|Admissions Essays Blog|
|Through our very own editors and guest writers, this blog will discuss the INSIDE scoop on the admissions process of various schools and programs. If you wish to ask a specific question, please write to us, and we will make every attempt to address your questions in our future blog discussions.|
Sunday, April 9, 2017
Five Ways Parents Can Help With College Admissions
With everything tied up in college admissions these days, the lead up to the process can be one of the most trying times in the parent-child relationship. Parents understand the economic and social benefits of college. They also know that this may be one of the last big decisions in their child's life that they will be an integral part of. How to release some of this tension? Here's a helpful (but not exhaustive) list:
1) Start Early. Every kid is different. Some will be more receptive to parental advice than others. The best lead up to the college craziness is to have it be an organic, stress-free part of everyday conversation before deadlines start to heat up. This gives both parent and child time to wrap their heads around it.
2) Try not to "Project". This is a big deal, and you don't want to kick them out of the nest without first teaching them how to fly. But it's their big deal, not yours. Whether parents mean to or not, they tend to expect their children to share the same values and goals that they do. Your kid is an individual, and the best you can do is steer them, not reshape them.
3) Help them develop a plan. Most people do best when following a path they've created for themselves. "Should" can be a toxic word that induces guilt and resentment. Don't draw the blueprint for them.
4) Be Supportive. This is obvious, but see points 1-3 above. The kids need love and encouragement here, not cracking of the whip.
5) Be Available. It may be that the thing they need most is a friendly ear. The more you push, the more they're likely to back away. Take a stab at treating them as an adult. They might just surprise you.
Most parents will agree that one of the toughest parts of being a parent is watching your kid fail. A strong second? Backing off and letting your kid skin her knees anyways.
Sunday, April 2, 2017
Starbucks Goes One Step Further in Supporting College for Employees
In 2014, Starbucks partnered up with Arizona State University (ASU) to create a program offering full tuition coverage to all of their employees. The program, called the College Achievement Plan, was made available to both part-time and full-time Starbucks employees.
Tuition is fully reimbursable by Starbucks, and in turn, ASU provides mentoring and tutorial support across a range of more than 60 undergraduate degrees. The assistance and coursework are available on-line, meaning that geography isn't a barrier to access.
The program is available to Starbucks' more than 15,000 employees, but has turned out to be challenging for students who are not otherwise eligible for college admission. A number of student hopefuls hadn't taken the SAT, didn't have a high enough GPA, or lacked requisite freshman coursework.
Last week, Starbucks and ASU announced an enhanced program, Pathways to Admission, which seeks to help employees overcome ineligibility issues. Under the new program ASU will offer additional tutoring and counseling in order to help employees complete freshman-level courses, as many times as is necessary. Starbucks will foot the bill.
Starbucks' stated goal is to have 25,000 college graduates by 2025. CEO Howard Schultz announced the new program at a recent shareholders' meeting, where he spoke of the company's moral commitment to strive to do more than simply reap profits. Educating its workforce is good for both the company, and the economy.
This is one in a long-line of progressive, employee-centered policies by Starbucks. The company is already renowned for its exemplary management-training program, benefits for part-time employees, as well as a stated commitment to hiring at-risk youth, veterans, refugees and people with disabilities.
Wednesday, March 29, 2017
America's College Drop-out Problem
For most college hopefuls, the most daunting and labor-intensive part of the college process is admission. It is the topic of countless blogs and self-help books. It has spawned an entire industry of admissions counselors, coaches, and mentors, all promising to offer the foolproof formula for getting accepted. What's lost in all of this commotion are statistics far more sobering than single-digit acceptance rates: the number of students who start college but don't finish.
What if the real social problem is not getting in, but staying in?
Drop-out statistics are notoriously hard to collect, but a soft estimate is that a full 25% of thirty-somethings in the U.S. who have attended college, do not have either an associate's degree or a four-year diploma. Why?
The simple answer is: cost.
One way or another, most middle to high-income students will find a way to finish college. And let's not forget-statistically, it was easier for these kids to become students in the first place. They were not the first in the family to attend college, they went to good high schools, their parents could afford SAT prep workshops and so on.
