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Maturity Level?

green7green7 Registered User Posts: 104 Junior Member
edited July 2007 in Law School
At this point, it is very possible for me to graduate with my bachelor's in 3 years. I don't want to take a gap year, and would like to enter law school immediately upon graduation. I've read posts on another thread here by a student who was worried about how it would look to graduate in 5, and the responses generally were that the length of time to obtain the degree doesn't matter, just the overall GPA and LSAT score. Does this also apply to students who take less time than normal to graduate? I've been asking several students about this and even called up some law school admission offices, and many people have brought up a question about maturity level. Is there really that big of a difference in the perspective of a 21 year old as opposed to a 22 year old? One of the admissions officers I talked to said his impression could be that a student who graduates in three years rushed to get out.

Why does this situation seem so negative? If I do carry on with my current plans, should I address this/ explain in the form of an addendum on my application? Or should I just try to convey my maturity level in my personal statement? Thoughts from anyone are appreciated, and thank you in advance!
Post edited by green7 on

Replies to: Maturity Level?

  • nglez09nglez09 Registered User Posts: 186 Junior Member
    Interesting post. I'd like to add a question to the "rushing out" factor:

    If one maintained a perfect GPA and received great recommendations, what difference does it really make if one graduated in three years? Couldn't it also say, "Wow, very motivated student who loved to learn and so kept going even through summer."
  • Aztec09Aztec09 Registered User Posts: 298 Junior Member
    I think it shows your motivation and dedication to school, but I am in the sam boat you are.
  • Student615Student615 Registered User Posts: 1,885 Senior Member
    Note that the issue is probably not between the difference in perspectives of a 21 vs. 22 year old. The average entering age of students at most law schools that I looked at was around 25 and students who come straight from undergrad seemed to be in quite the minority. So an applicant who graduates in 4 years and applies at 22 is going to be facing the same (or very similar) questions as you might. Is the difference in maturity/perspective between a 21 year old student straight out of undergrad vs. a 25 year old student with an advanced degree and a year of public service work fairly significant? More likely than not. Law school admissions tend to look favorably upon "life experience" (which involves more than simple aging).
  • jonrijonri Registered User Posts: 7,159 Senior Member
    With the exception of Northwestern, life experience matters very little in law school admissions. I know folks want to believe otherwise, but law school admissions is roughly 80% about #s, 10% about extras you have no control over (URM, legacy, in-state resident at some schools, geographic diversity at others) and everything else accounts for 10%. Yes, there are some folks for whom it matters more--those who were union organizers for 15 years, spent 5 years in the military and preferably saw combat (I mean preferably only for law school admissions), won an Emmy or Oscar, etc.) A year or two or work experience matters very, very, very little. It does help a bit more if it is Peace Corps, Teach for America, etc. But a master's degree and a year of work at a garden variety job will help very, very, very little.

    Folks look at the median age and jump to conclusions. The fact that some folks take some off between college and law school doesn't mean it boosts their admissions chances. Moreover, lots of people defer. If you look at the median age at a top law school like Harvard or Yale, you have to understand that some of those folks who have been out of college for a couple of years were Rhodes, Marshall, Gates, Fullbright, Watson, Rotary, etc. scholars who were admitted as seniors in college and DEFERRED to accept the fellowship. There have been years in which more than 70 of the incoming 180 or so incoming Yale Law school class were admitted previously and deferred.

    Obviously, those folks boost the median age at entry to law school. Take 2 years off the entry age of the 70 who defer and I think it's self evident that the median age as of the date they were accepted was not 25. I've never seen a law school release data on median age of students accepted though.

    As for going through in 3 years, I know a few people that did it and went straight on. They went to top 14 law schools. You may do better waiting a year, simply because you will have 3 years of grades for a law school admissions officer to look at which makes your record comparable to seniors applying. It has zilch to do with maturity. If you finished high school at 15 and college at 19, it would have NO affect on your admissions odds at most top schools.

