Texas Tech Dean of Admissions Taking Questions

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SPerez
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Texas Tech Dean of Admissions Taking Questions

Postby SPerez » Fri Jan 06, 2012 4:36 pm

With application deadlines for schools around the country rapidly approaching, I thought I would come on TLS and offer my advice to anyone who is interested. I've worked at two law schools and was a student recruiter at my own (full bio here), but I know a little about law schools in pretty much every region of the country.

I know that the law school admissions process can sometimes seem daunting and even mysterious at times. Helping students sort out the truth from the hype is one of the reasons I chose law school admissions as my career so questions about the process in general are OK, too.

So fire away, ask my anything. Understand, of course, that there are some things I can't answer and other things I simply won't (e.g. status of individual applications). In those cases, I will do my best to explain why. I'm actually kind of excited to see what this little experiment brings. I'm sure many of my colleagues might think I am crazy for doing this, but I think it's going to be great.

And so you know this is legit, I'm posting a link to this thread on the official Tech Law Facebook page.

Stephen M. Perez, JD
Assistant Dean for Admissions & Recruitment
Texas Tech University School of Law

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Dash41
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Re: Texas Tech Dean of Admissions Taking Questions

Postby Dash41 » Fri Jan 06, 2012 5:01 pm

What's your view on LSAT addendum if your score increased significantly (like 6 points). I honestly just felt better prepared the second time I took it. How do you view that? Is an addendum needed? Thanks for your view on this issue.

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kalvano
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Re: Texas Tech Dean of Admissions Taking Questions

Postby kalvano » Fri Jan 06, 2012 5:10 pm

Thanks so much for doing this, I know you all have a lot going on.

A question that seems to pop up a lot here on TLS is TTU with a scholarship versus SMU or UofH with no money. I know TTU places moderately well in the D/FW area, so how would you address that to potential students? Obviously they are giving up a strong tie to D/FW with SMU, but an expensive one. What would you have to say to students in that position?

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MrShneebly
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Re: Texas Tech Dean of Admissions Taking Questions

Postby MrShneebly » Fri Jan 06, 2012 5:36 pm

What was up with that status checker e-mail? I mean, come on.

--LinkRemoved--

snehpets
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Re: Texas Tech Dean of Admissions Taking Questions

Postby snehpets » Fri Jan 06, 2012 5:39 pm

MrShneebly wrote:What was up with that status checker e-mail? I mean, come on.

--LinkRemoved--


Personally, I enjoyed it.

SPerez
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Re: Texas Tech Dean of Admissions Taking Questions

Postby SPerez » Fri Jan 06, 2012 6:00 pm

Dash41 wrote:What's your view on LSAT addendum if your score increased significantly (like 6 points). I honestly just felt better prepared the second time I took it. How do you view that? Is an addendum needed? Thanks for your view on this issue.


You know, I was just thinking about this yesterday when the December scores posted. I feel like I'm seeing more students with large increases like that, and I was wondering what the causes could be (assuming its an actual increase, and not just perceived).

Personally, I don't care if I see an explanation of a large improvement in the LSAT because I figure it speaks for itself. That said, I suppose it depends a bit on what your reason would be. If it is simply that you didn't prepare because you figured we all take the higher score anyway and you had the extra cash to blow, it's hard to spin that in a way that doesn't make you bad. However, if a parent died the day before the exam or you started passing a kidney stone during the second section (both real examples I've read), I'd say you should include an addendum. At the very least, it wouldn't hurt.

As always, though, it is worth calling up your top choice school(s) and asking them your question so you know how they specifically view the situation.

SPerez
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Re: Texas Tech Dean of Admissions Taking Questions

Postby SPerez » Fri Jan 06, 2012 7:24 pm

kalvano wrote:Thanks so much for doing this, I know you all have a lot going on.

