The Beyond Adversity Award

The 2016 Beyond Adversity Award is now open for applicants. The deadline is March 15, 2016.

The Award honors students who have met and overcome obstacles in their lives and who plan to give back to their community through their future law career.

Applications are open to all students, regardless of background. The obstacles a student has faced can be large or small; personal or societal; physical, psychological, or cultural.

PRIZES:

1. ALL ENTRANTS receive the following prizes in recognition of their efforts.

– A 50% discount on the STEPS to the LSAT Self-Prep System (worth $50)

– A 10% discount on a Juris Educatio Intro to the Study of Law program

– The booklet How to Get Accepted to Law School – A Take-Charge Approach. A complete guide to a successful application, including writing the personal statement, standing out from the crowd, letters of recommendation, and planning for the LSAT.

– Free subscription to LawTrack, a monthly prelaw planning system

– Publication of their Beyond Adversity essays on our Inspiration page (can be anonymous)

2. EARLY BIRD PRIZES: The first 5 people to submit an application will receive a free copy of the Barron’s LSAT Prep Book

3.The 10 HONORABLE MENTIONS receive:

– A free STEPS to the LSAT Self-Prep Support System course (worth $103)

– A 25% discount on a Juris Educatio Intro to the Study of Law program

– A free review of their Personal Statement

– A free copy of the Barron’s LSAT Prep Book

– Recognition on the Winners page of this site

– A certificate of Honorable Mention in the Beyond Adversity Award Contest, which can be included in the student’s application package

4. The TOP AWARD WINNER receives all of the above, along with the Beyond Adversity Award Winner Certificate and a package of 10 hours of personal coaching on the LSAT and admissions process with Barron’s author and 25-year LSAT specialist Jay Cutts (a $1350 value), plus a free Juris Educatio Intro to the Study of Law program.

CO-SPONSORS

The Beyond Adversity Award is supported by a number of prelaw organizations, including:

Phi Alpha Delta (PAD) Law Fraternity – Phi Alpha Delta Law Fraternity, International is a professional law fraternity advancing integrity, compassion and courage through service to the student, the school, the profession and the community.

National Pre-Law Diversity Initiatives – National Pre-Law Diversity Initiatives, Inc. – a 501(c)(3) non-profit charitable and educational organization which produces national pre-law empowerment events including: The National Diversity Pre-Law Conference and Law Fair, Future Legal Eagles Flight School, the National Black Pre-Law Conference and Law Fair, the National Hispanic Pre-Law Conference and Law Fair, and the National HBCU Pre-Law Summit and Law Expo.

National Native American Law Students Association (NNALSA) – The National Native American Law Students Association (“NNALSA”) was founded in 1970 to promote the study and development of Federal Indian Law, Tribal Law, and traditional forms of governance. Additionally, NNALSA supports Native Americans in law school, both in their own personal academic and life achievements, and in their efforts to educate their peers and communities about Indian law issues.

National Latina/o Law Student Association (NLLSA) – NLLSA is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) corporation serving as a conduit for Latina/o law student voices. Founded on principles of social, ethnic, racial, gender and sexual equality, NLLSA is focused on advancing Latina/o academic success and commitment to community service.

National Black Law Students Association (NBLSA) – The National Black Law Students Association (NBLSA) is a 501(c)(3) corporation and one of the nation’s largest student-run organizations of its kind, representing thousands of minority law students from more than 200 chapters and affiliates throughout six countries.

Mexican American Law Students Association (MALSA) – MALSA’s primary initiative is to build a support network for the Hispanic law community, focusing on academic and social interests.

Juris Educatio Summer Law School Preparation – A non-profit founded by law professors Vernellia and Tshaka Randall, offering Introduction to the Study of Law, preparing students for the skills needed to succeed in law school.

Cutts Graduate Reviews and STEPS to the LSAT – A leader in individualized LSAT prep for 25 years, by Jay Cutts, author of the Barron’s LSAT Prep Book.

Barron’s Educational Series – A leader in high quality test prep publications for over 75 years.

APPLICATION:

CLICK HERE TO APPLY or to read more

Letters of Recommendation (LOR)

The number one pitfall in getting LOR’s is name-dropping – getting letters from well known or influential people. In most cases these will be meaningless to the admissions committee unless the letter writer has something very substantial to say about you. In the worst cases the committee may be turned off by your obvious attempt to influence them.

So if the LOR is not about showing them how well connected  you are, what’s it for? In short, the purpose of the LOR is to document your personal, academic, and professional qualities from the viewpoint of someone who has seen you exhibit these qualities.

