Study abroad mistake?

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bernaldiaz
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Study abroad mistake?

Postby bernaldiaz » Tue Apr 26, 2011 11:50 pm

Ok, so I'm not sure this would be a "frequently asked question", as it's pretty unique to my situation, but I figured I'd fire away anyways. I go to a top 20 (on USNWR) undergraduate university and currently have a 3.98 GPA. My university sends 2 kids to Cambridge every year, and it is exceedingly difficult to get accepted. When I received my acceptance I was ecstatic up until the point where we discussed grades. In order to receive an A back at my American university, I have to receive a 1st class or high 2-1 on the exams (for those unfamiliar with the grading system I'd say 30% of exams reach this distinctions, while at some of the better colleges it may be higher and vice versa). I talked to many professors and my prelaw advisor and they all urged me to accept this year, despite the possibility of lowering my GPA. They said that even with a lower GPA I would be more attractive to law schools with the year at Cambridge. Now I am reading on TLS that undergraduate institution and its prestige is irrelevant. Did I make a mistake taking the risk of studying at Cambridge? Or is a year at Cambridge one of those special softs that will actually make a difference?
If anyone has been to Cambridge (I'm studying history, btw) and has any advice, I would love to hear it. Thanks!

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bernaldiaz
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Re: Study abroad mistake?

Postby bernaldiaz » Wed Apr 27, 2011 12:08 am

RedShift wrote:With a GPA that high in a presumably fairly difficult program, why are you so sure you won't be able to achieve top 30%? Is there any way you can take "fluff" courses for study abroad students? Cambridge may not be the place for that, but even if you have to take "real" courses and spend a decent amount of time studying, you'll still have fun.


Right, of course it's not a guarantee that my GPA will go down, just a definite risk. I guess I assumed that everyone at Cambridge would be brilliant, and just scratching the top 30% would be equivalent to being the very best at my university. I don't think there are fluff courses there as much as here. Also, I am not entering into designed study abroad program. Cambridge has agreements with my university, and I think just Harvard and MIT, so that we matriculate just as a Cambridge student would. Thanks for positive words though!

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superhands
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Re: Study abroad mistake?

Postby superhands » Wed Apr 27, 2011 12:31 am

OP, I too am a history major who studied abroad at Cambridge (Gonville and Caius), and I must say that it was one of the best decisions I made during undergrad. You must have a shot at succeeding at Cambridge since you were accepted to this exclusive program. Also, even if you have a less than stellar semester, it probably wont drag your GPA down too far. Overall, this is a once in a lifetime experience that you should not pass up. Who cares if it may result in a .02 decrease?

Go kick some ass at Cambridge. Also, don't forget to get totally pissed from time to time. There are plenty of cool pubs to check out, the Eagle being one of my favorites.

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knotoftoads
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Re: Study abroad mistake?

Postby knotoftoads » Wed Apr 27, 2011 10:22 am

that sounds like an awesome oppurtunity and although undergrad doesn't count for a whole lot, your study abroad program seems like it would help your app stand apart from the others. Adcoms like people with experience, especially if you're planning on going to law school right out of undergrad. I say go for it.

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Re: Study abroad mistake?

Postby neyaae » Wed Apr 27, 2011 10:27 am

Please don't miss this opportunity because you're worried about grades. I didn't go to Cambridge, but my study abroad experiences were by far the BEST part of any academic experience I've ever had. My GPA did slip a little, but it was worth it and now I'm going to a T6 law school. I also had an interview for a scholarship that I truly believe I would not have gotten if I hadn't gone abroad. Study abroad opens doors. You won't regret it, but you'll probably always think about what you missed out on if you don't go!

bfaiken
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Re: Study abroad mistake?

Postby bfaiken » Wed Apr 27, 2011 10:29 am

bernaldiaz wrote:Ok, so I'm not sure this would be a "frequently asked question", as it's pretty unique to my situation, but I figured I'd fire away anyways. I go to a top 20 (on USNWR) undergraduate university and currently have a 3.98 GPA. My university sends 2 kids to Cambridge every year, and it is exceedingly difficult to get accepted. When I received my acceptance I was ecstatic up until the point where we discussed grades. In order to receive an A back at my American university, I have to receive a 1st class or high 2-1 on the exams (for those unfamiliar with the grading system I'd say 30% of exams reach this distinctions, while at some of the better colleges it may be higher and vice versa). I talked to many professors and my prelaw advisor and they all urged me to accept this year, despite the possibility of lowering my GPA. They said that even with a lower GPA I would be more attractive to law schools with the year at Cambridge. Now I am reading on TLS that undergraduate institution and its prestige is irrelevant. Did I make a mistake taking the risk of studying at Cambridge? Or is a year at Cambridge one of those special softs that will actually make a difference?
If anyone has been to Cambridge (I'm studying history, btw) and has any advice, I would love to hear it. Thanks!