A question that seems to pop up a lot here on TLS is TTU with a scholarship versus SMU or UofH with no money. I know TTU places moderately well in the D/FW area, so how would you address that to potential students? Obviously they are giving up a strong tie to D/FW with SMU, but an expensive one. What would you have to say to students in that position?


Ah, that is one of the eternal questions, isn't it? Right up there with "Who let the dogs out?" and "How much wood could a woodchuck chuck?". While this question is specific to Texas, you can replace the schools and city with numerous other combinations in various areas of the country. As a student recruiter at UT, I always had this discussion with students trying to decide between UT and Fancy-East-Coast-Private-School. My answer is still pretty much the same.

The old rule of thumb used to be "Go to the best law school you can get into", with "best" being defined mostly by "the rankings" or the general reputation in your region. Heck, that was still mostly good advice even when I went started at UT in 2001. But a lot has happened in 10 years, and most practicing lawyers don't realize how much law school tuition has increased since they graduated. (You google-ninjas out there can find how much my classmates and I paid in tuition at UT as 3Ls in 2003-04 and compare it to tuition now.) I think there is a big difference in Free vs. $20k and Free-$10k vs. $30-40K.

I think that decision is much closer than many people unfamiliar with what we do out here on the Llano Estacado might think, especially with respect to DFW. It's a little chicken-and-egg, but many of our students come from the DFW area and go back after graduation. Dallas is the #1 destination for our grads and Ft. Worth is #5 so together our students do quite well in the Metroplex. Both SMU and Tech offer high quality educations, but there are differences. The question then becomes whether or not it is worth the additional cost to attend a school like SMU to get those differences?

Some people will decide that the differences between a school like Tech and a school like SMU (or Baylor) are worth paying an extra $20-40,000 a year for. Those reasons could include being able to save money by living at home, theoretically have more opportunities to work during their 2L/3L years, or simply preferring to live in a big city. As the costs increase though, I think fewer students will find the usual differences worth paying such a high premium for. (As I tell students sometimes, you can fly back to Dallas quite a few times with just $10k and still end up ahead.)

As it applies to Tech, our students do very well in DFW. We have a strong alumni network there. We're also planning a semester-in-practice program where students would be able to spend their last semester in Dallas taking classes and/or earning externship credits working at approved placements. That's a lot of potential networking so I would disagree that you were giving up as much of a "tie" as it might seem. If you want to get practical skills training - like, actually KNOW how to do stuff - there are few places better than Tech.

Houston is a slightly different situation. Being farther away, we tend to get fewer students from there which leads to having fewer alumni in the area. Also, with South Texas there, students have another good law school that has a strong record of success in trial skills training like we do. Still, Houston is the #3 location for our students (Austin is #2) and one of our best alumni, Mark Lanier, is there. Students with Houston ties can still find success back home provided they take care of business in law school, which is true no matter where you want to work.

It's after 5pm on a Friday and I'm still at work so I'll wrap this particular answer up. (Feel free to ask follow up questions, though. There are lots of nuances to this area.) I do want to close by saying nothing I wrote should be construed as digs against SMU. They have great people up there and offer a great education. Someone who has the option of a full-ride here and SMU (with typically some level of scholarship) is blessed with two very good choices.

HelpMeOutPlease
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Re: Texas Tech Dean of Admissions Taking Questions

Postby HelpMeOutPlease » Fri Jan 06, 2012 8:55 pm

Hello Dean,

I was wondering if it would be a good idea to include an addendum. I studied for the LSAT all summer and was very pleased with where my scores were, but then school and football started and I had significantly less time to study for the LSAT. As a result my scores suffered. I took the December LSAT, and my score was not in line with where I had been over the summer due to a lack of time to prepare. Should I include this information?

SPerez
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Re: Texas Tech Dean of Admissions Taking Questions

Postby SPerez » Sat Jan 07, 2012 11:00 am

MrShneebly wrote:What was up with that status checker e-mail? I mean, come on.

