Interview with Andrea Kilpatrick, Director of Law Admissions at Admit Advantage
Top-Law-Schools.com would like to thank Andrea Kilpatrick, Director of Law Admissions at Admit Advantage, for taking the time to answer our questions.
TLS: Could you provide TLS visitors a brief overview of what an Admit Advantage law school admissions consultant does?
AK: I would be happy to. Admit Advantage pairs graduates of the country’s top law schools - including Harvard, Stanford and Yale - with law school applicants to help them create outstanding law school applications and increase their chances of acceptance to their dream law schools. Based on the services selected, an Admit Advantage consultant may work with an applicant on law school selection, personal statement structuring and editing, resume review, recommender selection and overall application support. Consultants and applicants communicate via Skype, phone and email and set their own schedules based on admissions guidelines and applicant availability.
TLS: Considering that the cost of legal education is soaring and that the legal job market is in a tough spot, how can applicants justify spending hundreds or thousands more for application consultation?
AK: The high cost of a legal education and the tightening legal job market are actually two major reasons in favor of working with a law school admissions consultant. As the competition for legal jobs increases, candidates need to graduate from the best possible law schools in order to increase their chances of securing a legal position. Someone committed to attending law school is guaranteed to spend tens of thousands of dollars on tuition regardless of the school she attends. A candidate who is already planning to pay for a legal education should do everything possible to make sure that investment is a wise one and those tuition dollars are paying for the best legal education and career opportunities possible. Admissions consulting can cost as little as $250, a relatively small amount when compared to the significant positive impacts of getting into the right law school.
TLS: What is the most popular service you offer?
AK: Individual and multiple School Application Packages are always popular. Applicants working on school packages are interested in having someone help them through the entire process from planning through execution. Also, with a school package, a candidate doesn’t have to anticipate where his application might need help. When an issue arises -- whether it’s the personal statement, additional essays, resume, school selection, or something else -- the consultant and applicant work together to solve it. Personal Statement packages are also very popular. The personal statement is an area of the application where candidates receive very little guidance from law schools despite the statement’s importance.
TLS: When would you recommend students sign up for the "Pre Application Package" service? What's the earliest a student has signed up for that service before?
AK: We encourage students who are committed to applying to law school to consider a pre-application package. We see a lot of juniors working on pre-application packages to help them structure their course schedules and their summer experiences. The youngest students we have seen are sophomores who want strategy assistance for their junior and senior years and advice on their choice of majors.
TLS: Given that law school admissions are -- to a significant extent -- dependent on the "floors" and "ceilings" set by an applicant's GPA and LSAT score, how does Admit Advantage handle a situation where it's clear that an applicant truly has the odds against them? For example, if someone with a 2.7 GPA and a 152 LSAT was willing to pay full price for consultation for admission to Harvard Law, what sort of advice would you give such an applicant? Do you ever turn away clients?
AK: We do turn away clients if we feel we can’t help them achieve their goals. In the scenario you presented, we would counsel the applicant to consider additional or different law schools considering the high likelihood of receiving a rejection from Harvard. Developing a slate of stretch schools and schools within reach is a part of a lot of consultations, and sometimes we agree not to apply to a certain institution. At the same time, we do not believe that numbers paint the entire picture. There are plenty of applicants qualified to attend an institution like Harvard based on their numbers, but are still rejected. Conversely, some applicants with weaker numbers receive a place. Our goal is to assist our clients in getting into the best schools they can by putting forward their best applications and making the most effective case for admissions.
TLS: Do students go for your "Application Package" more often than they go for your "Final Review Package"? How common is it for a student to go for both of those packages?
AK: We see more Application Packages, but the choice really depends on what type of assistance a candidate requires on her application. The Final Review Package is a good choice if an applicant has a finished draft and wants a thorough review of the application. Some candidates like receiving feedback from a reader before an admissions committee has the opportunity. Candidates often find it difficult to take a step back and objectively review what they’ve put together because they have lived and breathed their applications for such a long time. We put on our admissions officer hats and give the submission a thorough review. Our consultants evaluate the application’s overall impression as well as the individual components and give some very specific improvement suggestions. Candidates that are earlier on in the admissions process tend to select the School Application Package. They value assistance with application planning and timelines, school selection advice, help with personal statement structuring, candidate brand-building and recommender selection. Candidates typically choose either a School Application package or a Final Review package, not both.
TLS: It's common for law school applicants to apply to over ten, if not dozens, of schools. While essay prompts and page limits can differ slightly from application to application, most schools accept a substantially similar application package and evaluate candidates on largely similar bases. However, your prices don't seem to go down significantly with each additional school, and we were wondering if you could explain why this is so?
