LL.M.s: How Valuable are They?

LL.M. degrees are on the rise. The number conferred by ABA-approved law schools increased by 65% from 1999 to 2009, according to The National Law Journal. However, it is unclear how beneficial these advanced degrees truly are.

At this time, there is no specific data on LL.M. grads and the employment benefits of individual programs. Many law grads turn to these programs as a way to boost their resumes, especially after graduating from a lower-ranked school. Plus, with the tough job market, an advanced degree affords them an extra year to find a job and make them more hirable in the process.

Yet, do those with LL.M.s stand out from the pack when it comes to hiring decisions? In most cases, no. Tax LL.M.s are advantageous, as is hiring foreign attorneys with LL.M.s for overseas offices. Other than that, there is no indication that a master of laws will facilitate your job search. If you’re seeking a specialized practice, then a very specific LL.M. program might be profitable, but not necessarily for a job at a major firm.

Nevertheless, the ABA lists 295 LL.M. programs, not to mention new programs at NYU School of Law, Duke Law School, and Penn State Dickinson School of Law. At Fordham, the number of students pursuing LL.M.s has more then doubled in the last five years. And some schools are even trying distance learning, such as Boston University School of Law, Southwestern Law School, and Loyola University Chicago School of Law. Offering these programs brings in more tuition dollars without compromising their U.S. News & World Report rankings and ABA accreditation.

So is an LL.M. worthwhile? The jury’s still out on this one, but as with a J.D., think it through before jumping in.   

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Be Careful Not to Start Every Sentence in Your Essay or Personal Statement with “I”

Admissions committees want to learn about you, but be careful that it does not sound like bragging. There is a fine line between confidence and overconfidence or cockiness. A narrative about some experience you have dad might make your application stand out, but be careful not to inflate the importance of what you have done. Be honest as well as modest. 

 This post is excerpted from 101 Tips on Getting Into Medical School by Jennifer C. Welch, who has served as the Director of Admissions at SUNY Upstate Medical School since 2001.


Medical School Admissions News Roundup: School Difficulties, Burnout, Penn Med Updates

  • According to a Medical News Today article, “Students At Risk For Difficulties In Medical School Identified By Study,” there are numerous profile factors that “may prevent or hinder acceptance into a residency program if they do graduate.” The Journal of the American Medical Association study shows that students who entered med school with low MCAT scores, high levels of debt, and who are non-white were “more likely to experience difficulties” such as withdrawing or being dismissed from medical school, or graduating but not passing one or both licensing exams on the first attempt.
  • A Mayo Clinic study shows that 53% of medical students surveyed were “burned-out.” These students were more likely to become involved in unprofessional, dishonest conduct in relation to patient care. Burned-out students were also less likely to show interest in providing medical services to the underserved. According to Liselotte Dyrbey, one of the authors of the study, “This is concerning since burnout is a pervasive problem among medical students, residents, and physicians in practice. As our nation reforms its health care system, it is essential that physicians advocate for patients, promote the public heath, and reduce the barriers to equitable health care. Burnout appears to be a threat to this process.” 4,400 students were surveyed from seven major medical schools – Mayo Medical School, the University of Alabama, the University of California at San Diego, the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, the University of Washington, and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. (Source: Medical News Today, “Med School Burnout Linked to Unprofessional Behavior“)
  • In an effort to diversify its faculty, Penn Med has hired more female faculty members into top academic positions. “The ultimate goal is to create an environment where women can succeed fully in their careers, thus maximizing their contributions to academic medicine and improving the workplace for all faculty, both men and women,” explains Stephanie Abbuhl, executive director of FOCUS, a program that supports the advancement of women in academic medicine. A number of Penn spokespeople further explain that the presence of women in high academic positions is important for two reasons—to show that the medical field is not a men-only field, and to offer role models to the female student population. (Source: The Daily Pennsylvanian, “Penn Med increases numbers of female admins“)
  • Penn Med’s $13 million gift from the National Institute of Health will help fund the school’s new Translational Research Center, set to open in spring 2011. According to a DP article, “Penn Med receives $13 million for new research center,” the center will be devoted to the interdisciplinary mix of “hands-on research laboratories with patient-care facilities.”