--LinkRemoved--


Haha, yes...the status checker. The vast majority of people understood what I was trying to say and appreciated the sentiment. Us law school admissions folks are actually a pretty fun bunch with some interesting personalities. I simply wanted to show applicants that, here at Texas Tech, the people handling their applications care about them as people and not simply an application fee and future tuition revenue. It wasn't that long ago that I was in your collective shoes. I applied early decision, was held, and interviewed before finally being accepted at UT in late May so I know what many of you are going through. If I can do anything to reassure students, help them filter out the noise, or ease the tension a bit, then I'll try it.

What did you think, MrShneebly? Breath of fresh air or not what you're looking for from your potential future law school?

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KevinP
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Re: Texas Tech Dean of Admissions Taking Questions

Postby KevinP » Sat Jan 07, 2012 11:20 am

I was wondering if you could talk about how the current decrease in test takers/applicants is affecting law schools, or if law schools are even taking notice of it. Thank you very much for your time, and I understand if you can not discuss this issue too deeply.

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doppelganger
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Re: Texas Tech Dean of Admissions Taking Questions

Postby doppelganger » Sat Jan 07, 2012 11:30 am

snehpets wrote:
MrShneebly wrote:What was up with that status checker e-mail? I mean, come on.

--LinkRemoved--


Personally, I enjoyed it.


+1

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doppelganger
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Re: Texas Tech Dean of Admissions Taking Questions

Postby doppelganger » Sat Jan 07, 2012 11:34 am

What are job prospects like for students farther south, perhaps in Austin area?

SPerez
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Re: Texas Tech Dean of Admissions Taking Questions

Postby SPerez » Sat Jan 07, 2012 7:54 pm

HelpMeOutPlease wrote:Hello Dean,

I was wondering if it would be a good idea to include an addendum. I studied for the LSAT all summer and was very pleased with where my scores were, but then school and football started and I had significantly less time to study for the LSAT. As a result my scores suffered. I took the December LSAT, and my score was not in line with where I had been over the summer due to a lack of time to prepare. Should I include this information?


You can always include an addendum if you feel you have something to say, so I don't really tell students NOT to submit them. In your case, it sounds like you studied as much as you could and just didn't get the score you hoped for or were practicing at. The fact is that pretty much no one does as well as they hoped to, nor do most people score as high on the real exam as they did on practice tests.

You don't seem to have any acute or unforeseeable reasons (like the ones I mentioned in an answer above) so I don't see what an addendum would do for you. It could also hurt you. I can see someone reading that and saying "He knew school was coming and the season was happening [I'm assuming you meant you PLAY football and weren't just watching it...and ACTUAL football, not fantasy :) ]. If he didn't have enough study time, that's poor planning on his part and shows poor judgment. If he thought he could have done better, why didn't he sign up for the December test?" or something along those lines.

At this point, it sort of is what it is. If you really think you can do significantly better such that you would be, say, above median at your top choice, then you have to decide for yourself whether or not doing that and waiting a year is a better option than the schools you get into this cycle. (My advice on that would depend on what your choices actually are, but that's a separate question for a separate post.)

ineptimusprime
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Re: Texas Tech Dean of Admissions Taking Questions

Postby ineptimusprime » Sat Jan 07, 2012 8:06 pm

When are you going to get me my decision :) ? Texas Tech is pretty much tied for my top choice and I've already been admitted to the other school. I need to decide, man!

Take this as seriously as you would like. :)

(I know I wasn't supposed to ask).

SPerez
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Re: Texas Tech Dean of Admissions Taking Questions

Postby SPerez » Mon Jan 09, 2012 10:56 am

ineptimusprime wrote:When are you going to get me my decision :) ? Texas Tech is pretty much tied for my top choice and I've already been admitted to the other school. I need to decide, man!

Take this as seriously as you would like. :)

(I know I wasn't supposed to ask).


Haha, yes. 'Tis the season...

