Category: Profiles

J.Y. Ping is the co-founder of 7Sage LSAT Prep, which is dedicated to making law school accessible to everyone through high quality and affordable online LSAT prep. He is also the co-founder of PreProBono, a non-profit that helps economically disadvantaged and underrepresented minority pre-law students acquire and utilize law degrees for careers in public interest law. He graduated from Columbia University in 2007 and earned his J.D. from Harvard Law School in 2011. We sat down with him to talk about his law school experience and how he is using that to help other students prepare.

What made you want to go to law school?

Maybe this is still true, but back when I was there, Columbia’s career services pushed investment banking and strategy consulting pretty hard. I didn’t want to work those kinds of jobs because it wasn’t clear to me whether they added value to society. The summers came and went, and I found myself about to graduate with no work experience and a lot of anxiety. Law school seemed like a convenient way to defer my career choice.

Did you always want to go to law school throughout all of your undergraduate years?

Definitely not. The first week of school, I flirted with pre-med until I attended the orientation and saw how heavy the course work was going to be. Then I grew interested in philosophy via Contemporary Civilization and thought I might want to pursue graduate studies in philosophy. I took an intro-level graduate class, Modal Logic with Achille Varzi, and found the subject matter abstruse (even though Professor Varzi was a phenomenal teacher). I ended up majoring in economics-political science with a concentration in philosophy, which prepared me well for law school.
Were there any professors that inspired you to go?
Many professors at Columbia did inspire me, however briefly, to follow in their academic footsteps, but no one professor inspired me to go to law school.

What about pro bono work captivated your interest for 8 years?
I immigrated to America with my mom when I was 7 and grew up poor. My mom worked very hard to make sure I got an excellent education. I really cannot imagine what my life would’ve been like without the opportunities I found in America. Education is not an abstract concept to me. I know from personal experience its power to improve people’s lives. That’s why I founded PreProBono with Jerone Hsu (also CC ’07) during our senior year. We wanted to help poor, minority, and immigrant kids the best way we knew how. For me, that meant teaching the LSAT, because that was what I could do very well. We targeted students in the CUNY system and gave law school aspirants not just free but the best LSAT prep. It was an incredibly rewarding experience.

[Note to Joshua: I worked with PreProBono through 2013, which would make it about 5 years. I’m happy to report that the organization is doing terrific without me.]

How did that influence your founding of 7Sage?
PreProBono is a non-profit that provides LSAT instruction, along with a few other services. I was the main instructor. I only have 24 hours in a day, and eventually I’d get tired or make mistakes—or I’d begin to get impatient when I had to explain a concept for the 7th time. There were physical constraints on how much service I could provide. Scaling up would have required a lot of fundraising, and even then we could have only scaled geometrically, not exponentially, because every instructor would have been subject to the same physical constraints. 7Sage, on the other hand, benefits from being online. By digitizing my instruction at its best, I was able to transcend the constraints on my time and scale my service exponentially. Now I can help anyone who needs it with free logic game explanations and comprehensive LSAT courses at a great value.

Can you explain what areas of law 7Sage covers?
We currently have LSAT courses and a course on how to get into law school. We’re working on a bar prep course due to be released in late 2017.

Why did you pick Japan as the location for 7Sage?

7Sage’s team is entirely remote. Alan, my co-founder and CTO, is based in Vancouver, where he is from. Our student services manager, Dillon, is in Cornwall (also Canada). Nicole, our community director, is in Texas. David, our editor and admissions consultant is based in Chicago. I’m nomadic. Currently, I’m in Kyoto. I’ll be here until August, and I haven’t decided where I’ll go after.

What advice would you give to someone considering law school?
Work hard to earn a high GPA. Take as many classes as you think you can handle. Admissions committees look hard at transcripts and are very discerning. Work with professors you admire. See if you can be a research assistant, or maybe even co-author a paper with one of them. Maybe you’ll decide to be an academic after all. If not, you’ll likely get a good recommendation letter at the very least. Study long and hard for the LSAT. It’s the most important factor in law school admissions.