Accepted.com Med School Resources:

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Cornell Johnson 2011 MBA Application Questions, Deadlines, Tips


This Cornell Johnson 2011 MBA Application tip post is one of a series of posts providing MBA application and essay advice for applicants to top MBA programs around the world. You can access the entire series at http://blog.accepted.com/acceptedcom_blog/tag/2011-mba-application-tips. My tips for answering Johnson‘s essay questions are in blue below.

Cornell Johnson 2011 MBA Essay Questions

The essay portion of your application gives you the opportunity to candidly demonstrate your attributes and your compatibility with our rich and vibrant program. We require three essays and provide the option for completing an additional (fourth) essay. All re-applicants must complete an additional essay regarding improvements in their applications. Please observe the 400 word limit for each essay.

Essays Required for All Applicants:

1) Describe your greatest professional achievement and how you added value to your organization. (400 word limit) 

Your greatest achievement needs to have had impact – saving money, raising revenue, increasing prestige, adding clients/customers, or contributing to the achievement of some organizational goal.

As you answer this question, keep in mind Johnson‘s general management, team, and project orientation. I am not saying that sitting in a lab in isolation and elegantly solving a long-standing mathematical problem won’t help you at all. But I suspect that working with multiple stakeholders on a marketing plan that resulted in gang-buster sales would have more punch.

2) What career do you plan to pursue upon completion of an MBA degree and why? How will the Johnson School help you achieve this goal? (400 word limit) 

Goals question. Try to choose an achievement for #1 that can be a cornerstone of your future career, demonstrate your talent for it, or at least relate to it. Doing so will save you precious words when answering the “why” of this question. You still need to discuss your reasons for your goals, but if #1 partially answers the question or provides context, then most of #2 can focus on what you want to do and why you want to attend Cornell Johnson.

3) You are the author for the book of Your Life Story. Please write the table of contents for the book.
Note: Approach this essay with your unique style. We value creativity and authenticity. (400 word limit)

Have a little fun with the question. You can reveal something about your youth, influential experiences or people, challenges, hobbies, interests, passions… It’s Your Life Story. 

Essay Required for All Re-applicants: How did you strengthen your application since you last applied to the Johnson School?(400 word limit)

This is the key question for all MBA re-applicants. Why are you a better applicant now than you were when they rejected you last time?

Optional Essay: Complete this essay if you would like to add additional details regarding your candidacy. For instance, if you believe one or more aspects of your application (e.g., undergraduate record or test scores) do not accurately reflect your potential for success at the Johnson School. (400 word limit)

Given how little Johnson requests, I encourage you to write the optional essay. Just make sure you are submitting an informative optional essay that complements the required essays and adds to the reader’s knowledge of you and your qualifications.  If you do not have something to explain, this optional would be a great place to explore in depth a non-professional interest or commitment of yours.

If you would like help with your Johnson, application, please consider Accepted.com’s MBA admissions consulting and essay editing and specifically our Cornell Johnson School Packages.

REMINDER: Cornell Johnson’s Stacey Thomas will be Accepted’s guests at an admissions chat on October 21st at 10:00 AM PT/1:00 PM ET/ 5:00 PM GMT.

Cornell Johnson 2011 MBA Application Deadlines

Round Application Notification
Round 1 October 5, 2010 December 21, 2010
Round 2 November 9, 2010 February 15, 2011
Round 3 January 4, 2011 March 22, 2011
Round 4 March 22, 2011 April 21, 2011


*Submission of your application must occur by midnight on the application deadline to receive consideration in a specific round.

By Linda Abraham, President and Founder of Accepted.com.

