February 18th 2005

what once was a comment is now a post

Beginning with foxes and Janine, posts about the LSAT have been floating around the ’sphere. Foxes thinks that schools don’t really look beyond the numbers (i.e, LSAT). Janine is glad that some schools pay attention to the LSAT to the exclusion of other numbers (i.e. GPA). Bad Glacier chimes into say that he thinks that numbers-based admissions aren’t a bad thing until prestige-whoring comes into play.

Let me add my two cents.

I did pretty well on the LSAT. I did better than the vast majority of other LSAT takers. But I didn’t do well enough to make me a lock at some othe top schools I wanted to apply to. My LSAT score was the result of ONE thing: I missed more questions on the first section of the test than I missed on the rest of the WHOLE test.

I am not making excuses for this. I earned my score, and it was a good score. Not as good as I hoped, absolutely—c’est la vie. Yes, I know it’s easy to say that now, with some good admissions under my belt. But it’s still an honest statement. I don’t think I ever considered writing an LSAT addendum or trying to excuse that first section as being due to the crappy room, or being tired, or loud people. None of those things made my score what it was—I did.

And I gradually came to realize that my score wasn’t going to ruin my ambitions.

But I still have a problem with numbers-based admissions. Yes, at least one school has obviously looked beyond the strict numbers at the rest of my application and said, Yes, we want her to be a student here. That makes me very happy—this is the way law school admissions should work!

But other schools have not. Yet. Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. Somehow I suspect that if the one school I’m thinking of doesn’t admit me, it will be because of the strict numbers. Oh sure, I bet my app will have been read by many people, but I still somehow think that it will be the numbers that will get me dinged. Why? They want to rise in rank. My “soft” factors, out of 13,000 other applicants, won’t set me apart enough to outweigh the possible dent to their ranking.

THAT is what bothers me.

I think foxes, Janine, and Bad Glacier make very good points—yes, numbers matter; sometimes that’s good for people; when prestige-whoring is the impetus it gets bad.

I’m going to throw in my own point, then, and say that, in the case of the latter point abot prestige, unfortunately, not all schools admit alike. Some pay more attention to “soft” factors and some don’t. And that’s what makes the whole process so maddening for me.

Here’s what I wish—that LSAT takers and admissions committees would all commit to paying more attention across the board to the soft factors. That’s a given. But if they have to consider LSAT as a big factor, remember that a single score is part of a “score band.” Statistically, the score band is a better predictor. Wouldn’t it be great if we all could tell our friends, “My LSAT was in score band 8,” instead of, “My LSAT was a 1xx, and let me explain that to you as being in x percentile, and, statistically, it’s in the same band as scores from 1xx to 1xx.”

I think people on the boards are themselves only looking at the numbers. And they wail on people with low numbers who get into good schools, berate them for being minorities, perhaps. Grow up, people. Some schools look at numbers more than others, just like some applicants think more about prestige than others.

This whole law school admissions process is pretty uncomfortable for most of us, and I know a lot of the meanness out there is probably posturing and insecurity and sour grapes. I accept that, even if I’m not strictly OK with it. I guess I just wish that we’d all admit our ignorance instead of running around being hateful about things as stupid as numbers.

As my best friend said to me when I was moaning about my own LSAT score, “You know what they call the guy who graduates at the bottom of his class? A lawyer.” I’ll amend that to add—”at whatever school.” Go to law school. Become a lawyer. Stop being bratty.

October 25th 2004

revisionist?

I’m rereading my last post and I don’t like it.

I won’t delete it because that seems somehow unfair, if even just to myself. I had those thoughts, felt those feelings, and they are valid. But it’s just such a crappy post, so self-serving and self-aggrandizing. I hate the tone of it, and its snobbishness.

Frankly, I’m still trying to figure out what happens next. My LSAT score doesn’t really change things—I’m still applying to law school, I still want to write and teach—but it has changed the way I feel about myself applying to law school.

One of my good friends, C., who I see so rarely but saw this weekend at our reunion, made the comment that she knew I had done fine on the LSAT. She added that she also knew that I felt my “fine” just wasn’t good enough. She was right. I always want to be better than “others,” whoever those “others” are. I don’t even have to be better than everyone else—just those I think I should be competing with. After all, C. way outclasses me intellectually, and I’ve never felt the need to compete with her.

So my last post was all about proving that I am still good enough, still smart enough, to be a law professor—or even just to get into a prestigious school. It can be exhausting, trying to live up to my promise. Maybe I should stop groping around for recognition and pay more attention to my happiness.

because I am a nerd

I have been crunching the numbers, and I am realizing my numbers are still just fine. My Excel spreadsheet tells me so. My chances of being accepted at certain schools are moving down a few percentage points (more than a few with schools like Harvard, but so what? It’s Harvard, for goodness’ sake.), but I am still in good ranges for most of the schools I want to apply to.

