I’d say I wake up pretty early. For the last few months, though, I’ve been waking up earlier than usual because I have to account for my new morning routine. With dry eyes, I reach for my phone and open my most used app: Reddit. It’s almost mechanical. I open r/lawschooladmissions, filter it by newest posts, and scroll until I reach the dulled out post with which I know I left off from last night. Then I exit out of the app to Safari, open a new tab, and click my most frequently visited website: lsd.law. This website is an unofficial extensive compilation of self-reported data from previous and current application cycles. It also allows me to configure all of my application status checkers onto my profile so I can see if there’s been any changes to my status. Other than forcing me to wake up ten minutes earlier, this routine does absolutely nothing for me. That’s because I’m not doing it for any particular reason, except to feel just a little more in control in this wildly unpredictable law school application process.
I submitted my applications five months ago. Patience is not one of my virtues, but in this case, I know my impatience is fully warranted. Law schools have rolling admission. This means that they evaluate applications on the basis in which they are received. There’s no hard deadline for a decision, but it’s fair to assume that the earlier you submit your application, the earlier you will receive a decision. But five months is ridiculous. I know I’m lucky that I’m still in college and have a family willing to financially support a move quite possibly across the country. But nearly all of the other applicants have graduated, some must fully support themselves, and in fact, some are the primary caretakers in their own family. So to not know where we’ll be six months from now is unacceptable, especially if this process claims to be rolling.
I understand that this is an “unprecedented time” (a phrase that professional institutions have been practically abusing since 2020), with the pandemic and the recent U.S. News ranking issue. Unexpected changes, such as law schools pulling out of a thirty year ranking system for a “more equitable” application process, pull the plug on this machine, and it all comes to a massive halt. The waiting game is part of the process — I get it. But this baffling wait is just one symptom of the incredibly enigmatic application process. For an institution dedicated in part to the next generation of the nation’s policy makers, it’s laughable (or is ‘fitting’ the better word?) that law schools are dropping the smallest crumbs for their applicants to decipher. Should we write a Why X addendum? Should we send the letter of continued interest before a decision? Should we send our study abroad transcript? Should we email the admissions committee an updated resume from a recent promotion? Should we even email the admissions committee at all? At what point are we demonstrating interest and at what point does it become annoying? No matter how annoyed the admissions committee might get from pestering questions, I doubt they’d be more annoyed than half of us applicants. There’s a whole online community dedicated to reading law school tea leaves because they just won’t give the answer directly to us. Now, I don’t want this to come off as a series of complaints — except that’s exactly what it is. Is it my fault that there’s nothing good to say about this process?
It would help if Swarthmore provided some resources, right? That’s why I moved across the country to attend a college smaller than my high school. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful I’m here and I can’t imagine myself anywhere else. I got almost all that I hoped for: a fruitful education, small class sizes, challenging discussions, and personable relationships with my professors. But all this is within the framework of most liberal arts colleges. The reason why I chose Swarthmore was because beyond all these basic factors, we have a reputation for successfully sending many graduates to continue their education. The school website for law school advising proudly states: “During the last five years, 94% of Swarthmore applicants were admitted to law school, compared to a national average of 77%.” From my personal experience, however, I believe this institution severely lacks the pre-law resources necessary to claim responsibility for sending 94% of applicants to law school.
For as long as I could think for myself, I wanted to be a lawyer. So of course I was aware of the basic information: majors don’t matter, your GPA and your LSAT score will most definitely make or break your chances, and extracurriculars don’t matter as much as they did for undergraduate admissions. This was basically all of the information that the pre-law advisor, Gigi Simeone, could provide me. Although willing to help curious students, Gigi was as uninformed as I was regarding the law school application process. She constantly referred me to Swarthmore’s Guide to Applying to Law School. However, she had little to no insight regarding how to submit a study abroad transcript, the merits of applying early decision, or about the effects of my many C/NC semesters. These questions were all beyond the scope of the Guide; so it was at this point I realized that this short compilation was likely Swat’s best attempt at guiding their pre-law community. If I were to go about this process again, I would consider resources other than the ones that Swarthmore provides.
People sometimes look down on Reddit advice, but it’s been the single most helpful resource for me. Our collective confusion about this process provides me both comfort and concrete advice; “Redditors” upload information they learned directly from admission staff or data analysis from lsd.law. Sure, I could talk to “real people” who have actually been through this process before. But who? Swarthmore’s pre-law society is practically nonexistent, and the alumni network we have is burdensome and difficult to use. The society’s weak foundation is definitely not the fault of its students, but rather another institutional failure. It would be an understatement to say that I’m disappointed at the lack of pre-law resources here. That’s why I start off my day on Reddit and lsd.law: because it provides information that $70,000 a year cannot.
I am so glad that someone is bringing this to attention. As a pre-med student, I can attest to the incompetency of the school in preparing its students. Not just the “pre-med-related” departments, but also the pre-med advising as well. The school does such an awful job of preparing us for future endeavors. Better use of time to speak to upperclassmen, the online community, or literally anything else.
I think r/lawschooladmissions has some helpful advice but it’s far from your “best friend” is you’re a black, native, and/or latinx applicant. Someone has something racist to say about minorities and affirmative action on there every day.