A Celebrated Cycle

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Arbit
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A Celebrated Cycle

Postby Arbit » Tue Mar 25, 2008 2:21 pm

With an acceptance from Columbia via e-mail yesterday, my cycle took it's last major gasp of air. While it is not entirely finished, the major options are now before me, and I finally have more agency than simply checking my mailbox daily and speculating on why I have yet to hear back from school X or Y. As such, I thought it may be fun and useful to document the end of this stressful journey through the law school application cycle that started over half a year ago.

That being said, the intentions of this blog are twofold:

1. To help me organize my thoughts and options so that I do not mail my deposit off to a school that really isn't right for me. I will be attending 4 ASWs/ASDs in the coming four weeks, and hopefully this will force me to keep notes for comparison.

2. To share what I believe have been the factors that have made this cycle so successful, thus giving me the option of using not-so-witty alliteration in title of this blog.

Joining with the trend of paranoia and fear of being identified, I probably won't go into much detail until I am firmly enrolled somewhere. However, after May 1, I plan on being very open about my applications.

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Re: A Celebrated Cycle

Postby Arbit » Tue Mar 25, 2008 4:42 pm

So, I guess I'll now lay out my situation. I applied at the end of October, and was complete at most places by November 1. I aimed to meet every EA deadline, and decided that since my numbers (163/3.73) were not that encouraging for most T14s, I might as well take a chance and apply to Columbia ED. My school's law advisor recommended against this, but since I heard that it may improve my chances and most 'admissions probability calculators' were putting me odds at less than 10% for all the top schools, I didn't think it could hurt.

I had very few expectations of getting into T14s, but applied to all of them anyway in hopes that my soft factors and UG's traditionally strong placement would get me into one by some miracle. I knew I wouldn't be all that happy at some schools - I really had a hard time picturing myself at Cornell, GULC, or Michigan, to name a few. However, the holy grail of T14 was my goal in any form. I applied to so many not to keep my options open, but because I was quite certain I would not get into a single one, and didn't want any regrets.

Thanksgiving brought an acceptance from Berkeley and a deferral from Columbia. I was had accomplished my primary goal, and was content. Christmas brought with it acceptances from UVA, Michigan, and a deferral from Penn. Returning back to school, I received nice big packages from Penn and Duke. Expected rejection from Harvard and Yale (neither was my first choice, though it sounds like a lie coming from someone who didn't make the cut) arrived shortly thereafter. Then an envelope from Chicago arrived. I had no expectations of getting into a T14, much less CCN. This thrilled me, and that point I made a short list: Chicago, Berkeley, Penn. Money from one of the others could (and still can) change my thinking, but since I presumably got into these schools by the skin of my teeth, I have no expectations in this regard.

An acceptance e-mail from Columbia arrived yesterday, catching me by surprise.

I still have yet to hear back from NYU (though I prefer Columbia for many reasons) or Stanford (They will reject me, they're just dragging their feet for whatever reason), but for all intents and purposes consider my cycle finished. I'm really not leaning heavily in any direction right now, though hopefully that will change in the next two weeks.

(Note: Because this is a T14 obsessed community, I did not recount my admission into lower ranked schools. For the record, I got into every non-T14 I applied to except WUSTL, who have not told me anything beyond the fact that I am complete. I really need to get around to withdrawing)

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Re: A Celebrated Cycle

Postby Arbit » Wed Mar 26, 2008 7:58 pm

Scheduling and money are my top priorities at this point, and I feel myself thinking about my mailbox less every day. Honestly, for me CLS>>>NYU, and as I mentioned, there is 99% chance of there being no Arbit-Stanford union.

So in terms of top schools, where do I stand?

Well, at my top 3 choices:
CLS (No financial aid yet - I was very recently accepted)
Chicago (20k scholarship for 3 years...more than I could expect with my numbers, but...wow that's a lot of debt)
Berkeley (Hopefully I will hear back soon - and if UVA doesn't get me to by this week, I will apply to have them match my Duke scholarship)
------------------------
Penn (TBD)
UVA (TBD)
Michigan (24k scholarship...puts them out of the running entirely)
Duke (72k as of today)


Now, here's the issue. I've never really believed that me and North Carolina would get along well together. CLS and Chicago really are the most immediately appealing to me, but a difference of 50k between those school and Duke is A LOT. Since Duke is not in direct competition with these schools, and assuming Columbia offers me an amount in the same ballpark as Chicago, I will be faced with a very difficult decision. I plan to attempt the whole scholarship negotiation route when I get my CLS offer and maybe before then with Chicago, and while it may possible for me to squeeze out a little more from these schools, I have no expectations. In this cycle I've defied many statistics in getting into the schools I have, and my chance of getting lucky again are small.