How did you go about studying for the LSAT? Any tips?

I set aside a very long time: over a year. I think my background in economics and philosophy helped immensely. A lot of the successful strategies I came up with I’ve implemented in the 7Sage curriculum. My biggest tip is to sign up for a free account with 7Sage. You can access our logic game explanations, our tool to find real study buddies nearby (like at Columbia), our test proctor app, and more.


What would you say was the hardest part of law school?
The huge mismatch between what you do for homework and in classes and what’s required of you on the exam. It felt like a bait and switch to me. You spend all semester discussing cases, reading a lot of them in detail, and then your entire grade depends on an issue-spotting exam.

Meet Peter. Peter, a student in the School of General Studies is a Political Science Major and a veteran. He has recently been featured in various publications including the  New York Times and MSNBC for his current CrowdPac fundraiser to pressure Republican Presidential Nominee, Donald Trump, to release his taxes. We sat down with Peter to learn more about his fundraiser and ways in which students can get involved.

From your veteran’s perspective of the candidates, what are your views of the current presidential candidates?

There is a bit of a double standard in this current election cycle. Hillary has been held to a higher and separate standard than Donald Trump has which I think is problematic to our democracy. There’s a certain responsibility that the President as the Commander in Chief needs to have. As a veteran who has been to Afghanistan, this issue matters to me.

I am registered as an Independent voter.  I am not affiliated with either party, but trying to make up my mind as an Independent; however, Trump’s rhetoric has made it hard to be unbiased. As far as qualifications, we have a candidate who is a former Senator, former Secretary of State, and who is about as experienced as a candidate that we’ve ever seen and then we have someone else who is a celebrity.

I’m more about transparency. Ronald Reagan, who is a Republican, has a great quote: “Trust, but verify.” When it comes to a lot of Trump’s claims, I like it but I want to verify it. I’d really like to trust you Donald Trump, but I also want to verify it, so let’s release your tax returns.

Donald has done a great job about raising veteran’s issues by speaking incorrectly about them. In contrast, I don’t think that that’s the focus of my campaign; my goal is not to raise awareness, but to donate money to veterans charities. I want to use the political process to benefit veterans and reverse the system on itself.

What motivated you to start your fundraiser to pressure Trump into releasing his taxes?

This year at the Intrepid Museum, Trump and Clinton were questioned on veterans and their roles as a Commander in Chief. It was not a debate, but it was half an hour each to answer questions about military and foreign policy. I attended and I also got 15 other Columbia veterans to attend as well and we were pretty frustrated at the event because of the questions. Hillary got questioned for 10 minutes straight about her emails but when it came to Trump, nothing about his tax returns or his conflicts of interests with our national security came up, which to me is the biggest questions to ask a potential Commander in Chief.

Out of frustration from that event, I was inspired to start this campaign. The way it works is that you pledge money, but you will only get charged if the conditions of the fundraiser are met. The website [CrowdPac] was originally created for people running for office. Donors would only get charged once a candidate officially announced that he or she was running for office. I decided there was a unique way in which we could use this to make Donald Trump release his tax returns.

Trump claims to support veterans and even used them as an excuse to skip the last Republican Primary debate in January. He instead decided to do a fundraiser for veterans, because he claimed that veterans are so important that we need to raise money for them. Well if that’s true, I’ve raised 6 million dollars, which is more money than he had raised and it’s almost easier for him to donate this money; he just needs to release his taxes.

It’s important that he release his tax returns, especially if Trump has business interests or outstanding debts to a foreign country. Let’s say it’s Russia. Let’s say Trump owes Russian companies millions of dollars; if we as a country get into conflict or declare war with Russia, he would be absolved of his debts. There’s no reason for him to pay money to a country we’re at war with. This happens with every war and that to me is dangerous. That’s a direct conflict of interest with the country and our foreign policy and his business interests. His failure to release his tax returns is telling about him as a person and his potential Presidency.

People use veterans for props. I decided that being a Political Science student studying the campaign finance system, this would be a clever way to divert some of the money going to corporation’s profits to charities instead.