Law School News Round Up: Deans Coming, Deans Going

  • Long-time faculty member Michael M. Martin is serving as the interim dean at Fordham Law School, replacing William Treanor, now the executive vice president and dean of the Georgetown University Law Center. Fordham is conducting a national search for the dean’s position.
  • David Getches will step down as dean of University of Colorado School of Law in June and will resume teaching. During his deanship, Getches helped raise $28.5 million and increase the school’s endowment by 80%. He also lead the law school into its new state-of-the-art building, funded entirely by student fees and donations.
  • University of Wisconsin Law School Dean Kenneth Davis Jr. is retiring at the end of the academic year. The second-longest serving dean in the school’s history, Davis began in his position in 1997, when the law school was ranked No. 38 by U.S. News & World Report—it is now ranked No. 28. Davis’s initiative Preeminent and Public strived to advance the stature and influence of the law school.
  • Dean of the Northwestern Law School, David E. Van Zandt, will be the next president of the New School. Van Zandt has served as dean at Northwestern since 1995 and transformed certain admissions and curriculum policies, such as requiring most law school applicants to be interviewed. Van Zandt also created a three-year J.D./M.B.A degree in conjunction with the Kellogg School of Management.
  • Other deans stepping down include University of Richmond School of Law Dean John Douglass, University of Arkansas School of Law Dean Cynthia Nance, and University of New Hampshire School of Law Dean John Hutson. 

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Essay Diet Tip: Slim Down Your Obese Essay

Here is an essay tip that is applicable to everyone – med school applicants dealing with rigid AMCAS application character limits, b-school applicants with word count limits, law school applicants with more flexible page guidelines, and college and grad school applicants trying to write concise, tight essays. And in fact, that is the key to shortening your too-long essays to within the required limit – you must learn to construct a succinct essay by trimming away the unnecessary filler words. The result? A trim, tight essay that gets right to the point and stays within its boundaries.

So how do you achieve this word-count weight-loss?

Follow these “diet tips” and you’ll start to see words disappear before your eyes:

  • Eliminate the use of unnecessary helping verbs.

For example:

Obese: He is going to be applying to eight law schools.

Trim: He will apply to eight law schools.

  •  Use simple, expressive verbs instead of adverbs that only assist prosaic verbs.

For example:

Obese: She reacted enthusiastically.

Trim: She enthused.

Trimmer: She gushed.

  •   Don’t ever “take advantage of the opportunity” to do something; rather, just do it.

For example:

Obese: I took advantage of the opportunity to go exploring in the Himalayas.

Trim: I explored the Himalayas.

  • Learn how to turn nouns into verbs to eliminate filler words.

For example:

Obese: I came to the realization that…

Trim: I realized…

As always, a successful diet requires will power – you can do it!

Related Accepted.com Resources:

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More Women Earn Ph.D.s (and Other Degrees) than Men

Women have already outnumbered men among undergraduates and graduates for some time; now, women are earning more doctoral degrees than men too, reports Inside Higher Ed and NPR articles.

According to Claudio Sanchez from NPR (citing from the Council of Graduate Schools’ latest report), women were awarded 50.4% of Ph.D.s in 2008-2009, compared to 44% in 2000-2001. Most Ph.D.s were awarded in the fields of health sciences, public administration, and education. Men still dominate Ph.D. (and M.A.) fields like engineering, an area in which only 22% of degrees are awarded to women. (That number, however, has gone up dramatically since 20 years ago when only 10% of Ph.D. degrees in engineering were awarded to women.)

