How much will a Cambridge degree help me?

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marshmallowpop

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How much will a Cambridge degree help me?

Postby marshmallowpop » Mon Dec 03, 2018 3:37 pm

Hi all,

For reasons kind of too complex to get into here, I applied to literally one grad school (Cambridge), and was accepted for an MPhil. I'm currently waiting to hear about scholarship money but unless I win the incredibly competitive scholarship I applied for (unlikely), I'll likely have to fund this degree myself.
My plan previously was to go to Cambridge only if I won the scholarship, and if I didn't, I intended to do another year of my job (paralegal at a prominent org, dm for details).
Now that I've been accepted, I'm kind of entertaining the thought of this MPhil, even if I have to pay for it (it's not a financial difficulty for me). I'm interested in the department I applied to, of course, and I know exactly what I want to research/study + it intersects with my legal interests, but I also know that my intended career in impact litigation doesn't require anything but a JD. For this reason, it feels almost wasteful for me to do the degree unless it'll increase my chances of getting into a top (like T6) law school. I guess the crux of my question is, how much (if at all) will this up my chances/will a second year of work experience be seen equitably?

I know that I will probably be competitive for top law schools anyway (3.92 CAS GPA from a top ten school, 162 LSAT diagnostic w/ no studying) & the last two people to have my job went to T6 law schools, so my gut feeling is that the degree would be superfluous. What are your thoughts? Have any T6 schools indicated a preference for people with Masters? Conversely, do you think I might be hurting my application if I do choose to do this degree instead of working a second year? If you want more specifics about me/my application feel free to message me!

BrainsyK

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Re: How much will a Cambridge degree help me?

Postby BrainsyK » Mon Dec 03, 2018 4:19 pm

Unless you have a personal interest of an extent commensurate to how much you're paying for the degree, I'd say you're wasting money and time. It's probably better to save more $, get more legal experience/build more relationships as a paralegal, and most importantly, study for the LSAT. A mid 170s score would probably get you a Ruby/Hammy, which is about as good as it gets.

cavalier1138

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Re: How much will a Cambridge degree help me?

Postby cavalier1138 » Mon Dec 03, 2018 4:46 pm

Masters degrees are soft factors. They get some weight, but not as much as you're hoping. Same goes for how helpful that degree is going to be in legal practice (probably not at all).

But you're getting a bit ahead of yourself on how competitive you're going to be. A 162 does not make you competitive for most top schools, especially not with scholarships. So as mentioned, until you have a real LSAT score, you should probably be focusing on that.

marshmallowpop

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Re: How much will a Cambridge degree help me?

Postby marshmallowpop » Mon Dec 03, 2018 5:36 pm

Yes, of course, re: the LSAT! My point with the diagnostic score was more that I'm at a good starting point and I'm fairly confident I can score at top schools' medians :) This is helpful though, thank you! All of my friends are pre-med & can't fathom that a MA might not actually affect my chances of law school admission very much lol.

QContinuum

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Re: How much will a Cambridge degree help me?

Postby QContinuum » Mon Dec 03, 2018 6:03 pm

cavalier1138 wrote:Masters degrees are soft factors. They get some weight, but not as much as you're hoping. Same goes for how helpful that degree is going to be in legal practice (probably not at all).

But you're getting a bit ahead of yourself on how competitive you're going to be. A 162 does not make you competitive for most top schools, especially not with scholarships. So as mentioned, until you have a real LSAT score, you should probably be focusing on that.

I mean, the MPhil from Cambridge will help OP more than a second year at his/her current job. Law schools won't care whether OP's worked one year or two years - they will look functionally identical. The Cambridge Master's will actually add something. But you're right that it won't add a lot of value, and certainly not enough to justify the cost of the degree (and moving to the UK and living there for a year with zero income, vs. staying Stateside and actually earning money). OTOH, OP sounds like they're independently wealthy, or their family is wealthy, so if they can afford it without any difficulty, and are genuinely interested in the subject area, why not? A year in the UK plus a graduate degree from OxCam sounds like an amazing thing if money isn't a concern.

