Spivey Consulting Q&A with Adcoms from Yale, Harvard, Penn, Chicago etc.

Special forum where professionals are encouraged to help law school applicants, students, and graduates.

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MikeSpivey
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Re: Q&A with former Harvard, Penn, Chicago, Vandy Admissions officers

Postby MikeSpivey » Sun Jul 17, 2016 10:56 am

ggnobbq wrote:
KarenButtenbaum wrote:
deanmeeker wrote:
masterz wrote:Hi guys,

Your compiled QA is so helpful!! I was wondering what your views are on taking LSAT 5-6 times. June 2016 made my 4th take, I got an increase of 1-3 points with every retake. And I'm confident that I can get another 1-2 points in September. Would the law schools view this continuous retaking negatively? I asked this because I read the compiled QA and your blog, most people ask about 4 takes. I just wanted to know if a 5th or 6th take would make a difference on that front.

Also you mentioned on your blog that someone took the LSAT 6 times and ended up in his dream school. Any chance you could share some of his stories?

Thank you very much!


I usually advise against it, but others, including my partners, may disagree with me, so I invite them to weigh in. Admittedly, I have not worked with clients who have taken the LSAT more than 4 times; I am speaking from my experience working at Penn and discussing this very question with a few of my colleagues who also worked at top 10 schools. That perspective is that after 3 or 4 takes, doubt creeps in as to consistency and judgment. That doubt gets heightened if there are any other questions or inconsistencies -- even slight ones -- in the application, such as lower or erratic grade trends, mediocre letters of recommendation, etc. I think if everything else in your application is airtight, many schools (perhaps most) won't view it negatively, but the most selective schools might.


I very much agree with Derek -- after about 4 times, it has the potential to give the admissions officers wrong signals. And in my experience on the admissions side of things, an excessive number of takes usually goes hand-in-hand with questionable elements or signs of poor judgment in the application. I have seen clients find success after more than 4 takes, but it is usually the exception rather than the rule. Think carefully about it before you decide to take it too many times!

KB

Mike, would you happen to be one of their partners who disagree? If so, can you elaborate?


It's not so much that I agree or disagree in a vacuum. I'll word it like this: if some all knowing crystal ball could guarantee that you would go up, be it just 1 point or 17 points, I'd say it is value-add. But even going up a point on a 4th take introduces some variables that people with the standard 2-3 takes do not have to worry about. More specifically, you have to be exceptionally careful ion how you word all other aspects of your application/interviews/etc. so as to not seem obsessive. So, for clients at least, I am mostly comfortable with a 4th take when they are confident that based on diagnostics they will go up, and if they seem like they take to a "cooling" of the application jets in some aspects.

And just do use this to double down on everything I am hearing from every admissions office I talk to these days, beyond an LSAT or GPA that they are coveting, what schools are looking for more than anything else is a calm, cool, professional. This applies in the above scenario more than anything.

Mr. Bubbles
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Re: Q&A with former Harvard, Penn, Chicago, Vandy Admissions officers

Postby Mr. Bubbles » Sat Jul 23, 2016 8:05 pm

Thank you for all of the information you have provided. It has answered a lot of questions for me.
There is 1 question i haven't found an answer to:
As a URM, should I submit a Diversity statement AND a Why X college essay to schools I really want to attend?
Or is that too much?
Thanks again.

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KarenButtenbaum
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Re: Q&A with former Harvard, Penn, Chicago, Vandy Admissions officers

Postby KarenButtenbaum » Sat Jul 23, 2016 9:21 pm

Mr. Bubbles wrote:Thank you for all of the information you have provided. It has answered a lot of questions for me.
There is 1 question i haven't found an answer to:
As a URM, should I submit a Diversity statement AND a Why X college essay to schools I really want to attend?
Or is that too much?
Thanks again.


There may be other factors involved (what else are you submitting (other addenda)? do they care about a why X essay?) but the quick and general answer is YES as long as they both add value to your application.