The Inside Higher Ed article, “Women Lead in Doctorates,” provides the following information on the percentage of women Ph.D. recipients according to field:

  • Health sciences – 70% female graduates
  • Education 67%
  • Public administration and services – 61%
  • Social and behavioral sciences – 60%
  • Arts and humanities – 53%
  • Biological and agricultural sciences – 51%
  • Business – 39%
  • Physical and earth sciences – 33%
  • Math and computer science – 27%
  • Engineering – 22%

Other findings from the new CGS report (as noted in the Inside Higher Ed article) include:

  • In international graduate education, women make up only 42% of all students. U.S. female citizens are in highest attendance at the graduate level, with numbers reaching 71% among African Americans.
  • The percentage of minority groups in U.S. graduate schools increased slightly from 28.3 in 2008 to 29.1% in 2009.
  • Enrollment of first-time international students to U.S. schools dropped 1.5% from 18% in 2008 to 16.5% in 2009.
  • 8.3% more applicants applied to U.S. M.A. and Ph.D. programs in 2009 than in 2008.
  • The field of health sciences experienced the greatest increase in applications, at 14.6%, but the most popular fields in the total number of applicants were business, engineering, and the social/behavioral sciences.

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Law School News Round Up

  • Carlyle Group L.P. co-founder David Rubenstein has donated $10 million to the University of Chicago Law School, New York Lawyer reports. The largest scholarship initiative in the law school’s history, the donation will subsidize 20 full-ride scholarships in each of the next three years. Rubenstein attended the law school on a full-tuition scholarship and graduated in 1973. 
  • Texas Tech and Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center are now offering a joint J.D./M.D. degree. The program is geared to those interested in the areas of health law, healthcare policy, bioterrorism, forensics or biomedical compliance. The six-year program is the first of its kind offered at one institution.
  • Will Meyerhofer, in his blog The People’s Therapist, urges those considering law school to take a step back. While grad school may be the easy thing to do, it’s worth taking some time to figure out what you really want. He suggests gaining experience in the real world first, perhaps through a low-paid starting position in the industry of your choice. Exploring a career before getting a degree can relieve potential frustration and debt, and though not the quickest route, can ultimately lead to happiness and success. 
  • Think long and hard before asking someone to write you a letter of recommendation. The Wall Street Journal law blog cites a new study by Kaplan, which discovered that 87% of law school admissions officers have received a negative letter of recommendation about an applicant. Plus, 15% consider it the biggest application killer. Additionally, when assessing the most important factor in admissions, 64% choose the LSAT score, with 23% selecting the GPA. 

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Columbia University’s Application: Tips to Compel

When I was a high school student, my parents agreed that I could apply to any colleges I wanted, with the exception of those in California and New York City.  Consequently, I didn’t set foot on Columbia’s campus until more than a decade later.  Among both fellow Ivies and its New York City brethren, Columbia stands out.

The integration of a strong campus center (the vast majority of students live on campus for four years) with the accessibility of the city as well as Columbia’s commitment to its core curriculum give this college a feeling that is unique from others.  With so many distinguishing features, you should be able to convey to the admissions committee your interest in Columbia.  For applicants to the Fu School of Engineering, there is also a question which asks about the roots of that interest.   In both cases, take a sentence or two to relate your own experience to the strengths of the college.   If you are struggling with this question, consider attending one of Columbia’s evening programs which are held throughout the country.  

The questions about your interests, which ask you to list books, concerts, media that you have enjoyed over the past year are looking for fairly straightforward responses.  The commitment to the arts, which is a large component of the Columbia College Core Curriculum, is evident from the application question about concerts and art exhibits.  As an academically engaged student, there should be plenty of media and arts which have captured your attention in the past year.  Share both the mundane and the more interesting.  If you have a strong interest in a subject area, chances are your reading interests at least peripherally relate.  

Columbia is a member of the Common Application, and does offer an early decision program for students who are confident that Columbia is their first choice.

 By Whitney Bruce, who has worked in college admissions since 1996. She has served as an Senior Assistant Director of Admissions (Washington U), Application Reader (University of Michigan), Assistant Director of College Counseling (private prep school in St. Louis), and an independent college counselor. She is happy to advise you as you apply to college.