How Much Does the Prestige of Your Grad School Matter?

We make a living helping applicants get into the world’s most competitive business schools, law schools, and medical schools. So, it’s fair to say that applicants’ desire to get into the world’s top graduate schools is what puts food on our plates at night. (And those plates carry all sorts of food; the Veritas Prep team includes devout vegans, die-hard carnivores, and everyone in between.) But today we’re going to offer what may seem like a slightly contrary stance, one that some applicants need to hear this week after getting getting rejected or waitlisted by a top grad school: Your whole career and life are NOT determined by what grad school you attend!

Whoa, did I just write that? I can see the traffic to dropping as I finish this very sentence. Fans are deserting our Facebook page by the dozen. Our Twitter feed has become a veritable social media ghost town. I think I just saw an ASCII-rendered tumbleweed roll by. But it needs to be said: A top-tier MBA, JD, or MD can significantly improve your career prospects, but how successful you will be in life still depends on YOU, more than anything.

Where’s all this coming from? It was prompted by a question from a very thoughtful applicant. he has a very specific, realistic goal for what he wants to do after business school, and he’s currently making plans to help achieve that goal (including applying to business school this coming year). He wants to go into investment banking, and is carefully considering what schools will give him a realistic shot at landing at a blue-chip firm such as Goldman Sachs or Morgan Stanley. He basically had two questions: “How hard will it be to get a blue-chip banking job at a ‘top-twenty-ish’ MBA program, and will a not-so-prestigious MBA hurt me my career prospects after my first post-MBA job?”

The first question is actually one that some applicants don’t ask enough. Sadly, every year some students enter business school or law school assuming that there will be plenty of job opportunities with a certain firm or within a specific industry, only to find out that recruiters from that company/industry don’t recruit much from their school. So, it’s good that he asked. In his case, he’s considering a very good lower-ranked school that actually does send some grads to Wall Street every year.

The difference between that school and a top-ten school is usually more in the number of jobs that those firms hand out on campus. For instance, Goldman Sachs may make dozens of offers at HBS, but more like half a dozen at this particular school (which happens to be a much smaller program, too). So, he may have to hustle to get one of those jobs, but he seems so strong that we bet he will be able to, if he goes there.

Now, for the second part of his question: Assuming you go to a less prestigious school and get your foot in the door at a high-caliber firm, then the rest is really up to you. That’s what many grad school applicants miss: How you’ll do in your career over the long-term depends far more on how you perform and who you make connections with, rather than on what school name is on your resume. Of course, a “better” school gives you access to a “better” alumni network, which may always help, but even that matters less than what experiences you gain and what accomplishments you can start to rack up in the first several years out of business school.

In this way, the working world and the admissions world are not radically different: What undergrad school you went to and what company you work for now certainly matter, but what’s even more important is what impact you’ve had on the company and the community around you. That’s a far better predictor of success in your career… and in life, for that matter!

For more MBA admissions tips and resources, give us a call at (800) 925-7737 and speak with one of our admissions experts today. And, be sure to subscribe to this blog and follow us on Twitter!

Law School Grads in the Year 2012

People are buzzing about 2012 these days, given the Mayan prediction that the world would end at that time. There’s no doubt that “world ending” qualifies as something to keep an eye on, but one has to doubt the accuracy of Mayan predictions, given how things went with the conquistadors.

Either way, of greater concern here at Veritas Prep is what is going to happen to law school graduates in 2012. Last year’s clients (as well as thousands of other students) are in their first terms right now, soaking up Civil Procedure and walking across the hot coals that are the Socratic Method. They are also watching in terror as their 3L and 2L colleagues struggle to find jobs.

We all know that the job market is bleak for recent grads and students about to graduate … but what about the students just starting out? Will things rebound by 2012? What is the landscape going to look like?

For the most part, people seem to be fairly optimistic about job prospects further down the road. The general belief that the economy will recover has a positive impact on the legal industry, as the services that bolster financial instruments stand to benefit as those markets bounce back. Furthermore, there have been new areas of the law to emerge (such as energy and financial regulation) that will give rise to more available career paths.

Additionally, job prospects in “alternative” areas, such as public interest, government, and academia, seem to be holding pretty steady. For students who plan accordingly and take advantage of loan forgiveness programs, a career in public interest is a way to take advantage of a law degree without running into the risks of a down financial market.

That said, beyond the projections of offers and available positions, one also has to wonder about the culture of the future legal environment. We’ve previously opined on this blog that law firms would take full advantage of the downturn to stamp out a lot of the niceties that had emerged in the last decade via retention efforts. Some are more optimistic, but the frozen salaries, vanishing bonuses, and minimal mentorship programs might be here to stay. The balance of power has shifted from recent graduates back to firms and their partners, as even elite grads are just hoping to land a job. Three years ago, cream-of-the-crop prospects were able to shop around and put pressure on firms to create a more welcoming, forward-thinking environment.

2012 may well signal the end of the current panic-stricken job climate, but it will also likely give rise to a whole new reality. Even as firms build back out hiring and recruiting efforts, we may not see the same with programs aimed at retention. This is likely to mean even tougher conditions in an industry already known for long hours, high stress, and lack of work-life balance.

Focusing on Law School Job Prospects

Over the past nine months, there have been numerous indications that a job crisis was looming for law students. Firms were deferring start dates for new associates, cutting summer programs, and even introducing new apprenticeship models of initial employment. Veritas Prep has been actively following each development to the hiring landscape and has covered a variety of angles in great detail. For more information, please visit past entries regarding:

However, until the fall hiring season actually rolled around, there was no way to know for sure how all of these developments would impact current law students.

