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Lawtender33

Why I Hate "Chances Threads" - Advice From A Less Than Perfect Applicant Who Actually Made it into a Great School.

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I have posted about this issue in another section of this site and have been receiving a lot of private messages on the matter – so figured I would repost a modified version here to reach a wider audience.

 

Bottom line - I hate "chances" posts.

 

To give you some background about myself - I had far lower stats than the average law school applicant and am currently attending Osgoode - in looking at last years rejected thread, there were many people who had really impressive stats who didn't make the cut.

 

To be frank, while this website can give you a general understanding of the average entry statistics based on quantifiable information such as LSAT and grades, every school has different ways of evaluating applicants. It's not just numbers. Having said this, the reality of the situation is that the only people who will actually know your chances are the admissions committee. If you apply and do not make it in, I suggest that you book an appointment with the admissions department in your school of interest to discuss your application and get a better sense of what will make you a more competitive candidate going forward. I did this with one of the schools that rejected my application and actually got some pretty great feedback. 

 

This forum in many ways has been really helpful in answering questions about housing, and to get the general sense of the pro's and con's of each school.  However, had I discovered it prior to applying to school and seen the many threads that talk about "chances”, I probably never would have bothered with an application. Take everything with a grain of salt and don't get discouraged.

 

Once you’ve submitted your application, be warned that playing the comparison game will needlessly drive you crazy and serves no purpose since admissions (in particular at Osgoode) are statistically all over the map. 

 

To give you an example, in my current section there are a couple of people who do not possess an undergraduate degree, a few who came right out of a 3-year undergrad, those with abysmal statistics (3.0 / 150 LSAT) and alternatively, superstars who have incredible GPA's and near perfect LSAT scores. We are a truly diverse bunch.

 

To compensate for my horrendous stats, I spent a lot of time really making myself shine in the written component of my application – I did fill out the access category, however should note that I do know people who got in with lower stats in the general applicant category.

 

Also - regarding access categories - I've read a lot of threads where people who have had a rough shake in life are discouraged from trying to be a "special snowflake" - that is utter BS. If there are reasons for your dip in GPA, mention them - but instead of whining about them and framing them as an excuse for poor performance, speak more to how you've overcome them and how those experiences have actually equipped you with the tools to be a stronger candidate. Turn your experiences from a negative to a positive. In short own your problems and turn lemons into lemonade.

 

I understand that GPA / LSAT is an essential and important component to weeding through the thousands of applications Canadian law schools receive each year. It is definitely a numbers game for most, if not all schools - however, when you have thousands of near perfect GPA / high LSAT score achieving applicants, schools inevitably have to rely on the experiences (both work, volunteer and life) to cull the herd.

 

Not discounting the importance of numbers by any means, but I am writing in hopes of getting through to the people on this site who post their fairly respectable grades, or life experience in hopes of internet validation - only to be told that "they have no chance". It's something I'm really sick of seeing because yes, you can say that traditionally a school will accept those who have X GPA and Y LSAT score, but combined with their personal experiences - truth of the matter is, nobody really knows. As I had stated previously, had I discovered this forum prior to applying to law school - I most likely would have never tried based on a read of some of these "chances" threads. Your previous academic record at the end of the day is not really an indicator of how well you’ll do in law school – just the other day I was consoling a friend who told me she’s never done so poorly in school in her life (she was an A student prior to coming here), whereas statistically speaking I’m the one who should be barely scraping by – yet have come out with great grades.

 

I would never want someone to give up on a dream, or think they are "less than" just because a group of people on the internet tells them so. Law school is incredibly difficult to get into - but not impossible. Good luck with your applications everybody! 

Edited by Lawtender33
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I agree with most of this, and applaud the spirit in which you've written it. Most "chances" posts are about unnecessary anxiety ("OMG I ONLY HAVE A 180/4.0 BUT I JUST REALIZED I FAST-TRACKED MY DEGREE BY TAKING CLASSES IN THE SUMMER, WILL COOLEY CONSIDER COURSES THAT I TOOK IN THE SUMMER OR DO THEY NOT COUNT, OMG, OMG YOU GUYS I'M DYING, OMG I NEED MY ADMISSION LETTER TO COOLEY RIGHT NOW, OMG WHAT IF I DON'T GET INTO COOLEY, COOLEY DID ALREADY E-MAIL ME AND TELL ME I'M ADMITTED, BUT I DON'T HAVE THE ACTUAL PAPER LETTER IN MY HAND, OMG IS IT BECAUSE OF THE SUMMER COURSES, OMG YOU GUYS WHAT IF THEY CHANGE THEIR MIND BEFORE THE ACTUAL LETTER GETS HERE"), and most responses to chances posts only serve to feed and further that anxiety. Every school (as far as I know) practices holistic admissions to some degree; as you say, it's impossible for strangers on the internet to make predictions.