Lower income students are more likely to have to work during college. They are less likely to have financial help from their parents. They are more likely to take time off from college, and pick up again at a stage in their lives where it is even less affordable. Imagine, for a moment, being a 30-year-old father of three with a mortgage to pay, trying to juggle the workload and costs of college.
Getting additional financial aid towards the back-end of college can be challenging, but if colleges are truly concerned with long-term student success, the drop-out problem merits far more attention. When students don't finish college, society loses. College graduates qualify for higher-paying jobs. They are more likely to pay back student loans, and more likely to send their own kids to college.
This socioeconomic problem looms far more heavily than issues like affirmative action and getting into an Ivy. But it isn't one that too may people are yet having, and that's a whopping loss for everyone.
Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Harvard Law School to Begin Accepting GRE
The Law School Admissions Test has long been a requirement for all applicants to ABA-accredited law schools in the United States. High LSAT scores are the golden ticket for law school hopefuls. So when the University of Arizona School of Law announced last May that they would accept both the LSAT and the Graduate Records Examination (GRE) for its 2016-2017 applicants, legal pundits quickly began sparring.
Why? The short, editorialized answer is this: the LSAT is a more rigorous test, and lawyers traffic in prestige. The LSAT applies only for law school admission; the GRE for virtually all other graduate programs.
Far more people take the GRE-somewhere from five to eight times more. The GRE is offered on-line, on a rolling basis throughout the year. The LSAT is a written, in-person exam, presented just four times a year.
Both exams appear to be effective predictors of academic performance, but that isn't the primary reason that the University of Arizona and now Harvard are opening their doors to GRE takers. These institutions want to increase the diversity of their applicant pool.
Diversity is a loaded word in academia, but in practice, casting a wider net will allow law schools to consider more international students, and those from a broader range of academic disciplines. If the change sticks, it may loosen the stranglehold of the LSAT as a metric, and could open up the field of law to competent students who might not otherwise have considered law school.
No word yet on whether Harvard's move has people clucking, or whether this is a foreshadowing of a longer-term shift in law school admissions. Still, a space worth watching.
Monday, March 13, 2017
California Proposes Most Generous College Aid Plan in Nation
With college costs and student loan debts mounting nationwide, legislators in California have crafted an economically ambitious plan. The complex proposal aims to reduce or eliminate the need for student loans for the more than 450,000 students attending Cal State and University of California institutions.
The average annual cost at one of the 23 Cal State campuses is $21,000; at the nine UC campuses, that cost is $33,000. This proposal promises to cover those costs, while continuing to supplement them with federal and state grant programs currently in place. Recipients would additionally be required to work part-time jobs year round, and families earning more than $60,000 annually would receive only partial subsidies.
With more than $2.1 billion in aid offered each year, California is already one of the most generous states in the country. Cost of living in California, however, tends to severely offset these benefits. Several of the UC campuses are located in some of the most expensive cities in the U.S. The state estimates that UC aid recipients currently spend some 60% of their aid packages on housing costs alone.
At the cheaper Cal State institutions, costs of living is also a serious issue. In June of 2016, a Los Angeles Times article reported that one in ten Cal State students was homeless.
Despite the tremendous need and California's robust budget, the proposal faces enormouse barriers. Governor Brown has been cautious in the management of the state budget, even in cash-heavy years. Politically, college affordability faces staunch opposition, particularly given the need for expenditures in other areas such as transportation.
If the proposal leaves the tarmac, however, it could set the stage for similar progressive reforms across the country. With a presidential administration committed to reducing federal student aid, these statewide economic shifts are the ones to watch.
Friday, March 10, 2017
Politics and Teachable Moments for MBA Students
Following President Trump's January 2017 Executive Order temporarily banning immigration from six Muslim-majority countries, a furor erupted across America. The backlash was not purely political. Some of the loudest voices came from the halls of academia, where immigrants comprise a substantial portion of the student and faculty population. A recent GMAC survey found that 56% of two-year MBA applications are from non-citizens.
