Undergraduate graduating early, semester abroad + chances?

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lifeasweknowit
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Undergraduate graduating early, semester abroad + chances?

Postby lifeasweknowit » Fri Dec 03, 2010 9:18 pm

Hi there,

I'm a freshman in undergrad. I'm thinking of doing a double major in international relations + philosophy with a minor in either Art History or French Language or Russian. I know it's kind of weird. I go to a top 3 Canadian university and in our school our academic year goes annually so we have 1 year courses [1.0 credits] and half year courses [0.5 credits]. Because of my AP/college level courses in high school, I was just a half year course credit shy of directly going to second year. I have accepted the credits and with my current full time course load, by next fall, when my faculty assess my credits, I will be put directly to third year. Even though I will graduate technically in my "fourth year", I would have only stayed at the university for 3 years.

I'm not so keen on staying here for an extra year, while I love the city, I just want to continue with my academic prospects in law school. So here are some of my questions:

1. I will be fulfilling all of my university and faculty's requirements for graduation, but will graduating one year early hurt my chances in [US] law school admissions?

2. My university has an exchange program going on and I'm really interested in an exchange with Sciences Po in Paris maybe during the spring semester of my next year [2012]. Does studying abroad have any negative/positive impact on me?

3. Would a LOR from Sciences Po be allowed even though I'm not officially a student of that university?

4. I also have a penchant for languages, will being fluent in 4-5 languages be an advantage? All of them have millions and millions of speakers so I guess it's not that unique.

5. I have used LSAC GPA calculators but I was just wondering since I know most US universities operate on a 4-5 credit per course system, how would my 1.0/0.5 per course system in my undergrad university translate to the LSAC GPA. Would the difference in weights change the impact of As, A+s, A-s, B+s, etc...?

6. My undergrad university's law school has this thing against upper-years [2, 3, 4] taking first year/lower year courses, it's a terrible faux-pas. Is this the case for US law schools? I'm just thinking if I change majors or minors later, I'm going to need to take the first year pre-req's anyway so is there like a limit to the number of first year courses?

I know in the end it all comes down to GPA and LSAT but I'm just curious on some external questions. I would really appreciate any constructive input. I know it's a lot to answer in such a busy time like now.

Thanks so much! Good luck to everyone this cycle.
:)

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T6Hopeful
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Re: Undergraduate graduating early, semester abroad + chances?

Postby T6Hopeful » Sat Dec 04, 2010 2:22 pm

lifeasweknowit wrote:I'm not so keen on staying here for an extra year, while I love the city, I just want to continue with my academic prospects in law school. So here are some of my questions:

1. I will be fulfilling all of my university and faculty's requirements for graduation, but will graduating one year early hurt my chances in [US] law school admissions?

It'll only hurt you in the sense that some schools want you to demonstrate that you're more mature than the average 20-year old (I'm assuming you'll be 20 when you graduate?) Especially because the trend at a lot of top law schools here is heading towards preferring work experience+ 1-2 or more years out of undergrad, you may need to address (even if it's through a personal statement showcasing how you can effectively deal with situations in a mature manner, for example) that you are in fact ready for law school, and that you didn't just blaze through undergrad to say you did. So basically graduating early doesn't hurt, but it would greatly help to take a year off and get some meaningful work experience after that.
lifeasweknowit wrote:2. My university has an exchange program going on and I'm really interested in an exchange with Sciences Po in Paris maybe during the spring semester of my next year [2012]. Does studying abroad have any negative/positive impact on me?

Nope, but make sure you have a transcript from that institution ready to be sent to LSAC, because a lot of schools will delay the processing of your app if you forget to do so. The one pitfall I would stay away from is writing a [I studied abroad and it changed my life] personal statement, unless it really did change your life. Even so, don't put it in those words. Also, even if grades don't count for your undergrad institution, they DO count for LSDAS, so of course just make sure you take those grades seriously (as opposed to the mindset that you're abroad, all you need to do is pass classes and transfer the credits back over).
lifeasweknowit wrote:3. Would a LOR from Sciences Po be allowed even though I'm not officially a student of that university?

Of course! Anything that helps explain your ability and potential as a student. However, don't ask for one just because it would look more "prestigious" to have one; only ask for one if it'd be an excellent, meaningful recommendation. Otherwise, you're better off getting all your LoRs from your home institution. Also, be mindful of the language barrier (not yours, but theirs). The letter must be written in English, and ethically you cannot see it without waiving your pledge that you haven't seen it. So suggest that they get another professor/instructor who is fluent in English to proofread it. Nicely, of course.
lifeasweknowit wrote:4. I also have a penchant for languages, will being fluent in 4-5 languages be an advantage? All of them have millions and millions of speakers so I guess it's not that unique.