Well, now the fall season is here and, according to, it’s not looking good.

According to the Bloomberg article, the sting is being felt across the board, including at Harvard, which carries unique signifigance. HLS can be thought of as the castle on the hill when it comes to law school career prospects, so when the wolf is at the door of Harvard, you know the rest of the country has been overrun. According to Mark Weber, Harvard’s assistant dean for career services, second and third year students have experienced a decrease of up to 20% for initial interviews, and there seems to be a legitimate fear that “callbacks” are going to be even worse. That certainly seems to be the case at another elite program (especially with regard to career placement), as NYU is already calling the reduction of callbacks “significant.”

Again, if the truly elite programs are starting to panic, it does not bode well for every other law school beneath them in the pecking order. You can expect career service offices and students alike to start getting creative about the job search and you can absolutely expect admissions offices to start to think more about career prospects and plans than they ever have before. In fact, one of the things that has always made applying to law school so different from applying to business school is that JD programs have long been relatively unconcerned with career plans or prospects. However, it seems likely that we are entering a bold new world with regard to law schools admissions; one where career goals are of paramount importance. Plan accordingly.

For more information on law school admissions or for help incorporating career goals into the application, visit our website or call our offices at 1.800.925.7737. If you are interested in receiving an in-person consultation, contact us at law at to find out more about these seasonal events in your area.

Law School Admissions – News You Can Use

We’re trying a new format today, which is to include a series of noteworthy links from the world of law school admissions and the legal market. There have been a lot of interesting takes on two topics in particular: deferred law firm jobs and the new U.S. News & World Report rankings. We’ll offer up a few links in those areas, as well as a couple of this blog’s favorite law school topics, including faculty hiring.

Here are some of the hot topics in the law school community:

  • In the wake of the new law school rankings, U.S. News & World comes right out and addresses concerns and feedback, via Bob Morse’ “Morse Code” blog. The publication’s recent movement toward transparency and dialogue about the all-important rankings has given the list even more credibility.

  • Perhaps not surprisingly, one of the more extensive responses to the rankings came from The GW Hatchet, where the George Washington student paper tries to work through law school’s drop from 20 to 28 in the latest rankings. In particular, the article focuses on the disagreement between the school and the aforementioned Morse – the former claiming that the addition of part-time programs in the rankings is what dropped GW down the list, while the latter insists that “weak placement” data is responsible. Worth a read, if only to understand how seriously everyone takes this ranking business.
  • Third-tier program New York Law School rates well behind fellow Manhattan schools such as NYU, Columbia, and Fordham, but its new building appears to be second to none. (Note also the swanky location. You could do worse.)
  • The Wall Street Journal is the latest entity to run a story on the increase in job deferments for new law firm associates. You can follow our analysis of this trend here and here.
  • The Kansas City Star also focused on the difficult legal job market, and extended the analysis to include a reduction in federal clerkship positions.
  • The Chicago Tribune ran a story speculating that President Obama’s pick to replace Justice Souter on the Supreme Court is likely to have significant ties to the University of Chicago Law School.
  • Legal writer and attorney Ursula Furi-Perry has published Law School Revealed and this article provides a solid checklist for analyzing which schools might be a good fit.
  • Stanford shook off a discouraging drop to #3 in the rankings and the loss of constitutional law scholar Lawrence Lessig to Harvard by hiring 10th Circuit Judge Michael McConnell to direct the Stanford Constitutional Law Center.
  • Stanford can also take solace in the fact that its Law School is at the top of the heap in the TaxProf Blog’s ranking of employment success. The ABA’s blog reports that Stanford rates first (followed by Duke, NYC, UCLA, and Penn) in a study based on U.S. News & World employment statistics and conducted by respected law professor Paul Caron, of the University of Cincinnati.

For more on the law school admissions process, be sure to follow us on Twitter.

A New Trend to Watch for Law School Grads

Everything seems to be changing these days at America’s top law schools, but one trend I never thought we’d see would be a sudden influx of practicing attorneys applying for federal clerkships. According to an article in the Philadelphia Business Journal, the percentage of alumni applicants is climbing rapidly from past years.

Temple has seen alumni make up 28 percent of its clerkship applications (up from 13 percent last year) and Penn claims that “35 to 40 percent” of its clerkship applicants are alumni.

Granted, the article focuses on Philadelphia area law schools, but the trend seems to expand beyond the region.

So what are the takeaways?

For starters, it confirms what I’ve been hearing from peers, which is that clerkships can be a grueling job. Once seen as both a more prestigious and less taxing entry into the legal world, it seems safe to say that only the “prestigious” part remains in play. The level of difficulty embedded in a clerkship is, of course, determined by the judge in question, but there certainly seems to be a pattern forming that includes difficult work and insane hours. A friend of mine clerked with the Ninth Circuit last year and his workload put my “big firm” hours to shame (and make no mistake, I worked a lot). The fact that judges are looking for more experienced attorneys to act as clerks seems to indicate that the workload is getting more difficult and more intense.

The other key takeaway here is that it will impact the career paths of today’s law school applicants. Many elite candidates select programs based on the chances of landing prestigious federal clerkships. Some will settle for nothing short of a prominent Appellate Circuit clerkship with the hopes that it will launch them to a gig with the Supreme Court.

But if more and more of those spots are going to more experienced alums, it puts greater pressure on all parties. Applicants – particularly those with no intentions of practicing, but rather riding a clerkship into academia – will have to chose their law schools very carefully and monitor this trend to see which programs are protecting current students by suppressing the influx of alums.

Yet another factor to consider in the very difficult decision of where to study law.