This week, the Trump administration issued a new, narrower ban. While it has sparked slightly less outrage, at least some in academia are viewing the ban through a different lens: a learning opportunity.
Bill Boulding, dean of Duke University's Fuqua School of Business, considers both of the executive orders to be teachable moments. Business schools are amongst the most geographically diverse of post-graduate institutions, largely because the world of business is now largely global. Students stand to learn more about context when exposed to cross-cultural models.
Boulding understands the need for delicate handling of a political hot-topic, but his approach is pragmatic. The practical effects of the ban are yet unknown, but it is likely to either prevent or discourage foreign talent from pursuing education in the U.S. In that regard, it may become a forecast of real-world trends under increasingly isolationist U.S. policies.
MBA programs in particular are built upon the backs of case studies. Factoring in global economic shifts and sociopolitical trends is essential in creating hypotheticals that mimic reality. For now, that reality is changing at a dynamic gallop, forcing business schools to square off with a very different academic landscape.
Monday, March 6, 2017
The Importance of Courting the Right College
As this season's high school juniors slowly slide into the college application season, they may find that things are finally getting real. Having your wheels clicked into the college track is one thing. Picking a university and a major are entirely different affairs.
The majority of high school students don't have concrete long-term plans. There are exceptions, of course, and most have at least a sense of their general interests. It is okay not to know, but students shouldn't be afraid to do some exploring.
This is the time to reach out to professors. These are the people who aren't typically on the front lines of college admissions. Those jobs are reserved for the marketing department. Getting to know faculty will help students to distinguish between schools that look good and schools that are a good fit for their specific needs.
Professors are likely to be impressed by high school students who are doing their homework on the university. Email them. Ask to sit in on a class. Ask questions about course content. Tell them you're not sure what you want to do. If you reach the interview stage, you'll be able to say that you've taken the initiative to get to know a little about the school and its instructors-stuff you can't necessarily find on the brochure.
It's okay to sit in your uncertainty. Indecision need not be paralytic. College application season is intense but short. Like every transition in life, it will fortify the texture of your experience. Any good professor knows all of this. And they don't have to be your teacher to give you some really important guidance.
As a prospective student, you really have nothing to lose.
Monday, February 27, 2017
LSAT and the Problem with Merit-Based Scholarships
For roughly 27 years, the current form of the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) has worked as the primary arbiter of law school admissions. The test, which has existed in various forms since the late 1940s, was originally administered as a measure of the capacity of prospective law students that would allow assessment outside of GPA. Like the SAT for undergraduates, the test has been mandatory for decades.
Like the SAT, the LSAT appears to be a good quantitative measure of student success. Students with higher LSAT scores are more likely to do well in law school and are more likely to pass the bar exam. They are also far more likely to receive merit-based scholarships. All of this sounds pretty standard-fair even-until one reads between the lines.
A recent report by LSSSE, indicates that just 20% of law school scholarship money is need-based. LSAT scores skew along racial lines, meaning that white students are receiving the majority of the merit-based scholarships. This means that race is not only a barrier to access, it can be a barrier to financial aid, and a factor that contributes to adverse levels of financial an emotional stress for students of color.
Because the LSAT is bound so tightly to rankings, law schools are further incentivized to tie scholarship money to students with higher scores. And while there is nothing wrong with merit-based scholarships, one of the effects of the real-world trends, according to LSSSE, is that students of color are effectively subsidizing the education costs of their wealthier, white counterparts.
In a profession where prestige is the primary capital, precise academic measurement tools like the LSAT have a multitude of purposes. It does have the effect of separating the better performing students from their peers. It is an effective indicator of bar passage—a metric vital to law school rankings. Unfortunately, it remains a marker of the ongoing inequity that has also become a long-term fixture in the world of legal education and beyond.
Monday, February 20, 2017
When Social Media Can Help on Your College Application
There has been much ado about the ways in which social media can ruin a first impression. Job-seekers and college applicants would do well to remember to scrub their profiles before putting their best foot forward. Let's be honest, who hasn't stalked someone's Facebook profile? Or even judged a profile picture? There's a lot to be learned about a person's politics, interests, humor and dislikes.
