Since extra-curriculars and volunteer experience aren't listed anywhere else in the application, I'll need to make sure it is clear here.

- Start completing application forms. This can actually get a little complicated. Each form is discussed below:
-- AF IMT 1759 - This is basically a checklist of forms and items needed to complete my application. Unfortunately, it doesn't actually list everything required for FLEP, but it's a required part of the application anyway.
-- Air Force Judge Advocate Applicant Information Form - Very basic information, including physical details, education and credit information, and an authorization for release of information (this release covers just about every kind of record anyone has ever kept on you, but if you want to be a lawyer, I'm guessing you have nothing to hide).
-- AF Form 24, Application for Appointment - Much longer form. Covers basic information, education details, military education and training, employment history, civil and criminal violations (including traffic tickets and non-judicial punishment), AFOQT scores, and security clearance information. AFOQT scores must be entered by unit commander (although there is nowhere for the unit commander to sign that he's done this?).
-- AF Form 2030, USAF Drug and Alcohol Abuse Certificate - This form isn't listed under the FLEP requirements on the website, but it is listed on the AF IMT 1759, so I'm going to complete it just in case. If you've never used illegal substances, it isn't going to be issue. If you have, you might want to rethink applying to the JAG corp.
-- AF Form 1760, Assignment Preference Sheet - Basic information about you and your family, assignment preferences by base and region, and type of work preferred. There is also a remarks section where you can list family/medical restrictions, joint spouse information, and foreign language proficiency. I don't currently need to worry about family issues, but I do speak a decent amount of German. I wonder if they'll let me go back overseas?
-- AF Form 1758, Statements of Understanding - Your signature here indicates compliance with Air Force standards, recognition that you will serve at least four years (although FLEP requires six), recognition that joint spouse is not guaranteed, and recognition that a security clearance is required to do your job. If you're already an active duty officer, none of this should be an issue.
-- Release of Military Records - This is actually included at the bottom of AF Form 1758, Statements of Understanding. Your signature here authorizes release of all military records to the selection board.
-- FLEP/ELP Agreement - This form lists all the obligations incurred by both programs, and your signature denotes your agreement to abide by these obligations.

- Schedule SJA interview - When I interviewed for Education Delay two years ago, I had to schedule my interview pretty far in advance. Since I won't be home until later this month, I'll need some time to get ready, but I think a late January appointment would be good. I'm also going to schedule some interview prep with a friend of mine (more details on that in an upcoming post).

- Meet with supervisor, commander, and First Sergeant - This is always a good idea if you're planning a career change, and should actually be done fairly early in the process. My supervisor and I have been corresponding while I've been deployed, and he's already helping me find some information I need. My former commander knew that I was interested in the program, and it's unfortunate I had to leave for this deployment before meeting the new commander, but I will make an appointment to see him as soon as I return. Finally, the First Sergeant is a great person to ask to review your application package, since they are usually familiar with the various required forms. I will be making an appointment with her as soon as I have my application completed.

This is it. I'm surprised I managed to stay under the 60000 character limit for posting. I have a lot to do.
Last edited by sylvernight on Sun Dec 05, 2010 6:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.

sylvernight
Posts: 31
Joined: Mon Nov 29, 2010 7:19 pm

Re: In Pursuit of FLEP (the AF kind)

Postby sylvernight » Sun Dec 05, 2010 5:56 pm

In Search of Scholarships

I've spent the past several days searching through scholarship listings. What I found was that a majority of legal scholarships fall into one or more of the following categories:

- Those for current (as opposed to future) law students - these had various due dates, and many were pretty specific about the type of law student they were looking for. I could start applying for these as early as next year, but none of them are useful to me now.
- Those for students interested in biglaw or DOJ. These generally included a provision that the student spend a summer or two interning with a specific firm or government office, with the intention of working there after graduation. This pretty much rules these out for me.
- Those for minorities or people of disadvantaged backgrounds. Technically, as a person of half-Hispanic descent, I qualify for many of these, but I'm going to go ahead and say something that might not be very popular: I don't agree with reverse discrimination. I understand that minorities have been pushed down throughout history, but in our current uber-correct political age, it actually seems to be an advantage to have a different skin tone. Add to that the fact that I'm a fourth generation American and I couldn't speak Spanish to save my life, and I really don't think these scholarships apply to me. Plus, they pretty much violate the FLEP requirement of academic scholarships only.

When I needed a break from scholarship searches, I browsed through TLS discussions from last year's admitted class. It looks like UT has a standard formula for how they administer scholarships, with a fairly solid LSAT/GPA floor (that I don't meet). This is confusing to me, because when I was accepted two years ago, I was offered a partial scholarship. Either their standards have changed since then, or they have minor exceptions for unique circumstances (such as being in the military). In either case, I've heard that scholarship offers generally arrive about two weeks after offers of admission, so it's possible I have an offer waiting for me at home. I'm starting to regret having put a hold on my mail.