I am, however, removing UNC from my list. Not only do I have a poor chance of getting in as an out-of-state student, I am not thrilled with their proscribed essay topics. I also don’t like that they have a pretty specific length expectation on those essays.

Over the weekend, I ran into lots of people I went to undergrad with who are currently doing law school, or are dating someone in law school, or married someone who just finished law school, etc. And I got lots of feedback on some of the schools that are on my list simply for geographical reasons—lots of good feedback, of the “Oh my god I LOVE this school” type. That gives me a good warm feeling.

So. The weekend is over, the LSAT score has been digested and dealt with. I start my apps tonight, knowing that I have lots of intangibles that can help put me in that 10-20% of people with my numbers who still get accepted to the schools at the top of my list.

October 24th 2004

meh

I got my score. It was lower than I expected. The percentile is good, but we all know it’s the number that really matters.

Despite being somewhat heartbroken at first, I am dealing with it. I’m looking at my ambitions and asking myself what exactly it is I want to do, not where—and I am realizing that the what is much more important to me.

Plus, I have a wonderful husband and really good friends who have been amazing to me, reminding me that a number is just a number, and it’s a good number at that. (Just not amazing.) And no matter where I end up at law school, I will do well.

It’s been a bumpy few days, and I was immediately regretful that I checked my score during my reunion. I thought it was going to ruin the weekend. I was so wrong. I have such wonderful friends who believe so strongly in me, and wonderful old professors who are becoming friends; I had a marvelous undergraduate experience, and the lessons I learned there way transcend a little number like my LSAT score.

So. There you go. Expect some template revisions soon, though—I’ll need to revise my target list of schools.

October 6th 2004

thank GOD the LSAT is over

Last night I had the time and energy to clean my house. Not the whole thing, but lots of it. I produced three bags of garbage, scrubbed the bathtub and two toilets, and blazed through three loads of laundry. I did some other stuff, too.

I looked around at my life yesterday and realized that the LSAT had turned me into a grubby, grouchy, messy mess of a woman. I didn’t realize it while it was going on, but upon reflection, I see how gross I let things get while I studied. I’ve said it before—I am a good test taker. But something about the enormity of the LSAT, the “this affects the direction of your whole second career because it determines where you get into law school and where you get into law school determines how seriously people take you when you want to do XYZ with your JD” just turned me into a slobbering, anxiety-ridden mess.

Oh, not really. But close. I had just enough mental capacity to come to work and do my job and then go study for the LSAT. No room for cleaning. No room for personal productivity. I haven’t had my hair cut in months. I’ve been avoiding looking at my roots because I know I need a touchup on my color, but I haven’t really felt “up to” going to the salon. I need a manicure and a massage. I need to read some more good fiction. I need to not waste hours in front of the TV because I can’t remember what else I’m supposed to be doing.

I haven’t been able to do those things for about two months now. But…IT’S OVER! Hallelujah, rock the world, praise to [deity]! Last night’s cleaning frenzy was the beginning of my personal renewal, I think. I hope.

So the next act of personal celebration and victory will be a long-planned vacation this weekend to Las Vegas. It’s been nice knowing, as I buried myself in the LSAT, that I had this break planned. Four days in the City of Sin. :::sigh::: What a delightful prospect.

October 2nd 2004

it’s over

So the LSAT is over.

My test administration took almost exactly five hours, from check-in to get-the-hell-outta-there. I feel pretty confident about the test—nothing seemed particularly difficult or unfamiliar. I was lucky to get a reading comprehension section for my experimental section; I just don’t know which one of the reading comps will count since I had them both in a row in the first half of the test.

My proctor was sort of odd—she was obviously unused to reading aloud and often stumbled while reading the instructions. She was also pretty snappy with the fellow helping her out, at one point snapping her fingers sharply and pointing at him to pull the room door shut. We had one clown in the room who didn’t listen to instructions well and when he began writing the “I certify that..” statement on his answer sheet before she’d instructed us to, she got a little pissy.

Anyway, it’s over and done with, and I am pleased. I feel that I did as well as I could have done—I don’t feel like I needed to study more or take more practice tests. I think my score will pretty accurately reflect my abilities on the LSAT. (Note that I say “on the LSAT,” since I’m not convinced the LSAT measures anything but how well you understand the LSAT.)

