Gen Ys Head to Grad School rather than Hit the Jobless Market

The GRE exam saw a 13% increase this year, says Deb Weinstein, author of Forbes‘ recent “Jobless Gen Ys Turn to Grad School,” reflecting that young adults are still considering the expensive option of graduate school, despite the economic recession.

One cause for the increase is attributed to the fact that GREs are now accepted by business schools in addition to the traditional GMAT. But as we know from other recent statistics, GMAT volume is also up, as well as b-school applications.

These spikes follow a 20% increase in LSAT tests over the last year, another seemingly strange statistic considering the number of recent reports on how law firms are simply not hiring new associates. Other fields experiencing tight job markets also saw increased graduate school applications; journalism and history are cited in the article as examples.

Why the sudden jumps?

Weinstein explains that the dramatic increase in graduate school interest is simple: Since there are currently no jobs, why not go to grad school until the job drought is over? Tuition may be high, but the opportunity cost is low.

Logical? I don’t know. It depends when the job market comes back—and where. It seems that many applicants assume it will come back when and where they want it to. Hope springs eternal…

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Watch Out For Passage Wording

Many answer choices on the LSAT are written to be tempting. Some answers will be blatantly wrong, but most will only be slightly wrong.

That’s why you have to pay close attention to passage wording in Reading Comp and Logical Reasoning. Both sections make you read huge chunks of text closely but quickly, so when you’re scanning the questions for a passage the words start to run together. Take this snippet, from a very scientific passage about cats:

Historically, cats have been excellent self-cleaners. Housecats, more than other cats in the animal kingdom, rely on their tongues for bathing and fur maintenance. While their self-cleaning methods are effective, they also sometimes result in challenges like hairballs.

This is a shorter (and weirder) passage than one you’ll find on the LSAT, but you can use the same strategies in addressing it. Say the first question asks us for a statement that is true according to the author and gives us four possible answer choices. The first choice might be easy to eliminate.

(A) Cats are excellent space travelers.

A gimme. Space travel is completely off-topic, so we can scratch this one. Let’s look at the rest.

(B) Housecats have proven throughout history to be some of the best self-cleaners in the animal kingdom.

Immediately we remember reading a lot of these words. “History,” “self-cleaners,” and “the animal kingdom” are all mentioned, and the self-cleaning skills of housecats are compared favorably to those of other cats. However, while the passage tells us that cats are “excellent” self-cleaners, the author doesn’t establish that housecats would rank highly among all self-cleaning creatures in the animal kingdom. This might be true in real life (and it almost sounds true in the passage) but we can’t infer it from what the author tells us.

OK, how about this one?

(C) In a way, self-cleaning methods are dangerous because they lead to hairballs.

This statement sounds familiar, and it certainly seems possible that hairballs could be a danger. It’s not true according to the passage, though. The author says that self-cleaning sometimes leads to hairballs, and while this can be a challenge for a cat, it’s not necessarily dangerous. The wording here is slightly too definitive, and the characterization is extreme.

And finally:

(D) Cats such as lions rely less on their tongues for bathing than do housecats.

The middle statement in the passage implies this. Then again, we already knew it was correct: since we paid attention to extreme, errant, and misleading wording, we were able to eliminate the other answer choices.

We can rest comfortably knowing we’ve arrived at the right answer. Plus, we learned something about cats.

Chris Black is a Content Developer at Knewton, helping students with their LSAT prep. He’s also into barbecue.


Jumping To Conclusions

As the name suggests, the Logical Reasoning section of the LSAT tests your ability to digest and understand different forms of reasoning. For this very reason, the majority of LR prompts are presented as arguments. The ability to quickly and easily identify (or “jump to”) conclusions will allow you to deconstruct the argument and improve your score.  Of course, since this is the LSAT we’re talking about, these conclusions are often presented in confusing or distracting ways. Fortunately, you can usually locate the main idea of an argument by keeping your eye out for certain key words and phrases.

Here are some common words and phrases that introduce the conclusion of an LR argument:

  • Thus/therefore/so/hence
  • It appears that/it follows that/it is clear that/there is evidence that/it must be true that

The conclusion of the argument is typically the phrase that immediately follows one of these words or phrases.

For example:

The miniature schnauzer is a breed recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC). Dog Lovers Monthly publishes descriptions of all AKC-recognized breeds except those belonging to the hound group or toy group. Miniature schnauzers belong neither to the hound group nor to the toy group; thus, Dog Lovers Monthly publishes a description of miniature schnauzers.

Conclusion: Dog Lovers Monthly profiles miniature schnauzers.

