149 to 178 with Jon-Yin Chong (Ep. 296)

Ben Olson's headshot.

Many students feel the need to apply to law school as soon as possible without reaching their potential on the LSAT. But good things come to those who wait. Nathan and Ben chat with former Demon student Jon-Yin Chong, who started his LSAT journey in 2019 and, after over a year of prep and five attempts at the official test, scored a life-changing score of 178. By postponing his law school applications, he also availed himself of several opportunities that led to his current position at Harvard Law School’s Federal Tax Clinic, which he discusses on today’s episode. Plus, Ben and Nathan consider whether all the questions on LSAT Reading Comprehension are “Must Be Trues,” answer lots of questions from the listener mailbag, and meet Ben’s biggest fan—Copper, the Golden Retriever.

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Important Dates

06.12.2021 – Break out the short sleeves, it’s the June LSAT-Flex testing week!

4:20 – Interview with Jon-Yin Chong

Ben and Nathan are joined by former listener and Demon student Jon-Yin to talk about his LSAT journey and experience working with Harvard Law’s Federal Tax Clinic. Jon-Yin scored a 149 on his diagnostic in 2019 and worked his way up to an official 172 at the time he submitted his applications this past fall. He was offered a full ride to Villanova—a school that he feels is a good fit—but he didn’t get any other great offers. At the same time, Jon-Yin kept up his LSAT prep and, with help from Demon tutor Kalyn, got a 178 on the February test! Now he’s deciding whether to accept his scholarship offer or hold off and reapply with his 178. Nathan and Ben encourage him to apply again next cycle.

Jon-Yin joined Harvard Law’s Federal Tax Clinic as an intern last spring and then was hired as a paralegal in the fall. He shares stories about his experience preparing tax returns and providing tax guidance to low-income clients during the pandemic. Transitioning to virtual tax prep wasn’t easy for many clients who are disabled or lack the technology necessary to send documents virtually. So Jon-Yin put a laptop and printer in his car, donned PPE, and started providing tax prep services pizza-delivery style. Clients would slide documents through the window, and Jon-Yin prepared their tax returns in the back seat of his car. (Awesome new personal statement topic if he decides to reapply to law school, by the way.)

The guys also discuss the benefits of taking time to explore other opportunities before applying to law school. In the past year, Jon-Yin has had experiences that he wouldn’t trade for admission to any law school.

Here are some minor corrections Jon-Yin would like us to note:

The Big Mistake: Gambling income is reported on a W-2G, not a 1099-G. A 1099-G is for certain government payments (unemployment).

The Mistake No One Cares About: I started hearing about IRS automation being an issue for low-income taxpayers in 2017. During the podcast, I initially said it's been an issue for the past four years, then switched to seven. Four years is probably more accurate.

The Thing I Wish I Said: Our income guidelines are linked to your current income, not your income during the tax year at issue. If you made lots of money in 2020 but are currently unemployed, we could take you on as a client.

Here’s how to contact Jon-Yin:

Linkedin: www.linkedin.com/in/jon-yin-mills-chong-2918b1126

Email: jchong@law.harvard.edu

Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School–Federal Tax Clinic: https://www.legalservicescenter.org/

53:42 – On Reading Comprehension, They’re All Must Be Trues

For the past several weeks, Nathan has been writing weekly LSAT lessons for Demon newsletter subscribers (sign up at thinkinglsat.com/demon). Today on the show, he and Ben discuss last week’s lesson, “On Reading Comprehension, They’re All Must Be Trues.” Using the first RC passage of the June 2007 LSAT as an example, the guys talk about each of the question stems: Main Point, Analogy, Stated, Tone, Purpose, Agree—they’re all some variety of Must Be True.

1:17:12 – Admissions and Overqualification

Listener H got a 155 diagnostic score. Then, after six months of what she calls “brainwashing” with Kaplan, H’s score dropped to 143 on the November LSAT. Tragic. Nathan mentions that this is a perfect example of how some prep companies can hinder the potential of a naturally talented student like H by convincing them to abandon their intuitive approach to the test and instead adopt a bunch of useless gimmicks and convoluted theory. Fortunately, a friend introduced H to the LSAT Demon. Four months later, H is scoring in the 167–170 range and plans to retake the official test in June.