One piece of good news I discovered is that UT does has a Financial Aid Matching Program. I couldn't find too many details on their website, but posts on TLS indicate that they try to even out the cost of attendance in comparison with competitor schools. The downside is, given their rank, I don't think Baylor is considered a close competitor. So, my final piece of news from the past few days is that I have decided to apply to a couple of other schools. I checked out the U.S. News Best Value Law School list, and picked a handful of schools that either cost less than $16K/year, or where I stood a good chance of getting a full scholarship. For my purposes, I didn't pick any school in the third or fourth tier, because I'd like some chance of getting a decent job if I ever leave the Air Force. Maybe it seems shallow, but my grades are good enough for second tier, so I'm staying within the Top 100.

Updates:
- Got my transcripts ordered. Just found out I might need to order more copies for various scholarship applications. Amazing how much money you have to spend to be eligible to get money.
- I heard back from my boss about my Conditional Release process. I've submitted the information they asked for, and now I'm just waiting to hear back.
- I've put out some feelers for LORs. Should hear back soon.

Some general advice on scholarship searching is listed below.

How to find scholarships:

Check your school's Financial Aid website first. Many schools keep lists of scholarships that specifically apply to their school. Many schools also offer internal scholarships, ranging from a $1000/year, all the way up to full tuition. I found a long list of scholarships listed on UT Austin's main page (the Financial Aid page for the whole school, not just the Law School), and while most of them were for undergrads, there were a few that I qualified for. I also had luck looking at Yale's scholarship list. While many of the scholarships they advertised were for Yale students only, there were some that were available to any law student.

Some other scholarship finders:
- http://www.fastweb.com - Requires registration, but delivers some pretty specific scholarships to your inbox. Potential for some junk/spam, so be careful what you're clicking. Worth the hassle, though--I found a couple of scholarships I didn't see listed elsewhere.
- http://www.scholarships.com/ - Also requires registration (with full name and home address). Also has some junk to sift through, but again--I found some scholarships not listed elsewhere.
- http://apps.collegeboard.com/cbsearch_ss/welcome.jsp - As far as I can tell, College Board's scholarship search does not apply to graduate studies, but I could be wrong…
- http://www.scholarshiphunter.com/home.html - These are mostly scholarships for high school-ers and undergrads, but there are a few listed for grad school.
- http://www.edfed.com/planning-college/s ... search.php - This is supposed to be a scholarship search application, but its search feature seems to be malfunctioning. However, if you have the name of a scholarship and you want to know more about it, they keep a pretty good database.
- http://www.esaintl.com/ - Epsilon Sigma Alpha administers a bunch of scholarships and endowments. Each has different requirements, but I found four that I might qualify for. Good site.

sylvernight
Posts: 31
Joined: Mon Nov 29, 2010 7:19 pm

Re: In Pursuit of FLEP (the AF kind)

Postby sylvernight » Wed Jan 05, 2011 6:51 pm

Updates and Argh


Update #1 - I'm home now. I arrived back shortly before xmas, and was pleasantly greeted by a scholarship offer from UT. It's not full tuition, but it's close to the amount I would need to attend the school under FLEP. If accepted for FLEP, I'll be trying some leverage on UT using their scholarship matching program to reach the magic number. I'm also still looking into third-party scholarships to make up the difference.


Other updates:
- I made my pre-interview appointment today. I guess my base legal office is busy enough that the SJA wants to be sure anyone he interviews is actually ready, so I will be meeting with the deputy SJA next week. This is different than how I did my Ed Delay interview, but I think I like it. It's not precisely a "practice" interview, but it should be a good opportunity to ensure I am 100% prepared.
- Package is coming together. I am waiting on one more transcript and one letter of recommendation. I decided to use my Afghanistan paper for the writing sample, and I am working on the Motivational Statement. Forms are complete, and LSAT report downloaded. Photo was scheduled for this week, but I had to order (another) update to my ribbons, so I rescheduled for next week. I've also added to my resume by volunteering at the Post Office to help with the holiday load.
- I decided on the additional schools I will be applying to, and am just waiting for LSAC to load one more LOR so I can submit my applications. This will also affect my package, because I need to list pending applications as well as schools to which I've been accepted.
- I met with my commander last week (see below), and I touched base with my supervisor before he left on deployment. The Shirt is currently deployed, so I'm going to have a detail-oriented friend look over my forms. And then...


Why AFPC = Argh

Shortly before I left the desert, my DO called to let me know that AFPC has put a blanket restriction on Conditional Releases for my year group. After the recent force-shaping board, I was not expecting our career field to be considered under-manned, but I'm told it has something to do with future-year projections, and ensuring we'll have enough senior officers down the road.