Not necessarily. Some schools will ask if you have proficiency in other languages (I think Vanderbilt might have been one? Not sure). But this isn't directly related to your ability to be a good law school student, so don't count on it being a big boost, if a boost at all. It could make for a good diversity statement, but not necessarily a dealbreaker.
lifeasweknowit wrote:5. I have used LSAC GPA calculators but I was just wondering since I know most US universities operate on a 4-5 credit per course system, how would my 1.0/0.5 per course system in my undergrad university translate to the LSAC GPA. Would the difference in weights change the impact of As, A+s, A-s, B+s, etc...?

I'm not quite sure. I'm pretty sure it would be proportional anyway. For example, an A in a one credit course would be like an A in a three credit course, an A- would be an A-, etc. As long as 1.0/0.5 is the norm over 3.0/1.5 (like my university), it won't matter.
lifeasweknowit wrote:6. My undergrad university's law school has this thing against upper-years [2, 3, 4] taking first year/lower year courses, it's a terrible faux-pas. Is this the case for US law schools? I'm just thinking if I change majors or minors later, I'm going to need to take the first year pre-req's anyway so is there like a limit to the number of first year courses?

Not really, just don't go around taking ONLY first year courses for fun. Law schools do generally want to see that you've challenged yourself. But if you're interested in a subject, take the class. Just don't take 20 electives resembling "Theater appreciation" (nothing against theater appreciation, but it has the reputation of being an "easy" class at my institution). Basically, show that you're oriented in some direction. If you take a major that doesn't require many credits, don't just "coast" the rest of college. Pick up another minor/major or a certificate program or something.

Hope this helps!

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acrossthelake
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Re: Undergraduate graduating early, semester abroad + chances?

Postby acrossthelake » Sat Dec 04, 2010 2:33 pm

1. I will be fulfilling all of my university and faculty's requirements for graduation, but will graduating one year early hurt my chances in [US] law school admissions?

I think it'll be to your advantage to do a year of work experience. For example, at HLS, ~75% of each year's incoming class has at least 1 year of work experience, and ~50% have 2 years or more. This is not self-selection---the dean of admissions, Josh Rubenstein, has explicitly stated that this is a shift in admissions preferences that he has pushed for. Even more so if you're younger. I had a friend who applied rather early, and she had several admissions offices tell her directly to her face that her young age and early graduation was a negative. That being said, she still currently attends a top 10 school on scholarship and 25% of the incoming class at HLS does go straight through.


2. My university has an exchange program going on and I'm really interested in an exchange with Sciences Po in Paris maybe during the spring semester of my next year [2012]. Does studying abroad have any negative/positive impact on me?

Neither. Enjoy.

3. Would a LOR from Sciences Po be allowed even though I'm not officially a student of that university?
What matters is how specific a professor can speak about your abilities, not which university they teach at or how prestigious they are.

4. I also have a penchant for languages, will being fluent in 4-5 languages be an advantage? All of them have millions and millions of speakers so I guess it's not that unique.

No, this won't help for law school admissions--classes are in English, they don't care. However, this might be useful for hiring in some areas later on, especially public interest I imagine since you'll be able to talk to clients who can't speak English well.

5. I have used LSAC GPA calculators but I was just wondering since I know most US universities operate on a 4-5 credit per course system, how would my 1.0/0.5 per course system in my undergrad university translate to the LSAC GPA. Would the difference in weights change the impact of As, A+s, A-s, B+s, etc...?

The impact of each grade is based off of the credits it represents of your total number of credits. So an A in a 1.0 credit course is worth 2 As in 2 0.5 credit courses...

6. My undergrad university's law school has this thing against upper-years [2, 3, 4] taking first year/lower year courses, it's a terrible faux-pas. Is this the case for US law schools? I'm just thinking if I change majors or minors later, I'm going to need to take the first year pre-req's anyway so is there like a limit to the number of first year courses?

I've taken a bunch of lower level courses and my cycle is going swell.

amorfati
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Re: Undergraduate graduating early, semester abroad + chances?

