What it’s Like When a School Says You’re Not “Good Enough”

Author: Tony Iliakostas, Real Life Stories

There are people who live and breathe off school. In fact, there are people that love school so much that they would rather be life-long students than work a normal day job with pay and benefits.

I went to school for 21 straight years, from kindergarten through law school, and I didn’t miss a beat, working my way through long careers while in school and doing my dutiful job as a student. And while the schoolwork itself was challenging, I think my greatest ordeal as a millennial in school came when I was applying to law schools.

The story
I was enrolled at my dream college, Fordham University. I adhered to the Jesuits’ instruction of satisfying their core curriculum requirements with ease and ultimately honing my studies in communications and media studies. Thankfully, my perpetual hard work earned me Dean’s List honors all four years at Fordham and I graduated Magna cum Laude.

At Fordham, I knew that my studies and interests would lead me to a career in the law, so I began the process of studying for the LSAT. The LSAT is the SAT equivalent for law schools; it also happens to be the first ring of of purgatory. The test comprises of reading comprehension, logical reasoning and logic games. Basically, if you are a book smart person, you could ace the LSAT. But if you are more analytical, scoring a decent grade on the LSAT could be burdensome.

I fell into this latter category and what was normally my virtue was my vice in the realm of law school standardized testing. I’ll never forget having one-on-one tutors train me on the LSAT. The pain and struggle was real and by December 2010, I only had a 149 out of 180 LSAT score to show for.

In spite of the pain and suffering of studying and prepping for the LSAT, that didn’t discourage me; I still had every intention of applying to law schools. The only problem was (and still is) that law schools are always (negligently) fixated on what your LSAT score is. Yet, law schools also require that your GPA is superb, that you have a strong personal statement, and your letters of recommendation are the next best thing to sliced Wonder Bread.

In my eyes, I met all the marks that law schools wanted except for the LSAT score. But I still applied to all the major law schools in New York City.

The hope
Most schools got back to me with flat-out rejections just based on my LSAT score. Talk about a “LOL” moment. But this millennial still had hope, and a true test of my endurance came when one law school finally contacted me asking for an interview.  I was excited about the opportunity to interview at a law school that was a stone’s throw away from where I lived.

So I went in, dressed to the nines, and sat with one of the admissions officers. She introduced herself, sat me down, and asked me a whole host of questions about Fordham, my career aspirations, my brief job stints and internships while I was in undergrad, and why I feel like I am qualified to be a student at their school. The response that followed from this admissions officer was… well, distasteful to say the least, and fixated on my LSAT score once again. I got up and walked out of the interview.

The reality and the heartbreak
It was at that moment that I truly grasped the grim reality of academic rejection. Here I was, working my tail off in every way imaginable academically. Yet, they didn’t see the fruits of my labor and recklessly labeled me as a potentially poor law student without giving me a fair chance. They were solely deriving a conclusion on my potential performance in law school because of a number that they were so fixated on.

Admittedly, law schools, and all schools for that matter, are wrong to abide by a formula or statistics. Schools should be in the business of admitting students not just on their academic performance but their ability to be savvy when necessary, to communicate effectively and to convey real-world qualities that will be essential to their career and life.

Thankfully, it all worked out because my alma mater, New York Law School, welcomed me with open arms, I had a tremendously successful law school career, and my whole ordeal with law school admissions made me an advocate to those who felt like outliers, just like I was.

The lesson
If you’re a millennial reading this and you’re also in this predicament of being rejected by academic programs, fret not. Never lose hope. It’s important to remember that as a millennial, nothing will be served to you on a silver platter. At the same time, if you are a hard worker and you feel like you should be recognized for your diligence and effort, make it known to schools you apply to.

Be your own salesperson and tell schools why they should take a chance on you.  You never know if they’ll bite that bait, but it’s worth a shot. In the long run, a single standardized test will not define your character or your ability to do your job effectively; in fact, those standardized tests are meaningless. What matters is your ability to show that your individual brand makes you who you are. And in this digital age that we live in with blogs and social media coming at us left and right, there is no better time for millennials to effectively sell their brand than now.

It’s been three years since I graduated law school and finished my academic career and I don’t miss it for one bit. Yup, that’s how much I love my job. But looking back and reflecting on all the rejection letters I received while applying to law school, I’m thankful for that chapter in my life. It made me cognizant of my abilities and only reinforced my ability to try harder and remain persistent.

If you are experiencing what I once experienced, I hope my story inspires you to move forward, not pause.

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