I’d thought about making this post a recap of what I did to prepare for the test, but as I began writing it, I saw how terribly boring such a post would be. So instead of including a long narrative about my prep, I’ll give just a little recap:

I did not take a prep course because I am cheap and believe prep courses are a waste of money. This is my opinion and my opinion only, so don’t take offense if you took a prep test to good effect. I just can’t justify it, mostly because, again, I am cheap.

I used the Logic Games Bible to learn about games, since I bombed the games on my first diagnostic.

I also used Kaplan 180 to get further practice on games and some insight into Logical Reasoning. (Once I felt I’d improved as much as possible on games, I went to my next worst section, Logical Reasoning.) Kaplan 180 is actually a pretty good book for getting extra practice. But it’s not a good book for someone just starting out—there’s a lot of presumed knowledge in the writing of it.

I only took 8 practice tests, and my average score was not terrific. But my score tracked upwards over time, enough that I feel I did well enough today to get into a least some of my target schools.

I can’t recommend my approach to everyone, or even anyone. I am a good test taker, and my score on first practice test was high enough to get me into many schools. But because of my particular geographic restraints on where I go to law school, and my desire to make myself as marketable nationwide as possible after law school (so I can go where my husband needs to go if he has obligations to fulfill for his degree, etc.), I knew I needed to do better. As I said, though, I am cheap, so I went the self-study route. It won’t work for everyone.

One final note: I am sort of on the non-trad cusp—I’ve been out long enough to have a career and a life, and law school was never in my “master plan.” But I haven’t been out long enough to be really “non-traditional”—I’m only a few years older than most law schools’ students’ average age. At any rate, I felt sort of odd taking the LSAT today, as several college students were chatting with me about things, clearly assuming I was still in college. (I look really young for my age, and in fact was carded tonight at dinner. It doesn’t really upset me, but it’s a fact of life that I often look twelve.) I don’t know where that observation was going, it’s just an observation. There were two older gentlemen in my test room, but no older women. I wonder what statistics there are on non-traditional women in law school—how many there are, whether or not they have kids and prior careers, etc. It’s just something I’d be interested in seeing.

Update: I forgot to mention that my wonderful husband bought me good-luck flowers last night. They smell like honeysuckle and are in such lovely fall colors. :::::sigh:::: he’s a peach.

October 1st 2004

24 hours

By this time tomorrow, I will have completed the LSAT. I (hopefully) will have celebrated this fact with some cold beer and good food.

I also let it slip today at work that I am taking the LSAT tomorrow—in front of my boss, who seemed very excited for me. I mumbled something about a letter of recommendation and he nodded, although I can’t promise he actually heard and understood what I was saying since we were at an office party at the time.

So. Things are progressing. Lalalala.

Long post in the works about the LSAT, prep, and all the other stuff.

September 27th 2004

last minute preparations

Today I panicked and realized that I did not have a timer I could use for the LSAT—the one I’ve been using for study is my kitchen timer that has a very loud beep.

$32 later (32 DOLLARS?? Unbelievable!!) I have The Silent Timer. Now I have to get used to it. I certainly has several features I won’t be using, notably the “push the red button after you’ve answered each question” thing, allowing you to track how many questions you’ve answered and how many you have left. That’s assuming you take the time at the beginning of the section to see how many total questions there are and plug it in. Mrph…that’s funny. Almost as funny as expecting me to push the red button after answering each question.

September 26th 2004

short “hiatus”

Since I sit for the LSAT in less than a week, and since my friendly writing and editing prof really wants to meet with me soon (like last week, so I’m seriously overdue) don’t expect much from me this week.

I’ll post my LSAT impressions on Saturday, sometime, since I fully expect that I’ll go from the test to either 1) the remainder of [Big Unnamed State] University’s football game (which starts at 11:30, damn them, rendering worthless my $55 ticket which I probably can’t even scalp for face value due to the opponent), or 2) the remainder of my friends’ tailgate party.

In either case, I will drink (somewhat) liberally, if only because it will be OVER. I’m looking forward to having the test behind me so that I can begin to concentrate on applications and my personal essay. No matter how much I say I’ve been working on it, I haven’t really been able to look past the damn standarized test. I think once I’ve taken it and the results are out of my hands, I’ll have a little more impetus to work on the rest of that law school stuff.

Meanwhile, if you have Payton Manning on your FF team, you are a lucky bitch/bastard. That’s all I have to say about that.

September 21st 2004

I may have topped out

Another practice LSAT and, despite actually finishing the games section, I didn’t get any more questions right and pulled off the same exact score as my last practice LSAT.