Cheers,
KB

Mr. Bubbles
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Re: Q&A with former Harvard, Penn, Chicago, Vandy Admissions officers

Postby Mr. Bubbles » Sun Jul 24, 2016 8:54 pm

Thank you

YoungSimba
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Re: Q&A with former Harvard, Penn, Chicago, Vandy Admissions officers

Postby YoungSimba » Mon Jul 25, 2016 2:43 am

Thank you all for taking the time to offer free advice here.
My goal is to attend a T14 school on a merit scholarship. I'm a splitter. My questions: How can I improve my chances for T14 scholarships? Are there certain schools I should apply to, or does my gpa automatically exclude me? I've considered retaking the LSAT, but not sure more points matter if you're already above median. I've tried looking at LawSchoolNumbers, but there is not much helpful data. Any expert advice would be appreciated. Thanks again.
Last edited by YoungSimba on Thu Sep 01, 2016 12:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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R. Jeeves
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Re: Q&A with former Harvard, Penn, Chicago, Vandy Admissions officers

Postby R. Jeeves » Wed Aug 03, 2016 10:16 pm

Hello all - first, thanks for making this Q&A thread. It's a fantastic resource.

I have a question about personal statements and reapplying.

I applied to law school 2 cycles ago. It went well, but I decided to work instead of attending LS. Now I have work experience and a higher LSAT score and I'm about to reapply to law school.

Last time, a UChicago adcomm told me that my PS was good in my interview with her. I'm tempted to use the same PS again this cycle. Is this a bad idea? My intuition says this would probably be frowned upon, but I thought I'd run it by you guys to be sure. Sorry if a similar question has already been answered.

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KarenButtenbaum
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Re: Q&A with former Harvard, Penn, Chicago, Vandy Admissions officers

Postby KarenButtenbaum » Wed Aug 03, 2016 10:24 pm

R. Jeeves wrote:Hello all - first, thanks for making this Q&A thread. It's a fantastic resource.

I have a question about personal statements and reapplying.

I applied to law school 2 cycles ago. It went well, but I decided to work instead of attending LS. Now I have work experience and a higher LSAT score and I'm about to reapply to law school.

Last time, a Uchi adcomm told me that my PS was good in my interview with her. I'm tempted to use the same PS again this cycle. Is this a bad idea? Something that is frowned upon? Sorry if a similar question has already been answered.


It's difficult to give blind advice not knowing all of the details but my general advice is DON'T DO IT!!
Most schools will expect/require a new PS -- (some don't tho). When I was reading applications, I would have expected a new statement from someone who applied two years ago.

Cheers,
KB

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R. Jeeves
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Re: Q&A with former Harvard, Penn, Chicago, Vandy Admissions officers

Postby R. Jeeves » Thu Aug 04, 2016 1:44 pm

KarenButtenbaum wrote:
R. Jeeves wrote:Hello all - first, thanks for making this Q&A thread. It's a fantastic resource.

I have a question about personal statements and reapplying.

I applied to law school 2 cycles ago. It went well, but I decided to work instead of attending LS. Now I have work experience and a higher LSAT score and I'm about to reapply to law school.

Last time, a Uchi adcomm told me that my PS was good in my interview with her. I'm tempted to use the same PS again this cycle. Is this a bad idea? Something that is frowned upon? Sorry if a similar question has already been answered.


It's difficult to give blind advice not knowing all of the details but my general advice is DON'T DO IT!!
Most schools will expect/require a new PS -- (some don't tho). When I was reading applications, I would have expected a new statement from someone who applied two years ago.

Cheers,
KB


Thanks, Karen! I'll write my new PS then.

CenterFringe
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Re: Q&A with former Harvard, Penn, Chicago, Vandy Admissions officers

Postby CenterFringe » Thu Aug 04, 2016 2:33 pm

Should I do an addendum for an 'F' I received when taking a college class in high school? I don't have a compelling reason, it was an online class at a community college and I missed the submission deadline for the final.

I've read that the general rule is to write an addendum for a bad grade, but it was 10 years ago, and I'm worried drawing attention to it might be counterproductive.

For reference my scores are 3.59/176 and my goal is H.

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proteinshake
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Re: Q&A with former Harvard, Penn, Chicago, Vandy Admissions officers

Postby proteinshake » Sat Aug 13, 2016 6:00 pm

I was accepted/WL to a few T14 law schools last cycle and am reapplying this cycle. is it okay if I use the same PS for the ones I was accepted to? or should I change it for all schools? thanks!