How did you react when Reid Hoffman (the Chairman of LinkedIn) pledged to quintuple all donations? 

Reid Hoffman pledged to quintuple the money we raised up to a million dollars, so a total of 5 million dollars. We were able to meet the goal and the money has been added. The fundraiser is now at over 6.2 million dollars.

After the Commander in Chief forum, I had an appearance on the Rachel Maddow Show. I made an appearance and I guess he saw me on Twitter announcing my CrowdPac campaign and decided to support it; ever since them we have gotten a lot of publicity.

This campaign has done a great job speaking on veterans issues by being incorrect about them. My goal is to send money to groups that can help. There are a lot of things our government does well, but non-profits can help them. I want to use the political system to help veterans.

Do you think Trump will release his taxes? Why do you think he has yet to release them?

I genuinely hope he does. I don’t understand how the campaign would let Mike Pence release his for 10 years yet Trump would not. I’m probably the last optimistic person on this planet that thinks he might release his tax returns. Considering that the reports out of the New York Times are not endearing, you would think he would release his tax returns to change the narrative. The fact that he hasn’t suggests he has something to hide and that’s deeply concerning.

How do you recommend students get involved? 

The biggest thing is if you don’t have money to donate, share the campaign with people who do. Share it on your social media and help get the word out. We’ve reached $6.2 million and I’d love to reach $10 million by October 19th. With every dollar raised, there’s that much more pressure on Trump to release his tax returns. And now instead of rewarding Trump for doing something he already should have, there is a benefit for veterans. And it also means that there’s now an explicit cost to not releasing them. Now if he doesn’t release them, it will have cost veterans 6 million dollars. Clearly those tax returns are worth something.

Anything else?

Get out and vote. This is why we have fall break. Get out to vote.

I don’t speak for all veterans nor anyone else in the military, but I think that ’s it. Every president since Nixon has released his tax returns. Why shouldn’t Trump? We can’t let him get by this double standard.

To support Peter’s CrowdPac fundraiser, click here.

Know of a Columbia affiliate working to make an impact in the world? Recommend them for an interview with The Lion by emailing submissions@columbialion.com

Meet Perrin. Perrin, a current first year in Columbia Engineering  from Saratoga Springs, NY is a prospective Computer Science and Applied Physics double-major also planning to study abroad in his time year. We sat down with him to learn more about him and his unique interests and passions.

What are you current passions? How do you think you’ll pursue them on campus?

I am a hardcore quantum computer scientist. I’ve worked with people in the field already within it. People get taken aback by the world quantum, but I wish they wouldn’t. It’s just a way to make really fast computers that are super useful. I took a lot of weekend classes and attended at the institute for quantum computing in Canada. They built the biggest quantum computer and I took a selfie with it. I learned all this math, physics, and quantum computing in a short amount of time. I was one of 3 from the US who got to attend and I made friends with other students from around the world.

I’m working to get a research position here with a person about to get their PhD. I would be working on quantum computing algorithms and simulations.

Of everything you’ve worked on, volunteered for, and studied, what are you most proud of?

I juggled four paid jobs at once in high school. Since they were all different days and I had my regular high school studies, this was something I was proud of. I lived on my own for about a year so I took the jobs to pay for my apartment and life. I worked at Starbucks, I was a software engineer for two years, IT intern at school, and a paid sound designer at my local theater. There were times they were all at the same time and then they started cycling.

I think I accidentally stumbled on computer science in 8th grade. I think I found a programming site online and started playing with it for fun. And then I really liked physics so I had an epiphany in 10th grade that the two blend together so nicely.

What are you interested in studying here? Why?

I am a double major in SEAS with a study abroad in London. I will be on a theoretical track in computer science and an applied physics major. In this I get to also be an applied math minor just by taking the two majors. I am planning to stay next summer to do my own research through CUSP and I think I will be able to take some classes over the summer so I never have to take more than 5 required classes. There’s a couple of classes that I have some experience in that I can take over the summer to make my life a little easier.

What are you most nervous/anxious about (in regards to college, Columbia, NYC, etc)?