 

On the other hand: when I first applied for law school, I had an LSAT score of 161 (respectable for some of the schools I applied to, too low for others) plus a GPA significantly under 1.0. I don't remember the number - might have been 0.2 or something. I'd failed a lot of courses. I was nowhere close to completing a degree. I had done nothing to suggest to anyone that I was remotely qualified for law school admissions, except that I had a pretty good (not great) sob story and my name was spelled right in my letters of recommendation.

Most of the advice I got around here was, "No one can predict anything about access admissions" (and I suspect people would have been blunter if I hadn't been cutesy about just how dire my GPA was---I played a lot of "around 3.0 with drops" and "maybe 2.8 once I take five years' worth of courses all this semester and get A+ in all of them" and "maybe 3.1 once some of these academic petitions go through" bullshit games around here circa 2008, because I wanted random strangers on the internet to validate the person I wanted to be and not the person I was). And that's true, and valid. But...with a lot of hindsight, I'd have been much further ahead if I'd a., been completely honest, with myself and others, about my chances; b., received the advice I needed, which was don't waste your money; c., been able to take that advice, instead of wasting thousands of dollars and countless hours and God knows how much self-esteem on fruitless law school applications.

 

No person is hopeless. After getting rejected from virtually every law school in Canada and not a few US schools in 2009 and 2010, I went back to school, improved my stats, and started getting into good schools. But plenty of applications are hopeless. Plenty of people need to put in as much time and effort as I have in order to make themselves competitive. And I choose that word deliberately. It is a competitive process. "Hey, you, you reading this? No matter what your circumstances are, you, personally, can beat the odds and succeed!" is a true message. "Everyone can succeed!" is not.  A significant number of law school applications will not succeed. We absolutely need positive messages like yours...but not at the expense of honest and well-meant constructive advice when it's called for.

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("OMG I ONLY HAVE A 180/4.0 BUT I JUST REALIZED I FAST-TRACKED MY DEGREE BY TAKING CLASSES IN THE SUMMER, WILL COOLEY CONSIDER COURSES THAT I TOOK IN THE SUMMER OR DO THEY NOT COUNT, OMG, OMG YOU GUYS I'M DYING, OMG I NEED MY ADMISSION LETTER TO COOLEY RIGHT NOW, OMG WHAT IF I DON'T GET INTO COOLEY, COOLEY DID ALREADY E-MAIL ME AND TELL ME I'M ADMITTED, BUT I DON'T HAVE THE ACTUAL PAPER LETTER IN MY HAND, OMG IS IT BECAUSE OF THE SUMMER COURSES, OMG YOU GUYS WHAT IF THEY CHANGE THEIR MIND BEFORE THE ACTUAL LETTER GETS HERE"), 

 

This made me laugh!! On point! 

 

Also - your post was great and I totally agree. 

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For people not applying under the general category or who indicate contributing circumstances to low gpa/Lsat in something like the osgoode part b statement I would definitely say the "chances" boards are not a good indicator because very few people on this board can know how admissions committees evaluate anything other than statistics. For the average applicant though (I.e. 0-3 years out of undergrad, no extenuating circumstances) I think it's a pretty valuable resource as a lot of people on this forum have been around for a while and have seen what is required for admission to various schools. Aspiring law students should definitely be able to conclude that this is an anonymous forum and they probably shouldn't make life decisions from an anonymous poster's opinion without actually consulting the admissions office of schools they are interested in-especially if they talk at length in their personal statements about circumstances that they do not disclose on this forum.

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 However, had I discovered it prior to applying to school and seen the many threads that talk about "chances”, I probably never would have bothered with an application. Take everything with a grain of salt and don't get discouraged.

 

Interesting. Had I not discovered this board, I'm not sure I would have bothered with an application. I was under the impression that you needed way higher grades than was actually the case to get into law school. I thought that you needed at least an "A-" average. Looking at some sites which come up quickly on google reinforced this idea. 

 

Since the quality of law school websites and advising departments is all over the map, for some schools I wasn't able to really figure out if this was true or not. Perusing LS.ca is actually more efficient that getting that information out of some schools.