Obviously, I can't put your business all over the interwebs even if I could predict now when your decision might come. But let me take this opportunity to give you an idea of why the review process can seem to take a "long" time and why an applicant's view of what a "long time" is may not always be accurate.

Back at the turn of the century when I applied to law school, few if any schools did much more than send you a postcard or email saying your application had been received. We were completely in the dark. Now, with online status checkers, you're free to indulge your most neurotic desires and constantly monitor your status for the smallest change. More information is always good, but sometimes it only causes more stress. I remember when students used to try to divine their decisions from various changes to their UT Online Status Checker (which at the time was a UT-specific system). It was like people reading entrails and chicken bones.

Most law schools have many internal steps in their processes beyond the normal Received/Complete/In Review/Decision one might see online. You might first be reviewed by someone inside the admissions office to determine whether you continue on or to which member(s) of the AdCom you will be sent to. Next, you might be sent to as few as 2 and as many as 5 or more professors/AdCom members for their review. (Reviewing files is my job so I can spend 10+ hours a day doing nothing but that. Professors must review files in addition to preparing for and teaching class, grading assignments, and meeting with students so it's no surprise that they take a little longer.) Then, if people disagree on what to do with a file, you might be held for a while to be discussed at the next committee meeting. And if that wasn't enough waiting, at that meeting the decision might be that it's too early to tell how a file compares to the other similar files that haven't been reviewed yet so a school might just wait a few weeks to see what the rest look like.

Each of these steps can take 5-10 work days. And in between each step there is at least a day to process the file. (While the move to a paperless review process has been made by many schools, including Texas Tech, it doesn't eliminate the need to "mark" applications and keep them updated as they move through the process.) So it's not hard to see how easy it is for a file to be "In Review" for 4 weeks or more.

I am constantly debating how much information to provide to applicants. For example, would knowing you were in a "Hold" group be something you guys would want to know? There would be nothing you could do about it; you're still "In Review" as it were. Applicants sometimes might move back and forth between stages, I figured would just frustrate you guys and make you wonder what the heck was going on.

Finally, to give you an idea...I currently have 250+ files in my queue to review. However, even though students aren't back in class yet, I have other meetings scheduled for this week, and that doesn't include drop-ins and handling other matters that come up during the day (which is why many of my colleagues will review files from home to get away from the interruptions). Believe it or not, I could review a hard copy paper file faster than I can an online file. Flipping a page is much faster than waiting for all your PDFs to open, scrolling through one PDF, then switching windows to another pdf, then back to type notes in the review window, then back to the first PDF, etc. But it saves trees so I'm OK with it.

Back to the files!

mtyler19
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Re: Texas Tech Dean of Admissions Taking Questions

Postby mtyler19 » Mon Jan 09, 2012 12:07 pm

snehpets wrote:
MrShneebly wrote:What was up with that status checker e-mail? I mean, come on.

--LinkRemoved--


Personally, I enjoyed it.


I loved it! I also love the fact that you are on here, I wish more admissions officers would become more available. Thank you!!!

ineptimusprime
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Re: Texas Tech Dean of Admissions Taking Questions

Postby ineptimusprime » Mon Jan 09, 2012 12:58 pm

Thanks for the insight into the process. I think supplying applicants with more information on their statuses, or at least the process in general, is nothing but a positive. One of the schools I applied at updates statuses regularly, tells applicants when they are on hold/deferred and even gives a window of time (basically an ETA ) of when you'll have a decision. I checked that status checker much less neurotically than others because I knew it would be pointless to check for a while after being held.

The thing that makes me neurotic isn't so much the long wait (though that's definitely part of it), but not knowing what's going on with my file throughout the long wait. I think more specific updates would actually help the status checker addiction rather than fuel it by giving candidates a better idea of when a decision could be coming. Just my thoughts though.