So, if I am faced with choosing prestige or $52,000 (it looks even more tempting when I write it out that way), there is the potential for serious lingering regrets no matter which option I opt for. If I'm able to get a nice compromise scholarship from CLS or Chicago I will be overjoyed, but since I am already dragging down their numbers, I can't imagine much sympathy.

Berkeley is the wild card in my whole equation. I've only visited California a few times, and on paper the school is a mixed bag. The lack of rankings/competition is fantastic and the small class size is appealing, but it's low Vault placement rankings and seemingly ugly facilities are worrisome. I'm visiting for the ASW next week, and hope to get a better impression. The Bay Area is much more appealing than North Carolina, and the in-state tuition for my 2L/3L years along with any kind of 'matching scholarship' money they give me could give me a T14 education with less than 60k debt. Eh, I'm thinking too far ahead. I need to start researching scholarship negotiation and send off my CLS financial aid information.

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Re: A Celebrated Cycle

Postby Arbit » Sat Mar 29, 2008 10:04 pm

Now the busy season begins. South America has its rainy season, and the law school admissions cycle has its busy season.

This coming Tuesday I’m heading to New York and spending the night in a Barnard friend’s dorm room. Then all of Wednesday I will be at the CLS admit day. The next morning I fly to Berkeley, and will stay in the Bay Area until Sunday. The day after I get back, my final senior essay for my major is due (50 pages), and since it has to be bound, I need to have entirely together by Monday.

The following weekend I’ll probably visit Penn.

The weekend after that is Chicago’s ‘Feature Friday.’

A week later a decision is due.

My focus has turned away from the question of "Where will I get in?" and is now focusing upon the questions of "Of my options, which is best for me?" and "How much money can I get and from which schools?"

This past week has been helpful in regards to the second question. A very nice scholarship from Duke and slightly less notable but still flattering one from UVA were waiting for in my mailbox, which gave me some room for negotiation. I don't have any delusions of grandeur and realize that any money from a T14 is a godsend considering my LSAT score, but since I haven't determined what my 'absolute #1 school' is yet, I'm going to at least try to get as much money as I can from my top choices. After visiting, if I'm still very much undecided, it may be easier to just choose the school that offers me the least amount of debt.

Thus far, I have only sent in my Duke award letter to Berkeley's matching scholarship program. We'll see how that turns out. Berkeley has always been in my top 3, and even if I'm unimpressed with my visit, another large scholarship offer from a T14 (well...I guess Boalt is T6 now...so even better) could prove useful.

If I’m able to show CLS/Chicago my 72k at Duke, 51k at UVA, and potentially significant matching scholarship from Berkeley, I hope it will make a difference. Perhaps since other top schools (albeit slightly less prestigious) are throwing so much money at me to go there, CLS and Chicago will reconsider and throw a little more money my way. I can’t expect this to be the outcome, but I can at least try. Seeing the various successful scholarship negotiations on this board, I’m inspired to fight for every dollar.

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Re: A Celebrated Cycle

Postby Arbit » Thu Apr 10, 2008 10:02 am

Last week I visited Columbia and Berkeley. It probably wasn't the best idea to go straight from one school to the other with no break in between, but my schedule made it a necessity, and I'm happy I had the opportunity to compare two schools that were so radically different in both literal and intellectual environment. Anyway, below are my impressions. I copied the Boalt one from a post I made on the ASW thread.

Columbia: Columbia had been my first choice for the entire cycle and was definitely the school I was leaning towards when I first arrived in NYC. The trip from my UG is only a couple hours by train, which wasn't bad, and I had nice detailed instructions from the person i was staying with (who is a Barnard student), so it wasn't too stressful. Because I always feel rushed in New York I got accidentally went Downtown a couple stops on the subway before I turned myself around, but other than that, I arrived at Columbia with no problems. I was exhausted when I arrived, and decided to save all my sightseeing for the next day.