But shouldn't that cut both ways? Social media can also be a window into someone's positive passions. It can illuminate the ways in which a person is engaged in their community. It can be an outlet for their creativity, and a way to read between the lines about who they really are.
Which is why some colleges are paying attention to the good stuff. Students generally pack applications with all the things they think colleges want to know. Social media profiles can give colleges access to the things they'd like to know about their prospective students. This is the part of their persona that isn't scripted.
Certain colleges-graduate business schools, in particular-are very responsive to LinkedIn profiles. The professional focus of LinkedIn gives students an opportunity to learn how to package and brand themselves. It can offer admissions committees insight into a student’s practical acumen.
It's worth bearing mention that social media-like the interview and the essay-takes a back seat to metrics like GPA and standardized test scores. It is still a soft factor. Yet, in a tremendously competitive arena, there's little harm in polishing every corner of the snapshot. You never know who might be giving it a hard second look.
Monday, February 13, 2017
With College Admissions, There’s No Easy Formula
As someone who regularly blogs on the topic of college admissions, I'm always on the hunt for good insights. Though many people try, few can honestly tell students precisely what colleges are looking for, or what qualities they'll need in order to get admitted. The truth is almost always nuanced, and college admissions is no exception.
Of course, there is no shortage of data-collection on the topic. People who analyze these metrics consistently return the same "answers"; grades continue to matter most in an evaluation of a student's prospects. Test scores are a close second. The quality of a student's high school is also critical. Still, much of the buzz surrounding college admissions focuses on other areas: the essay, volunteer work, race, sex, nationality, legacy admissions, and so on.
All of those factors matter, of course, but they aren't as measurable. Because people can't put a finger on their persuasiveness, they become fertile topics for discussion. In social media parlance, they are "click bait".
Imagine you are in the driver's seat on an admissions board, deciding a student's fate. Would you pick the B-student who'd traveled to rural China to tutor impoverished children for a summer, or the straight-A student with two years of high school tennis? Is it an easy answer? Not likely.
The cautious evaluation simply makes more sense. A student who attends a challenging school and has earned solid grades over the course of four years has already shown a degree of commitment and consistency that would otherwise be difficult to appraise. It just doesn't make for an interesting sound byte.
As always, there will be exceptions. Grades do not define a student, and the social playing field is not level-which means that ongoing discourse about admission metrics is important. We just can't always expect it to be entertaining.
Monday, February 6, 2017
Advantages of the Gap Year for Med School Students
As someone who never moved much past high school biology, I've long regarded medical students as a different breed. They understand organic chemistry and blood doesn't make them squeamish. They also go to school for a really, really long time. Which is why I was a little bemused to discover that the medical school gap year is actually a thing.
In weighing the gap year option, there appears to be a couple of camps. The first school of thought sees the gap year as an opportunity to erase an applicant's weaknesses. The second sees the gap year as a chance to broaden an applicant's life experiences.
The gap year is a potential antidote for a poor undergraduate GPA or low MCAT score, allowing students to offset anemic transcripts with valuable clinical experience. The year presents opportunity for tackling additional academic courses, retaking the MCAT, or developing working relationships that will lead to stronger recommendation letters.
On the flipside, the gap year is fertile ground for bolstering life experience. Pre-med students can take on research positions or volunteer posts in the medical field, which can be useful in helping students hone in on a specialty. There are domestic options like Americorps, and international aid organizations offering invaluable practical experience to would-be medical professionals.
Taking the year out to work is a great way to set aside financial reserves to pay for medical school. Soul-searching has the potential to spice up med-school interviews. Clinical experience is invaluable. Maturity is a good thing when you're managing people's health and well being.
Whether they'll get rusty in chemistry is another thing.
Friday, February 3, 2017
When College Application Information Gets Too Personal
Over the past several years, American universities have begun creating space for something new on their entrance applications: gender identity. The space takes different forms. Duke University earned recognition for offering an optional essay prompt inviting students to discuss things such as gender identity and cultural influences, on the premise that students may want to share other dimensions of their self-identification.