 

There was also a huge volume of misinformation out there from professors, counsellors, and random people that I found this site to be helpful in sorting out. Namely, your reference letters are key to getting you into Law School (not usually), your personal statement is key to getting you into law school (doesn't replace your stats), volunteer effort is key to getting into law school (nope), you need six months of full-time study to do decently on the LSAT (hopefully not), and that Law Schools deeply care about your graduate school education (no more than the rest of the world). I see some of the same mistakes repeated in other member's chances threads, and I think it's useful for them to be quickly corrected.

 

I recognize that the last paragraph is less relevant to those applying within the access category, but I think most chances threads aren't made in reference to them anyways. I also don't think there is anything wrong with telling those in chances threads that they are hopeless if the don't apply in the access category.

 

 

Edited by AntelopeofZeus
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Lawtender, I generally agree with what you're saying, but there are a few caveats. 

 

I think for the most part the advice people give and receive on this forum is generally helpful, insofar as for most people it's probably accurate. Numbers obviously play a very important role. Taking my predictor app in to consideration, I found a statistically significant relationship between LSAT, GPA, and acceptance. If the numbers had no effect on admissions, there would not have been any statistical significance (for example, I found that with Windsor there was none, in which case your purely holistic theory would likely be applicable there).

 

If you assume that a normal distribution of people (with respect to their stats, anyway), visit this website (this includes lurkers), you could probably say that the advice posted generally would be applicable to them: the middle-of-the-pack who meet the median requirements for admission, the top quartile who vastly exceed the requirements, and the bottom quartile who will nearly never receive an acceptance (at least not with their current stats). In each of these scenarios, "other factors" (like ECs, graduate degrees, LORs, personal statements, different admission categories, or other considerations) come in to play at different degrees. I would say that the top quartile need almost none of those other factors to be successful: their stats alone would nearly always guarantee admission. The middle quartile would probably have up to a third emphasis on these factors, depending on where within the range their stats fell. The bottom quartile would require considerable "other factors" to overcome bad stats (like applying in a different admissions category altogether). The advice on this site would be generally applicable to anyone in the top two quartiles, which I think we can all agree is a majority.

 

It's this bottom quartile that you're arguing isn't receiving good advice. That I agree with.

 

It's very hard to give advice to that group, however. There are too many special considerations. Most of the sob stories you hear on here don't meet the requirements of Access categories, and Mature categories are increasingly competitive as a growing number of strong candidates present their applications for admission. You can't conceivably give good advice to such groups because: 1) the lack of a formulaic measure of admission (there are simply two few examples on here to generate a statistical sample); and 2) the nature of the "black box" that is those admissions categories. So what do we do when we come across such posts? I feel like most of us encourage people to apply anyway, and to do so broadly. Sometimes I see that they're advised to contact the school to clarify their eligibility for a special category. But for the most part, it's made pretty clear that their chances are indeterminable. When I see people getting told their situation is hopeless, it's because they legitimately aren't presenting with any qualifications for special categories, and have horrible stats. Then I think we can say with relative statistical confidence that they're going to have a tough time.

 

But of course no one knows anyone's true "chances" unless they're on an admissions committee. This is true, and I agree with you, but again, for general advice, given the evidence generally used to comment on someone's chances, I think it's pretty good advice. They might be an outlier, but the chances are slim. I feel like we'd be doing everyone a significant disservice if we gave them false hope because they have a "chance" to get in with a cGPA and L2 of 2.59 and an LSAT of 145.

 

I'm glad you're an outlier and I'm glad you got in to Osgoode. I'm an outlier too. But after coming here from my first time around of being rejected everywhere and reading what I would actually need to get admitted, I appreciated the significance of my position and did what I could to improve it the second time around. It didn't dissuade me from trying again, but it did put everything in to perspective.

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Interesting. Had I not discovered this board, I'm not sure I would have bothered with an application. I was under the impression that you needed way higher grades than was actually the case to get into law school. I thought that you needed at least an "A-" average. Looking at some sites which come up quickly on google reinforced this idea. 

 

Since the quality of law school websites and advising departments is all over the map, for some schools I wasn't able to really figure out if this was true or not. Perusing LS.ca is actually more efficient that getting that information out of some schools.

 

 

For a lot of schools this is accurate, though. If you look at the medians for Ontario schools, you'll notice that they nearly all hover around a 3.7, which is an A-.

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sorry im new on thos forum, is this the chances section?

 

3.9/172. I know im a splitter but will i have to settle for osgoode? I want U of T or Cambridge. If I go to Windsor but get LLM at Yale after will that improve my chances of landing bay street? 

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sorry im new on thos forum, is this the chances section?

