This is college admissions crunch time — and not just for high school seniors.
Law school applicants face deposit deadlines. They’re scrutinizing national rankings, trying to discern which place will give them the best edge in the rat race to a successful, lucrative legal career.
Nick Everdell says: “Don’t worry.”
Or at least, don’t worry so much.
He’s not a lawyer. But he plays a key role in helping men and women find the right law school, hone their applications, and make the most appropriate choice once those acceptance letters come rolling in.
Everdell is the newest member of Steinbrecher & Partners. The downtown Westport firm — among the first educational consultants in the country — helps students find the most appropriate colleges, boarding schools, summer programs and therapeutic options.
Now they’ve added grad schools to the mix.
Like his Steinbrecher colleagues, Everdell has a strong admissions background. A Lawrenceville School, Cornell University and Teachers College grad, he worked as an admissions officer first at private Vermont Academy, then for 6 years at powerhouse Columbia Law School. He moved over to Yale Law for 2 years, before joining Steinbrecher in the fall.
Despite the pedigrees of those schools, Everdell cautions applicants not to get too hung up in pure numbers.
“Rankings can be so close,” he warns. “A difference in a few places can come from one guy failing the bar exam one year, or one alum giving $1 million.”
Far better, Everdell says, to look at “trends, ranges and tiers.” For example, the fact that the University of Chicago is now the #4 law school nationally is less important than the fact that over the past decade, it has slowly inched up the ranks.
“They might be playing games, trying to massage the numbers,” he says. “But it’s far more likely they’re doing things that benefit students.”
During his first years in admissions — as the economy boomed — new law schools opened. All they needed was space, and some lawyers to teach.
Then — after the financial collapse — applications soared. Facing dismal job prospects, recent college grads figured 3 years in law school would be a good bet.
But when newly minted attorneys could not find work — for law firms were struggling in the downturn too — those new law schools suffered. (Well-established institutions like Columbia did fine.)
Now — with the economy rebounding, and law firms stabilized — prospects are once again good.
His 2 years at Yale convinced Everdell that he could provide a valuable service to applicants. “There is so much bad information out there,” he says. For example, a client considering a year off before law school wanted to do missionary work in China. But she thought working as a paralegal would look better on paper.
That’s not true, Everdell says. Admissions officers consider a variety of factors — including following one’s passions.
Of course, he notes, it’s tough to interest law schools in a candidate who has not prepared well for the application process. “Ideally, you should start getting ready your first year in college. I can’t control your GPA or LSAT scores.”
Law school admissions — even more than for undergrads – is “a numbers game,” Everdell says. However, personal statements are important. Most people find crafting those words to be very difficult.
“If you can write a first sentence that gets admissions to read the second, and then the third, that’s a strong essay,” he says.
He tells clients to write about any topic that interests them. But, he advises, “don’t be too creative. You’re not going for an MFA.”
Everdell cites one client, from an underprivileged background and with low LSAT scores. Nevertheless she had a good GPA, strong work experience and “an incredible personal story.”
She had a dream school. Everdell thought she could shoot even higher. She got into that higher-tier school — and a couple more even higher up. Now she’s waiting to hear back from schools in the stratosphere.
On the other hand, he admits, he has told potential clients (nicely), “I don’t think I can help you. You could get into law school somewhere, but it might not be of value.”
The consultant offers these thoughts for anyone considering law school: “Make sure you know what it’s all about. Don’t just go because it’s your default.
“I know a lot of lawyers who make good money. But they’re miserable, because being a lawyer is not what they thought it would be.”
However, Everdell says, “It’s a great career — if it’s for you.”
His job is helping you figure out if that’s the case.