I’ve had many successful candidates cross my paths; most usually pursue the goal of getting into a top school through the usual path – good LSAT, good GPA, excellent application package. Occasionally, however, I work with a student who has the ‘big picture’ in mind and is more focused on their career direction after getting their degree.

One student in recent memory stands out as a great example. An immigrant – we’ll call him Rick – who had attended undergraduate school in the US and was driven to become a successful lawyer. The problem was, he didn’t stand out as a “star.” His LSAT landed at 156 and his GPA was a relatively weak 3.26.

Because he had such a great grasp of the ‘big picture’, I decided the best approach for him was not apply to the top 20 schools, but instead go for some lower-ranked ones with the idea to transfer into one of the more selective ones. It’s a rarely used strategy; but for Rick it was perfect. I was sure that if he did well during the first term, he could easily get accepted into a higher-ranked school.

We worked through his application package and got everything in order. Using the essays, Rick presented a great overall picture of himself – his personal story was fascinating – and communicated his career vision. He was accepted and chose to attend Hofstra.

And in his first semester, he landed a stunning 3.86 GPA.

After working hard for a year and showing himself as an exemplary student, Rick then came back and we prepared some strong applications that were able to help him transfer to a top 14 school. Rick just completed a successful summer associate program at a prestigious New York law firm.

All because he had his vision fixed on where he wanted to go with his degree. He understood that to succeed, sometimes you have to find the road less traveled.

– Contributed by Senior Consultant Heike Spahn, a former Associate Director of Admissions and Assistant Dean of Financial Aid at the University of Chicago Law School.

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