Don’t Let Your Obstacles Define You (Ep. 357)

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Admissions season is almost here, and listener questions are rolling in. On this week’s episode, Ben and Nathan advise a student on whether to make her battle with cancer the topic of her law school personal statement. But first, they evaluate a listener’s Reading Comprehension tip as a pearl or turd. They share their thoughts on online education and consider the pros and cons of attending a non-ABA law school. Plus, they answer questions about LSAT study schedules, testing accommodations, letters of recommendation, and more!

As always, if you like the show and want to get more from the Thinking LSAT community, check out the links below. You can connect with other folks studying for the LSAT and get more useful resources from Nathan and Ben.

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7.26.2022 — September LSAT registration deadline

8.12.2022 — August LSAT begins

8.31.2022 — August LSAT scores released

9.9.2022 — September LSAT begins

9.28.2022 — September LSAT scores released

5:05 - Testing Accommodations 

Listener Jasmine is considering applying for extended time on the LSAT. Her ADHD diagnosis should make her eligible for testing accommodations. But she’s worried that if she requests extra time, law schools may view her score differently. Though her concern is valid, Ben and Nathan assure Jasmine that LSAC does not disclose testing accommodations to law schools. As long as Jasmine doesn’t volunteer the information, law schools won’t know that she had extended time.

10:26 - Pearls vs. Turds

Today’s Pearls vs. Turds candidate is a Reading Comprehension tip from listener Scott. Scott recommends reading books that are written in a stream-of-consciousness style to learn how to juggle multiple threads of information in real time. While he isn’t sure that this exercise helped him, his score improved from 171 to 178, “so it definitely didn’t hurt.” The guys discuss a flaw in Scott’s reasoning and ultimately deem the advice a turd. Read books for pleasure, not to improve your LSAT score. The best way to improve at LSAT Reading Comprehension is to practice actual LSAT Reading Comprehension passages.

Scoreboard: 17 pearls, 63 turds, 24 ties

Got a Pearls vs. Turds candidate? Email

14:56 - Book Recommendations and Lies

Listener Sarah shares a book recommendation that she was reminded of after listening to the TED talk shared on episode 355. The book is called Stolen Focus: Why You Can't Pay Attention—and How to Think Deeply Again, by Johann Hari. Neither Ben nor Nathan have read it, but they thank her for the recommendation. 

Sarah goes on to ask why people lie and describes a law school application story floating around social media. The student who posted the story claims not to have submitted all her undergraduate transcripts with her law school applications. Excluding grades from her first undergraduate institution gave her GPA a big boost. It’s unclear whether the story is fictitious or the student actually got away with not submitting her full undergraduate record. Either way, Ben and Nathan advise listeners not to omit information or lie on law school applications. Even if you get away with it when applying to law school, it could come back to haunt you when applying for admittance to the bar.

19:15 - Non-ABA Law Schools

An anonymous Demon student is considering applying to Concord Law School, which is not ABA-accredited but is accredited by the State Bar of California. Nathan and Ben discuss the drawbacks of attending a non-ABA law school, but there are some exceptions. The guys recommend that Anonymous talk to lawyers in the area they wish to practice before making a decision.

23:00 - Raising Practice Test Scores

Listener Erika started her LSAT prep with a cold diagnostic score of 137. She has been studying for only a month, but she’s feeling discouraged by her practice test scores. Ben advises Erika to break her study goals down into manageable steps. Nathan adds that Erika should focus on understanding one question at a time and carefully review her mistakes.

27:38 - Letters of Recommendation

Listener Sam is preparing to request letters of recommendation through LSAC’s Credential Assembly Service. He noticed that recommenders are able to submit more than one letter each. Should he ask his recommenders to create multiple copies of their letters that refer to each law school by name? Ben and Nathan explain why each recommender should create a single letter that is general and does not name a specific school. 

Sam also points out a major error on the University of Montana’s 509 report. The guys comment on the mistake and remind listeners to check out the LSAT Demon Scholarship Estimator.

31:23 - Skipping the Bar Exam

An anonymous listener heard that some states allow law school graduates to skip the bar exam if they maintain a specific GPA throughout law school. Nathan mentions that Wisconsin is an example. Some states have even removed the bar completely. The guys chat about the purpose of the bar exam.

34:50 - Online Law School 

Listener Nick is considering attending law school online, but he’s concerned that he may not be allowed to sit for the New York Bar. He asks Ben and Nathan for their opinion on whether the New York Bar will change their guidelines in the future. Ben notes that while some ABA-accredited law schools offer distance learning, they aren’t fully online programs. Nathan recommends that Nick call the New York Bar.

40:25 - Don’t Let Your Obstacles Define You

Demon student River recently overcame thyroid cancer while studying for the LSAT. Should she mention her battle with cancer in her personal statement as a way of emphasizing her dedication to pursuing law school? While having dealt with cancer does speak to River’s maturity, the guys encourage her to choose a story that highlights achievements, not obstacles. Focusing on school and work accomplishments may benefit her more than discussing her diagnosis.

45:40 - Study Schedule Advice

An anonymous Demon student raised his score from a diagnostic 148 to a 173 on his most recent practice test. He’s pleased with his progress so far, but he isn’t sure how to structure his study schedule going forward. He also has a week-long commercial fishing trip planned and is afraid of losing his momentum. The guys assure Anonymous that his understanding of the test is not going to regress. Ben recommends that he focus on his weakest section, Reading Comprehension, but still sprinkle in Logical Reasoning and Logic Games throughout the week. Nathan suggests following a variant of this study schedule.

52:48 - Changing Careers

Demon student James is considering switching careers to become a lawyer and eventually take over his father’s firm. He’s interested in an accelerated two-year JD program in Boston. The biggest thing holding him back is the cost of living in Boston for his family of six while he attends law school. Should he cash in his life savings to attend law school? Or should he just stick with his present career? The guys weigh several options and suggest that James consider a part-time law school program rather than quit his job.