Don't pass up such an amazing opportunity on the offchance that despite acing nearly every class you've taken in college you might not finish in the top 30% at this program and the impact would be that your GPA would be lowered by several hundredths of a point to a number that is still at or above the 75th percentile for every single law school in the country.

Go live a little. If you're concerned about law school, your entire focus should be on the LSAT. That's going to have a much larger impact on your eventual school than the grade you get in a study abroad program.

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ahduth
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Re: Study abroad mistake?

Postby ahduth » Wed Apr 27, 2011 12:03 pm

bfaiken wrote:
bernaldiaz wrote:Ok, so I'm not sure this would be a "frequently asked question", as it's pretty unique to my situation, but I figured I'd fire away anyways. I go to a top 20 (on USNWR) undergraduate university and currently have a 3.98 GPA. My university sends 2 kids to Cambridge every year, and it is exceedingly difficult to get accepted. When I received my acceptance I was ecstatic up until the point where we discussed grades. In order to receive an A back at my American university, I have to receive a 1st class or high 2-1 on the exams (for those unfamiliar with the grading system I'd say 30% of exams reach this distinctions, while at some of the better colleges it may be higher and vice versa). I talked to many professors and my prelaw advisor and they all urged me to accept this year, despite the possibility of lowering my GPA. They said that even with a lower GPA I would be more attractive to law schools with the year at Cambridge. Now I am reading on TLS that undergraduate institution and its prestige is irrelevant. Did I make a mistake taking the risk of studying at Cambridge? Or is a year at Cambridge one of those special softs that will actually make a difference?
If anyone has been to Cambridge (I'm studying history, btw) and has any advice, I would love to hear it. Thanks!


Don't pass up such an amazing opportunity on the offchance that despite acing nearly every class you've taken in college you might not finish in the top 30% at this program and the impact would be that your GPA would be lowered by several hundredths of a point to a number that is still at or above the 75th percentile for every single law school in the country.

Go live a little. If you're concerned about law school, your entire focus should be on the LSAT. That's going to have a much larger impact on your eventual school than the grade you get in a study abroad program.


This. My study abroad semester definitely brought my GPA down - it was the only time I didn't receive As. I wouldn't trade it in for anything however, it was a fantastic experience. It will stick with you forever.

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bernaldiaz
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Re: Study abroad mistake?

Postby bernaldiaz » Wed Apr 27, 2011 2:01 pm

Whew. Thanks for all the replies. You all really reinforced the positive elements that I had seen in the experience, while alleviating many of my concerns. This means even more in light of the "GPA/LSAT above all else" attitude that typically pervades in any decision. Thanks again!

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Re: Study abroad mistake?

Postby 1988AndX » Wed Apr 27, 2011 2:51 pm

"Or is a year at Cambridge one of those special softs that will actually make a difference?"

No. The fact that the exchange is to Oxbridge is no different from one that is to a little known school in Austria. A lot of students travel to Oxbridge each year for exchange; mostly to Oxford. However, I don't understand why you are worried. Having spent a term at Oxford (as a full student), I have to say that it was the easiest term of my college career by far (I attend a non-HYP Ivy). I traveled every single weekend. Although the grades didn't transfer back and LSAC never included it, I wish they did. If you are genuinely worried about your GPA dropping by more than 0.05 point and you are aiming for HYS, I would say it is not worth it. If you are aiming for CCN, go for it since your GPA is high enough even with a drastic drop.

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Re: Study abroad mistake?

Postby rose711 » Wed Apr 27, 2011 3:17 pm

Wait - you want to turn down an fabulous opportunity to learn and experience the world at one of the best universities in the world - because you are worried about your undergrad GPA? Do you even care about, you know, your education? I think you definitely need to broaden your life experience.

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Re: Study abroad mistake?

Postby whymeohgodno » Wed Apr 27, 2011 3:25 pm

You might cherish the study abroad but if it brings down your GPA it will hurt you for law school admissions.

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knotoftoads
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Re: Study abroad mistake?

Postby knotoftoads » Wed Apr 27, 2011 3:40 pm

whymeohgodno wrote:You might cherish the study abroad but if it brings down your GPA it will hurt you for law school admissions.