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KarenButtenbaum
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Re: Q&A with former Harvard, Penn, Chicago, Vandy Admissions officers

Postby KarenButtenbaum » Sat Aug 13, 2016 9:19 pm

proteinshake wrote:I was accepted/WL to a few T14 law schools last cycle and am reapplying this cycle. is it okay if I use the same PS for the ones I was accepted to? or should I change it for all schools? thanks!


Most schools expect to see a new PS, and I would advise submitting a new one.
Cheers,
KB

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KarenButtenbaum
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Re: Q&A with former Harvard, Penn, Chicago, Vandy Admissions officers

Postby KarenButtenbaum » Sat Aug 13, 2016 9:22 pm

CenterFringe wrote:Should I do an addendum for an 'F' I received when taking a college class in high school? I don't have a compelling reason, it was an online class at a community college and I missed the submission deadline for the final.

I've read that the general rule is to write an addendum for a bad grade, but it was 10 years ago, and I'm worried drawing attention to it might be counterproductive.

For reference my scores are 3.59/176 and my goal is H.


this could be a very short and sweet addendum, so I would recommend submitting it. They will likely notice the F on your transcript (assuming that there are other courses on that transcript). Three sentences is really all that you need.

ZVBXRPL
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Re: Q&A with former Harvard, Penn, Chicago, Vandy Admissions officers

Postby ZVBXRPL » Sat Aug 13, 2016 11:37 pm

Hey all!

Thanks so much for answering all these questions! Everyone here appreciates your time, and you all must be very busy this time of year.

1. Do I have to list every single job I ever had since high school (warehouse, retail, etc.)?

2. Also, If I worked through an agency but in a school as a teacher, do I put the agency or the school on my resume? Or both?

Ty!

LikelyThrowaway
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Re: Q&A with former Harvard, Penn, Chicago, Vandy Admissions officers

Postby LikelyThrowaway » Sun Aug 14, 2016 9:39 am

KarenButtenbaum wrote:
CenterFringe wrote:Should I do an addendum for an 'F' I received when taking a college class in high school? I don't have a compelling reason, it was an online class at a community college and I missed the submission deadline for the final.

I've read that the general rule is to write an addendum for a bad grade, but it was 10 years ago, and I'm worried drawing attention to it might be counterproductive.

For reference my scores are 3.59/176 and my goal is H.


this could be a very short and sweet addendum, so I would recommend submitting it. They will likely notice the F on your transcript (assuming that there are other courses on that transcript). Three sentences is really all that you need.


Sorry to bother you with a similar question, but does this imply that you guys pretty much always recommend submitting short addenda for F's? I have two W's, functionally F's, from one-credit PE courses that are there for no better reason than that I didn't really understand the consequence of a W on my transcript and, frankly, didn't really care about a small GPA hit. People on here have told me not to submit an addendum but your advice above is causing me to reconsider that.

Thanks for your time, you guys are great!

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KarenButtenbaum
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Re: Q&A with former Harvard, Penn, Chicago, Vandy Admissions officers

Postby KarenButtenbaum » Sun Aug 14, 2016 8:58 pm

ZVBXRPL wrote:Hey all!

Thanks so much for answering all these questions! Everyone here appreciates your time, and you all must be very busy this time of year.

1. Do I have to list every single job I ever had since high school (warehouse, retail, etc.)?

2. Also, If I worked through an agency but in a school as a teacher, do I put the agency or the school on my resume? Or both?

Ty!


1. Depends on what the school asks on their application -- you do not need to list them all on a typical resume (but check the school's instructions) but for the application form, you will likely find more detailed information in the instructions.
2. List the agency as employer and "teacher at xxx school" as the position.

Cheers,
KB

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KarenButtenbaum
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Re: Q&A with former Harvard, Penn, Chicago, Vandy Admissions officers

Postby KarenButtenbaum » Sun Aug 14, 2016 9:05 pm

LikelyThrowaway wrote:
KarenButtenbaum wrote:
CenterFringe wrote:Should I do an addendum for an 'F' I received when taking a college class in high school? I don't have a compelling reason, it was an online class at a community college and I missed the submission deadline for the final.

I've read that the general rule is to write an addendum for a bad grade, but it was 10 years ago, and I'm worried drawing attention to it might be counterproductive.

For reference my scores are 3.59/176 and my goal is H.


this could be a very short and sweet addendum, so I would recommend submitting it. They will likely notice the F on your transcript (assuming that there are other courses on that transcript). Three sentences is really all that you need.