I keep reminding myself that this particular score is a GOOD score, that it will get me into many schools, if not the schools I most want to get into. I keep reminding myself that I have a good GPA that will help, and my personal statement will be stellar. I am, in other words, pumping myself up. I worry that I may be setting myself up for a fall, in fact.

So in the back my mind, I remind myself that if I get into a school that is not at the top of my list, I can always attempt to transfer.

It’s hard to have grand ambitions that will be at least slightly thwarted by not attending one of my top choice schools. I am optimistic, but I am also trying very hard to be realistic.

September 14th 2004

wahoo two!

Another practice LSAT Games section tonight. Finished with 1:45 to spare, and I answered everything right.

The law school gods are telling me this means I need to write my personal statement.

September 2nd 2004

woo-hoo!

I just took two timed Games sections. I finished each one — the first with 35 seconds left, the second with four minutes left.

Out of a total of 48 questions, I missed FOUR.

I am the Games Goddess. Hear me kick ass on the LSAT.

August 28th 2004

urgh

Just when I start thinking positive…today’s practice LSAT was not good. I backtracked by 4 whole points. I’m a little hungover, not really motivated, and have probably done too much thinking about things lately. Oddly, my games performance remained the same — about 16 correct. It was the other sections that I lost points on.

Good experience, though, good experience. After all, I could feel bad or be mentally fuzzy on the actual day, just like this morning. Just have to get over that. And over the feeling that the practice tests don’t really have any meaning. That hurts my motivation to sit through the damn thing and keep my focus up.

August 24th 2004

Yeeeee-owwww-zaaaa!!!

Oh goodnesss gracious me-oh-my…I just finished typing up my mental outline for my “new” personal statement. This one is SO MUCH BETTER than everything else I’ve written down so far. I cut the negativity and removed the “identity crisis” theme. I introduced a bit of my slightly odd upbringing, my quirky, artistic tendencies, and really punched up my deep, overwhelming need to write all the damn time.

Yes indeedy, my confidence has been boosted by about 200 percent. You see, not only did my words come out cleanly and clearly and with a definite focus and direction, but I also did an LSAT games section tonight, properly timed at 35 minutes only, and I got 16 out of 24 correct. In fact, I finished all but three questions. This means that I only missed five questions out of stupidity. Those are numbers I can deal with, particularly when you consider those numbers are about the same as my numbers taking 40 minutes to do a section. I. e., I’ve reduced my time but not reduced my performance. Now I can focus on speeding up and getting some of those trickier missed inferences.

Oh, and I ROCKED the grouping game on that particular section. Obviously, the study I’ve been doing on conditional logic is having a positive impact.

::::::big sigh::::::

I feel so much better. Life is good. Law school is on the horizon. All is well.

August 23rd 2004

Working

I’m beginning a new draft of a personal statement. I hope this one works. I have it outlined in my head, and as I think through the various parts, I wonder if I’m focusing too much on this thing or that thing. I need to get it on paper before I can say for sure.

Meanwhile, LSAT study is sloooooow going. As in, I haven’t been doing much. I feel like a bit of a slacker over here; I’ll browse through the posts on Law School Discussion and wonder how I got so lazy! Some of those people have already finished filling out their applications!

Some of those people, too, are pretty unkind to the uncertain stranger. With every visit, I find my head shaking in disbelief. There are the mean people, who beat low-scorers into deep self-doubt: “You will NEVER get into ANY law school with a 149 on the LSAT!” There are the self-righteous: “If you want to raise your score from a 155 to a 165, you have to completely abandon your social life. I, personally, am studying six hours a day. I can’t imagine doing any less, and if you’re not doing that much, you won’t do well.” And there are the judgmental: “I’d maybe consider the University of Chicago, but it’s in a shit hole neighborhood, and that just rules it out for me. I mean, it’s a good school, but I wouldn’t go there.”

I don’t want to be unfair—there is quite a lot of good advice on the boards, and there are many regular posters who are supportive and kind and encourage newbies. But, like every other message board, there are those who run wild under the cloak of anonymity. Hiding behind their avatars, they troll madly, flame wildly, and likely discourage some people from returning. And that’s the true shame. Deciding to go to law school and actually undergoing the process is tough enough. No one who’s pre-law needs extra negativity.

August 16th 2004

Getting better…

Took another practice LSAT this weekend, fully timed with a “bonus” section for stamina purposes.

I must be getting better, because I got 16 games questions right, compared to 7 and 11 on previous timed tests. I would have gotten more, but I spent way too much time on a grouping game (those get me every time) and didn’t have time to finish the last game. The benefit is that I now know that grouping games are, in fact, my games bane. I’ll be reviewing the LG Bible for help on those this week. And I’ll be reviewing conditional logic, since that’s what seems to really trip me up. Blargh.