Suppose you feel you get along well with other people. Can’t you just say in your Personal  Statement “I get along very well with other people”? You could say it but the committee will probably not believe you. You may or may not be deluded about your own qualities. To document qualities you need to cite things that you have done to demonstrate the qualities.

So if you were working at a fast food restaurant and  you helped resolve a personality dispute between two co-workers, that demonstrates something. You can mention it in your Personal Statement. If your supervisor observed the whole process, that person might be a good LOR writer.

To prepare for both the Personal Statement and LOR, sit down alone or with friends and make a list of what your qualities are. These can be personal, academic, and professional. Then make a list of the things that you’ve done to demonstrate these qualities and who has seen you do so.

Now you’ve got a list of possible LOR writers.

Here’s the number two pitfall in getting LORs. Many students recruit an LOR writer – usually a professor – who refuses to show the student what the LOR writer has written. They often claim that it’s somehow not ethical if you see what they wrote  or that it would keep them from writing honestly.

Here’s my absolute advice. Do NOT let such a person write an LOR for you. Period. Move on to another possible LOR writer.

When asking someone to write an LOR for you, first ask them if they would consider writing the LOR. Then tell them that you need to be able to review their draft of the LOR before it is sent in. If they say, no. Thank them and move on.

Even if you have signed a waiver of the right to see your LOR in your admissions file, you have not waived the right to know what is in that LOR or to influence it. No one in the admissions process expects that you have not had influence over your LOR.

You simply can’t afford to have someone send in an LOR that you haven’t seen. I’ve personally seen LORs submitted in that way that destroyed the applicants chances of getting accepted.

Note that some well-intentioned letter writers somehow feel that their letter isn’t complete if they don’t include some negatives as well as positives. That might be fine for movie reviewers but in your case their is absolutely no reason in the world that they should include negatives. Most LORs do not. Therefore, those that do stick out like a sore thumb.

If you are still a semester or more away from needing an LOR, consider cultivating a relationship with a professor instructor such that you demonstrate to them in their classes all of your best qualities. You’re going to have to really give 200% in those classes. You can’t fake it. But if you can do that with one or two people, you will have some very strong LORs. Remember to check FIRST to make sure that person will write  you an LOR and will let you review it.

It’s perfectly acceptable to give your LOR writer a synopsis of what you think they might include. Some don’t mind even getting a possible draft.

On a final note some recent research has shown that there is a consistent difference in LORs between those written for males and those written for females. Letters for males tend to be longer. They tend to include stronger language endorsing the applicant. Letters for men tend to emphasize accomplishments. Letters for women tend to emphasize effort (“she’s a hard worker”).

Letters for men tend to refer to the applicant more formally (“Mr. Jackson”) compared to letters for women (“Susan”).

Letters for women tend to emphasize the applicants personal life more than for men. However, this is not necessarily a negative when applying for law school. All candidates should be presenting themselves as a human being with a personal life. The people on the admissions committee will be spending the next three years with you. They want to know they’ll enjoy you. So on this point it may be the men who come out short. If you’re a male, encourage your letter writer to say something nice about you as a social person. If you’re a female, make sure they haven’t fallen into one of the other biases mentioned above. And make sure YOU don’t fall into those biases either when you compose a draft for your LOR writer.

How helpful is a good LOR? Good question. The real answer may be that it doesn’t really help much at all. The admissions committee expects to see glowing reports in the LORS. On the other hand a negative or weak LOR may give the committee cause for concern.

The place to really shine and pull ahead of the crowd is in your Personal Statement.

 

After the October Test – What to Do Next

thumb1Took the October test but not quite thrilled with how you’ve been scoring? Join the club. Probably 90% of October test takers feel that way. Should you just move on to other parts of the application?

No!

Here are the facts. Most schools require that you have an official LSAT score no later than the December test. So if you took October, you now have an official score.

Should you retake the LSAT? Consider this. If you keep studying and are studying efficiently, you should be able to get at least a somewhat higher score the next time. Even a couple more points may put you in a more competitive category. Why wouldn’t you retake the test – other than being sick of studying it?

Actually you may feel like it’s going to be impossible to improve. But if you are studying effectively, you can’t help but continue to learn. The trick is to find an effective study method. We’ll go over this below.

When should you retake? For most people December will be too soon. There’s not enough time to achieve your best score. And there’s no reason to take the December test. You already have an official score.

Plan to take the February test. Virtually all schools will look at that February score, even though it may arrive after their deadline. They will consider it as supplemental information. Can you really add supplemental information after the application deadline? Sure! After all, if you won a Nobel prize in February, they would want to hear about that, wouldn’t they?

If you are going to retake in February, you should notify your schools now in writing. Don’t email. Don’t call. Put it in writing so that it is included in your file. They will then hold off on evaluating your application until that score comes in.

