Rejection Well Planned

It’s that time of the year again when college and grad school applicants are beginning to get anxious.  Law schools, with their rolling admissions, tend to decide the fate of the applicants several weeks earlier than others.

I am happy to report that the two friends I know were applying to law schools were admitted to very fine institutions:  Michelle is headed to Duke and Ian possibly to Washington, if not elsewhere.  A heartfelt congratulations to both!  It’s well deserved.

Since they were accepted to somewhere, I can now share my frightening story of being accepted to nowhere without horrifying them.  The story would garner sympathy, if not for my consistsent track record of low acceptance rate  into educational institutions dating back to elementary school which suggests that I don’t get accepted because I don’t apply to schools that’s accepting of applicants of my caliber.  For law school, though, I managed to outdo even myself, a consequence of complacency, indifference and self-overevaluation.

The most laughable part about my law school application process–I can now laugh because I graduated from Boston College and got work with a law firm–is that I planned it out carefully.  I decided to apply to seven schools, all in the East Coast, mostly in New England (why I consistently apply to New England schools is for completely shallow reasons: I root for the home football team).   There were 4 schools in the “Reach” category, as in if the admissions officer has a hangover the day he/she reviews my application, I have a shot.  I shall not name those institutions.  There was one school in the “Low Reach” category, Columbia, that I had a reasonable expectations of being accepted.  Then there was Boston College Law School, the school comfortably “In My Range.”  Rutgers University School of Law – Newark was my “Safety School,” where I could get in even if I had a hangover the day I applied.

The only part of the plan that went as expected was that I was rejected from the “Reach” schools.  The important lesson you should learn from my mistakes–I obviously never did since my track record continued when I applied for a transfer a year later–is that planning is meaningless without commitment.  Knowing that the LSAT was crucial to law school admissions, I proceeded to ignore the test, refuse to sacrifice my routine to study for it, and did as mediocrely as one would expect of a person who did not prepare.  Then I applied to six of the seven schools, Rutgers excepted, because in my mind, the choice was between Columbia and Boston College.

What followed was a series of unfortunate, although hardly unforeseeable, events.  I received my first notice from Boston College Law School, who kindly enclosed a post card so I can choose to be placed on their waiting list.  The only silver lining was that I was offered a spot on their “priority” wait list.  I was screwed because I knew if I couldn’t get into BC Law–wait list didn’t count–I wasn’t getting into anywhere I had applied.

And I didn’t.  That de facto rejection was followed by notices from the four schools and Columbia, who also placed me on the waiting list.  It’s nice to know that I got the ranges of the schools correct.  It would have been even better if I knew my own range.

After the BC Law debacle, I scrambled to submit my application to Rutgers, where I eventually ended up (and in fairness to the school, it deserved a better treatment than I gave it; the institution provides a fine education).  Even that didn’t go without a snag, though.

You know how I said Rutgers would accept me even if I were hungover on the day I submitted my application?  It turns out that was also incorrect: I forgot to attach my personal statement to the application.


25 Responses to “Rejection Well Planned”

  1. 1 Joseph Lee February 13, 2009 at 9:08 am

    Hahah. Typical… Although I hear with wait lists, a call of interest to the admissions office is usually enough to get you the leg up in. So you can give yourself a little more credit.

  2. 2 joesas February 13, 2009 at 9:19 am


    So you’re telling me I could have gone directly to BC Law….

    That’s just great. This whole story is turning from laughable to tragic…

  3. 3 rattoch February 13, 2009 at 10:39 am

    if i still do the lawyer thing i am going the llb_llm route. lol. seems to be a better fit for me.

    • 4 joesas February 13, 2009 at 11:57 am


      Did you miss my message about “commitment”??? LOL. The route you speak of fits nobody in your situation. You have a B.A. Your only path to becoming an American lawyer is a J.D.

  4. 5 Chris Schroeck February 13, 2009 at 12:01 pm

    My law school admissions story was similarly bad.

    I applied to eight schools. Let me think…BC, Harvard, Columbia, NYU, Georgetown, UVA, Northwestern, and U of Chicago.

    Of those, the only one that I pretty much knew I wasn’t getting into was Harvard. I figured BC was very safe, and the other 6 were about 50-50. Unlike Joe, I had prepared for, and done well on the LSAT. Also unlike Joe, my college grades were quite mediocre.

    In January or February, I received my first response. Boston College had sent me a lovely letter and an enclosed postcard to be on the waiting list. This put me into a panic, the likes of which I had never been in before. I was getting wait-listed by my safety school, which meant that there was no way I was getting in to any of the other schools. By the way, I was a philosophy major, so it’s not like I had any career prospects if I didn’t go to law school. I would have been a good candidate for Wendy’s assistant manager.