 

3.9/172. I know im a splitter but will i have to settle for osgoode? I want U of T or Cambridge. If I go to Windsor but get LLM at Yale after will that improve my chances of landing bay street? 

 

Forget Bay Street or the "Seven Sisters". Your goal should be Morans, and Morgans is like the zeroth sister -- so sisterly she doesn't even associate with the rest. That's where your goal should be. Don't settle for any less. An LLM at Yale is just the first step to getting a summer position there.

Edited by Ryn
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For a lot of schools this is accurate, though. If you look at the medians for Ontario schools, you'll notice that they nearly all hover around a 3.7, which is an A-.

I thought 3.7 was the floor, not the average. I also didn't know about the drops, and L2/L3 considerations that some schools have. I'm not sure how these work with Ontario schools I didn't apply there, but for the schools I did apply to these factors upped my GPA considerably. Even up to a fabled A- in some cases. 

 

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I thought 3.7 was the floor, not the average. I also didn't know about the drops, and L2/L3 considerations that some schools have. I'm not sure how these work with Ontario schools I didn't apply there, but for the schools I did apply to these factors upped my GPA considerably. Even up to a fabled A- in some cases. 

 

 

Ah. Well, Ontario schools in the OLSAS book usually say that "most successful applicants have a cumulative average of A- or higher" or something to that effect, so I felt it was pretty clear it wasn't a floor, but it sounds like the other schools could do a better job of communicating that because it's certainly not a lower limit.

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tldr; I got in with lower than average stats through the access category, said the OP to the surprise of no one.

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Namely, your reference letters are key to getting you into Law School (not usually), your personal statement is key to getting you into law school (doesn't replace your stats), volunteer effort is key to getting into law school (nope), you need six months of full-time study to do decently on the LSAT (hopefully not), and that Law Schools deeply care about your graduate school education (no more than the rest of the world).

 

Ha. I totally heard all of those things before I came to this site. Also:

  • Taking political science or business is basically a necessity
  • It's all about who you know
  • They strongly favour varsity athletes 

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Forget Bay Street or the "Seven Sisters". Your goal should be Morans, and Morgans is like the zeroth sister -- so sisterly she doesn't even associate with the rest. That's where your goal should be. Don't settle for any less. An LLM at Yale is just the first step to getting a summer position there.

 

You're right, Ryn. Everybody here makes such a fuss about Morgans, which I guess is a pretty okay firm, but Morans is so much better. Their lawyers make so many Gs, they don't even need one in their name.

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tldr; I got in with lower than average stats through the access category, said the OP to the surprise of no one.

 

I also mentioned in that post that I currently attend school with others who have less than average stats who applied in the general category ... but ok. 

Edited by Lawtender33

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Hi Ryn,

 

I agree with what you've said. The reason I've been posting so much on this topic is that I've seen so much negativity toward applicants who actually have some fairly decent statistics. For example, I once saw someone post about having something like a 3.5 GPA and a 165 LSAT about their admissions chances and the forum more or less jumped on them and told them to give up any hope of law school entry (I also believe they told the person to do another undergrad) - when in reality, even just based on those stats alone, there's a good chance they will make it into some law school, maybe not U of T - but certainly elsewhere. Even at that, the guy who taught my LSAT course told us that he had a 3.1 GPA but a 168 LSAT and got into U of T, but not Ottawa U. 

 

I think Yogurt Baron said it best when he mentioned the importance of balanced and constructive feedback (i.e.: your situation is grim but you can succeed) rather than telling everyone and anyone that they have a chance because as we all know that's not the case. 

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For example, I once saw someone post about having something like a 3.5 GPA and a 165 LSAT about their admissions chances and the forum more or less jumped on them and told them to give up any hope of law school entry (I also believe they told the person to do another undergrad) 

 

Those stats, especially if it was a cGPA, would offer a significant chance of admission to a bunch of schools. I'm surprised that people would have reacted in the negative. Do you remember what the thread was? I'm curious now. 

 

I've seen some occasions of trolling people with decent stats by telling them it's hopeless, but for the most part I felt like they were easy to spot and ignore as obvious trolls.

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Those stats, especially if it was a cGPA, would offer a significant chance of admission to a bunch of schools. I'm surprised that people would have reacted in the negative. Do you remember what the thread was? I'm curious now. 

 

I've seen some occasions of trolling people with decent stats by telling them it's hopeless, but for the most part I felt like they were easy to spot and ignore as obvious trolls.

 

It was quite a few months ago - but when I get my head out of these books and have some time I will find it and PM you :) 

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