There are two important points you should consider to plan well for the February test.

1. Continue your studying now! Don’t wait for your October score.

Don’t wait until your score comes in! You already know from your practice tests that you’re not yet satisfied with your score. We all hope a miracle will happen on test day and you’ll get 180. It doesn’t happen. If you wait until your score comes in, you are losing valuable weeks of study time.

2. Study in a different way.

Whatever you’ve done up to now has not gotten you your best score. Invest in a different plan. What you do between now and February will make the difference between getting into law school a year earlier or a year later. A year earlier means an extra year of earning a lawyer’s wages instead of a waitperson’s wages. It’s worth the investment.

I personally am wary of the big expensive prep programs. I don’t believe you get your money’s worth. Look for a highly experienced coach. If your funds are limited, I recommend that you start with the Barron’s LSAT book that I wrote. I poured my 24 years of coaching experience into it. It goes deeper and has more effective strategies than most other books. Be sure you get the edition with my name on it.

For another $100, you can also enroll in my STEPS to the LSAT program. This gives you a highly structured study manual, access to my advanced instructions and explanations, contact with study partners, and other study aids.

If you do enroll in another coaching program, the Barron’s book and STEPS to the LSAT will help you get those in-depth insights that somehow are still escaping you now.

Summer’s Over. Not Quite Ready for the LSAT?

If you’re applying for next fall admissions to law school, this past summer was probably your best chance to put in the hundreds of hours required to master the LSAT.

Alas, like most people, your plans may not have worked out the way you wanted. School is now starting up again and your LSAT study time will be limited.

What to do?

First, evaluate how you are scoring now. Buy an actual LSAT exam from law services (not a simulated test from a test prep company) and take the test timed. If you are not scoring high enough to be guaranteed admissions, keep working on the test.

Second, plan to take the test in December. This will give you maximum study time. Lots of students are afraid that this will put them behind the crowd, but in fact, about 90% of students get their applications in during the last possible week. So don’t worry about taking the test in December.

Third – and this may sound a little strange – plan to retake the test in February. For many schools, the February test is too late unless you already have an official LSAT score. Which you will. Because you will take the December test.

The February test score, then, will be a supplemental score. Nearly all schools will look at this supplemental score. However, you should write them (not email or phone or text) telling them you are planning to retake the test in February. They will then hold off until that score comes in before any final evaluation of your application.

Taking the test in February gives you maximum time to increase your score. Remember that even a few more points on the LSAT can bump you up into a more competitive category.

Finally, if you are not already getting a score that is high enough to guarantee you admissions, you will also need to write a very strong Personal Statement in order to increase your odds of getting in.

For my free booklet on the Personal Statement, visit How to Get Accepted.

For powerful help on prepping for the LSAT, visit STEPS to the LSAT: A support program for self-prep

Finally, to order actual LSAT materials or our Barron’s LSAT book, visit Actual LSATs and the Barron’s Book

Test Anxiety on the LSAT

Many LSAT takers tell me that test anxiety is preventing them from doing their best on the test.  The good news is that there are two specific factors that cause test anxiety and when you learn how to address these, the anxiety disappears.

The first contributor to anxiety has to do with making decisions about how to use your time on the test. People with serious test anxiety are usually torn between trying to go faster to get to more questions – but knowing that they aren’t being careful enough – and going more slowly in order to be  more accurate – but knowing that they won’t finish the test. Often, no matter which approach you’re using at the moment, in the back of your mind you’re sure you’re using the wrong one, which of course makes the anxiety worse.

There is a systematic way to learn how to make the best decisions about using your time. I work with students on this all the time. Once you understand the decisions you have to make and how to make them, you are in control of your time and you know you are doing the best you can. There is no room for anxiety. The anxiety comes from not knowing what the best thing to do is.

The second contributor to test anxiety is not being able to think the way the test writers think. You find an answer that you think is correct but it’s not the right one. Even when you look at the correct answer, you can’t really see why their answer is better than yours. You begin to feel that the correct answer is just a matter of taste and you don’t know how to figure out which answer the test writers are going to “like” better. As a result, you begin to doubt your own judgment and your ability to figure out the right answer. You feel like you’re bumbling through the test getting everything wrong. Naturally, this makes you pretty anxious.

The solution to this is to learn how the test writers think. It’s quite possible to do this with good instruction. On the LSAT it is never the case that the correct answer is based on some subjective opinion of the test writers. The incorrect answers have clear and identifiable fatal flaws. The correct answer can be proven to be correct from information given in the passage. With expert instruction and lots of practice you can learn to spot the correct answer with confidence.