    After spending a good week freaking out, making appointments with BC undergrad career services, and generally bemoaning my lack of a future, I received an acceptance letter from Georgetown.

    Later, I was accepted to Columbia, Northwestern, and UVA. It turns out I was pretty much right about my chances at the middle tier. I was wait-listed by Harvard. But BC’s wait-listing caused me a week of agony. I was later told, and I believe, that my scores were far enough above BC’s standards that they had determined that they were likely a “safety school”, and that they would have accepted me if I had called. Still, a terrible week.

    It’s scary when your plan in case everything goes terribly falls through.

  5. 6 joesas February 13, 2009 at 12:10 pm


    This was a hysterical read. I now remember that I felt a sudden and wholly unsubstantiated ease when you were wait listed at BC as well. Like Joseph said, maybe I should have called? Perhaps I’d gotten in with a simple phone call instead of suffering through one semester of “I don’t want to be here” syndrome in Newark.

    Speaking of majors, you think a poli sci major would have landed me at a better job than Wendy’s assistant manager? Perhaps a manager?????? I’d make you a manager.

    We went through quite a panic, didn’t we? (Mine lasted a bit longer than yours). We ended up just fine, though. You’re comfortably in the South and I’m working ’til 1 in NYC. Wait… Did I say it all worked out fine?

  6. 7 Lisa February 13, 2009 at 7:14 pm

    I think this blog is far better than any other that you have written! I never knew about the Rutgers thing though! lol

  7. 8 joesas February 13, 2009 at 9:04 pm


    This “blog” refers to this post, or the blog in general as compared to other crap that I’ve written????

  8. 9 Michelle Bernal February 15, 2009 at 7:42 pm

    Joe, I love you. Don’t know what I’d do without you. :)

    • 10 joesas February 17, 2009 at 8:37 am


      Anything I can do for you, just let me know!

  9. 11 rattoch February 19, 2009 at 6:21 am

    i have my ways. i might apply to some foreign law schools when . still have not heard from suffolk yet.

  10. 12 rattoch February 19, 2009 at 6:22 am

    like ones that do not require the lsat lol.

  11. 13 joesas February 19, 2009 at 10:46 pm


    I shall not beat a dead horse, but like I’ve already said, if you’re planning on becoming an attorney in the United States, you, a graduate of American undergraduate, go to an American law school and get a J.D. That may be with or without an LSAT, but I can assure you there are reasons why schools that don’t require an LSAT are not known for offering promising futures.

    Good luck with Suffolk.

  12. 14 Chris Schroeck February 20, 2009 at 9:24 am

    Or come to Virginia, where you don’t have to go to law school to be admitted to the bar. Of course, you have to pass the bar exam, and it can be difficult to get a job without having a degree, but it’s possible.

  13. 15 Chris Schroeck February 20, 2009 at 9:33 am

    But really, if you can’t manage to do decently on the LSAT, you may want to consider another career path. The LSAT looks like one of those 4-piece jigsaw puzzles that they make for infants when you’re studying for the bar exam, and what’s the point of law school if you can’t pass a bar exam?

  14. 16 joesas February 21, 2009 at 12:23 am

    Chris R, heed the words of Chris S. His points are exactly on point.

    The fact is, there is no legitimate path to becoming an attorney without taking the LSAT. It’s like wanting to become a doctor without taking the GMAT or getting an MBA without taking the GRE. If you’re not even willing to put in the effort for the LSAT, what makes you think you can make it through the first year of law school, job search while taking classes, graduate from law school, and work as a lawyer?

  15. 17 rattoch February 25, 2009 at 6:26 am

    ha. we should probably never talk about this subject. we disagree on american education versus others around the world. obviously ours does not work if half of kids do not graduate from high school. just talking in general terms now.

  16. 18 joesas February 25, 2009 at 7:17 am


    This is starting to get old, but I’m just simply at a loss as to why you don’t understand what seems obvious to me and others.

    What I’m saying is not a criticism of foreign education system. I think studying abroad is great. But what you want to become is an American lawyer. There is no rational explanation for going overseas to become an American Esquire except…

    And forgive me for being harsh, but the fact is you don’t want to take the LSAT. That is the only rational explanation for your insistence on going to a foreign school (and not even a law school, but an undergraduate program). You can ad hoc justify your path all you want, but if you knew you can get a good LSAT grade, you’re willing to study for it, and actually got a good LSAT grade, you wouldn’t dream of taking this path.

    This shall be my final word on this topic, but I strongly urge you to take my and Chris’ words on this matter seriously. I don’t know much, and God knows you shouldn’t be seeking my advice for much, but this is one area I know what I’m talking about.

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