    Remember that when the median entering age is 25, half the law school class is less than 25. And there are law schools, e.g. WUSTL, where the median entering age is as low as 23.
  • welshiewelshie Registered User Posts: 343 Member
    I've read stories that lead me to believe the contrary. There was a kid on LSN a while back with near perfect numbers that got dinged throughout the entire cycle because of his young age. I know I personally considered graduating at 19 (entered college at 16 with a chunk of credits), but have fortunately decided against it. Get out there in the world-- go traveling, do some meaningful volunteer work, get some good work experience with the law. Law school admissions is a numbers game, sure, but you will never have ********* numbers for the top school (HYS), and a 3.7/172 with great soft factors and personality will always be more attractive than 3.7/172 coming straight out of UG (early) with no real life story.

    P.S. Since deciding against graduating early, I have taken one semester off to work full-time in a law firm (where I have worked the last three summers), another off to go to Namibia where I taught mathematics and wrote a math textbook/curriculum for a few regions, and I am getting ready to go on a two-year service mission. All that, and I will still graduate UG at 22/23. I KNOW I will be a much more attractive applicant than if I would have just rushed on through.
  • Student615Student615 Registered User Posts: 1,885 Senior Member

    My point was simply this:

    If the question is indeed one of maturity, as the OP claims to have been told, then the comparison is not just between a 21 and 22 year old undergrad, because the majority of the OP's co-applicants to most schools will be older (and with that, have more "life experience"). And regardless of whether or not this life experience adds direct significant merit to an application, it does suggest a lot about maturity (note "suggest," not "guarantee").

    So if simple maturity is why admissions counselors are telling the OP that he (just mentally insert "she" if necessary, please) willl encounter roadblocks, he should know what he's up against, and that in most cases, it's more than just another year of undergrad study.

    Whether or not maturity is actually relevant is certainly a fair question (and I will have to agree to disagree), but not what I was going after.

    Just to clarify.
  • sallyawpsallyawp Registered User Posts: 2,059 Senior Member
    I haven't spoken up here in quite a while, but, in my opinion, the real issue is not so much one of law school admissions but rather one of job prospects both during law school (the all important summer internship) and thereafter. Folks here can debate endlessly about whether work experience and age affect one's chances at law school admissions (personally, I think that 2-3 years of solid work experience after college makes up for a host of flaws, assuming that one's grades and LSATs are within the range, at most of the T14 law schools). As someone who has recruited on campus for BIGLAW at top law schools for many, many years (though not for a year or two now), often a younger student, despite top grades in law school, will find themselves without a shot at any one of their top choice jobs because their age hinders them. Of course, a student at a T14 law school with good grades will find a job somewhere, but doesn't everyone want every door open to them? On campus recruiters will make assumptions about a student's maturity based upon age and work experience, but also upon how the student looks -- and that baby face may well hurt a student when employers consider their clients' perceptions. That's just the reality. Law firms (and others perhaps) are going to be thinking, "Will my clients pay $250/hour for the work that this kid puts out after they meet this kid?" Unfortunately, the answer is not infrequently, no.

    During any law student's call back interviews, questions about what that law student brings to the table and examples of those skills will come up often. Yes, leadership in clubs and volunteer activities can provide some answers. Yes, work experience, either part time or full time, can definitely help here. What a student needs to prove is that they are smart, flexible, responsible, hard working and can juggle many important tasks while succeeding in all of them. Since everyone sitting through a call back interview has accomplished these things in college and law school, you need to make yourself stand out. One way to do this is to show real world experience -- and, in my experience, most of those who graduate from college in three years will have had no exposure to the real world whatsoever. That's not to say, of course, that someone who graduated in three years (or four, for that matter) can't be successful (of course they can and many are), but they will have a lot more to prove than their more experienced classmates.
  • jonrijonri Registered User Posts: 7,159 Senior Member
    Welshie, if you are talking about the kid I think you are talking about, it is a bit more complicated. He was dual enrolled in a local public U in high school. He got about a year and a half of credit for this. Then he entered the flagship state U, finishing after 3 semesters. He applied in the fall of his last semester. He had two semesters of grades from the well-regarded Midwestern U at that time plus the grades he'd earned in the dual program in high school. That's it. His only EC was teaching test-prep courses. I'm not at all surprised he didn't do well in the admissions cycle--though it seems to have shocked him. I don't think it had anything to do with his age.

    Maybe this isn't the person you meant, but when folks say they went through in 3 years, it is relevant how they did it. Taking a year off after going through college in 3 years helps, not because you are more mature, but because law school admissions officers have 3 years worth of grades to look at. I made the same basic post in a thread about CC grads applying to law school.

