Incomplete semester of graduate school

(Applications Advice, Letters of Recommendation . . . )
ddlew
Posts: 8
Joined: Mon Oct 27, 2014 1:30 pm

Incomplete semester of graduate school

Postby ddlew » Mon Oct 27, 2014 1:35 pm

Hello,

I am applying to law schools this cycle. 4.0 UG GPA, 174 LSAT, decent softs.

My one concern is that I began a PhD program straight out of undergrad. I realized within the first semester that grad school/academia in this particular discipline was absolutely not for me. It led to a number of mental issues that led me to withdraw before I completed my first semester. How will admission committees look at this? To what extent should I explain in my personal statement?

mach9zero
Posts: 123
Joined: Mon Oct 28, 2013 11:02 pm

Re: Incomplete semester of graduate school

Postby mach9zero » Mon Oct 27, 2014 1:46 pm

I also applied to law school while in the middle of a Masters program that I didn't complete, and clearly wouldn't be finishing before I got into school.

I'd definitely mention it on the resume and education background, but you likely don't need to bring it up otherwise. You really don't need it in your personal statement if that's not your topic (wouldn't make that your topic). Schools care about your LSAT and undergrad GPA - your grad school experience is generally irrelevant.

That said - without knowing the details of your mental issues - if it was stress or the workload, I'd counter that first year of LS is likely going to be more challenging for you than your first year of PhD (which is more research based). Plain and simple, you're going to spend hours reading cases, outlining, and discussing shit you truly don't care about. It's only the light at the end of the tunnel (3 yrs.) that keeps you going.

User avatar
banjo
Posts: 1352
Joined: Wed Nov 30, 2011 8:00 pm

Re: Incomplete semester of graduate school

Postby banjo » Mon Oct 27, 2014 2:23 pm

At the schools where you'd be competitive (upper end of T14), I think it can hurt a little to withdraw from a graduate program. You should be prepared to answer questions like, "So why would X Law School be any different?" You may also get interrogated a bit more on why you decided that law school is right for you. For OCI purposes, I think a year of legal work experience could be a huge help--employers love to hear that law school and a legal career was a deliberate choice.

That said, there are plenty of people who left graduate programs at every top law school. Address it, but don't get too defensive in your application.

User avatar
TheSpanishMain
Posts: 4740
Joined: Tue Apr 02, 2013 2:26 pm

Re: Incomplete semester of graduate school

Postby TheSpanishMain » Mon Oct 27, 2014 3:47 pm

I think you'll be fine. You might raise some antennae though: people might think that being academically challenged leads to you spinning out, or that you jump into things you haven't thought through and then quit. To be clear, I'm not saying either of these are true, just that a few people may wonder. It would help to have an explanation ready as to why law is a better fit. I don't think you need to devote a ton of time to it, though, unless there's a story there. (They "asked" you to withdraw after you had a nervous breakdown and were found naked and sweaty in your dissertation chair's office at 4 AM)

ddlew
Posts: 8
Joined: Mon Oct 27, 2014 1:30 pm

Re: Incomplete semester of graduate school

Postby ddlew » Tue Oct 28, 2014 5:45 pm

Thanks for the advice. To follow up:

I withdrew quite simply because I realized academia was not for me. Not so much the workload, but the academic culture/environment. I was studying legal issues, but found that academia was too isolated and lacking in real-world connections (yes, in retrospect, I probably should have seen that coming). Law school seems like a natural progression considering my interests and my dissatisfaction with traditional academia. I had considered dual JD/PhD programs when applying post-UG, and was seriously considering a JD after the PhD. Needless to say, I could not stomach finishing the PhD program, and I realized that my future goals/interests (now outside of academia) did not require one.

As far as my statement of purpose, I considered actually making this very realization the center of my statement. Would that not be a good idea? I certainly would frame my time in graduate school as a positive that helped me realize that practicing law was definitely what I do want to do. Thoughts on that?

Also, I plan on asking one of my graduate school professors to write a LOR. Would that help mitigate any potential questions?

User avatar
banjo
Posts: 1352
Joined: Wed Nov 30, 2011 8:00 pm

Re: Incomplete semester of graduate school

Postby banjo » Tue Oct 28, 2014 6:23 pm

ddlew wrote:Thanks for the advice. To follow up:

I withdrew quite simply because I realized academia was not for me. Not so much the workload, but the academic culture/environment. I was studying legal issues, but found that academia was too isolated and lacking in real-world connections (yes, in retrospect, I probably should have seen that coming). Law school seems like a natural progression considering my interests and my dissatisfaction with traditional academia. I had considered dual JD/PhD programs when applying post-UG, and was seriously considering a JD after the PhD. Needless to say, I could not stomach finishing the PhD program, and I realized that my future goals/interests (now outside of academia) did not require one.

As far as my statement of purpose, I considered actually making this very realization the center of my statement. Would that not be a good idea? I certainly would frame my time in graduate school as a positive that helped me realize that practicing law was definitely what I do want to do. Thoughts on that?

Also, I plan on asking one of my graduate school professors to write a LOR. Would that help mitigate any potential questions?


I think your explanation is fair. You should mention "teamwork" in your answer too. Unlike academia, where most of your thinking/writing is done in isolation, you get to work with a lot of different people on legal matters. A deal may have tax issues, ERISA issues, labor issues, and so on.

That personal statement topic is fine, but a lot of former academics write the same narrative. Won't really stand out.

Getting recs from your graduate school professors is good as long as they won't write a lukewarm recommendation when you tell them you're leaving. Solid recs from your grad school professors will indicate that you didn't leave academia because you did poorly.

Feel free to PM me if you want advice on your Harvard interview (didn't get in, but can still try to help) or have lingering questions.




Return to “Law School Admissions Forum”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 5 guests