Even my students with the most severe test anxiety have found that they could go into the exam and perform well without anxiety being an issue. They simply knew what to do and how to do it.

You can find advanced instruction on both timing and testing strategy, based on my 25+ years of LSAT coaching, in the Barron’s LSAT Book, available HERE.

So you took the June LSAT …

June is very, very early to take the LSAT unless you’ve been studying seriously for at least 6 months AND are getting superior scores on your practice test.

If you’re like most people, you took the test to see how you’re doing. If necessary, you’re willing to retake the test later.

That’s not a bad plan but it has one serious drawback. It will be at least several weeks before you find out how you did and during that time, I’m betting you’re not going to feel too motivated to keep studying intensively. However, the next few weeks are some of the most critical time for LSAT study. Why? Once school starts in the fall, your study time will be very limited. Prime studying time is from now through mid-August. To lose 3-4 weeks of that time is not good.

So what should you do? If you have been scoring so high on your practice tests that you are pretty much guaranteed admission at your top choices, you can relax and wait until your score comes in. If anything went wrong, you can retake.

If you don’t fall in that category, then you will be able to get a higher LSAT score (even if you did sort of ok on June) by continuing to work very seriously on the test for as long as you can. That means starting back up now!

Wouldn’t it help to get your absolute best LSAT score? Won’t that require maximum study time? For most people, would there really be any sense in being satisfied with a June score when you could get a higher score taking the test in December?

Some people have the impression that if they don’t take the test early and get their application completed by September, they will be behind the rest of the pack. I quote from an admissions director at a major California law school. “90% of applicants turn their applications in during the last week before the deadline.”

The conclusion is that you should take your LSAT as late as possible, meaning December for most schools. You can even retake in February and submit the score as a supplemental one. Most schools will look at it.

So if you stick with your June test score, you are going to be outcompeted by people who are going to keep working on the LSAT until February.

You may feel at this point that you’ve maxed out on what you’re going to learn. If that’s the case, you need more in-depth tools and instruction. Please check out the Barron’s book. It’s the definitive dissertation on mastering the LSAT.

If you need some encouragement with your studying, and maybe a stronger study plan and some peer support, check out STEPS to the LSAT. For about $100 you can have access to a full study plan, advanced materials, and other LSAT students. It just might rekindle  your enthusiasm for the LSAT and help you push that score higher and higher.

For Prelaw Advisors and Groups: The Challenges of Summer LSAT Prep

For students taking the LSAT this year, summer prep is critical. While some students don’t begin studying until they come back to school in the fall, this does not really leave them enough time to make their maximum improvement. Not only are there only a few months left, but students will also be overwhelmed with school after the first week or two.

Anything that any of us can do to encourage students to study the LSAT seriously during the summer will be a help. However, even if a student does realize the importance of devoting this summer to the LSAT, there are some obstacles to do them doing so.

In the first place it is not easy for advisors and prelaw clubs to be in touch with students during the summer. Students are away from campus and we may or may not have valid contact info for them. Also, we ourselves may be a bit tired from the stress of the school year (I certainly am!) and not inclined to take on the responsibility of coaxing our students to do the right thing.

Even if you are able to contact your students, just saying, “Hey, start prepping for the LSAT” might not be too effective. In my experience students need to have a sense of the whole context of LSAT prep – how long it will take, what their options are, what kind of support they will need, how to organize their time. With this info, it should be clearer to them that waiting until September is a bad plan.

I’ve written about many of these issues in my blogs and you’re welcome to direct students here and to other blogs that address this.

Students that do want to start preparing are away from their school peers and may not have good information about prep options. I’ve written some frank blogs about choosing LSAT prep and about the drawbacks of many of the most common types of commercial prep.

My educated guess is that 85 to 90% of LSAT students prepare just by buying some books. This is not necessarily a bad way to start but it leaves them without a strong study structure, without advanced instruction and without peer support.

Maybe the primary to challenge to summer prep is this lack of peer support because working with others can help a student develop a better study structure and can help them deepen their studying.

My personal (and biased) recommendation for summer study is my STEPS to the LSAT program because it is specifically designed to address the things that are missing for a student working on their own. Studying during the summer is typically about as alone as studying can get.

STEPS is a full LSAT support program that can be used by a student studying on their own. STEPS can also be used to create a live LSAT course in a specific area, making the study process less “alone”.

If you are fortunate enough to still have a number of LSAT students on campus for the summer, the STEPS program lets students create a live LSAT course without any extra cost.

STEPS was designed specifically (based on my 25 years experience working with students) to meet the needs of students prepping on their own and to provide a tool that advisors and prelaw groups can draw on to help these students.

Check out STEPS to the LSAT