How To Wait (And Be Waitlisted) Without Losing It

by Todd Rothman, Senior Associate Director

This is the time of year where, if you’ve submitted and completed your law school applications in a timely fashion, you have likely heard something from most, if not all, of the schools to which you have applied.  Good news (admitted!) is obviously easy to handle and, though it might sting a bit at first, the disappointment of bad news (rejected) can also be managed after a while.  However, I’ve noticed over the years that what seems to stress applicants out the most is the non-news — being on Hold, being placed on the waitlist, and worst of all, not hearing anything from schools at all.  And where there’s stress, there are often ill-conceived, fear-based, and desperate attempts made by unsettled applicants that, in more cases than not, do more harm than good.

With that in mind, I thought this might be a good time of year to provide a bit of information (and perhaps relief) about these various forms of non-news.  And perhaps more importantly, I thought I would pass along some seasoned advice about how to wait (and be waitlisted) without losing it.

1. You have received notification that your application is on Hold.
With the exception of being admitted, this is by far the best non-news that you can receive.  Being on Hold ultimately bodes much better for your chances of admission than being placed on a waitlist because, essentially, this is truly a non-decision.  Your candidacy was so borderline for this particular school that the Committee could not make a definitive decision when your application was reviewed and are taking a wait-and-see approach.  This usually has to do with a Committee wanting to see the full pool of applications they receive before acting on your application and, as a result, you are on Hold until further review.  When you are placed on Hold, you should absolutely communicate directly with the law school upon receiving this news. If this is still a law school that interests you, you must confirm for the law school that you are still enthusiastic about them, as well as thank them for their continued consideration of your application.  You must also do this in writing — either a hard-copy letter or an email — and should not call the Admissions Office to communicate this news.

2. You have received notification that you have been placed on the waitlist.
Although this news can be initially deflating, most if not all law schools will consider — and ultimately pull from — their waitlist at some point in the late spring and summer.  With that in mind, this is also (relatively) good news since, if there was no chance of you being admitted, law schools will not string you along or try to soften the blow with a waitlist decision.  Rejections are a given part of the admissions process and law schools have no reservations about rejecting unqualified applicants.  So if you are placed on a waitlist, you should understand that you are certainly still in contention for admission.  However, time-wise, most law schools will not truly consider the applications placed on their respective waitlists until after their deposit deadlines are closely approaching and/or have passed.  So, even if you are placed on the waitlist in December, you will likely not hear any decision from a law school until April at the earliest.

When you are placed on the waitlist, you should absolutely communicate directly with the law school upon receiving this news.  Again, you should thank them for their continued consideration and reiterate your interest in their law school (and why).  However, do not inundate the law school with correspondence and/or additional materials.  In fact, most law schools will let you know in the waitlist correspondence what, if anything, they would find helpful from you as a waitlisted candidate in the coming months.  Read that material carefully and, if a law school communicates that it doesn’t want any additional information from you (and some won’t), please take the Committee at its word and follow its instructions.  It is important to keep your file active with any updates in the subsequent weeks and months, but if you are contacting an Admissions Office more frequently than once a month, please stop – enthusiasm, not desperation, is valued by law schools.

3. You have not heard anything from a law school since your application was completed.
Unfortunately, this can be a fairly common occurrence and, as I mentioned, it’s often the most frustrating of the waiting scenarios.  If you have submitted and completed your applications on time, you can assume that law schools have already read and evaluated your application and, for some reason, have not yet acted on a decision.  More than likely, you are on some form of an internal Hold and, unlike being placed formally on Hold, that particular law school does not maintain an official, public Hold category.  With that in mind, you can certainly reach out to a law school with any substantive updates to your application (e.g., Fall grades, new job, awards earned, new community service project) in the interim.  But again, keep any communication with Admissions Committees positive, meaningful, and no more frequently than once a month.  I mean it.

So, if you do find yourself in any one of these three situations – take a deep breath, continue to keep your file active, and stay positive.  Especially as the application volume at many law schools continues to shrink, not receiving an immediate acceptance does not at all mean an eventual rejection.  However, it’s important that enthusiastic, proactive heads prevail while you’re waiting and that you resist your frustrated, impatient, stalker-like urges.  Remember, you’re still making an impression on law school admissions committees.  And besides, we both know you’re better than that. :)

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Undergrad Interested in Research? Consider NSF-REU Programs!

