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Two years and 175 LSAT questions ago, things were different. It was the summer after college, and my brain was on autopilot from the minute I moved my tassel from left to right. Or was it right to left? Whatever. The Kaplan Prep Class that I dragged myself to each week served only as a hindrance to my newfound freedom from academia, a reminder that I wasn’t any good at ridiculous word and number games, that logical phrases can be written so strangely as to render them illogical and that I should have studied more anthropology because damn if the anthro reading passages weren’t fascinating. Walking into the test in late September 1998, a week before moving 2,000 miles from home, I was thinking about 20 different things, and was anything but ready — or motivated for that matter — to explain how four toys of differing color and shape can fit on three shelves in six ways. Needless to say, I didn’t do well on the LSAT and I failed in my fruitless attempt to get into a fancy school — in my mind it was all or nothing. The rejection left me feeling pathetic, stupid and, later, lucky. I’d been handed a gift –albeit cloaked — to have a “real” job for a couple of years, spend money a little recklessly and maybe along the way figure out what I liked, loved and hated about life outside of school. Why do you think the average age of first-year law students is 26? Law school is a hard decision to make straight out of undergrad, on a few levels. Mentally, committing to something that promises greater academic challenge and hardship is daunting. Financially, the cost of law school — especially private schools — is overwhelming. Two years later, I took the LSAT again and did a little better. More importantly, I was committed to the idea of going to law school. So now I’m in your uncomfortable shoes. SETTLING THE SCORE By now, you know your test score. Either embrace it or reject it and start studying to take the LSAT again in February or June. What’s the rush? Don’t worry, even if you miss applying for next fall, you still might be able to help litigate the presidential election recount in four years at the rate things are moving. But if you simply must apply this year lest you melt from living outside the ivory academic tower too long, listen up. APPLICATION HELL This month, some of us are scrambling to finish up applications before the holidays really kick in. In the words of Mr. T, “I pity the fool!” who’s applying to more than 10 schools. If you are that fool, well, good luck and make sure to use one of the electronic resources that our good friends at LSDAS provide. Just go to the site www.lsac.org. Ah, yes, LSDAS. That’s another anxiety attack all by itself. The law school service strives to streamline the whole process. We give LSDAS our transcripts, letters of recommendation, slip ‘em some cash, and they send all our stuff to the schools of our choice. Not too shabby � if you’re on top of things. Expect delays. Expect mistakes. Expect to call LSDAS multiple times and bitch to someone with a thick New Joisey accent. LSDAS receives thousands of pieces of mail to sort through and file. That’s understandable, but this is your future so be aggressive about making sure everything is right. This year, one of the names on my letters of recommendation was spelled incorrectly. “Are you shooore?” the other end of the phone implored. “Yes, of course I’m sure! Besides, why would she misspell her own name on the form?!” True, once the personal statement is written and a resume-type document for all the employment and honors/scholarships questions is created and saved, the homestretch is near. After that — assuming you didn’t opt for the electronic applications — each application requires either typed or ever-so neatly written responses. My advice (I’ve done it both ways) is write it in pencil first, edit it and ink it in. Unless your handwriting looks like a doctor’s medical prescription, save some time and money and print the application. I’ve never heard of people getting into Harvard Law School because they typed their application. “Look here, she’s got a 145 and a 2.9 but this is the prettiest application I’ve ever seen. How could we have been so blind?!” If, like me, you downloaded some applications from the schools’ Web site, you’ll notice there’s no little postcard. Well, this postcard is for your peace of mind anyway, so, per the advice from one school, I included a self-addressed and stamped envelope. The admissions people inserted one of those little cards that I was missing, sent it back to me and voila! I was able to know when/if my application was received. Once you write out the checks (which probably help pay for those ridiculous view books with shamelessly photo-shopped photos of campus, and the gratuitous ones of a professor happily helping a female student, a male student and a minority student), it’s time to check your list, make copies of the application for your own files and exorcise that application from your possession. Sending applications can be so sweet � but not at this time of year. Borrowing from Mr. T once again, “I pity the fool!” who goes to the post office to mail their applications during the Christmas season. You’re stressed enough as it is. The last thing you need is to end up in some dismal government building waiting in line for 45 minutes watching the digital news screen, wondering if it’s ever going to show the horoscope for Sagittarius. “C’mon!! Virgo was up there twice already!” Instead, save your sanity, and either pay for a ton of stamps or go to a place like Mail Boxes Etc. It cost me about the same to mail my manila enveloped applications there as it did the next day when I tried the post office. So now it’s over, right? Wrong. Financial aid applications are next. But you have time. Depending on your age, get ready to find out all your parents’ financial secrets. No longer when you ask how much they make, can they look at you sweetly and say “more than $100.” And get ready to crunch numbers, make blind estimates and do a little “fuzzy math.” (Thanks, Dubya.) Luckily FAFSA forms and the schools’ financial forms are due in mid February. So, fellow applicants, now we wait. Don’t be surprised if you start receiving e-mail updates from a student at one or more of your schools. And don’t think, “Yeah! I’m in!” when you get these e-mails. I’m convinced that it’s just the school’s way of keeping your interest while they decide whether they like you. It’s a cruel, speculative marketing device. And now that the application process is in the past and the LSAT is a mere haunting memory, throw back some eggnog and call it a year.

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