A Look Back…musings from a 1L Guest Blogger

In this guest post, 1L Jacques Ntonme describes his experience when he first applied to Stanford Law School and offers some sound advice.

So you are waiting to hear back from schools.

I remember when I had a gotten all my apps in, all that work and then…nothing.  Especially this time of the year, it is natural to start wondering why you haven’t heard back.  This can be especially strange (read: frustrating) if you applied in October or November.  I applied late in the application season and was just glad to be done with applications.  I wasn’t losing sleep over it in most of February.  But once I heard from some schools, I felt more listless in not hearing from the others.  I mean, don’t they work on roughly the same admissions schedule?  If I haven’t heard back yet, does that mean I didn’t get in?

Like a child trying to make sense of the world, I developed my own mythos about the admissions process: I have only gotten responses on Friday, so I should hear from school X on Friday.  Then it’s Friday and no call.  That must mean I didn’t get in!  Sounds silly, right?  Maybe familiar, yes?

Schools generally wait until the end of the application season to really take a final look at the application pool.  I am not sure what a “final look” is, actually.  I just know that’s the jargon that’s used this time of the year.

So I found myself sitting on my hands thinking, “What should I do in the mean time?” and “Why are my hands going numb?”  Unless you have something critical to get in-more grades, news about that Rhodes Scholarship-there is not really not much more to do with regards to applications.  Here are my suggestions of other things you can do:

1) If you have gotten positive responses, congratulations.
a)Avoid making a big deal out of it since it will only increase the nervousness of your peers, which is an unpleasant experience for them.
b) Start contacting people who are currently going or have gone to the school.  This can be a friend, older sibling, etc.  If you know someone who is practicing but didn’t go to that school, they might know someone at their firm, non-profit, or other organization who has gone there and can put you in touch with them.
c) Along with the admit notice, the school probably also gave you some info about an admit day.  Mark it on your calendar, buy a plane/train/bus ticket, and find someone to crash with (the school may be able to set you up with a hotel or a current student’s couch or floor).  If you are going to an admit day or weekend, keep in mind note (2)(b).

2) Everyone:
a) Try to get in any remaining financial aid materials in as soon as possible.  Firstly, it involves math, 2010 taxes, and often your parents’ co-operation or help; it takes me a long time to really get all three cooking.  So start early!  Secondly, it may end up being financial aid information from a school you have already heard from, not hearing from another school, that drags out your decision-making process.  Third, some schools prefer to give offers and the financial aid info at the same time so you go “wow!” Don’t make them delay in making you say wow; it’s just cruel.  One school waited until mid-April to notify me because they were moving their aid money around between people who had accepted offers of admission and those who declined.  When I heard, I was both complimented and confused-it’s mid-April guys!  Fourth, at most schools, the admissions office folks are different from the financial aid folks and they work on different timetables.  But for reason three, the school needs/wants both before they notify you.  They want to hurry things up and you want to hurry things up; so hurry up to finish that financial aid paperwork.
b) Do more research about schools and the legal profession in general.  You were probably doing some research before you started applications.  When applications took over your life, heart and soul, you might have stopped asking questions about the why of going to law school to focus on the how.  Now that you are done with the how, go back to the why.  The Why informs the decision of what law school to attend.  Whether you have a smorgasbord of options or just one, you need to examine whether it is a good fit.  And the best way to find out is to ask students.  Not just one student, but lots of students.  No one answer, even from a good friend, sibling, or current student reaching out to you can give you a good sense of what it’s like to be there.  For starters, ask questions about class size, contacts with professors, what they did for their summers and how they landed there, what they do for fun, the gym, the collegiality of the students, the career opportunities (do you want to be a professor? a non-profiteer? at a big law firm? you want to clerk?), surrounding shopping, ease of getting off campus, nightlife, etc.  The cool part is that everyone will give you different answers (no one opinion is gospel) and you can merge them together to get an omni-sense of the school and legal profession.  Omni-sense.  Yep, I made that word up.
c) Spend quality time with your friends, family, co-workers, significant others, et al.  You are leaving a job or school and possibly leaving for a place you have never been.  The people listed above are likely not making the trip with you or you certainly won’t have as much time to stay in touch once school starts.  They’ll be a further away before you know it.