H is hoping to attend one of the two big schools in Utah. With a GPA of 3.8 and an LSAT score close to 170, H should be a shoo-in for scholarships. But a friend’s recent experience raises questions about the possibility of being overqualified. He applied to both schools in Utah with a 3.5 GPA and a 179—and was denied admission to both. He called each school to ask why, and they “basically” told him that he was overqualified and they didn’t want him using their scholarship offer as leverage for negotiating with other schools.

Hmmm…that doesn’t sound like something a law school would say. Nathan and Ben suspect that the friend may have heard what he wanted to hear. Yield-protection denials don’t happen nearly as often as people worry about. H should reach out to someone in the admissions office, show genuine interest in the school and staying in Utah (which the friend probably did not do), and expect a full-ride offer.

H also shares some adorable photos of her puppy (Copper) watching intently as Ben explains a logic game in the Demon:

1:25:58 – Advice for a Parent Applying to Law School

Listener L has three kids, is a little older, and is looking at regional schools in northeast Ohio. They have a 148 diagnostic score and just started studying with the Demon. Ben and Nathan’s advice: Work to get the best LSAT score you can. Make that 148 a 160-something, and that’s the difference between not getting admitted and getting a full ride.

1:28:30 – Competitive Admissions Cycles

Anonymous scored an official 177 last summer and applied this cycle but didn’t get any great offers. They decided to withdraw from all waitlists and reapply next cycle—Nathan and Ben approve of this decision. Now Anonymous is wondering what to expect for next cycle in terms of relative competitiveness. This past cycle was the most competitive law school admissions cycle ever. Nathan speculates that we may see some regression to the mean. The numbers for first-time LSAT takers are up for January–February of this year compared to January–February 2020, but there’s no way of knowing how many of those people are applying late this cycle versus applying next cycle. Regardless, for those applying next cycle, Ben and Nathan’s advice is no different: Focus on the things that are in your control. Prepare for the LSAT and get the best score you can get.

1:37:21 – Does a Pass Count as a C?

Mason elected to take classes on a pass/fail basis at the start of the pandemic. His pre-law advisor told him that law schools will likely look at those “passes” as C’s. Pre-law advisors often don’t know what they’re talking about. LSAC calculates your GPA that’s reported to law schools. Call LSAC, and ask them what they do about passes.

1:47:08 – Getting a Head Start on Applications

Aubrey plans to apply for fall 2022 admission and wants to submit her applications as soon as possible. She’s already begun drafting her personal statement and is wondering about school-specific essay prompts. The guys advise her to check out the schools’ applications from last year. If they’re not available online, contact the admissions offices.

1:49:12 – Taking the LSAT More Than Twice

F has taken the LSAT twice but has not yet reached their goal score of 170. They’re wondering whether to take the LSAT again in June, August, or both. Why the hesitation? An admissions counselor at a recent law school forum said that once you take the LSAT more than twice, “we begin to raise a few eyebrows.” Ben and Nathan theorize that, if all else were equal, schools might prefer someone who took it fewer times. (For example, a 170-scorer who took the test once might look better than a 170-scorer who took it five times.) But raising your score 5 points puts your application into another category. A 170 on the fifth try will be preferred over a 163 no matter what.

CORRECTION: In this segment, Nathan said that LSAT Demon teacher, Carl, took the LSAT five times. Carl took the LSAT once.

1:57:00 – When is it Worth Paying for Law School?

Al scored 163 on her first LSAT before finding the podcast. She listened to every episode and ended up scoring a 175 last June. She was offered full scholarships to a few lower-ranked schools around Los Angeles and partial scholarships to UCLA and USC. Now she’s stuck deciding between paying about $18,000/year and paying $0/year. Both Nathan and Ben advise that she should go for free. Odds are that she’ll be at the top of her class at one of the lower-ranked schools, and they can connect her to great opportunities in southern CA.