Sorry to bother you with a similar question, but does this imply that you guys pretty much always recommend submitting short addenda for F's? I have two W's, functionally F's, from one-credit PE courses that are there for no better reason than that I didn't really understand the consequence of a W on my transcript and, frankly, didn't really care about a small GPA hit. People on here have told me not to submit an addendum but your advice above is causing me to reconsider that.

Thanks for your time, you guys are great!


There really is no "always" since every case is different, but I would think that you'd want a chance to address two F's on your transcripts -- even if it is to say that you made a mistake in judgment a few years ago. But I would highly encourage you to keep it short.

Cheers,
Karen

sydneyjjj
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Re: Q&A with former Harvard, Penn, Chicago, Vandy Admissions officers

Postby sydneyjjj » Wed Aug 17, 2016 12:18 am

First of all, I really want to thank you for making this amazing thread and your useful advice.
I've been struggling over this for months, so I desperately need your help.

I am an international applicant who plans to apply this cycle.
The night before my LSAT exam, I got really nervous so I stayed up all night. I tried to sleep but I couldn't.
The next day, when the writing section began, I felt extremely tired all of a sudden because of the relief that all the important sections are over and couldn't help but fall asleep in that section... I could not resist it... I only wrote four words ("I would choose to").
Luckily I got 173+ on that exam, so I did not take the LSAT again.
Here's the question. Since I am a foreign-educated applicant, I think that my writing section will be reviewed, and I think when the school reviews my writing section, they will assume that I left it almost blank because of the lack of my English writing skills.

So I am thinking about writing an addendum explaining why I left the LSAT writing section almost blank. But I am struggling because 1) It might make the school focus on my LSAT writing section when they had no intention to look at it in the first place, and 2) They would think that I lack judgment or I am immature enough to sleep during an important test.
Should I write an addendum or not? I really need your help and any advice would be deeply appreciated.
Thank you in advance.

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MikeSpivey
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Re: Q&A with former Harvard, Penn, Chicago, Vandy Admissions officers

Postby MikeSpivey » Wed Aug 17, 2016 10:00 am

sydneyjjj wrote:First of all, I really want to thank you for making this amazing thread and your useful advice.
I've been struggling over this for months, so I desperately need your help.

I am an international applicant who plans to apply this cycle.
The night before my LSAT exam, I got really nervous so I stayed up all night. I tried to sleep but I couldn't.
The next day, when the writing section began, I felt extremely tired all of a sudden because of the relief that all the important sections are over and couldn't help but fall asleep in that section... I could not resist it... I only wrote four words ("I would choose to").
Luckily I got 173+ on that exam, so I did not take the LSAT again.
Here's the question. Since I am a foreign-educated applicant, I think that my writing section will be reviewed, and I think when the school reviews my writing section, they will assume that I left it almost blank because of the lack of my English writing skills.

So I am thinking about writing an addendum explaining why I left the LSAT writing section almost blank. But I am struggling because 1) It might make the school focus on my LSAT writing section when they had no intention to look at it in the first place, and 2) They would think that I lack judgment or I am immature enough to sleep during an important test.
Should I write an addendum or not? I really need your help and any advice would be deeply appreciated.
Thank you in advance.


Greetings from 30,000 feet. I think over Arkansas or something.

I wouldn't call yourself out. In many cases less addenda is more, this being one of them. If they want something else from you, they will ask. But I would bet money the don't, you are fine go get some sleep :-)

sydneyjjj
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Re: Q&A with former Harvard, Penn, Chicago, Vandy Admissions officers

Postby sydneyjjj » Thu Aug 18, 2016 3:40 am

Thank you for your prompt response.. I really appreciate your help :D It is very helpful!!!

euler
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Re: Q&A with former Harvard, Penn, Chicago, Vandy Admissions officers

Postby euler » Fri Aug 19, 2016 12:21 am

Really grateful for the great information all of you have provided.

As an international student, I know our GPA doesn't count toward admission statistics. But I'm curious how admissions officers look at those GPAs. Are applicants treated as if they had a median GPA since theirs won't change the stats, or are they looked even less favorably?

Also, how much a role does the specific GPA rating from LSAC play and how are they compared with a US undergrad GPA? Like, would a Superior rating be similar to a 3.8 or 4.0?