Postby amorfati » Sat Dec 04, 2010 4:02 pm

I can't speak with any authority on your specific questions -- but although I'm in a somewhat different boat (3 years out of undergrad now - I did a master's in international policy and got a bit of work experience), I feel like our academic backgrounds are similar (I'm also very strong in languages (French and Russian included), had a rather odd mix of studies in undergrad, spent a semester abroad, and finished school early).

All this goes to say that, for what it's worth, I sincerely regret rushing through both undergrad and grad school, both of which I finished one semester ahead of schedule. In my opinion, just because you can doesn't mean you should. In retrospect, I feel like I missed out on a lot of normal/healthy/fun experiences because I felt it would seem impressive to finish early. The gains you get can't make up for what you miss, whether that be parties and football games (not my shtick, but to each there own) or the chance for genuine intellectual and creative exploration (which I've found is pretty hard to come by after college).

...as my parents used to tell me, you have your whole life to work! Sounds cheesy, I know, but enjoy college while you can!

lifeasweknowit
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Re: Undergraduate graduating early, semester abroad + chances?

Postby lifeasweknowit » Sun Dec 05, 2010 12:24 am

@T6Hopeful,

I really really really really really...appreciate this. Thanks so much for answering all of my questions. I was kind of scared of that "are you mature enough" issue. I'd be exactly 21 when I graduate and yeah I feel like personally I'm mature and professionally the same level as the village idiot.

I actually wanted to apply to Sciences Po for undergraduate because I was just so into international relations but I'm glad I didn't. I think it'd be better if I just went as an exchange student.

As for experience, I feel like it's sort of, maybe it's because I'm still a teenager and the world is still so simple in my head, hard to say. My goal in life has always been law, specifically international law, and even though I'm so in love with international relations, I've always seen it as that "bridge" to support my law school career. If I came out, I don't necessarily have to do something extremely relevant to my undergrad degree right? I sort of feel like I won't find any work experience in philosophy and the only jobs here that apply to IR is working for the US consulate. And they only take summer interns; I'd love to participate though!

And, if there were no restrictions, I'd totally love to take theatre appreciation LOL.
Thanks again!!!



@acrossthelake,

Thanks so so much! It does make sense the annual/half year course thing. I guess I'm just going to need to work as hard as I can. I feel like I don't want to do anything for the application that I'm not extremely passionate about and I feel like the only factor that I have that might allow me to stand out are those languages.

Would it help if I was intending to focus in international law? Do admissions even care/applications even ask for your intended focus in law school?

Best of luck this cycle! Thank you again.



@amorfati,

Wow your academic background is like my ideal dream. Was your work experience in your field--international policy? I'm actually not a Russophone but I would like to pursue it in university. I think it'd be pretty nice to learn a new language considering I've been learning French since I was 4. But then again, a minor in French would be a little bit more reasonable because it's more important, or so I've heard, to international relations/law than Russian.

I understand what you mean about spending more time in university. I actually think that while it's necessary to plan for law school ASAP, it's a little absurd for me to worry about graduating when my first semester hasn't even concluded yet. With me, I have this fear that if I stay in university a little longer, or do some work experience, this break in focus would prevent me from law school. I have a preference for diving right in and continuing until the very end without stopping. Unhealthy, yes, but I just can't wait until I have that law degree under my belt. And then, like your parents said, I would need to spend the rest of my life working.

Sigh.

Haha, anyway, thanks so much for your input. I'm definitely going to savour these years as much as I can.

Thank you everyone + best of luck in all your endeavours.

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acrossthelake
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Re: Undergraduate graduating early, semester abroad + chances?

Postby acrossthelake » Sun Dec 05, 2010 3:57 am

Would it help if I was intending to focus in international law? Do admissions even care/applications even ask for your intended focus in law school?

No. They sorta do, but that angle probably won't help at all.

amorfati
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Re: Undergraduate graduating early, semester abroad + chances?

Postby amorfati » Mon Dec 06, 2010 1:28 pm

acrossthelake wrote:Would it help if I was intending to focus in international law? Do admissions even care/applications even ask for your intended focus in law school?

No. They sorta do, but that angle probably won't help at all.



Actually, I disagree with this. Maybe the specific choice of focus won't put you on top, but I think it looks MUCH better to be coming in with a sincere area of interest and some related coursework than to be another one-of-a-million English or Philosophy majors that just "always dreamed of being a lawyer" (...especially those who are doing a rather poor job of hiding that all they really ever wanted was to work in biglaw and make lots of money).