Technically, this means I am not eligible to apply this cycle. However, when I met with my commander last week, he said he will look into it with AFPC. I understand the reasoning behind the restriction, and I accept that the needs of the AF don't always match personal goals, but I have to try. As my commander pointed out, it is better for the AF to keep a good officer in her desired capacity than to risk me leaving after four years to become a civilian lawyer. I'm not sure if I would actually do so, but it would definitely be a consideration. Updates to follow.


And Lastly...

I received a PM yesterday from another officer applying for ELP. I know we're a small group, but is anyone else out there? I'd love to hear some other experiences, or possibly answer a question or two. I'm not an expert, but I've been researching this for a while. If you're reading, please PM and say hi.

sylvernight
Posts: 31
Joined: Mon Nov 29, 2010 7:19 pm

Re: In Pursuit of FLEP (the AF kind)

Postby sylvernight » Wed Jan 19, 2011 4:01 pm

And then...

Two years ago, I applied for the AF JAG Education Delay program out of ROTC. I had a great package, amazing letters of recommendation, and a partial scholarship to my first choice school. Unfortunately, a bad interview prevented me from being chosen for that board.

This year, I started early. I put a majority of my package together while still deployed, collected even better letters of recommendation, and again, earned a partial scholarship to my first choice school (Austin, I still love you!). I collected interview questions, practiced, and was entirely prepared to make an outstanding impression on the SJA. But I won't get the chance.

I wrote in my last blog about the difficulty in obtaining a Conditional Release from my career field. My commander did what he could, but we're just too shorthanded; I will be remaining in Cyber Operations for at least another year.


The Way Ahead: Bad News & Good

The bad news (from my point of view), is that my DEROS is up soon, and I'll be returning to the states this year. I've really enjoyed my time overseas, and I intend to make the most of the travel opportunities before I return, but I'm still going to miss this place.

The good news is that, depending on my assignment, there is a possibility I will be able to attend law school part time. Because there are no ABA-accredited law schools outside the United States, this is something I couldn't do overseas. It's not an ideal situation, and I'm not sure when I'd ever sleep, but it is feasible. I've also heard there's a decent possibility of being accepted to FLEP next year if I'm already enrolled somewhere part time. Of course, this could only be a rumor, but there's no harm in trying.

Whatever happens, I'm not done. I fully intend to apply for FLEP again next year, and the year after that, until I am no longer eligible. And if I'm still not accepted? Well, I never thought I'd have to choose between the two things I love most, so forgive me if I put that decision off for another day. I'm still confident this will happen.


Housekeeping/I Wonder if They Think I'm Crazy?

My final task before shelving this project until the fall is to contact the two schools I have already been accepted to. I found out about the release issue before I submitted any additional applications, so at least I only have to worry about these two. However, since I already deferred admission at Baylor, and since I've already applied and been accepted to UT (twice!), I definitely need to let them know why I still won't be attending this year. Do they think I'm crazy, I wonder? Can I come up with yet another personal statement topic by next fall? Anyway, snail-mail letters are probably best, so I'll have those done by the end of the week.


Contact Info, Etc.

I had another FLEP hopeful contact me today. Although there won't be much to update on my blog, I'll still be hanging around TLS, so please feel free to PM me if you have any questions, or just want to talk about the process. I also renew my desire to speak to anyone who has completed or been accepted for the FLEP program.

Good luck all, and see you again in about nine months.

sylvernight
Posts: 31
Joined: Mon Nov 29, 2010 7:19 pm

Re: In Pursuit of FLEP (the AF kind)

Postby sylvernight » Wed Sep 14, 2011 6:11 am

Application Cycle 2011-2012

So it's September, and as I've heard from two fellow FLEP hopefuls in the past week, I've decided it's probably time to start updating this blog again.

I've had something of an eventful year--I was deployed again in March, and am heading back home soon just in time to out-process for my next assignment--I won't be posting details on TLS, but I am going back stateside. I'll miss Europe, but career-wise, this is a good move.

On the application front--I've been keeping up with my leadership and my career field manager, and I finally got a "maybe" from AFPC regarding the possibility of cross-training; they said I should check again when I get to my next base. Since this was the sticking point last time around, I will be following up on this as soon as is feasible.

On the school/scholarship side, I still have my one-year deferral from my first-choice school, and will be following up on the that before the end of the month. I also plan to apply to four other schools--two that are within the tuition limit, and two that are outside of it, but where I stand a good chance of getting scholarships. I am also acting earlier on the outside scholarship opportunities (gotta love Fastweb and their auto-emails), and will be posting some of those before the end of the month as well.

Finally, my actual JAG application package from last year is mostly still correct, but I will be updating it with a few new achievements and two more great letters of recommendation, courtesy of this busy year.

I'll be back soon with more updates, but as always, feel free to PM me with questions or comments...or commiserations, gripes, or or complaints :wink:

-S




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