Waking up early and exploring a bit before registration, I was struck with the beauty of the campus. It reminded me a lot of my own UG, and looking at it for once as a place I may spend several years, I did not get any bad feelings in the pit of my stomach. Registration was nice and simple, and while reading through the schedule, I encountered a group of four other admits who were planning their day. We all get along well, and headed out together. Over the course of the day, the five of us would more or less stick together or break off into smaller groups of two or three, and since it was an 'informal' day, it was useful always having someone nearby who was willing to compare their impressions. The buildings were modern, the classrooms were clean, and the surrounding area was not overwhelming.

Really, the only things that didn't excite me were the library (which had much substance, but no reading room) and some of the people. At the larger social mixers and during breaks, I had the opportunity to talk extensively with admits and students from all three 'Ls', and found a very mixed bag. Of course there were a lot of really nice, normal people...but it also seemed like some of the elements of my UG that I've been hoping to escape converged on Columbia en masse. I met at least 6 people who went to my UG while I was there, and about half of them were the embodiment of what you would expect from from an Ivy League student (in the negative sense). On a separate note, I also didn't like that the school put the universities that people attended on their nametags. A lot of people had been out of school for a few years and weren't greatly associated with their UG's anymore, while others from certain regions or groupings of school stuck together for that reason alone. Yes, I am complaining about people who I know went to my UG while wishing that people did not do so to me...hypocritical, I know.

The school's reputation for being a bit...competitive was well founded. Kids were pretty intense, and seemed driven despite the 'no written GPA/ranking' policy. Still, I could definitely see myself going there. I'm not sure if more than three years in NYC would be my preference, but the California Society and other groups convincingly sold the universal appeal of a degree from CLS. As I left, Columbia was still a top contender.

Boalt:By coincidence, I headed out with three other people from my school who were scheduled for the same flights by the travel agency. We arrived at the San Francisco airport with really high hopes and had Berkeley on our 'short lists' of 2-4 schools, though by the time we left each of us had decided pretty firmly that we would not be spending the next three years at Boalt.

The good:
Having spent Tuesday/Wednesday at Columbia, I was very tired, but mentally in the the mode for enjoying the 'law school open house' experience. My student host and the other admits he was staying with were awesome people, and my first impressions were positive. The morning reception was a bit cold and chaotic, but just talking to people I felt that this environment was the polar opposite of what I had encountered in New York. Fitting perfectly with the stereotypes about California, people seemed to be less uptight and more willing to talk about their experiences rather than focusing on nothing but numbers, schools, and the law. The Deans and faculty were engaging, and I really did feel that people were happy. Although there were a few admits who were 'waiting on Stanford', most were enthusiastic, and the "I will go here...assuming I don't hear from Harvard or Yale" vibe that was overwhelming at Columbia was not nearly as prevalent.

The bad:
The facilities depressed me. A lot. My undergraduate campus is very attractive, and compared to the law school here and Columbia, Boalt was...bad. The cracks in the outside plaster, the 1970s look of the auditorium, and the lighting made me squirm. Also, the school seemed a little disingenous in some ways. Talking to students, there is just as much competition and gunnering at Boalt as at any other school, and the 'no grade' system means nothing. Every Boalt grade has a real grade equivalent (HH=A, HP=B, P=C, LP=D, F=F), and there is a cap on how many of each grade can be given out. Also, there are a lot of benefits for getting many grades above Pass, even if there is no official class rank or GPA.

All in all, I had a lot of fun, but did not fall in love with the school. A lot of people I met were certain they would attend Boalt within an hour of visiting, but I did not get that magical feeling in the pit of my stomach. A Berkeley Law education is certainly unique, but not for everyone, including me. On paper it looked like the perfect school for me...I guess this whole experience has just been a lesson in the importance of making visits.

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Re: A Celebrated Cycle

Postby Arbit » Fri Apr 11, 2008 10:41 am

To start off with, I should clarify what my options are at this point. After lots of thought, and hearing back from the rest of the schools I applied to this past week, I've narrowed it down to two schools: Columbia and Stanford. Now, since I got into both of them pretty late, I have yet to hear about financial aid, but I doubt there will be much on either front and am not taking that into consideration. I am leaning towards Stanford, but after reading the 'Why SLS?' thread, I'm hesitant to firmly make my decision yet. Hopefully the ASW (which I will be leaving for in a couple hours) will clear things up. Any advice on this decision would be most welcome.