Last Spring, the Common Application-used by over 400 universities and colleges-announced that it would be introducing an optional essay question that would allow students to discuss their gender identity. They even begun to include a drop-down menu option (also optional), where students could enter their "sex assigned at birth".
Dozens of universities have followed suit across the nation. In California, all community colleges and California State University campuses invite student-applicants to designate one of several gender and sex identities.
For LGTBIA students and their allies, these options create a safe space and an invitation to discuss the ways in which being gender non-conforming affects their approach to their worlds.
But the news hasn't been universally welcome. College admissions is competitive, and some critics see these new identity options as a threat to the neutrality of the system. They worry that gender non-conforming students may be given preference in admissions. They fear that gender identity-like race-could be used by colleges to populate a diverse student body.
By most external metrics, colleges rely most heavily on grades and test scores in making admissions decisions; essays can tip the scale for students on the bubble. Beyond that is anyone's guess.
College admissions is still inherently opaque. No one knows exactly why some students are admitted and others aren't. It isn't and cannot be a scientific process. So people speculate, and worry that someone will be given an unfair advantage.
This is the nature of the competitive game, and it isn't always pretty.
Tuesday, January 31, 2017
Moving Through Rejection
A few weeks back, I spoke with a close friend who is in the process of applying for positions as an adjunct professor of psychology. This woman has spent many years in school. She finished her dissertation just months after having her second child. She was elated when she finished and successfully defended it. Knowing that the job market in her desired area was tough, she sent out fifteen applications for professorships in the first month after earning her degree.
Every single one of them turned her down.
She told me she planned to send out the second round within the next month. Was she disappointed? Sure. Did her confidence take a hit? Yeah. Did she wonder if she'd picked the right field? A little. Was she going to keep searching? Absolutely.
I'll be honest. I couldn't imagine having skin that thick. She took it in stride. "They just weren't the right fit".
Thick skin and quiet introspection are things that take years to cultivate. It seems crazy to ask seventeen-year-olds to "relax" about college admission. Disappointment, however, is part of life. And failing to get into a dream college is a pretty benign and high-quality disappointment. (#firstworldproblems)
This doesn't make it any easier to take, but it should serve as a reminder to high school students about the relative importance of a specific college. I'm not suggesting that students lower the bar, merely that they be pragmatic. With acceptance rates at the top universities hovering in the single digits, the odds are you won't be part of that world, and that's okay.
Most of us will never be astronauts either.
If you're grappling with success at the collegiate level, you've already got a foot firmly on the ladder. The ascent may take on many forms, and that's okay too.
Labels: Moving Through Rejection
Tuesday, January 17, 2017
Making Sense of Your College Financial Aid Package
Big changes this year to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) have meant that students can apply for aid three full months earlier than they had in past years. This means that they will receive notice of their aid packages earlier-in many cases before getting acceptance letters from universities.
The cost of college is often a deciding factor for students in selecting a university. The gap between the college acceptance notifications and the financial aid package notifications has long made this a difficult conundrum for college hopefuls. What good is a Stanford acceptance if your family can't afford to send you there?
Yet even beyond these positive changes in application timing, understanding a financial aid package can be confusing. Often, students are awarded aid in several forms-loans, grants and even scholarships. Deciphering which is which is crucial. Additionally, different universities itemize costs in different ways; for example, it may be that they build cost of living and tuition into their estimated costs, but neglect to factor in books or other required fees.
Consumer Reports recently advised students to take initiative with universities regarding ongoing aid. Colleges sometimes offer generous packages for the first year in order to entice students to attend, but those packages may be quietly contingent upon things such as GPA. Additionally, since FAFSA asks students to update income sources each year, the stream of aid is not always guaranteed.
Financial aid is a confusing but critical factor that most students will have to negotiate as they make their decision.
Monday, January 16, 2017
LSAT Discrimination Case Reaches U.S. Supreme Court
It has been over five years since Angelo Binno, a prospective law school student from Michigan, first filed his discrimination lawsuit against the American Bar Association (ABA). Binno, who is blind, claimed that a particular written portion of the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT), could not feasibly be completed by an applicant who could not see. Because the LSAT is (essentially) a requirement for admission to any accredited law school in America, Binno asserted that the exam's failure to provide adequate accommodations for students with disabilities rendered it discriminatory.