While you can't comment on individual files, are you able to speculate on when those who went into review 12/13 may start receiving decisions?

ineptimusprime
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Re: Texas Tech Dean of Admissions Taking Questions

Postby ineptimusprime » Mon Jan 09, 2012 1:39 pm

Also, do you foresee much of a tuition increase this year? I know last year it increased substantially. I know Tech is generally considered a best value law school. What steps are being taken to ensure that continues? In this huge information asymmetry that is law school admissions, tuition is about the only data transparent enough for us to evaluate.

Sorry if I sound jaded about the whole process. Its probably because I am.

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kalvano
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Re: Texas Tech Dean of Admissions Taking Questions

Postby kalvano » Mon Jan 09, 2012 1:46 pm

Thanks for the thoughtful answer to my earlier question.

Another one I had, and this is mostly just personal curiosity, is about rankings. TTU is currently #117, I think. Do you all ever pay much attention to rank? Do you have any goals to move up at all, or is it maybe easier to not have to worry about it so much, giving you a freedom to take who you want instead of focusing more heavily on the numbers?

SPerez
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Re: Texas Tech Dean of Admissions Taking Questions

Postby SPerez » Mon Jan 09, 2012 3:04 pm

doppelganger wrote:What are job prospects like for students farther south, perhaps in Austin area?


Austin is actually the #2 location for our grads behind DFW. Finding a job in Austin can be a challenge for anyone, of course, due to the fact that it is not only a prime location within Texas (which includes Texans who are at out-of-state law schools), but also for law students from around the country. Tech Law grads hold their own pretty well.

I get this question often, and I think it is because some people take the rule of thumb that law schools place best in their "regions" a bit too literally. I've seen comments before that assume that our region must be West Texas and that most of our graduates must work out here. Obviously, this isn't the case any more than most of Baylor's graduates work in Waco. Tech (and Baylor) are a bit unique among Texas law schools because we are not located in one of the 4 major metro areas in Texas, but students from both of our schools find jobs throughout the state.

Placement regions are funny things sometimes because they are subject to quite a bit of self-selection. For example, most students from Houston choosing between UH and SMU will probably choose UH and students from Dallas are probably more likely to choose SMU. This leads to each school placing better in their own metro area, but it doesn't mean that their students can't find jobs in the other city. Much depends on the individual student, their skills and background, and their law school grades.

I didn't mention this earlier, but this is a good place to... Law firms, especially the small/mid-sized firms that represent the vast majority of hiring (everywhere, including the top schools), are making a big investment when they hire a new associate. They want to know the person will be there for a while. This makes them favor students with ties to their area. I was a runner for a BigLaw firm in Houston before going to law school, and they used to prefer students with ties to Houston, the Dallas office preferred students from Dallas, etc. ("From" could mean either went to law school, college, or high school there. Anything that indicated they had roots.) So, sometimes the chances of an individual SMU grad who was is a Houston native might have a better chance at getting a job in Houston than a UH grad that is a native New Yorker whose only connection to Houston is going to UH. My point is that there is a lot more that goes into a particular student's odds of finding a job (let alone their dream job) than simply a law school's aggregate statistics.

I also asked this question of our Career Services office, and I'll post their answer when I get it.

SPerez
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Re: Texas Tech Dean of Admissions Taking Questions

Postby SPerez » Mon Jan 09, 2012 8:39 pm

KevinP wrote:I was wondering if you could talk about how the current decrease in test takers/applicants is affecting law schools, or if law schools are even taking notice of it. Thank you very much for your time, and I understand if you can not discuss this issue too deeply.


I haven't seen the December LSAT numbers yet, but the number of people taking both the June 2011 and October 2011 LSATs were down significantly, more than 17% each. Fewer people looking to go to law school always freaks all of us out. It's hard for all of us to maintain the quality of our classes, let alone improve, when there aren't as many highly qualified students to go around. At the same time, those people are still applying to more schools (a byproduct of making the online application process TOO easy). This means we're all competing with, usually, about one more school for each admitted student.