Moving on, after receiving a good deal of PMs asking for hints, I've compiled a short list of things I did this cycle which potentially helped me. My cycle has been weird enough so that none of these things may have been of any real benefit, but at the very least they did not prevent me from getting into some good schools. Some of this goes against the standard advice given out on TLS, but as I said, acting on these did not do me any harm.

Also, it should be noted that when I say 'schools like' X or Y, it is speculation.

1. Don't be afraid to write supplementary statements. Schools like to see that you put an effort into your application, and will probably favor those candidates that they know the most about. If you have an interesting background, write a diversity statement, even if you're not a URM. Don't be afraid to as many of the extra Penn/Michigan essays as are allowed. Provide them with as much relevant information as you can, and be creative in presenting yourself through seemingly mundane prompts like 'Explain whether or not you feel your GPA and LSAT accurately reflect your potential as a law student.'

2. If you do write additional statements, especially a diversity one, present schools with radically different sides of yourself. Don't repeat what you say in your PS in your DS, and show that you sending in additional statements was necesary...show them you are not just a shallow one-trick pony. Even if the most impressive thing you've done in your life is work for a Senator, don't make that the focus of everything you write. In fact, if you use that as the theme of your PS, you probably shouldn't mention it in any other statement. Being multi-faceted is a good thing.

3. Apply early, and don't lose hope. Common sense, and it could save you the trouble of being faced with one of those moral conundrums you see on here so often about getting into school X ED and then hearing back from your dream school. It's not over until it's over, and some schools like to play with you because they can.

4. Keep the school updated, and don't worry about annoying them with too much information if you've been waiting a few months. Sure, use your judgment and don't harass schools too much, but don't be afraid to be proactive. Despite what people say on here, I had good luck sending in additional information over the course of the cycle, even to schools I hadn't heard back from yet. I sent updated transcripts to all schools in December, wrote LOCIs to most schools (the ones I still cared about) in February, and had another LOR written and sent off in late January (my fourth). Yes, I even wrote an LOCI to a school I hadn't officially been deferred at, and was ultimately accepted.

I doubt this will be of great benefit to anyone, but hopefully it will show that there is no single 'right answer' to a lot of these questions about the 'right' and 'wrong' way to court schools. TLS has been an invaluable resource for me during this process, but at the same time, I don't regret choosing not to accept every bit of advice offered to me.

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Re: A Celebrated Cycle

Postby Arbit » Tue Apr 22, 2008 4:36 pm

Is it weird that I'm really, really terrified that I just mailed off my deposit check?

I loved my visit to Stanford, and there is no school that came to close to making me feel as comfortable and excited. So why is my stomach shifting so much today after dropping off that fateful envelope in the mailbox?

I hope this passes. I hope I stop feeling really guilty about turning down Columbia, Penn and Chicago. I need to stop whining.

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Re: A Celebrated Cycle

Postby Arbit » Fri Jan 02, 2009 4:45 am

1 Semester down at Stanford.

Beyond getting a mere two weeks of vacation for the holidays, Stanford has met all of my expectations. I was able to comfortably wear a t-shirt after Thanksgiving, and for the the first winter in my life, I was able to survive with merely a windbreaker and a hoodie during the worst part of the winter. My peers are brilliant, my professors are brilliant, and I have seen a very notable improvement in my speaking, writing, and thinking skills. As nice as it has been to be home and see my friends and family, it has also gotten a bit old to be repeatedly told I am more "argumentative" than I was before.

The biggest surprises? Stanford is not much as much of an escape from Ivy League culture as expected. Half my class is from HYPS, yet almost no one is from my undergrad class. However, lots of people I know from my college class are applying this year, so come September, several reunions are likely.

Also, despite grade reform, people freak out. REALLY freak out. From what I've heard, it's still worse at other (even T14) schools, but still, the extent to which people become obsessed with being in the top 20% was surprising. Secret study groups, outlines, etc. still exist at HYS; practically, they just don't play as much of role.

Getting a job offer at the end of January kind of sucks. The economy scares you into taking, but the fact that you applied to other places which will not get back to you for at least a month unnecessarily confuses the process.

Lastly, both comfortingly and a tad bit obnoxiously, it's amazing how trivial law school admissions after on semester in law school. An obsession suddenly appears as a joke. However, it's a jokw that your friends don't get, and continue to apply to en masse.