Since 2011, Binno's claims have been repeatedly rejected as his case winds its way through the lower courts. Several courts have ruled for the ABA because it does not actually administer the test. This is where the context is complex. The ABA is empowered in part by the U.S. Department of Education as the primary regulating body for U.S. law schools. In recent years, the ABA has been criticized by the USDoE for getting too lax in admissions standards. In turn, the ABA has put the screws to several lower-performing law schools, putting them on probation and threatening to pull their accreditation.
In the past, the ABA granted LSAT waivers to students with disabilities, a policy that has since been abolished. Binno's attorneys argue that the ABA's failure to grant waivers to students like him is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The U.S. Supreme Court has yet to grant Binno review of the matter. If they do not, it will prove the end of the line for Binno's suit against the ABA.
Monday, January 9, 2017
Edit Edit Edit
The famously shrewd wit Mark Twain once advised writers to "Substitute 'damn' every time you're inclined to write 'very;' your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be." To be fair, many students writing at the high school level may not yet have a healthy fear of adverbs. But in college essays, there is no single act as crucial as excising needless words.
At the practical level, students need to learn how to keep it simple. It's rare to find a university that accepts an undergraduate essay of longer than 650 words. Many universities require pesky supplements-often as short as 150 words. Brevity is an effective straight jacket.
Still, what I see in many student essays are hundreds of itinerant words in search of a purpose. Often, teenage writers get mired in the challenge of picking a topic. They understand the weight of import of the admission essay. So they tie themselves in knots trying to brainstorm the perfect story, where no such thing exists.
There are stories lurking in every corner. It may be about that patchwork quilt on your bed that your grandmother stitched for you. It could be that time you got your remote-control drone caught in your neighbor's tree. What it shouldn't be is 500 meandering words bookended by lots of "verys".
Twain's admonition to strip words had to do with the very character of the narrative. For college hopefuls, shedding needless adjectives will help force them to get to the heart of the story. It will necessarily suffocate platitudes, forcing the writer to say something of true import.
And if none of this made any sense-my take-away is simple. Edit, edit, edit. Sleep on it. Pass your essay around to friends, family, teachers; I promise they will see things that you cannot. But remember not to lose your voice. It isn't necessarily what you write about, but how passionately you write about it. "Very" is not a passionate word. Get rid of it, and move on.
Labels: Edit Edit Edit
Saturday, January 7, 2017
Keeping Parents Calm During College Admissions Season
For most students, the applications have already been done. Even the latest admissions deadlines passed around the first of the year. Now, the hardest part of the process begins. The wait.
It will be another couple of months before decisions start rolling in. And the people most worried of all might not be the students themselves, but their parents.
Sure, college-bound kids these days are more stressed than ever about "getting in". The admission rates are down, the market is competitive, and only the wealthiest of students can afford consultants. It's no longer a simple game of grades and a top-notch personal statement.
Still, parents are viewing the process through both the reasoned lens of experience, and the totally irrational lens of a parent wanting the best for their children. Parents understand that leveraging a quality education is increasingly crucial to stay competitive in the job market. Parents who have gone to college may understand how vital the college years were to their own emotional development. Parents who haven't gone to college may be desperate to see their kids enjoy greater successes than they did.
Like any season of parenting, the hardest and most profound act a parent may take is surrendering. Control is an illusion. The admission or rejection will come in its own time, and the parent's job will be the same as always: helping your child navigate their new reality with love and support.
After all, by the time your children are headed off to college, most of the good parenting work has already been done. Breathe, and let them go.
Monday, January 2, 2017
Do Colleges Really Care About Community Service
Most parents of teenagers will tell you that even the brightest and most driven of their offspring still neglect to pick their wet towels up off the bathroom floor. So when it comes to encouraging high school students to engage in community service, is there a way to ensure that the volunteering is being done for the right reasons?
The community service essay is a thing. It usually morphs into some version of "I gained far more from them than they did from me". Student travels to a developing nation or a local soup kitchen, experiences sharp social awakening, and returns home with new sense of perspective and gratitude.
