By Stefanie Arjona, Fellow Class of 2016
University of Denver
As I near the end of my third year in Law School Yes We Can (LSYWC), I have realized that this program will not just be helpful in my future career goals, but it is already helpful in my current education at the University of Denver. By attending LSYWC workshops, I have learned more about standardized testing and the unequal way that these exams affect low-income students of color, like myself.
One of the first LSYWC workshops I attended this year focused on the Law School Admission Test, or LSAT. LSYWC Board Member Eliseo Puig went through the basic facts of the LSAT. He explained the length of the test, the number of sections we would have to take, and the type of questions we may encounter. Eliseo then broke down how LSAT scores get taken into consideration for admissions decisions. The ugly reality is that the LSAT score makes up the largest percentage of that decision, meaning that it was essential that we do really well on this exam. Winter Torres, a former LSYWC board member, chimed into the conversation and explained that, as low-income students of color, this might not be the easiest task for us because the test obliquely favors students that have the means and resources to afford LSAT prep books and prep courses. Winter added that the students who had those means probably received a higher quality education that had prepared them to do well on standardized tests, unlike low-income students of color who may have gone to schools that were underfunded and left them less prepared for the challenges of the LSAT. And, because a good LSAT score is critical to getting into law school, low-income students of color are frequently prevented from obtaining a law school education too.
During my fall quarter this year, I took a sociology class about social inequality in which we focused a lot on class inequality in the United States. My professor gave a lecture discussing the differences in how children are raised based on their class status. My professor explained that children brought up in middle class families were better equipped to negotiate and navigate key institutions because these children had fostered more social networks, had more diverse childhood experiences, and had more language and conceptual skills. Children brought up in working class or poor families, however, did not have those same opportunities. When I heard this, it reminded me of the LSAT workshop where we discussed the disadvantages that low-income students of color face when preparing for and taking the exam. I realized that these class-based inequalities follow low-income students beyond grade school since we still face significant challenges getting into law school, and once there, students like me are also not prepared to be successful in those institutions simply because of our background. However, with the help of Law School Yes We Can and my mentors, I know that I will be prepared to take on law school and everything in between.