@lifeasweknowit - as for my WE, i actually just finished up a 6-month stint with the United Nations Office of the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, and I'm looking for something else now. (Btw, unemployment = totally the worst part of this "real world" crap.) Between undergrad and grad school, I worked in corporate social responsibility (on int'l human rights/development issues) for a bit, but decided the business angle wasn't really my thing. I've also had a couple internships, etc, but those are the highlights.

As for Russian/choosing a second language, it's funny, I was in a similar boat. I was already pretty fluent in French and decided I wanted to try something new, but I didn't really know what language I should choose. I loved Russian lit and had a few Russian friends, so I ended up picking Russian and then doing a semester in St. Petersburg. In retrospect, though, if you already know your want to study international relations/law, then I would try to find a language that suits a geographic area you want to focus on. I ended up being much more interested in Africa/Southeast Asia than in the former Soviet Union. So French is perfect, but if I could go back I probably would have chosen something more regionally applicable. (Later I did end up taking a bit of Arabic and Swahili, but my knowledge of both is very, very basic.)

So anyway, I guess my recommendation on that front is to find a language you really WANT to study. If that's Russian, great! But don't be afraid to pick something less widely spoken if it fits your geographic area of interest. (And if you do choose to study in Russia, then know that you are not picking the cheeriest place on earth to spend a semester -- maybe think about doing the spring rather than the fall, as having the hours upon hours of darkness at the end of your stay can get very depressing!)

But anyway, back to your original question. Honestly, I'm not a huge work experience advocate (at least not for law school), so I think that's just fine if you want to stay in school straight through. I would, however, recommend doing some interesting/relevant internships or summer work along the way -- that way you have at least some semblance of work experience for your applications. Whereas if you rush through school too quickly, then you might not have time to fit in all the other great extras that will really make your law school app stand out.

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Grizz
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Re: Undergraduate graduating early, semester abroad + chances?

Postby Grizz » Mon Dec 06, 2010 1:50 pm

Ogligatory lol @ "international" law.

weejonbu
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Re: Undergraduate graduating early, semester abroad + chances?

Postby weejonbu » Mon Dec 06, 2010 2:08 pm

rad law wrote:Ogligatory lol @ "international" law.


Rad, can I just say that every time I see your **** name on these threads, I start to get nauseous... you are on the top of the TLS JERK list, perhaps even a stand-alone, unchallenged incumbent.

I think everyone would appreciate it if you just peaced out.

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Grizz
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Re: Undergraduate graduating early, semester abroad + chances?

Postby Grizz » Mon Dec 06, 2010 3:11 pm

weejonbu wrote:
rad law wrote:Ogligatory lol @ "international" law.


Rad, can I just say that every time I see your **** name on these threads, I start to get nauseous... you are on the top of the TLS JERK list, perhaps even a stand-alone, unchallenged incumbent.

I think everyone would appreciate it if you just peaced out.


The point of my lol, however, is one worth keeping in mind.

whymeohgodno
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Re: Undergraduate graduating early, semester abroad + chances?

Postby whymeohgodno » Mon Dec 06, 2010 3:15 pm

weejonbu wrote:
rad law wrote:Ogligatory lol @ "international" law.


Rad, can I just say that every time I see your **** name on these threads, I start to get nauseous... you are on the top of the TLS JERK list, perhaps even a stand-alone, unchallenged incumbent.

I think everyone would appreciate it if you just peaced out.


You obviously haven't browsed the forums long. If Rad Law makes you nauseous people like Columbia Law probably made you vomit all over your keyboard.

weejonbu
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Re: Undergraduate graduating early, semester abroad + chances?

Postby weejonbu » Mon Dec 06, 2010 4:13 pm

whymeohgodno wrote:
weejonbu wrote:
rad law wrote:Ogligatory lol @ "international" law.


Rad, can I just say that every time I see your **** name on these threads, I start to get nauseous... you are on the top of the TLS JERK list, perhaps even a stand-alone, unchallenged incumbent.

I think everyone would appreciate it if you just peaced out.


You obviously haven't browsed the forums long. If Rad Law makes you nauseous people like Columbia Law probably made you vomit all over your keyboard.


You're probably right... I mean, yeah, I've been on this thing for over a year, but who has time to have made over 6,000 posts? (no offense, Desert Fox)

gambelda
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Re: Undergraduate graduating early, semester abroad + chances?

Postby gambelda » Mon Dec 06, 2010 4:30 pm

I read freshman in undergrad and immediately stopped reading. GO TASTE BEER AND GET LAID.




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