It's unfortunate that this trope has become so trite. Because there are absolutely students who volunteer for the right reasons, and cathartically emerge from the experience with unclouded eyes. The problem is, the admissions game has gotten so competitive, it's near impossible to separate the mockups from the genuine articles. Students understand that universities are looking for well-rounded candidates, and that, where all else is equal (grades/test scores) the soft factors may be the deciding factors.
What it comes down to is a student's ability to show, not tell. If the soup kitchen truly changed the way a student viewed their world, it is likely to reveal itself through their other chosen experiences. Their passion will surface through their words; laundry lists of charity 5Ks won't fool anyone.
Above all, colleges do care about these kinds of experiences, but they are only a small piece of the whole student.
Tuesday, December 27, 2016
Changing the Face of Legal Research
In the world of higher education, the appearance of prestige is almost as important as prestige itself. The Ivies, and other universities with well-regarded stature also immediately have access to other important things-good faculty, wealthy students, and, wealthy alumni. This isn't to say that auspicious learning institutions aren't actually of higher quality than their counterparts. Still, perception is reality.
This is nowhere truer than in the law school arena in the United States. The American Bar Association is the governing body which accredits and oversees the nation's schools. All of the top schools are ABA accredited. There are a constellation of requirements that schools must meet in order to merit accreditation. One of them has to do with the size and scope of the school's law library. With the growth of on-line research libraries, this component is arguably becoming a more dated metric.
Which is why I was encouraged to find a recent story about a Harvard Law graduate, who is also the head of a start-up company Ravel Law. The graduate-Romeen Sheth-and his alma mater have recently partnered on a $10 million project to digitize Harvard's entire law library, making it accessible to—gasp-the public.
Symbolically, this is a big deal. Unaccredited law schools often remain that way solely because they lack a bricks and mortar library. New legal practitioners pay top dollar for access to databases like Lexis-Nexis. Non-legal professionals have long struggled to find public access to all but lengthy troves of actual statutes.
Digitizing actual libraries suddenly means that institutions like Harvard can no longer keep a golden lock on the doors of their research libraries. It isn't clear what kind of price tag companies like Ravel intend to attach to the digital information, but it does mean that one need not be a Harvard student to have access to its annals of knowledge.
Will members of the public clamor for this digital library? Maybe not. Arcane case law isn't for everyone. But in theory, access to it should be. I, for one, would like this to cause a shift in a very old tide of thought.
Tuesday, December 20, 2016
Social Media Creating New Hurdle for Law Students?
Across the U.S. there are two components to bar admission for every attorney in the country. A law exam, and a moral exam. The vetting process can take months or even years, depending on the particular state. The central regulating body-the National Conference of Bar Examiners-promises aspiring attorneys that they may be waiting 3-4 months for the results of the background checks.
The fitness exams run the gamut and will look into everything from criminal history to professional misconduct. Some states require law students to list speeding tickets. Areas such as mental health and substance abuse can get particularly sticky; such investigations can run afoul of privacy concerns proscribed by the Americans with Disabilities Act, and substance abuse history is arguably not a barrier to practice for attorneys in recovery. Still, the character exams leave few stones unturned.
Which is why it should come as little surprise that investigators may turn to social media accounts of applicants during the vetting process. What better way to uncover a person's moral fitness to practice law than by checking their Facebook page? I write this with only a whiff of sarcasm. While it seems unlikely that a sordid tweet may preclude an otherwise squeaky-clean candidate from bar admission, unsavory online behavior could be the straw that breaks the proverbial camel's back. (Unless you're the President-Elect).
Take the case of Otion Gjini, a Maryland bar applicant whose appeal of his admission denial was affirmed, based mostly on an undisclosed criminal history. But in the course of their review, the regulating body found a series of sexist and homophobic rants on Gjini's Facebook page, which, they claimed, would tend to "breed disrespect for the courts and for the legal profession".
Should all law students rush to scrub their social media profiles? As a matter of professional practice, it isn't a bad idea, but with a looming character and fitness exam, it may just be common sense.
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