    Remember that UPenn lets undergrads who meet certain standards use the first year of law school as their last year of college. So, every UPenn Law class has a fair number of folks who have entered after 3 years of college. I know one of them. He may have been able to go to a more highly ranked law school, but saving $45,000 and a year of his life was attractive to him.

    I know of a young woman who went through a different college in 3 years and knowing that UPenn did this, she applied there and got in. She also got into several others, but it was the most highly ranked which accepted her. That's what you would have expected, based on #s and other soft factors. It really doesn't seem to have mattered at all in her case.

    I don't deny that employers like work experience. Nor do I deny that in it's a good idea to take a year or two off after college before entering law school. But Sally's post illustrates something a bit different. How old you look can matter a little bit. But that doesn't correlate all that well with biological age.

    I just attended a graduation at a top law school. One grad I met did take a year off between college and law school. He looks about 15. He just does. He jokes about it. My own kid looks about 22. (Everyone who saw my kid at a restaurant etc. with the parents graduation weekend assumed my kid was graduating from college.)

    Neither of them had any trouble getting jobs after second year of law school. While both took a year off after college, it was to do academic things--not work.

    My kid hung out with a group of kids in high school and college which included a lot of people who wanted to become lawyers. Most did. Based on looking at the admissions results of this fairly large group, I am convinced that work experience of the garden variety type of 3 or fewer years helps not one iota in law school admissions.

    It matters a bit more, but not much, in getting jobs. If you are really worried about this and are likely to do well in law school, I'd advise going to law school and clerking for a year or two afterwards. I don't think judges care in the least about having young looking clerks. After the clerkship experience, you'll be in a better position to get a job at a top firm then you will if you were the same age with 2 years of work experience between college and law school and you'll be earning significantly more.

    But the basic point remains--fewer than 3 years worth of work experience in a garden variety job really doesn't improve your chances at top law schools much at all. Two years in the Peace Corps or Teach for America or doing something similar will help a bit more.

    In a controversial case a couple of years ago which involved a celebrity, the applicant was admitted to Yale Law at age 16, but Yale Law suggested he take off a couple of years before enrolling. So, I suspect if you were an academic hot shot, most law schools would do something like admit you but suggest you defer rather than reject you and have you go to another law school.
  • sallyawpsallyawp Registered User Posts: 2,059 Senior Member
    Jonri, I have to respectfully disagree with you on a few points.

    In my experience (and I have been doing on campus recruiting at T14 law schools and been part of the review and hiring committees in biglaw for more years that I care to admit), in most instances, a big law firm job candidate's young age and perceived maturity are going to be an obstacle that must be overcome. It can be overcome, but it is just one more hurdle.

    In addition, again, in my experience, many big law firms do very much look for candidates with work experience, including military service, but as little as two years at an investment bank, an accounting firm or as a paralegal in a law firm will often do the trick. More experience would be better in most cases.

    Furthermore, in my experience, looking young can be another obstacle to that biglaw job offer . . . not always, but it can be a hurdle to jump.

    Moreover, rushing through college and straight into law school can limit one's career options in the real world. That doesn't mean that there aren't employers out there who may not care, nor does it mean that a smart, young student with good grades and law review at a top law school will end up jobless, but it does mean that there will be additional challenges -- more things "to prove", so to speak -- during that first 10 minute interview in order to get a chance at a callback interview.

    Year after year, I have seen bright candidates with good grades, who have done everything "right" academically, graduated from college early (and many, too, who went straight on to law school from college without every having had a job or any kind of real world responsibility) and who suffer in the job interview process because of their age and/or lack of experience and/or perceived lack of maturity.
  • jonrijonri Registered User Posts: 7,159 Senior Member
    Maybe we can clarify this discussion a bit.

    First, I do not think that 3 years or less of garden variety job experience improves the candidate's chances of getting into a top law school. I am not talking about Peace Corps or Teach for America or military service. I am talking about the kind of entry level job most students with BAs get coming out of college. Do you agree or disagree? (I think you disagree.)

    I think this is important because I know quite a number of young people who don't do well in college, ending up with lackluster GPAs. They do well on the LSAT. They think along these lines "Right now, I might be able to get into Vandy or Fordham. If I work a couple of years, maybe I can get into Columbia or NYU." It doesn't work. It just doesn't. That's really the point I'm trying to make.