Conclusion: If you choose the right law school, 1L year will be miserable at many points, but can also be terribly interesting. Being surrounded by smart people allows for a a constant stream of intelligent conversation, which is fantastic.

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Re: A Celebrated Cycle

Postby Arbit » Sun Jan 04, 2009 6:23 pm

A quick thought on grade reform and exams.

Grade Reform
Grade reform is a great idea. For people me, who go into law school expecting everyone to be brilliant and fully aware that many people will be a bit better prepared or just naturally good at law, it is an absolute blessing. Realizing that (realistically) the worst case scenario is being grouped with 70% of your class and getting a P really makes life happier. You don't feel (as) guilty about taking a night off to go to see a movie, or getting 7 hours instead of 4 during finals because you can realistically get a score which is equivalent to a 'C' and not have it reflect badly upon you. While everyone still tries hard, and has been terribly stressed at various points in the semester, being able to take a step back and get perspective on the consequences of 'choking' during an exam or some other fluke can help make the darkest hours a little brighter.

Having said that, a good deal of people who go to schools with grade reform will not reap the benefits from this at all. People who are naturally prone to being hyper-competitive or just have a hard time accepting that they are no longer big fish in small ponds still wear themselves to the bone and study to the point where they are nothing but husks. Having these tendencies is not a bad thing; in fact, it seems they will contribute to being a good lawyer in certain contexts. As admirable as it is to work so hard, when 50% of the class is obsessed with grades, and only the top 25% will get honors, there are bound to be a lot of people very disappointed at having made such sacrifices throughout the semester for nothing.

One thing that surprised me was how many people claimed not to care about grades and openly pronounced they did not expect to get Honors, but then became terribly competitive and intense when exam time came. I knew everyone would be stressed and constantly studying at the end of semester, but the fact that people try to keep secrets or only invite certain people to certain things to the extent that they did surprised me. Even when I was among those invited to participate/the one who received the coveted "secret outline" I felt guilty, and actually found such groups/documents not to be terribly useful. Regardless of what people say, law school attracts Type-A personalities, and no matter where you go, a lot of people will view the first semester as a race, rather than taking a step back and looking at law school as a whole as marathon.

I guess my conclusion is this: Know yourself. If you are a competitive person, and hate losing, you will be just as stressed at Harvard as you are at University of Mississippi. In fact, you may even be happier at a school without grade reform. At least you will be able to set yourself apart from your peers who simply choose a slightly less strenuous path if there are 'B+s' and 'B-s' rather than merely 'Passes.' From my perspective, I aimed to get into a school like Stanford so that I would not have to worry too much about grades. I'm in my early 20s, and while I can't expect to be as happy or carefree as most of my friends in other fields, I do not want to look back with complete regret and anger at the way I spent my time during these years. Sanity and a little extra happiness were worth not being in the running for Honors in most of my classes, and honestly, even if I had spent every waking moment studying, it would not have mattered. This brings me to my second point.

Exams

Exams in modern times are frustrating. Quite simply, they are more a test of physical ability than mental prowess. Before laptops, being concise and prioritizing the issues was of fundamental importance. Everyone could write at about the same speed, and exams were designed so that you could not address every point of every issues. This tested certain important skills, and put everyone on a more or less even playing field.

This is no longer true. Today, with variances in typing speeds, some people can and are able to address every point of every issue in a fact pattern. In short, it does not matter how much you study for most exams; it comes down to whether or not you can write 20 or 35 pages in the four hours allotted for your exam. This is especially true in classes like Torts and Contracts, where there are many theories for each issue. This trend is evidenced by the fact that almost every model answer I was presented with this semester was longer than 25 pages, and the great many people I chatted with who expressed frustration at simply not physically being able to meet that standard, despite the fact that they knew all of the relevant information. Since this is your only chance to convey to the professor what you know, not having the chance to express the full extent of your knowledge is frustrating. You kill yourself studying, and when it comes down to, something that is largely beyond your control and irrelevant to the legal field in general is what will determine your standing.

By the third exam I took, a lot of people around me had become frustrated and disillusioned about the whole process. While there seem to be easy solutions; word limits, page limits, or simply requiring us to hand-write exams, no one seems to adopt to them. Exams are as miserable as people make them out to be, and due to laziness, tradition, or malice (or perhaps some combination thereof), they will remain so.




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