Also, +100 on the importance of the LSAT. A diagnostic of 162's a very solid place to start, though certainly not a good place to end.

marshmallowpop

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Re: How much will a Cambridge degree help me?

Postby marshmallowpop » Mon Dec 03, 2018 11:21 pm

That was kind of what I wondered about... I'm not sure how much value is added by a second year of being a paralegal. Theoretically, if I can spearhead some big project at my org (which has national reach & is pretty prestigious), that could be more impressive than a degree from Cambridge... but it's also much easier said than done.

Re finances: I also graduated a year early, saving me 60K. This MPhil would cost 45k. It's still a ton of money, but it was money that I had originally expected to spend anyway...

There's also the fact that this degree might substantiate my rationale for attending law school. In my apps I'll describe my passion for immigrants' rights and law, & the field of this degree intersects with migration (or my proposed thesis will, anyway), which I feel like could sort of prove that I'm actually passionate about the stuff I say I care about.

cavalier1138

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Re: How much will a Cambridge degree help me?

Postby cavalier1138 » Tue Dec 04, 2018 2:02 pm

marshmallowpop wrote:There's also the fact that this degree might substantiate my rationale for attending law school. In my apps I'll describe my passion for immigrants' rights and law, & the field of this degree intersects with migration (or my proposed thesis will, anyway), which I feel like could sort of prove that I'm actually passionate about the stuff I say I care about.


Getting a job with an immigrant rights/human rights organization would do a lot more to demonstrate interest and commitment to the field.

QContinuum

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Re: How much will a Cambridge degree help me?

Postby QContinuum » Tue Dec 04, 2018 2:53 pm

cavalier1138 wrote:
marshmallowpop wrote:There's also the fact that this degree might substantiate my rationale for attending law school. In my apps I'll describe my passion for immigrants' rights and law, & the field of this degree intersects with migration (or my proposed thesis will, anyway), which I feel like could sort of prove that I'm actually passionate about the stuff I say I care about.


Getting a job with an immigrant rights/human rights organization would do a lot more to demonstrate interest and commitment to the field.

I agree with this, although I think overall OP shouldn't worry too much about perfecting their softs. They have a 3.92 GPA from a top 10 college. The most important thing now is for them to kill it on the LSAT. If they achieve a similarly strong LSAT score, the sky's the limit as far as law school admissions go.

OP will get a far greater ROI by spending their time/effort on maximizing their LSAT score than on crafting the perfect softs over the next year. Even 2 extra points on the LSAT (say, a 172 versus a 170) would likely benefit OP far more than any subtle distinctions in outcome between doing a M.Phil., paralegaling a second year, or doing a year of PI work (all of which are typical softs among strong T13 applicants).

(A "super strong" soft might help OP with Y/S, but none of the mentioned options - doing a Master's, paralegaling a second year, or spending a year doing PI work - would qualify as a "super strong" soft. These typically take well more than a year to build up.)

marshmallowpop

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Re: How much will a Cambridge degree help me?

Postby marshmallowpop » Tue Dec 04, 2018 4:26 pm

cavalier1138 wrote:
marshmallowpop wrote:There's also the fact that this degree might substantiate my rationale for attending law school. In my apps I'll describe my passion for immigrants' rights and law, & the field of this degree intersects with migration (or my proposed thesis will, anyway), which I feel like could sort of prove that I'm actually passionate about the stuff I say I care about.


Getting a job with an immigrant rights/human rights organization would do a lot more to demonstrate interest and commitment to the field.


The org I work with is in that space - I've worked on immigrants' rights cases, among other things, so I think my work experience demonstrates my dedication. My thought was more that I'm diversifying my exposure to this subject area if I also pursue a degree focused in it. I guess that just raises questions about the value of experiential knowledge vs. academic knowledge...

But yeah, point taken about this being a soft factor. The LSAT is def my priority, but I'm planning to take it in March (or possibly June if I feel reeeeallly underprepared), so that leaves plenty of time to pursue this degree (the year I do the degree would be the year I apply to law schools/hear back).