There seems to be relatively few international applicants asking questions here, so I haven't found similar information in the thread. If these questions have already been answered, I would be grateful if you can direct me to where they are.

Thanks a lot!

roranoa
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Re: Q&A with former Harvard, Penn, Chicago, Vandy Admissions officers

Postby roranoa » Fri Aug 19, 2016 2:45 am

Hi, thanks for the thread!

Do you think there are "bad" recommendations as opposed to "good" or "stellar" LORs?

That is, if the letter is positive but very generic (ex. "[NAME] participates well, is intelligent, leads discussions, and....etc.") would it be better or worse than a LOR that's personal and well tailored to my strengths but also reveals my weaknesses?

I'm sure professors wouldn't blatantly state something negative ("He not punctual!") but I know they hide it in the subtext if they feel the need to bring up certain issues.

Any input on this matter would be much appreciated.

Thanks!

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proteinshake
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Re: Q&A with former Harvard, Penn, Chicago, Vandy Admissions officers

Postby proteinshake » Sun Aug 21, 2016 1:30 pm

.
Last edited by proteinshake on Mon Aug 22, 2016 8:32 am, edited 1 time in total.

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DerekMeeker
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Re: Q&A with former Harvard, Penn, Chicago, Vandy Admissions officers

Postby DerekMeeker » Sun Aug 21, 2016 3:26 pm

euler wrote:Really grateful for the great information all of you have provided.

As an international student, I know our GPA doesn't count toward admission statistics. But I'm curious how admissions officers look at those GPAs. Are applicants treated as if they had a median GPA since theirs won't change the stats, or are they looked even less favorably?

Also, how much a role does the specific GPA rating from LSAC play and how are they compared with a US undergrad GPA? Like, would a Superior rating be similar to a 3.8 or 4.0?

There seems to be relatively few international applicants asking questions here, so I haven't found similar information in the thread. If these questions have already been answered, I would be grateful if you can direct me to where they are.

Thanks a lot!


The concise answer to your question is that they will absolutely review the transcript and take into account the LSAC rating, so, of course, the better the rating/the higher the grades, the more boost it will give you in the process. That being said, because the GPA does not count in the schools' statistics and thus cannot influence the median GPA, there will be more attention paid to the LSAT score. If the LSAT score is below the school's median, you've got a bigger hurdle to overcome because neither of your metrics will help the school's statistics.

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Re: Q&A with former Harvard, Penn, Chicago, Vandy Admissions officers

Postby DerekMeeker » Sun Aug 21, 2016 3:52 pm

roranoa wrote:Hi, thanks for the thread!

Do you think there are "bad" recommendations as opposed to "good" or "stellar" LORs?

That is, if the letter is positive but very generic (ex. "[NAME] participates well, is intelligent, leads discussions, and....etc.") would it be better or worse than a LOR that's personal and well tailored to my strengths but also reveals my weaknesses?

I'm sure professors wouldn't blatantly state something negative ("He not punctual!") but I know they hide it in the subtext if they feel the need to bring up certain issues.

Any input on this matter would be much appreciated.

Thanks!


It's a tough call, and a lot of it depends on the strength of the rest of your application. A positive but generic letter in an otherwise strong application will likely have no effect either way. But if there are other issues or weaknesses in the application that put you on the bubble, they're going to be looking for strong LORs to put your over the top. So the same is going to apply to a personal letter that is tailored to strengths but also reveals weaknesses. If there are already some questions or doubts about your application, a mention of weaknesses in an LOR could add to those doubts. My advice is to be as proactive as you can with regard to your LORs: talk to your references when you make the ask and try to get a sense of how they will approach it/what they will include. And then consider any potential liabilities in light of the rest of your application components.

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MikeSpivey
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Re: Q&A with former Harvard, Penn, Chicago, Vandy Admissions officers

Postby MikeSpivey » Sun Aug 21, 2016 4:40 pm

sydneyjjj wrote:Thank you for your prompt response.. I really appreciate your help :D It is very helpful!!!


sydney,

Just an fyi, Karen and I were traveling together for a school assignment last week and discussed. It is likely that at least 1 school may ask you about that, so if a follow-up from a school would worry you, you certainly can write an addendum. Just tell them what happened in about 1 very short paragraph. That would work too, and would likely get your application at a few schools completed a bit more rapidly.

Mike


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