What some schools do (mostly privates and the publics that don't depend on their state for funding) is reduce their class size, making up the revenue decrease with reserves, increased tuition, increased private fundraising, or all three. If you reduce your class size from 150 to 130 and you're shooting for a median GPA of 3.75, that means the school only has to find 65 students with 3.75 or higher GPAs instead of 75. A marginally easier task (theoretically). Other schools, however, may not have the financial ability to reduce the class size - fewer students equals less revenue - or the ability to drastically increase their private fundraising. Those schools are going to work very hard to increase their yield on the students they do admit in hopes that more of the better students in their admitted class end up matriculating, thereby allowing them to maintain their LSAT/GPA numbers and enrollment.

The rub here is that this isn't happening in a vacuum. Schools higher up in the rankings will end up dipping a bit lower in their pools to meet their goals, which picks them off the top of schools below them. This forces those schools to do the same, and so on down the food chain. This is particularly acute in metropolitan areas like New York, LA, or Florida that have multiple law schools where students don't really have to move or change their goals significantly to attend that other school. (E.g. A student planning on going to South Texas who gets in at UH off the waitlist in July has few barriers to making that switch - there's still time to return/buy books, haven't paid tuition, deposit is gone, but doesn't need to move. Compare that to what a UT student admitted to a fancy East Coast school in the same scenario would have to do.)

I am not privy to what every law school is planning on doing to address this change, of course. I'll be interested to keep an eye on TLS to see how this plays out. My guess is that students might start to see an increase in emails, mailings, Facebook posts, local events, etc. Although, I suppose y'all won't really know it's an "increase" unless you went through all this in a previous app cycle. :)

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MrShneebly
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Re: Texas Tech Dean of Admissions Taking Questions

Postby MrShneebly » Mon Jan 09, 2012 8:57 pm

SPerez wrote:
MrShneebly wrote:What was up with that status checker e-mail? I mean, come on.

--LinkRemoved--


Haha, yes...the status checker. The vast majority of people understood what I was trying to say and appreciated the sentiment. Us law school admissions folks are actually a pretty fun bunch with some interesting personalities. I simply wanted to show applicants that, here at Texas Tech, the people handling their applications care about them as people and not simply an application fee and future tuition revenue. It wasn't that long ago that I was in your collective shoes. I applied early decision, was held, and interviewed before finally being accepted at UT in late May so I know what many of you are going through. If I can do anything to reassure students, help them filter out the noise, or ease the tension a bit, then I'll try it.

What did you think, MrShneebly? Breath of fresh air or not what you're looking for from your potential future law school?


Thanks for the answer, even if the original post was a bit of a troll. I appreciate this sentiment - "If I can do anything to reassure students, help them filter out the noise, or ease the tension a bit, then I'll try it." However, it doesn't make much sense to me to tell people to ease up on the message boards. I agree with ATL - why not try to find out as much as possible about the investment?

Personally, it doesn't matter too much to me what else was in the status checker. For reals. I didn't apply to TTU.

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revival2005
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Re: Texas Tech Dean of Admissions Taking Questions

Postby revival2005 » Mon Jan 09, 2012 10:17 pm

Personally, it doesn't matter too much to me what else was in the status checker. For reals. I didn't apply to TTU.[/quote]

Good.... very rude!

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jrthor10
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Re: Texas Tech Dean of Admissions Taking Questions

Postby jrthor10 » Mon Jan 09, 2012 11:37 pm

What is the first thing you, and potentially your peers, look at when you open an applicant file? I'm specifically curious about the importance/impact of the resume. Some people say its the first thing they look at, others don't even mention it in their analysis.

Thanks

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MrShneebly
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Re: Texas Tech Dean of Admissions Taking Questions

Postby MrShneebly » Tue Jan 10, 2012 12:05 am

edit.




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