My school was good but not spectacular. Knowing I am going in against people with such an amazing amount of preparation is a lot. And I know it evens out after a semester or two, but it can be intimidating.

What are you most excited about (in regards to college, Columbia, NYC, etc)?

Not being bored.

The people. I came from a town where I never had a class with anyone who was Asian, Hispanic, etc.; I was the darkest-skinned person in classes. After doing diversity programs, I realized I loved genuinely learning from people of other backgrounds.

I am about to live on Broadway [plays/musicals]. I cannot imagine a better school for this. I really want to be a tour guide. I love this school so much and I want to show everyone else how amazing is. I low key convinced 10 people in the Class of 2020 to choose this school over others and I played off all of Columbia’s positives. I am still in awe of this dream place.

Any goals you have in mind? 

My biggest goal is to develop quantum computer algorithms that benefit the research aspect (like math could be used by this) but also for medical informatics. These could help with cancer research to compile more data and that would be really cool to work on. Applying it to an area that needs it rather than just building them for the hell of it. So finding the real-life applications for them. I think my dream is to be a professor who does Engineering without Borders (EWB) during the summers and some sound design at theaters between it all. I plan to join EWB on campus and the Columbia Musical Theater Society.

Why Columbia?

I first came down to visit Columbia and then went to Princeton with my friend as a joke to see how pretentious it was. I came in and went to an information session. It was so Columbia College-centric that I left afterwards. I went to the engineering experience first but I came and fell in love with it. I then applied ED and December 10th I was done. I was laughing as I watched all my friends because I was done.

There are a few professors here working on quantum computing here. One of the professors here passed away after I submitted my application, but I am happy there are still people here working on it.

I also love how small SEAS is. That’s really interesting and nice. I see NYC as the second biggest tech hub. What other schools are we competing against for all these opportunities?

Out of curiosity, what is the future of cryptography in your view?

All of our current cryptography will break, but quantum cryptography research is advancing fast. Knowing that this out there and it’s getting better compared to general quantum computing, I think that might save us (at least for now).

Throughout the semester, we’ll be featuring interviews from new students. To recommend someone for an interview or to become an interviewer for The Lion, email team@columbialion.com

Meet Charlotte. Charlotte,  Morningside Heights born and raised, is a first year in Columbia College interested in studying History with a focus on Medieval Studies and Classics. We sat down with her to learn more about her goals while at Columbia and about her current passions.

What is your hometown?

New York, NY in MoHi. It’s going to college from across the street from where you grow up. But it’s interesting navigating a place you’ve known with a student life you’ve never experienced.

What are you current passions? How do you think you’ll pursue them on campus?

I went to LaGuardia to study visual arts. I love all kinds of arts but a lot of photography and graphic design. I might do photography and design for some clubs. I also want to try out theater. I think I also I want to join the ski team on campus. I’m auditioning for CMTS and KCST. And I might visit all the club info sessions. I want to just visit the club fair and learn from there.

Of everything you’ve worked on, volunteered for, and studied, what are you most proud of?

I was editor of my high school literary magazine. I basically did everything because I cared so much about it. When we transitioned from a yearly print to a blog, there was a great controversy (but unlike Blue and White, there wasn’t a divide). Being on people to create content, doing interviews, and dealing with a school that doesn’t care at times. Being able to find a club and get a position of power where you could go for it that I now cannot control and seeing that grow.

What are you interested in studying here? Why?

My intended degree is in history with a concentration with medieval studies and classics. I’ll be in school for a while. I want to be a historian, write books, and spend all of my time reading about christianization, paganism, and vikings, etc.

I became interested in it from two roads. One was mythology. I remembered asking my dad to teach me Latin because it seemed so cool. Now I’m taking Latin this semester because I want a more thorough understanding.  In terms of Greek and Roman mythology, Ajax has been my homie since 4th grade. I studied mythology from around the world and folklore. Really all of these stories. I went through  a lot of career ideas and a few ideas of what I wanted to with my career. I at one point wanted to do fashion and then looked at it and realized I’d be a walking panic attack.