AK: Our prices do go down for multiple schools. Each additional school package is discounted over 50% from the initial package rate. The reduction in price reflects the fact that some of the work done for the initial application can be applied to subsequent applications. However, no two applications are exactly alike, and it is a common mistake to force an essay written for one school to serve for another. Each law school requires its own set of essays, and often the topics do not completely overlap. Yale has two essays whereas University of Michigan requires three. Some schools, Tulane for example, require additional essays to apply for a specific program within the JD degree. Other law schools want a separate essay on the reasons an applicant has selected their particular school. Such a question demands a unique answer for each school. Optional diversity essays may not apply to a candidate given one school’s definition of diversity, but may for another. These varying requirements make crafting successful applications for multiple schools more than a copy and paste exercise. To craft their best applications and increase their chances of admission, candidates should develop an informed package that targets the unique requirements and offerings of each law school.
TLS: One common criticism of paid services like those offered by test prep companies is that they benefit students from affluent backgrounds and don't benefit students who can't afford to pay the high fees. How would you respond to this criticism being made about Admit Advantage's offerings? Does Admit Advantage offer any discounts or need-based fee reductions for those applicants that may not otherwise have the means to buy the fee-based edge that Admit Advantage offers its customers?
AK: Admit Advantage was actually founded to help those applicants who didn’t have access to premier law school networks. Historically, if you were someone of a certain class, you had peers and mentors who helped you with your applications to law school. Admit Advantage allows anyone of any background to receive assistance from a Harvard, Stanford, or other top law school grad. We do not offer fee reductions, but we try to keep our fees reasonable. The minimum cost is $250, which is a reasonable investment when compared to the cost of a legal education. We also provide free webinars on our website open to anyone interested in participating. Applicants can have their questions answered by a top law school grad as part of the Q&A. We discuss a variety of admissions topics in the webinars, including personal statement structure and style, creating a strong personal brand and successful application must-haves. Our initial consultations are also free and provide applicants with some quick insights into their candidacy.
TLS: Do you have any archives of your free webinars available for on-demand viewing or can you only watch them by catching them live?
AK: We are in the process of archiving our webinars and should have some positive news on that front soon. In the meantime, applicants can catch the webinars live, which actually provides the added benefit of the Q&A sessions. Applicants participating in the live webinars can have their individual questions answered by our consultants.
TLS: How long do your free phone consultations typically last? Do you provide helpful advice during the free consultations or is it more about seeing which of your services can benefit the student?
AK: Free phone consultations typically last 20 minutes. We discuss the candidate’s background, application progress and goals to get a sense of where he might want to focus his time, for example, narrowing down school selections, addressing specific application weaknesses, or focusing on acing the LSAT. We don’t spend a lot of time discussing which of our services would work best for a candidate although we find that candidates who have given serious thought to their application needs usually find the consultations more beneficial.
TLS: Can your services help someone save time with the application process or is it more about helping the applicant do everything they can do to increase their chances of being accepted?
AK: Admit Advantage focuses on helping candidates develop outstanding applications to increase their likelihood of law school admissions success. Sometimes that process involves time management. Once a candidate and a consultant agree on a timeline, the consultant becomes a combination cheerleader and manager, helping the candidate stay on schedule. Applicants can expect their consultants to respond to requests within 24 hours, a response time that helps speed up the process. A lot of candidates find that they can move through the application steps more confidently and efficiently because a roadmap has already been developed for them. Some applicants report saving time on their essays and personal statements by completing fewer revisions thanks to quality feedback from their consultants.
TLS: Could you give some examples of the types of situations where students opt for your hourly consultation services instead of your packages?
AK: Candidates opt for hourly services when they have a focused need, or have set a certain budget for services. In some instances, the candidate might be pretty far along in the application and only require assistance on a specific aspect, the personal statement or resume for example. In other cases, a candidate has a specific set of questions to discuss and determines that hourly services are the best value.
TLS: We noticed on your website you talk about your clients being accepted to Harvard, Stanford, and Yale. Do you also recommend your services to students who are applying to lesser ranked schools? How about the third and fourth tier schools?
AK: We work with applicants applying to law schools of all tiers. The strategies that we employ and the qualifications of our consultants have universal application. We understand the profile and admissions requirements of a broad cross-section of law schools. In fact, one of our consultants recently helped a candidate who had previously been rejected by several law schools – including fourth tier schools – gain admittance to the law school of his choice.
TLS: If you could give out one valuable bit of advice that could benefit a large number of TLS visitors, what would it be?
AK: Have an objective third party review your application before you submit it. An applicant that has spent weeks, or months, creating his application can no longer give himself an honest critique, especially when it will only lead to more work. Family and friends might seem like logical choices, but they are anything but objective and will usually over-estimate your work. A candidate needs someone with fresh eyes to review her application and her writing, preferably someone who can evaluate the application without taking into consideration the applicant. Whether you approach a pre-law advisor, a consultant or an online forum, leave yourself plenty of time to ask for feedback and make any necessary improvements to your application.
TLS: Thank you for your informative answers and for sharing insights into the admissions process.
AK: It was a pleasure speaking with you!
TLS: Top-Law-Schools.com visitors can find out more about the law admissions consulting services provided by Admit Advantage by visiting admitadvantage.com/law/tls/
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