    Second, you think that it matters in terms of getting a future job. I have already said that :

    "I don't deny that employers like work experience. Nor do I deny that in it's a good idea to take a year or two off after college before entering law school."

    But you also say:
    " As someone who has recruited on campus for BIGLAW at top law schools for many, many years (though not for a year or two now), often a younger student, despite top grades in law school, will find themselves without a shot at any one of their top choice jobs because their age hinders them. "

    I don't see how you can POSSIBLY know this unless you worked in the career services office of a top law school. You may know that you or even the firm(s) you work(ed) for don't want to hire younger students. But I doubt that you know what are really the top job choice of the students you interview and I doubt you have seen a statistical analysis of how students with 2-3 years of post college work experience fare when compared to those without such work experience in terms of 2L summer jobs. I suspect you are GUESSING based on your own hiring preferences. If I am wrong and you have data that show that students who go directly to law school get worse jobs, please provide the source of your information.

    I'm looking at this from a different angle. I have a kid who just finished law school. I know what the "kids" in that law school class are doing. Said kid has friends at several other law schools and I know what those kids are doing.

    My own personal take? How well you interview is the most important factor in determining how well you do. Now it may well be the case that some kids would benefit from a year or two of work experience to increase their maturity. They might then do better in the job interview. But it really is HOW YOU COME ACROSS , not the actual date of your birth or work experience you have that matters.

    Most of my kid's friends went right on to law school or studied abroad on a fellowship for 1-3 years and then went to law school. None had any problem whatsoever getting jobs. Again, to the extent it is an issue, I'd suggest that rather than working for 2-3 years at a job you probably won't enjoy, you go to law school and clerk or do JAG or work in DOJ honors program or do something else in the legal field and then go get a job in BIGLAW--if a BIGLAW job is what you want. Or maybe just take that BIGLAW job, make a few mistakes because of immaturity, and lateral to another firm.

    But again the point this thread was really about is that garden variety work experience of 3 year or less is NOT the difference between going to Vandy and NYU.
  • sallyawpsallyawp Registered User Posts: 2,059 Senior Member
    First, I have been noting only those issues that relate to finding jobs for post-law school, not what it takes to get into law school.

    Second, top biglaw firms do indeed compare notes after each recruiting season (very informally, of course) to note trends and other pertinent information about the process. I also have written that while a younger student, or one with less perceived maturity or experience, may achieve a great job, that student will also likely have to face an additional level of scrutiny during the hiring process, relating to that student's ability to handle the work, the pressure and the clients. If a younger student has rushed through their education without taking time to have a part time job, a summer job or take a position of responsibility in some organization or another, proving their maturity without simply stating, "I am mature" will be tough to do. I do happen to know for a fact that this at many of the top law firms, there is a calculus that occurs regarding the ability of any candidate, particularly a younger candidate, to handle the experience. You challenge me to provide data to back up my statements, which I have explicitly stated are based solely on my experiences (though, I do think that my experiences are quite representative of what goes on at biglaw firms) and understanding of the process, so, in the absence of your requested data, feel free to disregard my statements entirely if you choose to do so. That's your perogative.

    You said:
    I don't see how you can POSSIBLY know this unless you worked in the career services office of a top law school.
    Is that really the only way that a legal professional, such as myself, involved for many years and intimately with the recruiting process might know these things? For instance, what about the fact that many recruiting coordinators at large law firms do have experience working at law school career offices and share information with the attorneys there? What about the fact that law school career offices do provide information on an aggregated basis to law firms who request it? What about the fact that the law students who we interview often reveal (without prompting, because we don't ask) where else they are interviewing/where else they have callback interviews?

    Everything you have surmised about the process seems to be based on the experience of your child and his or her friends. Do you have data to back up your anecdotal evidence?

    All we can do here on this board is try to bring our experiences and knowledge out in a format that may help students who may decide to go to law school to make wise decisions based upon as much information as possible. You can challenge me all day and all night, but all I am trying to do here is to offer some of my experiences here. I don't believe that stating that my experiences and opinions are somehow invalid while yours are clearly correct helps anyone here.
  • anoviceanovice Registered User Posts: 1,376 Senior Member
    This is an excellent thread as it is what I'll be facing this year... the input is greatly appreciated!