I highly doubt, even if he/she doesn't achieve the top 30% (which she probably will based on her accademic history), that her gpa would be brought down enough to justify her not going. OP, most likely, this particular study abroad experience will really help your resume and definitely broaden your horizons.

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powerlawyer06
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Re: Study abroad mistake?

Postby powerlawyer06 » Wed Apr 27, 2011 3:46 pm

Honestly that Cambridge trip sounds amazing but if it could significanty hurt your GPA I would not go. It would be a great soft but there are things you could do here that would be better.

If you decide to go you also must decide that you are going to get the equivalent of A's while abroad. This probably means less partying, socializing, and vacationing than the average study abroad trip.

Law schools will care more about a .25 difference in GPA then a prestigious study abroad trip. USNWR rankings force them to care about these things.

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Re: Study abroad mistake?

Postby geoduck » Wed Apr 27, 2011 4:06 pm

powerlawyer06 wrote:Honestly that Cambridge trip sounds amazing but if it could significanty hurt your GPA I would not go. It would be a great soft but there are things you could do here that would be better.

If you decide to go you also must decide that you are going to get the equivalent of A's while abroad. This probably means less partying, socializing, and vacationing than the average study abroad trip.

Law schools will care more about a .25 difference in GPA then a prestigious study abroad trip. USNWR rankings force them to care about these things.


Even if it dropped him by the .25 (which it won't), he is still left with a 3.73. More realistically, a couple Bs would maybe drop him down to a 3.85. Assuming this wouldn't be his last year in school, he should have time to pull another year of As and get back into the 3.9 club. More likely, he will be in the top 30%.

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Re: Study abroad mistake?

Postby 1988AndX » Wed Apr 27, 2011 4:07 pm

1988AndX wrote:"Or is a year at Cambridge one of those special softs that will actually make a difference?"

No. The fact that the exchange is to Oxbridge is no different from one that is to a little known school in Austria. A lot of students travel to Oxbridge each year for exchange; mostly to Oxford. However, I don't understand why you are worried. Having spent a term at Oxford (as a full student), I have to say that it was the easiest term of my college career by far (I attend a non-HYP Ivy). I traveled every single weekend. Although the grades didn't transfer back and LSAC never included it, I wish they did. If you are genuinely worried about your GPA dropping by more than 0.05 point and you are aiming for HYS, I would say it is not worth it. If you are aiming for CCN, go for it since your GPA is high enough even with a drastic drop.


I think people here are confusing a great experience with a great soft. A study abroad to Oxbridge is a soft, but not a great soft since a lot of people do it; it's really easy (especially Oxford) for students from wealth American families. At my school, if you want to exchange at Oxford and have a 3.8+ GPA, then you get to go. It is a great experience. However, is it worth losing 0.05 on the GPA, which may shut you out of HYS depending on your LSAT. I personally don't think a study abroad to Oxbridge is even worth 0.05 on the GPA when it comes to law school admissions since so many people do it and that the adcomms would not be able to gauge how hard it was for you to get into your specific program.

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Re: Study abroad mistake?

Postby ahduth » Wed Apr 27, 2011 4:42 pm

1988AndX wrote:
1988AndX wrote:"Or is a year at Cambridge one of those special softs that will actually make a difference?"

No. The fact that the exchange is to Oxbridge is no different from one that is to a little known school in Austria. A lot of students travel to Oxbridge each year for exchange; mostly to Oxford. However, I don't understand why you are worried. Having spent a term at Oxford (as a full student), I have to say that it was the easiest term of my college career by far (I attend a non-HYP Ivy). I traveled every single weekend. Although the grades didn't transfer back and LSAC never included it, I wish they did. If you are genuinely worried about your GPA dropping by more than 0.05 point and you are aiming for HYS, I would say it is not worth it. If you are aiming for CCN, go for it since your GPA is high enough even with a drastic drop.


I think people here are confusing a great experience with a great soft. A study abroad to Oxbridge is a soft, but not a great soft since a lot of people do it; it's really easy (especially Oxford) for students from wealth American families. At my school, if you want to exchange at Oxford and have a 3.8+ GPA, then you get to go. It is a great experience. However, is it worth losing 0.05 on the GPA, which may shut you out of HYS depending on your LSAT. I personally don't think a study abroad to Oxbridge is even worth 0.05 on the GPA when it comes to law school admissions since so many people do it and that the adcomms would not be able to gauge how hard it was for you to get into your specific program.


Yeah, it's not a soft at all, no one will care. It's just a fantastic opportunity that the OP won't have a chance to do again.

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Re: Study abroad mistake?

