Interview with Christine Carr, Accepted Law School Admissions Consultant [Show Summary]
How can you optimize your application and get into the law school of your dreams? Our guest today, Christine Carr, will give you the scoop.
Christine Carr graduated from Harvard University in 1993 and from there pursued a career in higher education. Before joining Accepted in 2018, she served first as Assistant Director of Admissions and then, since 2014, as Associate Director of Admissions at Boston University Law School. Needless to say she knows law school admissions inside and out, and she’s going to share what she knows today on AST.
Everything You Need to Know About Law School Admissions [Show Notes]
The standard line in admissions is that admissions and higher ed is not a field people decide to go into in kindergarten. What has been it’s attraction to you? How did you get into it? [2:00]
After college I had an amazing opportunity to work in higher education as Assistant Director of Athletics at Suffolk University and also serve as softball and volleyball coach. It was great for me to do both the administrative aspect and athletic as I was a student athlete. I did that for five years, and coaching was starting to lose its luster, but I enjoyed being part of higher education, with really interesting people coming on campus and a really wonderful atmosphere. I realized I had been recruiting athletes so it seemed like working in admissions would be a nice transition.
You recently joined Accepted as a consultant after 15+ years in different admissions roles, the last nine at BU and the last four of those as Associate Director of Admissions. What kind of experience, activities, or qualities did you like to see in law school applicants? [4:07]
There is a variety, and at the institutions I was working at there were no real cookie cutter applicants. First and foremost we looked for academic success – the ability to show they could be successful in a classroom was important. Then you’re thinking about the school community, and you want to admit people who classmates will learn from, will consider a true colleague, and value as part of their network. Throughout the process we were looking for applicants who had taken advantage of opportunities in the past, jumping in full force as a willing/able participant. Through resumes, personal statements, and so forth, we were looking for human beings who were active learners and willing to embrace the whole aspect of a law school education.
You reviewed over 10K applications while at BU. What made an application and specifically a personal statement stand out for you? [6:06]
My gut reaction to this question is what makes one stand out in a not so great way. To start with a personal statement that rubs me the wrong way is not proofread, with errors in the first paragraph – to me that was always glaring. Law school is a professional school, and that carelessness and lack of attention to detail is bad. In terms of good personal statements, they are clear and concise, and fit in the whole narrative of the application of why this applicant is interested in going to law school. The personal statement is an essential piece of the narrative, to show the applicant as a person, and to assist the admissions committee in terms of who this person is going to be as member of the community. The admissions committee is looking for more depth – not just a rehash of the resume, or an autobiography. In the legal profession you are doing lots of writing, so I want to emphasize again that being clear and concise is critical.
How would you recommend that applicants handle addenda to address a weakness like a drop in grades? [14:03]
You never want the admissions committee to ask the question “why?” in any aspect of the application and not have you answer in your own words. The majority of admissions counselors are on the side of the applicant and hope for the best, so if given the opportunity would create a good story for the applicant, but it is helpful to have the applicant acknowledge a blip. Don’t get too personal and give too much information – “parents went through a divorce,” is fine, but don’t need to know beyond that. The nitty gritty can be left out. For personal difficulties, err on the side of under sharing. “I was dealing with personal issues” is perfect, you don’t need to let us know what those personal issues were. We are looking for you to acknowledge the issue and that there were repercussions, but you got help/assistance and were able to move on and do much better. You don’t want it to sound like an excuse, just providing context. Your application will be part of the bar application later, so this aspect is important. If you have questions about what to write ask the admissions office where you are applying so you can be sure to give the best answers moving forward.
You started with Accepted earlier this year. How has your perspective on admissions changed since you became a consultant? [19:47]
I always knew it was overwhelming, scary, and exciting for applicants and now I am really seeing that on the consultant side. I felt like I was always rooting for applicants while sitting in the admissions chair, and that is elevated now – I am really rooting for my clients to get into their dream school. It is allowing my nurturing self to come through a little bit more as opposed to being the gatekeeper before. Now I am one of the people knocking on the door, and it’s enlightened my view of what the applicant is going through. What I almost took for granted in terms of common knowledge I am now realizing is not. Applicants need help to understand the process.
How do you recommend that applicants research professional opportunities before they apply and confirm this three-year and six-figure commitment is right? [24:05]
Informational interviews are amazing. You don’t have to become a paralegal or get an internship or job in the legal profession to determine it is right, but it is amazing how lawyers and people in the legal profession will find time for future lawyers. Take them to coffee. Ask questions about whether or not they like their job, what are the best aspects, and try to envision if you could see yourself doing this job. That is essential for admissions committee members to see and understand so they can feel confident that you know it is the right place for you.
What do applicants frequently just not understand about the law school admissions process that they should really grasp before they start applying? [26:45]
Often I would think to myself that I wish the person had someone to talk to about the application itself and if law school is right for them. I go back to the aspect of, you’re applying to law school, it’s a professional school, and attention to detail is tantamount to success. It would drive me crazy when applicants would send emails that were incredibly casual, all lower case, where punctuation was nonexistent. You want to be at all times, in all correspondence, showing your most professional self.
As a former admissions director what are the most common mistakes to avoid in law school applicants? [29:32]
Not answering the questions as they’re asked. Applicants are often applying to 10+ schools, but you still need to treat each school as a singular entity, and that every question is answered as it’s written. Make sure you are answering all of the prompts. No personal statement prompt is exactly the same. With so many applicants, if you don’t answer the right question, this really could be held against you. Also, make sure you are using proper capitalization – capitalizing your name and street address. If you don’t, there is someone in an admissions office that needs to change everything that is messed up, and they are not happy to be doing it.
Can you touch on the issue of concision and of rushing? [33:04]
At BU we would tell applicants that personal statements and optional essays should be two pages double-spaced on average. Of course we would read them if longer, and if they were amazing on one page that was fine, too. Remember that an individual committee member is reading hundreds of applications and there is some reader fatigue, so if your personal statement is on page four and circling the drain, readers are going to glaze over and not get the full impact you are hoping for. It goes back to answering questions as they’re asked and following guidelines you are given.
Any last words of advice? [35:16]
I’m going to go back to proofread, proofread, proofread.
• Innovative Education in NYC: All About Cornell Tech
• U.S. News Rankings: Everything I Ever Wanted to Know (But was Afraid to Ask)
• Bain & Company’s Keith Bevans Talks About Careers, Life at Bain
• Law School Applicants: Things to Think About When You Apply