By Nicole Hopkins • April 11, 2016•Law School, Pre-Law
When I was 28 years old, I was working as a Communications Director for a legislator in California. This was the first time in my life that I was exposed to legislation or lawmaking; I was worried that at my age, any ship that would get me close to being able to work in crafting legislation had sailed. It wasn’t until I met a woman, herself in her mid thirties and a 2L, that the possibility of going to law school entered my mind.
Fast forward 2 years. A few weeks ago, I received word of my acceptance to Northwestern Pritzker School of Law. What got me there was a combination of my work experience, a well-crafted narrative in my application, my on-campus interview, and undoubtedly, my LSAT score (which was above their 75th percentile).
I want to share what I think went right in my LSAT studying process. In another post, I’ll share what went wrong and what I would do differently if I could do it all over again.
Well-managed expectations. I started studying for the LSAT in July of 2014 with a plan to take the test in June 2015 at the very earliest. My expectations, it turned out, were very well-managed. To be honest, I didn’t start out with this mindset because I was following sage advice—I more or less stumbled into this process with the assumption that I had a long way to go. I also knew that I would need to get a very high score on a test that a lot of really smart people take—a test that happens also to be curved. I was a tadpole in a pool teeming with very big fish. I knew I had a lot of catching up to do (or I assumed I did at least). And when I wasn't ready to take the test in June, I pushed it to October. Then I retook it in December, and once more in February (the third time was the charm!). All in all, the process took over a year and a half. But when I got into the law school of my dreams with a handsome scholarship, I saw all of that effort pay off. It's worth it to take your sweet time studying for this test.
Low and slow (like good Texas brisket). The mindset I described above translated to a “low and slow” approach. I started out studying only a few hours a week; after a month or so, I increased to 10 or so hours, then up to 15, and in the full swing of prep, I was studying about 30 hours per week while working full time (that lasted about 2 months). Once I started taking prep tests (on average, 2 per week for about 6 months), my hours spent studying per week decreased to account for the increased intensity of this kind of focused work. Instead of trying to “brute force” my prep as some students do (I often hear about folks studying more than 40 hours per week, hoping to take the test within a few months), I ramped up slowly, made sure I understood concepts deeply, and then took a huge number of LSAT prep tests (all in all, I took over 70 tests, many of them retakes). If I were to quantify the hours I spent studying in terms of scholarship offer and future employment prospects—well, let's just say that it was time very, very well-spent.
Keep it social. Throughout this process, I was heavily involved in online LSAT forums. Given how long I’d been out of undergrad, I didn’t know anyone studying for the LSAT, so it was time to make new friends who were. There are a number of communities out there, but I invested myself in the friendliest and most active of them all—7sage. From study groups, to webinars, to pep rallies, the members of the community came up with plenty to keep one another busy. When I wasn’t involved in scheduled events, I was actively seeking to encourage others in the same boat as I was; in so doing, I encouraged myself as well, and was continuously steeped in wisdom from those who’d gone through this before and those who were in the thick of it with me. Many of those folks have become good friends of mine; some of them are 1L's showering me with much-needed advice, while others are getting accepted to top schools all around the country.
These three components—well-managed expectations, a low-and-slow approach with a long ramping up (and tapering off) phase, and a strong community—were what kept me sane throughout the process. Maintaining a good mindset throughout something as arduous as LSAT prep is a necessary condition for reaching any student’s full potential, and for reaching the ultimate goal of admission to a top law school.
Nicole Hopkins is the Communications Director for 7sage lsat prep. She is a graduate of Princeton University and a member of the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law J.D. Class of 2019. She hails from Dallas and is an extremely enthusiastic Texan.