Postby rose711 » Wed Apr 27, 2011 5:23 pm

ahduth wrote:
1988AndX wrote:
1988AndX wrote:"Or is a year at Cambridge one of those special softs that will actually make a difference?"

No. The fact that the exchange is to Oxbridge is no different from one that is to a little known school in Austria. A lot of students travel to Oxbridge each year for exchange; mostly to Oxford. However, I don't understand why you are worried. Having spent a term at Oxford (as a full student), I have to say that it was the easiest term of my college career by far (I attend a non-HYP Ivy). I traveled every single weekend. Although the grades didn't transfer back and LSAC never included it, I wish they did. If you are genuinely worried about your GPA dropping by more than 0.05 point and you are aiming for HYS, I would say it is not worth it. If you are aiming for CCN, go for it since your GPA is high enough even with a drastic drop.


I think people here are confusing a great experience with a great soft. A study abroad to Oxbridge is a soft, but not a great soft since a lot of people do it; it's really easy (especially Oxford) for students from wealth American families. At my school, if you want to exchange at Oxford and have a 3.8+ GPA, then you get to go. It is a great experience. However, is it worth losing 0.05 on the GPA, which may shut you out of HYS depending on your LSAT. I personally don't think a study abroad to Oxbridge is even worth 0.05 on the GPA when it comes to law school admissions since so many people do it and that the adcomms would not be able to gauge how hard it was for you to get into your specific program.


Yeah, it's not a soft at all, no one will care. It's just a fantastic opportunity that the OP won't have a chance to do again.


I didn't think it was a great soft. My view is that turning down this chance because of a concern that his GPAmight be harmed is a poor choice. If OP is only living his life and making major life decisions just focusing on getting into law school or attending a certain law school he may end up with regrets. There is no guarantee that he will get accepted anyway; and, on the positive side, he could end up doing very well and loving Cambridge.

My opinion is that OP should go and see that there is a lot more to life than getting a certain GPA.

Perhaps OP is getting cold feet and this GPA issue is just an excuse to not go? Still, if OP decides not to go, I am sure that someone else will jump at the chance.

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Re: Study abroad mistake?

Postby whymeohgodno » Wed Apr 27, 2011 5:26 pm

Summary:

Potential benefits: Great experience

Potential harm: Lower gpa, lower chances at admission to top law schools

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Re: Study abroad mistake?

Postby bhan87 » Wed Apr 27, 2011 5:40 pm

I sacrificed my GPA to study abroad and I don't regret it (intensive Japanese courses will be the end of me) . Even if I were offered HYS to erase my time abroad, I wouldn't take it. It sounds like you have your shit together and you'll probably succeed at Cambridge. Don't pass up this once in a lifetime opportunity. Also, there's no way in knowing what other doors will open due to your time abroad. In my case, going to Japan qualified me for a pretty sweet Japanese legal studies fellowship at CLS

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Re: Study abroad mistake?

Postby bernaldiaz » Wed Apr 27, 2011 5:58 pm

Thanks everyone. All the thoughtful replies are more or less thoughts that I have previously had, and I think that there is merit to both arguments. The way I look it, the year could be a litmus test of sorts. If I was of the quality to succeed at, say a T6 law school, then I will probably be able to succeed at Cambridge, and if I flounder at Cambridge I probably wouldn't have been an ideal student at the very top law schools anyways. Kind of a cold way to look at it, but this train of thinking has helped me justify going.

I realize people are saying that if I have had such success at my American uni, I should be able to do well at Cambridge. My biggest concern here are the drastic differences in the educational systems. At my uni, I know that diligence over the semester, solid participation, and going to office hours will ensure me a high grade. At Cambridge, my entire grade will be derived from the exams at the end of the year, which I have no experience with. Has anyone who studied at Oxbridge actually gone through the full experience and taken the exams?

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Re: Study abroad mistake?

Postby 1988AndX » Wed Apr 27, 2011 6:13 pm

bernaldiaz wrote:At my uni, I know that diligence over the semester, solid participation, and going to office hours will ensure me a high grade.


I wonder which top 20 school you attend; I never thought that a top 20 school would be like that. At my school, everyone wants a high grade, but diligence, solid participation, and going to office hours would not be sufficient to secure high grades. But, in my view, Oxford was extremely easy. I don't know about Cambridge. I took 2 classes per term (the standard load). I had a lot of time to travel and to prep for the LSAT and still end up with the equivalent of all A's. I don't think that you will have a problem.

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bernaldiaz
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Re: Study abroad mistake?

Postby bernaldiaz » Wed Apr 27, 2011 7:06 pm

1988AndX wrote:
bernaldiaz wrote:At my uni, I know that diligence over the semester, solid participation, and going to office hours will ensure me a high grade.