*NOTE:  Event on Tuesday 11/5 related directly to this post!
The National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates (NSF-REU) Programs Panel, Tuesday, November 5, 2013, 5:30 – 6:30 PM, Raisler Lounge, 2nd Floor Towne Building, 220 S. 33rd Street, Philadelphia, PA
(Open to UPenn students, with faculty presenters from UPenn and Temple U., information from CHOP’s program, as well as Q&A with student panelists who have worked across the country in REUs)

Considering research this summer, in the future, or for your career?

A research-based experience is one of the primary ways in which undergraduate students – including freshmen – can gain experience and knowledge beyond the classroom, most especially in the early years of their education.  While many opportunities exist throughout the year – on campus with faculty, in labs, as part of nearby facilities like HUP and CHOP, among many other places – a few special programs exist in the summer months to help students gain specialized research experience.

A prestigious option to consider is the National Science Foundation-sponsored “Research Experience for Undergraduates” programs – NSF-REUs for short.

NSF-REU experiences offer a multitude of benefits to participating students, including the opportunity to:

  • work in small, diverse yet focused groups with noted faculty on novel topics
  • complete guided and independent research in areas including:
    • economics
    • engineering (a variety of fields available including nanotech, clean energy, biomedical, chemical and others)
    • ethics and values studies
    • mathematics
    • physics
    • sciences (biology, chemistry, physics, and others)
    • social sciences (psychology, criminology, diversity and inclusion, social aspects of hurricanes, anthropology, sustainability, politics and political science, civil conflict management,
    • technology (cyberinfrastructure, Department of Defense, etc.)
    • and more!
  • be published in well-respected publications and return to school with impressive projects to add to your resume
  • receive a highly competitive salary (referred to as stipends, typically ranging from $3,000 – $5,000) and often also receive additional funding to cover housing and/or meals
  • participate in fun activities organized by the site host
  • and more (benefits vary by location)

Sites can be found right here in Philadelphia, at UPenn, CHOP, and Temple U., as well as across the country and around the world (there are even polar research sites in the Arctic!)

Click on the below link to see a list of topics and find your site within.  Most students apply to more than one program, and individual requirements and deadlines (which can vary) are included on each program’s page as the site updates it.

http://www.nsf.gov/crssprgm/reu/index.jsp

If you’d like to speak with a Penn student who has done an REU or any other type of research, be sure to use the Penn Internship Network to search, or attend the panel in 11/5/13!: http://www.vpul.upenn.edu/careerservices/undergrad/pin.html

Best of luck in your search for a research opportunity – it’s a surefire way to build a great resume and potentially launch a lifelong career!

by Jamie Grant, C’98, GEd ’99

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Converting Your Job Resume Into Your Law School Resume In Five (Relatively) Easy Steps

Your resume is one the several components that ultimately comprise your applications to law school.  Many students (and alumni) at Penn usually have some kind of resume in their possession – some are very up-to-date (for those actively applying for internships, jobs, or fellowships) and others have not seen a substantive update since high school graduation.  While some applications will ask you to list your most significant experiences directly on the application, there are often only a few lines to do so and the expectation is that you keep that brief and prioritized.  With that in mind, your resume is actually a very important aspect of your law school applications since, for many schools, it is the only opportunity to list and describe all of your activities, achievements, and involvements in full detail.  Law school admissions committees are very interested in how you spend your time and energy outside of class, so it is essential that you create a strong, accurate, and flattering portrayal of yourself on your resume.

There are several ways, however, that distinguish a law school resume from the aforementioned resume you might use in job or internship applications.  In addition to the two sample law school resumes I have provided for your reference on our pre-law website (under Law School Application Components), here are five (relatively) easy steps in converting the latter into the former.

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The Path Towards an Education Career has Many Routes

by Elizabeth Leonard

Anyone who regularly reads the New York Times will tell you that law schools have gotten a bad rap recently. It seems like every week there’s another article about how law school is overpriced, graduates have very few “real world” skills and a JD is no longer a fool-proof path to a lucrative career. I disagree.

As someone who practiced law for a measly two years after graduating from Penn Law, I seem to be a walking example of everything that’s wrong with law school. But, I argue (once a lawyer, always opinionated!) that Penn Law taught me a wide range of skills that are useful on a daily basis as I develop The Blue Bridge Project, a small educational company that provides service learning opportunities for high school students.