One final note: If I were to score on the actual LSAT as I did on this last practice test, I would be happy. Not ecstatic—my top-choice schools would still definitely be reaches—but I’d be happy. If, however, I could raise my score by, say, three points, I’d be overjoyed.

Finally, I know a woman who scored a 170 on the LSAT and once she did, she “knew” she’d get into Harvard. How? From everything I can tell, even a 4.0 and a 170 isn’t a lock for any of the top three schools. :::head shaking:::

August 13th 2004

Study

This week, I seem to have lost the will to study. I had to give myself some time off last weekend, considering I was drugged to the hilt and couldn’t think straight, but my mind somehow hasn’t grasped that the vacation is over. I’m having trouble getting motivated.

Meanwhile, I’ve discovered that I do best with games when I’ve “warmed up” a bit. I bought Kaplan LSAT 180 and I’m getting through the games, just not quickly. I am enjoying them, though—which has to be a good sign. And when I’ve done two or three, I feel nicely prepared to tackle more.

So, perhaps I’ll need to get up super-early the morning of the LSAT and do a couple of brainteasers and games just to get my gray matter moving. I hate getting up early.

August 2nd 2004

my anal-retentive inner overachiever

In order to satisfy that inner beast of mine, I have established a lovely Excel spreadsheet schedule of LSAT study. In doing so, I discovered that my frugal resistance to buying all three sets of previously administered LSATs is a problem. I bought two. I really need the third one to have enough tests to study.

I have exactly (from today!) two months to beat Logic Games into submission, and relearn what I thought was an innate ability to be stress-free during timed, standardized exams.

Many thanks to engilaw and janine for their criticisms of the LGBible. I have tried to ignore the timing warnings—much like I’ve refused to learn their handy trademarked names for game categories—but apparently some of it seeped into the gray matter. It’s time to begin a course of innoculation.

This week, I begin working logic games sections, untimed. My husband will time me only to see how long it takes me to get through one without any pressure. Next week, if I feel up to it, I start working backwards towards the 35 minute mark. I plan to break the monotony of games by also reviewing logical reasoning, which I have no real problem with, but no point in not trying to increase my performance there, and reading comprehension, which I have no problem with, unless the passage is absolutely nonsensical (as was one in last weekend’s test, urgh).

And I am working on my personal statement. Having lunch tomorrow with a lawyer my writing prof had as a student many years ago—he thinks we have similar sensibilities, and that I could gain much from chatting with her. Maybe I’ll gain some profound insight from speaking with her. Maybe I’ll just stop fretting about things so much.

July 31st 2004

Meh

I consider myself a good test taker. I’ve always done well on standardized tests.

So today I took my second, timed, full-length practice LSAT. I even added a bogus section from another test to simulate the actual length of the thing. I’ve been working my butt off on Logic Games.

I freaked out about my time and BOMBED the Logic Games section. Again. Not as badly, true, but I did not do well. I went back, looked at the questions I got wrong, and discovered that I made stupid mistakes on every single one. And I know it was because I freaked out about the time thing! I couldn’t stop looking at my timer. This has never happened to me.

I blame the Logic Games bible. Yes, it totally helped me figure out diagramming and game strategies, but it has this obscene emphasis on how much time you can devote to each game. “8 minutes, 45 seconds for each game and you can do all of them! If you are taking more time than that, you won’t have as much to do the other games. Monitor your time carefully!”

Well, shit. No wonder. I didn’t freak about time in any of the other sections, and why? Because I wasn’t stressed over spending “exactly 2 minutes, 17 seconds on each two-question scenario, and less than 1 minute 22 seconds on the others.” (I made those numbers up. The LG Bible’s numbers seem almost as arbitrary.)

July 28th 2004

marginal progress is still progress

Back to harping on the Logic Games thing. Still having a LITTLE trouble on conditional reasoning, but it’s beginning to get clearer. Practice makes perfect, right? I have a little over two months to work through twenty practice tests—oops, sorry, twenty-one, since I got a copy of the June 2004 from someone who took it. I have the last quarter of the Logic Games Bible. And I don’t really have anything else to do. Besides my personal statement, but I’ve already started on that, too. Resume—I’ve got one of those, it just needs to be slightly modified for the purpose.

Essentially, this process has become part of my daily schedule. I have absorbed it. Internalized it. Me and law school, we’re like this: [insert visual of two fingers crossed over each other]. Yes indeedy.

I’m still somewhat petrified, though.