Conclusions can also be introduced by the words however and but. This happens in arguments where a belief is refuted by the speaker. For example:

Many people believe that dolphins do not use language to communicate. Groups of dolphins use a system of sounds and movements to convey ideas to one another, but this method is thought of as a communication method rather than an actual language. However, this system does indeed constitute a language. After all, it shares many of the structural qualities of human language. Furthermore, this system allows dolphins to communicate abstract emotions, just like human language does.

Conclusion: The system of sounds and movement that dolphins use does constitute a language.

Words such as since, because and although can help you indirectly identify an argument’s main point, because they point out key evidence linked to the conclusion. But be careful: The clause immediately following one of these key words will never be the conclusion; rather, the conclusion is typically the independent clause that proceeds or follows the subordinate clause introduced by one of these words (don’t worry, this is not nearly as complicated as it sounds).

For example:

Many foreigners have wondered why Country X’s citizens elected Martin as president. However, Martin was the only candidate in the election who promised that, if elected, he would maintain peaceful relations with Country X’s neighbors. Since Country X’s citizens elected Martin, the majority of citizens in Country X must have wanted to maintain peaceful relations with Country X’s neighbors.

Conclusion: Most of country X’s citizens wanted to maintain peaceful relations with their neighbors.

Looking out for these key words and phrases will let you quickly identify the conclusion in most LR prompts.  This skill will help you with almost all LR question types (including Role of Statement, Main point, Assumption, Strengthen/Weaken, Parallel Reasoning, and Logical Flaw questions).

Good luck and always remember to jump to conclusions!

Emily Holleman is a Content Developer at Knewton, helping students with their LSAT preparation.


Great, New Law School Applicant Resource

As I huffed and puffed on a StairMaster recently, I listened to the first three podcasts produced by Law School Podcaster, and I was impressed.  Very impressed. I am please to recommend this resource highly to law school applicants seeking reliable information about law school admissions.

So far Law School Podcaster has produced four shows:

I have heard all but the last one. I found them to be interesting — although I am a little nuts when it comes to admissions — and well presented with knowledgeable guests. I particularly appreciated the comprehensive way Law School Podcaster and the guests dealt with each topic.

Upcoming segments include:

  • Financing Your JD
  • The Current Economic Environment
  • Deciding Whether to Pursue a JD and/or an MBA

You may think, “Linda isn’t objective — especially when she talks about the guests! After all, she is a guest on the show ‘Choosing the Right Law School.’” You may be right. But, if you are applying to law school, I invite you to see, or more accurately, hear for yourself. 

Rankings (Part 5 of 5): 8 Flaws in Rankings

How NOT to use the rankings

Don’t give them too much importance. Don’t replace research and self-reflection with school ranking to determine where you apply or attend. Using them mindlessly could contribute to an expensive, time-consuming mistake.

Blinding yourself to the rankings’ flaws leads to poor decisions. Consider this partial list of limitations:

 

  1. They don’t measure exactly what’s important to you.
  2. Overall rankings hide strengths (and weaknesses) in particular areas. Gem programs thrive outside “the top ten” or “top twenty.” Graduate students accomplish their goals and gain acceptance or have a better chance of obtaining financial aid when they recognize those gems.
  3. Averages are exactly that. Average. They aren’t a cut-off and don’t reflect extenuating circumstances or the interplay between myriad factors in an admissions decision.  Applicants are accepted with below average stats and are rejected with above average stats.
  4. Surveys, especially surveys of students and alumni (BusinessWeek, Financial Times, The Economist) can be gamed. Students and alumni know that higher rankings increase the value of their degrees and have an incentive to think kindly of their schools.
  5. Survey respondents are not always well informed. They don’t necessarily know about recent developments and new programs at the schools they are ranking. They are opining based on what they experienced years ago or “heard.”
  6. For those rankings that survey recruiters (BusinessWeek), realize that recruiters may value factors that you couldn’t care less about (Good service for recruiters, excellent MBAs willing to work for low pay, comfortable interview rooms).
  7. The raw rankings don’t reveal the degree of difference between the different schools. While there could be a real difference in international or even national opportunity in a program ranked 25th as opposed to 5th. There is probably little difference in overall opportunity for a program ranked 8th as opposed to 13th.
  8. ROI measures may reflect geographic differences or differences in starting salaries in particular industries more than educational quality.

 

Rankings are surveys spiced with data and frequently mirror commonly held beliefs about institutions. Reputation and brand can play a role in your application and acceptance decisions. They should never be the primary reason you apply or accept an offer of admission. After you research a school’s strengths and weaknesses, educational approach, culture, admitted student profiles, and educational and professional opportunities, then you can consider brand.

So as you choose where to apply, mine the “rankings” that are not really rankings. Use the data to launch and supplement your qualitative and in-depth research about the schools. You will unearth the gems just right for you.

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