    I had reservations about graduating a year early for a short while, but in the end I've decided that it makes the most sense. I feel like I have more "work" experience than most college students and also have quite a bit of real world skills as well. I'm not rushing through and in fact, I'm not even taking summer sessions or an abnormally hard course load to complete my curriculum a year early. I am a civil engineering major and am now in my third internship and have worked in other professional settings since and during high school. I've studied abroad more than once and I've been taking graduate courses for enrichment in my field of choice. I intend to apply for a dual degree program (urban planning & law) and if I am not accepted this cycle, I will do graduate work in the college I'm at for undergrad for another year... and then try again. When I graduate with my bachelors I will have just turned 20. It's young, but I feel like a face to face interview would dispel any concerns about my maturity.
  • jonrijonri Registered User Posts: 7,159 Senior Member
    I think our discussion clarified a few points. Earlier in this thread you said:

    "(personally, I think that 2-3 years of solid work experience after college makes up for a host of flaws, assuming that one's grades and LSATs are within the range, at most of the T14 law schools). "

    As I wrote before, I think that's untrue. I think it's bad advice . While I freely admit that my knowledge is only based on a small sample, I do know people who worked for a few years after college PRIMARILY because they believed that doing so would enable them to be admitted to a more highly ranked law school than they could have been/were admitted to coming straight from college. When they apply to law school after a few years of working and that doesn't happen, they are disappointed. It's different if you serve 5 years in the military (typical of those who go to a service academy), are in the Peace Corps or Teach for America, etc.

    You also now say that:

    "If a younger student has rushed through their education without taking time to have a part time job, a summer job or take a position of responsibility in some organization or another, proving their maturity without simply stating, "I am mature" will be tough to do."

    I agree 100%. The phrase beginning with WITHOUT wasn't in your earlier post though. Most folks I know who graduated in three years did have part time jobs, summer jobs, and/or a position of responsibility in some organization. anovice's post illustrates that.

    Your earlier post said that year after year, you have seen students who did not get ANY of their top choices because of their ages. It is that statement which I challenged. First, I don't think most students are completely candid --to put it mildly--in telling firms what their top choices are. Heck, even for getting interviews at schools that limit them and use a ranking system, there's a lot of strategizing that goes into the ranking. The firm the student lists as #1 may not be the student's first choice. And I highly doubt that the law school tells firms that they were the students fourth or fifth choice interview, but they were frozen out of second and third anyway. I think releasing that information would get a law school staffer fired. Second, repeating myself, I don't think it is AGE itself which matters. It's how you come across--yes, you will have a problem if you come across as immature. But that's not the same as saying that your AGE in and of itself is the problem.

    In any event, we've both expressed our opinions, and I hope that they are helpful to students facing this decision.
  • sallyawpsallyawp Registered User Posts: 2,059 Senior Member
    Just to further clarify, I completely stand by my statement that
    2-3 years of solid work experience after college makes up for a host of flaws, assuming that one's grades and LSATs are within the range . . . .
    I never suggested that two years as a paralegal is going to enable a student with a 2.5 to suddenly get into HLS. It has been my experience, though, that a student with scores that put them at the 50th percentile or higher for any given law school do absolutely get a boost from working full time after college. That doesn't mean that they are guaranteed admission, but the work experience is looked upon quite favorably. You can say that it's bad advice, jonri, but that's exactly what I've been told multiple times over the years by law school admissions folks.

    Additionally, I am not at all referring to students telling me (or anyone else within a law firm, for that matter) their ranking of choices among law firms. It is often telling, though, to find out where students got their callbacks. Furthermore, as I mentioned earlier, law school career offices provide a tremendous amount of aggregated information to law firms, including in some instances information about who ranked which law firm where. To be frank, at most of the top law schools, particularly those where students cannot be pre-screened and/or grades cannot be used as a prerequisite for gaining an interview, most of the top law firms send enough interviewers to campus to interview every student who wants a first round, on campus interview. For those unlucky enough to be excluded from a firm's schedule, stopping by during the day of interviews is usually enough for that firm to find ten minutes before/after lunch, for example, to meet with the interested student.
  • xanthomxanthom - Posts: 196 Junior Member
    Take a vacation. Travel around the world. Once you enter law school, and assuming you continue with law, your life will never be the same again until you retire (because firms try to hire people straight out of law school).
This discussion has been closed.