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My daughter was rejected a 2nd time from LSE, Oxford, UCL for undergraduate law. We're from B.C. (a common law province), Canada (where law is only an undergraduate degree), and knew that overseas applicants have lower admissions chances. English is our native language.

I've never seen her so severely dashed and saddened. She says she's so, not as she was rejected, but as her rejections imply being too half-witted to be a lawyer. Thus her goal is to boost her intelligence and other skills to excel as a lawyer.

The usual positive platitudes appear phony, on how great students can shine at any other university or univ. don't matter. Even if her remaining 2 UCAS choices accept her, she'll probably decline as they're too shoddy.

Feedback (from this year's Oxford Law Tutors who interviewed her), approximates that of a different Oxford College last year where she was interviewed and rejected too:

Based on your strong grades, we decided to offer you an interview.

During your interview, you expressed your interest in law articulately. Yet unfortunately, compared to other candidates, you could not grasp the important distinctions that we were trying to draw in the legal material, and to evince sufflcient flexibility of thought. You do not appear teachable, as your answers were inflexible and too focussed on spotting every minute issue. You spoke at great length, but with no sense of the larger issues.

But as a parent who knows nothing of law, how can I help? These skills don't appear easy to learn.

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    From your writing, it appears that English is not your native language. The problem may not be "intelligence" so much as "culture gap". If the "larger issues" are pointed out to her, she may grasp them easily, even though she was not aware of them when she was being interviewed. For example, if her cultural exposure to law is from "code law" perspective, then she would be expected so show inflexibility as compared to british "common law". She may find it easier to get into a highly ranked legal program in her native culture, or in France where they are under code law. – pojo-guy Jan 15 '18 at 3:46
  • That is some open and negative feedback. You might get the same feedback from a business school. In conversation does she focus on minute issues with no sense of the larger issues? – paparazzo Jan 15 '18 at 13:38
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    It almost sounds like what they are saying is that your daughter is so consumed with having the "right" answer that she seems to lack the ability to be open to alternatives and discovery. That sounds like a similar mindset to the idea that those are the only choices that will allow her to succeed in a law career. Unfortunately, I don't have a solution in how to break out of a particular ingrained mindset and personality type. – PoloHoleSet Jan 15 '18 at 21:26
  • @pojo-guy Thanks for the feedback. Sorry for the typos in my original post...I corrected them now. I also added our location details. We're not in a "code law" jurisdiction. – Law Applicant Mom Jan 15 '18 at 22:42
  • Note that other universities exist as well as LSE, Oxford and UCL. – Daniel Roseman Jan 17 '18 at 10:47
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I might be reading this wrong, but it doesn't sound to me as if they had a problem with her intelligence, but more her being locked in a certain thought pattern. (Also doesn't seem like not being a lawyer makes it a problem for you to help.)

you could not grasp the important distinctions that we were trying to draw in the legal material, and to evince sufficient flexibility of thought.

Fairly self-explanatory, something about the interview (her answers?) indicate to them that she has a hard time taking in new information, internalizing it, and adjusting her responses.

You do not appear teachable, as your answers were inflexible and too focused on spotting every minute issue. You spoke at great length, but with no sense of the larger issues.

This I recognize personally. Certain members of my immediate family have the same problem. You can give them information and they do understand it logically, but they can't apply it to "the bigger picture" without an example. They're constantly focused on some specific detail of "the bigger picture". Closest approximation I can think of is tunnel vision: "the bigger picture"(your immediate environment) is there all around you and you do see it, but when you're suffering from tunnel vision, you can only focus on the central part of the image.

In my case, I've found ways of explaining things from different angles that sometimes make sense right away and sometimes miserably fail, but mostly take a bit of thought on my part and some time until I find the line of reasoning that works. In the case of a school setting, where the instructor has to teach several people at once, this might not be possible, hence the not-teachable comment.

I don't have an obvious/easy solution, but maybe this will spark someone else's.

Maybe something that would exercise creative thinking would help? Once she can think creatively, it might be easier to internalize the information they're trying to convey?

Running (or playing in?)some kind of a rules-light pen and paper game for children comes to mind, as the children would force some interesting quick-thinking to unusual situations. Something like No Thank You Evil! comes to mind: http://www.nothankyouevil.com/ .

No Thank You, Evil! is a tabletop game of creative make-believe, adventure, and storytelling.

Can't think of any student-ish jobs off the top of my head that would train creative thinking, but there has to something out there...

  • Thanks for the feedback. Sorry for the typos in my original post...I corrected them now. I also added our location details. We're not in a "code law" jurisdiction. I'd upvote you but can't, as this account is new. – Law Applicant Mom Jan 15 '18 at 22:42
  • @LawApplicantMom you can upvote, and accept the answer if you want. – Rory Alsop Jan 16 '18 at 12:57
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It sounds like the issue is not so much with the degree of her intelligence as its type. The ability to distinguish fundamental differences from minor ones, or to pull disparate items, only some of which are presented before you now, into a theory (or separate incidents into a coherent story; or various trees into a forest) may not be something that can be taught.

They don't seem to be questioning her high intelligence, just her fitness for their type of program. The fact that she is not grasping this distinction may indicate that they have a point. (Or it may just be an issue of maturity. If she's about to be an undergraduate, she must still be pretty young.)

Does she need to be this type of lawyer? Does she need to go to school in England? If she does the right undergrad in the U.S. or Canada, and continues to get good grades, there must be very excellent schools on this side of the pond that would love to have her.

On the other hand, if she really wants to persist, and is willing to put in the effort...

Assuming she doesn't already, try having her read science fiction, preferably short stories. Not so much the nuts and bolts kind ("hard" science fiction), but the social kind, where ideas about human beings drive the story. "Year's Best" anthologies might be a place to start, or she could ask a librarian or English teacher for suggestions. The strangeness would definitely help her to become more flexible in her thinking... and good science fiction short stories are all about larger issues, in an applied form.

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Get her involved in a debating group. If there aren't any near you, Toastmasters is also a good choice. She needs to see the bigger picture and come up with concise answers, I can't see a better way to achieve it than to learn how to argue logically.

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