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Putting Your Strengths in the Right Context

One of my favorite accomplishments as an admissions consultant involved working with a law school applicant whose undergrad major was engineering. His problem was that his undergrad GPA really didn't give a fair picture of how smart he was, or of how good a student he was, because his coursework had been so demanding.

My client had graduated from one of the toughest programs in the country – a place that definitely does not practice grade inflation. His final GPA just topped 2.0.

Unfortunately, the client's LSAT was about 163. That's decent but not superstar level. It wasn't enough in itself to offset concerns that would be raised by his low GPA.

He had applied to a bunch of law schools on his own the year before we worked together. It was easy for me to identify that he didn't get in anywhere, not even at some third tier schools that I thought were below his potential.

It wasn't hard to see what the problem was when I reviewed his old application. His personal statement, resume, and recommendations had the completely wrong focus. As a former Director of Admissions, it was easy for me to identify that he didn't say anything anywhere that put his undergrad GPA in proper perspective.

It's the kind of mistake that a lot of people with strong quantitative training make. They present the data and expect that people will understand it. I explained to my client that this wasn't enough, and that he had to put his numbers in context.

We revised everything. I had him completely re-do his letters of recommendation, getting them from different people this time, and highlighting different things. We re-did his resume, too.

We worked really hard on his personal statement to reinforce those points made elsewhere in his application.  By the time we were done, his candidacy was seamless, as opposed to sketchy and meandering.

This applicant was offered admission at some excellent schools.  He ultimately accepted an offer at a top 20 school with a scholarship. To think about the third tier schools that turned him down on the first go-around is amazing.

This is a good guy who'll make a fine lawyer. I'm pleased that I helped him get over the hurdles that could have kept him from ever achieving that goal.

- Contributed by Senior Consultant Amy Johnson, J.D.

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