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Posted March 10, 2009

Law Student’s Love for LSAT Helps Others Succeed

Epps

It is an understatement to say that Elisabeth Epps loves the LSAT.

“To an unhealthy degree, I love that test. I was a dork growing up. I would be on the bus — always with a game of logic puzzles from kindergarten through 12th grade — just doing them,” said Epps, a first-year law student. “The LSAT was like grown-up permission to enjoy this sort of thinking. I really do love the test. It’s so dorky to say out loud.”

But Epps’ passion for the LSAT has become a beneficial sideline as she attends the Law School. Epps, an LSAT instructor for Kaplan Test Preparation, was recently named Teacher of the Year for the company’s Charlottesville branch for the second year in a row.

For Epps, the journey to law school at UVA wasn’t direct. In fact, until she was in her mid-20s, Epps planned to become a physician. She and her son, A.J., who is now 12, moved to Charlottesville in 2003 so Epps could pursue her goal of first earning a master’s degree in medical ethics, then pursue a medical degree. She began working as a patient care coordinator at the Charlottesville Free Clinic.

“It’s very hard to explain, but I couldn’t put one foot in front of the other, and I didn’t know why not. I’d prepared for the MCAT, I’d taken all the prerequisites, survived organic chemistry, done all the things I was supposed to do — volunteered at the hospital, had a job in health care,” Epps said. “That’s when it occurred to me all the things I loved about my job in health care were legal. It was about social justice and access and health policy, and the things I didn’t like at all were bodies, blood, science, medicine, prescriptions — those things I couldn’t stand. When I figured out that what I liked about it had nothing to do about science and health, law school was a natural fit.”

So Epps found herself prepping for the Law School Admissions Test, a prerequisite for entry to most law schools. The exam contains sections that test reading comprehension, analytical reasoning, logical reasoning and writing.

Epps never took a prep course for the LSAT, but scored high enough on her first try to begin teaching her own prep course for Kaplan in the summer of 2007. She began law school in the fall of 2008, along with some of her first students.

“This test, it gets a bad rep. Kaplan’s philosophy, which is a good fit for me, is that the test is your friend. The point at which you apply, your grades are done, your recommendations are done, your teachers either liked you or didn’t. Your resume is what it is,” Epps said. “The LSAT is an opportunity for a fresh start. It is your friend.  A 180 erases all blemishes. It says, ‘Who cares about that ‘C’ you got your freshman year?’”

Epps said teaching has been far more rewarding than she ever expected, and she enjoys it so much that she’d like to eventually teach at a law school. She taught Paul Wagoner, a Charlottesville student who earned a perfect score on the LSAT — the coveted 180. And, though she said it was wonderful, Epps said it was no more fulfilling than helping any student achieve his or her goals.

“As exciting as that 180 is — and it was clearly thrilling — it’s honestly no different than when a student is just dying to break 150, and she does,” Epps said. “As a teacher, his 180 is not really different than when the young woman who has been stuck in the 140s gets that 150 on her test and can go to that school that is where she wants to be. It’s her 180.”

Kaplan flew Epps to New York late last year to appear in a television commercial for the company, and Epps is waiting to hear whether she will win Kaplan’s district teacher of the year award.

• Reported by Ashley Matthews