I wonder which top 20 school you attend; I never thought that a top 20 school would be like that. At my school, everyone wants a high grade, but diligence, solid participation, and going to office hours would not be sufficient to secure high grades. But, in my view, Oxford was extremely easy. I don't know about Cambridge. I took 2 classes per term (the standard load). I had a lot of time to travel and to prep for the LSAT and still end up with the equivalent of all A's. I don't think that you will have a problem.


Sorry, let me qualify that. For me, I know that diligence over the semester, solid participation, and going to office hours will ensure me a high grade. Obviously, not everyone gets such high grades, either due to ability or effort. And I go to Notre Dame by the way. I don't know why I was ambiguous about it in the first place. It just seems like everyone is so secretive about where they actually are.

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Re: Study abroad mistake?

Postby powerlawyer06 » Wed Apr 27, 2011 7:32 pm

1988AndX wrote:
1988AndX wrote:"Or is a year at Cambridge one of those special softs that will actually make a difference?"

No. The fact that the exchange is to Oxbridge is no different from one that is to a little known school in Austria. A lot of students travel to Oxbridge each year for exchange; mostly to Oxford. However, I don't understand why you are worried. Having spent a term at Oxford (as a full student), I have to say that it was the easiest term of my college career by far (I attend a non-HYP Ivy). I traveled every single weekend. Although the grades didn't transfer back and LSAC never included it, I wish they did. If you are genuinely worried about your GPA dropping by more than 0.05 point and you are aiming for HYS, I would say it is not worth it. If you are aiming for CCN, go for it since your GPA is high enough even with a drastic drop.


I think people here are confusing a great experience with a great soft. A study abroad to Oxbridge is a soft, but not a great soft since a lot of people do it; it's really easy (especially Oxford) for students from wealth American families. At my school, if you want to exchange at Oxford and have a 3.8+ GPA, then you get to go. It is a great experience. However, is it worth losing 0.05 on the GPA, which may shut you out of HYS depending on your LSAT. I personally don't think a study abroad to Oxbridge is even worth 0.05 on the GPA when it comes to law school admissions since so many people do it and that the adcomms would not be able to gauge how hard it was for you to get into your specific program.


I definitely interpreted it as a soft. I thought OP mentioned it was a special program that only his university had with Cambridge (hence him actually being graded). He made it sound prestigious and something that even professors recognized as an honor. I saw it as more of an academic fellowship in a foreign country then some study abroad trip anyone can sign up for.

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bernaldiaz
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Re: Study abroad mistake?

Postby bernaldiaz » Wed Apr 27, 2011 7:42 pm

powerlawyer06 wrote:
1988AndX wrote:
1988AndX wrote:"Or is a year at Cambridge one of those special softs that will actually make a difference?"

No. The fact that the exchange is to Oxbridge is no different from one that is to a little known school in Austria. A lot of students travel to Oxbridge each year for exchange; mostly to Oxford. However, I don't understand why you are worried. Having spent a term at Oxford (as a full student), I have to say that it was the easiest term of my college career by far (I attend a non-HYP Ivy). I traveled every single weekend. Although the grades didn't transfer back and LSAC never included it, I wish they did. If you are genuinely worried about your GPA dropping by more than 0.05 point and you are aiming for HYS, I would say it is not worth it. If you are aiming for CCN, go for it since your GPA is high enough even with a drastic drop.


I think people here are confusing a great experience with a great soft. A study abroad to Oxbridge is a soft, but not a great soft since a lot of people do it; it's really easy (especially Oxford) for students from wealth American families. At my school, if you want to exchange at Oxford and have a 3.8+ GPA, then you get to go. It is a great experience. However, is it worth losing 0.05 on the GPA, which may shut you out of HYS depending on your LSAT. I personally don't think a study abroad to Oxbridge is even worth 0.05 on the GPA when it comes to law school admissions since so many people do it and that the adcomms would not be able to gauge how hard it was for you to get into your specific program.


I definitely interpreted it as a soft. I thought OP mentioned it was a special program that only his university had with Cambridge (hence him actually being graded). He made it sound prestigious and something that even professors recognized as an honor. I saw it as more of an academic fellowship in a foreign country then some study abroad trip anyone can sign up for.


Yes. I'd say 30-40 people applied, all of whom had to have a 3.8 to be invited to apply in the first place. What bothers me is that there are so many other Oxbridge study abroad programs that are not as prestigious (or even an authentic Oxbridge experience), that my year would be unfairly watered down by Adcons.




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