I started Blue Bridge Project because it is obvious that students who have international exposure are better prepared for professional success. Many high schools are integrating internationally focused classes into their curriculum like “Modern Islam” or “Comparative Political Systems” but classroom attention is not enough. Students who have the opportunity to travel develop a range of skills that cannot be taught in the classroom like: how to exhibit cultural sensitivity; how other people view the American lifestyle; and how political processes impact everyday people. Blue Bridge’s mission is to expose students to these issues so that they develop a more nuanced and well-rounded view of the world and start on the path to becoming global citizens.

  1. Confidence – A significant part of starting my own business was having the confidence to leave the security of a full-time job and quite literally, follow my dreams. In the first week of Civil Procedure, I was asked “what kinds of cases do federal courts hear?” At that point—and I am not kidding—I didn’t know the difference between the federal and state court systems! Despite not knowing the answer, I survived. Plowing through the toughest days of 1L year and enjoying the remaining two years of law school (yes, it’s true, I liked law school!) gave me the confidence that I could build this business. I continue to tap into that confidence during the most challenging times when I feel defeated and frustrated. There is a real emotional component to running a business and I developed an emotional endurance in law school that has really helped me.
  2. Critical thinking – Law school taught me how to thoughtfully sort through a lot of information and quickly distill key points. As an entrepreneur, I utilize this skill daily. On any given day I am thinking through the pros and cons of various insurance packages, writing web content, negotiating with service providers and drafting business contracts. This is not dissimilar from the experience of preparing for class during all three years of law school. I spent hours at the library sorting through cases and concepts; in order to preserve my sanity (and maintain a social life!) I learned to efficiently synthesize all of this material. I could not get through my to-do list every day if I hadn’t honed those skills in law school.
  3. Crisp writing and concise speaking– Law school taught me how to write clearly and speak concisely. I practiced these skills during legal writing seminars, mock-trials in clinical settings and on issue-spotting exams. I use these skills daily in my work as an entrepreneur, whether I am drafting a one-sentence blurb for BBP’s homepage or on the phone with a parent. The ability to clearly and concisely express yourself is critical to disseminate your message and this applies universally, whether you are advocating on behalf of your client in a mediation or making a presentation to parents about summer programs.

While my path towards building an education organization is untraditional, I have acquired so many skills along the way. Each person’s decision to pursue a graduate degree is highly personal and I am certainly not advocating that law school is the perfect choice for people who don’t want to be lawyers. But for me, I have no regrets about my JD and use it to my advantage on a daily basis.

 

JDandEducationElizabeth is the Founder and President of Blue Bridge Project (www.bluebridgeproject.com). BBP is the first international travel program to partner with local non-profits and offer post-trip guidance to help high school students apply their summer experience to their individual goals and future endeavors. Elizabeth has worked in high school student travel for over 8 years and has led students on trips around the world. She is a graduate of Dartmouth College, where she majored in International Relations and Spanish, and Penn Law School where she pursued public interest law. Elizabeth was the first recipient of the Penn Public Interest Fellowship and used her funding to advocate on behalf of people with disabilities as an attorney at Disability Rights Advocates.

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How Do I Pay For Law School?

by Todd Rothman

If you are currently in the law school application process, hopefully your applications are long submitted and completed and you are awash in acceptances and terrific offers – and if you aren’t yet, please don’t panic.  The application season is still very much underway, so I’m sure they’re on their way soon.  Now, with acceptances – and perhaps some holds and waitlists – in hand, your mind should now be turning to the following equally question: So now that I’m in, how do I pay for law school?

It is certainly an overwhelming and daunting question and, last night, Jeffrey Hanson – a financial literacy expert and a specialist on graduate school borrowing – gave an informative presentation on just this topic. [To view a video of Mr. Hanson’s presentation at another recent LSAC venue, please click here: http://www.lsac.org/jd/finance/financial-aid-video-paying.asp] And to help you follow along with his presentation, here is his corresponding handout for your convenience: Paying for Law School Handout

This presentation is a great way to start thinking about – and more importantly, planning for – the inevitable financial component of this exciting next step in your academic and professional career.  It is certainly not exhaustive, but I would encourage you to avail yourself of this resource.  In addition, here are some other valuable resources for you as you begin to tackle this question of paying for law school.

Hopefully, this will get you on your way to being both knowledgeable and less anxious about finding an answer (or answers) to this all-important question in the law school application process.

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