Monday, September 19, 2016
Dear Mr. Bradshaw,
I will begin college next fall and want to make sure I get off to a good start. I hope to pursue a career in law. What advice can you give me about preparing for a top law school.
Future College Freshman
Dear Future Freshman,This is a question I wish all students who are entering college would ask.
If you want to be accepted into a top-tier law school, you will need to concentrate on your studies from the get-go and build a top-notch grade-point average. At the beginning of your junior year start studying like a fanatic for the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), which you should take no later than in the fall of your senior year.
Do not think that as a college freshman you can afford to kick back and blow off your grades for a year, and then make up for it during your sophomore, junior and senior years. Be forewarned that there is never enough time to overcome a weak first-year GPA. I define a weak GPA as 3.5 or less on a 4.0 scale. You may gain admission to a marginal law school with a lower GPA, but job opportunities from those law schools will be few and far between. Remember that your academic performance in the first three years of college will count most when you apply to law school, and good grades in your freshman year are critical in building a solid GPA.
Although your last three years may show evidence of what well-meaning academic advisers call "an indication of improvement trend" that will not pull any weight with potential law, medical or business school officials as they sift through transcripts of undergraduates who aced their first-year classes. It is a buyer's market, and poor grades in the freshmen year can devalue your transcript by as much as 25 percent.
Some students also think the freshman year is a time to experiment with classes to find out where their true intellectual and creative selves lie. As a result, grades plunge as students struggle with symbolic logic and Advanced Placement French. Do not fall into this trap or you may find that you need a fifth undergraduate year to bolster your academic record.
It is important to have a career strategy in mind when you enter college. When you do not have the slightest idea about a major, you end up taking a hodgepodge of classes, selected for you by academic advisers more interested in filling open classes than helping you define a career strategy and build your GPA. If you want to pursue a law degree, take courses that relate to the area of law in which you hope to specialize.
Typically the hardest classes to ace are the so-called "required" or general education subjects that must be taken in order to fulfill degree and graduation requirements. While some of these classes must be taken in sequence, they can often be postponed until a student's junior or senior years when your body of knowledge will make them easier to handle.
I encourage my clients to consider applying for internships during their summer breaks. Some of the most successful business and professional people I know enhanced their education and professional acumen with summer employment. Once again be reminded that with anything lower than a 3.5 freshman GPA, you can kiss an internship at a top consulting firm or investment bank goodbye.
There are close to 3,000 colleges to choose from nationwide and admission to these colleges is complicated. Bradshaw College Consultants takes the pressure off by ensuring that your college search experience is one to look forward to rather than dread.
Gerald Bradshaw is an international college admission consultant with Bradshaw College Consulting in Crown Point.
Bradshaw College Consulting
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