I am. I did. I do. (Ep. 298)

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It’s the start of personal statement season for students who are applying to law school this fall. If you’re struggling to organize your story or don’t know where to begin, Nathan and Ben offer up an easy-to-follow strategy. Break it down into three basic parts: I am. I did. I do. The guys also answer another Logical Reasoning question from PrepTest 73, take a look at an article about law school debt, answer questions from the listener mailbag, and discuss the perils of mixing alcohol with LSAT prep.

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Important Dates

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

7:28 – I am. I did. I do.

First up, the guys discuss last week’s LSAT Demon newsletter, in which Nathan laid out a basic formula for writing a law school personal statement. It’s not a magic formula, and other approaches may work as well. But if you’re having trouble getting started, here’s one way to get unstuck. The basic formula: I am. I did. I do. (And, optionally, I will.)

The “I am” should be a brief statement of who you are today. This gives the reader a foundation for the story you’re going to tell. Nathan and Ben recommend a standalone paragraph of only one or two sentences.

Then take a step back in time to begin your story. “I did” should tell the reader how you got to where you are today. Spend about half a page on this section.

“I do” should be the longest section of your essay. Law schools are primarily interested in the person you are today. Tell them about your current role at work or a project you’re working on. Talk about what you do now. Demonstrate skills that a real lawyer would use every day. Be enthusiastic and positive. Make yourself look like a winner.

Most people can end it there. If you’ve studied or worked in any area related to law or business, the reasons you’re applying will be evident to the reader. But if your experience is in an unrelated discipline and the transition to law is not obvious, then add one final piece to the formula: “I will.” This should be a single sentence explaining why you are now pivoting to law school.

That’s it. Follow those steps to get a first draft on the page. Then you can start revising and polishing it. Ben and Nathan add that if you’re really dreading writing your personal statement, you might want to reconsider what you’re getting yourself into. Lawyers are professional writers, after all.

40:40 – How much does law school cost?

Law school tuition has skyrocketed. An article by Holly Johnson cites the average debt accrued by law students at a staggering $145,500. Even after adjusting for inflation, tuition is almost three times more expensive now than it was in 1985. Ben and Nathan point out that a big part of the problem—not mentioned in the article—is the scholarship arms race. Law schools compete for the best applicants by offering larger and larger scholarships. Those scholarships are paid for by the exploitatively high tuition they charge most students. It’s a broken system. But you don’t have to fall into the trap: Just don’t pay. Be one of the people who gets a scholarship. If you pay full price, remember you’re probably paying for yourself and someone else who’s there for free.

46:55 – Law school debt

The discussion of law school debt leads us into our first listener email. Sarah is tied up in knots trying to decide between two offers. She was fully committed to UT Austin—found an apartment with roommates and everything—then she got an email from UW Madison upping their scholarship offer to a full ride. She has one week to decide and asks Ben and Nathan for their advice. Here’s the predicament: She has $60,000 in savings for law school and estimates that her debt after graduating from UT would be about $60–70,000. Her other option is to graduate from UW with a surplus of $20–30,000. Also, she’s visiting Madison and prefers it to Austin.

So why is she so conflicted? She’s worried that she’d be selling herself short by going to Wisconsin. Nathan and Ben check the rankings and determine that these schools are not ranked differently according to the “100% rule.” That means their relative ranks (16th versus 29th) should not factor into her decision. The guys agree that Sarah should pick UW and not think twice about it. Without any debt, she’ll have much more freedom to pursue public interest, which is what she says she’s most passionate about. She’ll also be better positioned to succeed in the academic competition at UW and will have access to the best opportunities they have to offer—far from selling herself short. Best of luck, Sarah!

1:01:36 – Logical Reasoning Question 4 from LSAT PrepTest 73

Some people might describe this type of question as a “principle question.” But Nathan and Ben explain why that’s not really a thing. The word “principle” has no special meaning. Ben says to replace it with the simpler term, “rule.” Nathan says you can cross it out entirely and it won’t change the meaning of the passage or the question. “Which one of the following judgments conforms most closely to the principle stated above?” All this means is, “What has to be true given what was just said?” The answer is a straightforward application of the rule.

1:15:18 – Don’t be hungover for the LSAT

Ben shares a funny comment that came in through the Demon Ask button this week: “Today I learned not to be hungover for the LSAT. That is all.” Yep. Alcohol is poison. As Nathan notes, when you’re hungover, it’s because you poisoned yourself the night before. Generally speaking, poison is not good for cognitive performance. Nathan talks about his 90-day sobriety experience. He’s been sleeping better, he’s more productive at work—writing more and teaching two more classes per week—and he’s more patient with students. Ben says to remember you’re in a competition that’s dependent on your brain. Would you deliberately impair yourself for any other kind of competition? For many people, step one of LSAT prep is to stop drinking—it’s probably diminishing your cognitive performance.

1:20:50 – Jumping back into the LSAT game

E took a two-month hiatus from studying and is now ready to jump back into the LSAT game. They have a score of 150 on record from January. E is currently registered for the June test but is still scoring in the 150s and wants at least a 165 before applying this fall. Should E shoot for June or postpone the test until August? No need to make a decision just yet—you have until May 29th to change your June registration for free. Prep hard for the next couple of weeks, as if you’re taking the June test, and see where you are at the end of May. Come to Nathan’s June LSAT Study Group (open to anyone with a Demon Free account) and ask questions.

1:26:24 – Too late to apply for fall ‘21 admission?

Jason has been in the military for 10 years and was recently selected to participate in a career intermission program. He’s decided to pursue law school to become a JAG officer. But there is one caveat: His three-year intermission starts this fall. Is it a dumb idea to apply for admission this year, with a June LSAT score? In most cases, Nathan and Ben would agree that applying this late is indeed a dumb idea. However, military applicants are an exception because their tuition costs are generally covered by the GI Bill. If all he has to do is get admitted, and Uncle Sam is paying for it, they don’t have any problem with Jason applying this cycle.