With the fact that this won't affect my LSAT score in mind, does anyone think that a second year as a paralegal might "look better" than a degree? I've spoken to a family friend who works in admissions--although for med school--and he seemed to think that good work experience>>Masters in admissions. I wasn't sure if that was kind of just a med school thing though.

QContinuum

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Re: How much will a Cambridge degree help me?

Postby QContinuum » Tue Dec 04, 2018 5:23 pm

marshmallowpop wrote:With the fact that this won't affect my LSAT score in mind, does anyone think that a second year as a paralegal might "look better" than a degree? I've spoken to a family friend who works in admissions--although for med school--and he seemed to think that good work experience>>Masters in admissions. I wasn't sure if that was kind of just a med school thing though.

No. Right now, the most common thing for successful T13 applicants is to have 1 year of full-time WE (with paralegaling probably the single most common "gap-year" job), which you will have. 2 years isn't uncommon and certainly won't hurt, but it's a substantial minority and there's no indication it helps.

What you must recognize is that law school admissions is almost entirely driven by undergrad GPA and LSAT score. I know it's counterintuitive, because that's not how undergrad admissions work. It's not how med school admissions work. It's not how b-school admissions work. All of those other programs care a lot about extracurriculars, about volunteering, about WE, about LORs, about application essays, about college prestige. They all have a "holistic" admissions process. But law school admissions isn't like that. You can predict, with almost perfect certainty, an applicant's chances of admission by plugging in undergrad GPA and LSAT - knowing nothing else about that applicant, other than URM status*. You can't do that with undergrad GPA and MCAT for med school applications, nor can you do it with high school GPA and SAT for college admissions. So I know it's difficult to accept. It may not make intuitive sense. But you must accept it. Talking to med school admissions officers won't help you at all with law school admissions.

(*Excepting only Y/S, and even there numbers are critically important. They just aren't enough, standing alone.)

cavalier1138

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Re: How much will a Cambridge degree help me?

Postby cavalier1138 » Tue Dec 04, 2018 8:36 pm

Everything Q said is correct, but this is what confuses me:

marshmallowpop wrote:My thought was more that I'm diversifying my exposure to this subject area if I also pursue a degree focused in it.


How is a Masters in Philosophy a degree focused on immigrant rights law? Am I missing something about the way the Brits classify their graduate programs?

nixy

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Re: How much will a Cambridge degree help me?

Postby nixy » Tue Dec 04, 2018 9:41 pm

An MPhil is about philosophy in the same way that a PhD is, which is to say, not necessarily at all; the "philosophy" label isn't about discipline. (Having said that, I'm pretty sure there are lots of philosophical issue wrt immigration, sovereignty, borders, etc., though admittedly not with a lot of immediate practical application.)

marshmallowpop

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Re: How much will a Cambridge degree help me?

Postby marshmallowpop » Wed Dec 05, 2018 5:17 pm

nixy wrote:An MPhil is about philosophy in the same way that a PhD is, which is to say, not necessarily at all; the "philosophy" label isn't about discipline. (Having said that, I'm pretty sure there are lots of philosophical issue wrt immigration, sovereignty, borders, etc., though admittedly not with a lot of immediate practical application.)


Yup exactly. An MPhil is just a UK postgrad degree that often precedes a PhD - the "Phil" doesn't mean I'm studying Philosophy. My chosen department is actually Criminology.

cavalier1138

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Re: How much will a Cambridge degree help me?

Postby cavalier1138 » Wed Dec 05, 2018 5:51 pm

I've learned something about British degrees from this thread.

I would still guess that a year of experience in something related to immigration law (and unless the Brits also have a really flexible definition of "criminology," I'm not sure how that field would help) would be more helpful for your goals than academic study. PI organizations don't care much about academic credentials; they value ground-level experience far more. And if that's your goal, I'd focus more on what's going to help position you well for that career, rather than what might give an edge benefit to your law school application.



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