I considered medicine and neuroscience and realized I didn’t want to do medical school. I then realized that my dad’s job as a historian was being a professional nerd. And then I realized that’s exactly what I wanted to be. My dad’s a historian and my mom’s an art historian so we’re quite a nerdy family.

This semester, I’m taking a lot of classics classes. I really want to take one called History of Cold. There’s a class about vampires. There’s a medieval Latin class and then all the graduate history classes.

What are you most nervous/anxious about (in regards to college, Columbia, NYC, etc)?

One thing I want to see is how my relationship with my neighborhood evolves. I’m in a new context in the exact same place. I want to see if I succumb to the Columbia bubble. I don’t know how permanent by desire to leave to other neighborhood changes. Will Westside seem like it’s too far in a few weeks? I hope not.

I also worry at times about finding your best friend in college. I’m already meeting people I like now so I’m getting less worried about that thankfully.

What are you most excited about (in regards to college, Columbia, NYC, etc)?

Everything. One of the best things about Columbia is the amount of opportunities. It’s all free (after tuition and selling your soul to FAFSA). I moved across the street and now can walk into Avery and look in the ancient art archives with my friends. There’s so many internships and having a .columbia.edu address opens a lot of doors. Everyone I talk to here is so interesting. It’s overwhelming how much stuff there is to do. I’m excited for such a packed schedule and to explore all of these opportunities.

Any goals you have in mind? 

  • I want to write a senior thesis.
  • I want to make use of the rare books and manuscripts library for said thesis.
  • I want to get really invested in a club or two, like I was in high school. I want to pour my heart and soul into something. If I become a columnist, I want to be able to get really invested in something worthwhile.
Throughout the semester, we’ll be featuring interviews from new students. To recommend someone for an interview or to become an interviewer for The Lion, email team@columbialion.com

As part of our elections coverage, The Lion is sharing responses from candidates about the following questions:

  1. What motivated you to run for this position?
  2. If elected, what would your goals be?
  3. What is something you want to fix at Columbia? How would you plan to address it?
  4. Any additional comments you would like to share with voters?

Below, you can find the candidate(s)’s unfiltered responses to help in deciding who you choose to vote for.

What motivated you to run for this position? 

Two main reasons: First, I have genuine need to help people, especially if there is some connection among us. That is obviously the case with SEAS 2020 students. Although we’ve only been together for a month, this is our family for the next four years of our lives. I want to be there for each and every one of them whenever they need help with an issue, have an idea, or simply want a friend to talk to—and make their freshman year the best experience. Second, I was president of my school’s student council, a very interesting experience where I design a whole new structure for the council that ended up being a success throughout the year. I knew from the start I wanted to be part of the council here at Columbia.

If elected, what would your goals be?

We want our class to shine. For that, we want to organize activities as the TedX SEAS 2020 talk and the information sessions of our major, current world engineering issues and facilities with Columbia in order to start building our path toward our future. We want to hear our class’ voices. The idea is to establish an active and personalized interaction with each student, listening to their ideas and concerns. Also, we dream about a much intimate relationship within the engineering class. Coming from a school where our class was as big as 31 people, I’m used to know everyone around me. Our SEAS class is about 10 times that number, but it is still my goal to make that family bond among us: get more involved with people within their field of study and with similar interests outside engineering.

What is something you want to fix at Columbia? How would you plan to address it?

Going back to the part of communication, I feel there is an incredible gap in the matter that might make the Columbia experience a little less enjoyable. In the debate today a party member said it was only “ideal” to establish a one-to-one relationship among engineers. I want to change that perspective and turn it into a reality. To address it, we are going to encourage all engineers to attend to our activities, we will be sending personal emails and having one-to-one conversations all year round, the SEAS lounge is also part of the plan. If the idea is getting to know each other, then that is the way!

Any additional comments you would like to share with voters?

I would like to say that, beyond our platform, is extremely important who you’re voting for. Plans can be repeated and shared from platform to platform, but the essence, identity and experience of a person cannot be mirrored on someone else. With that in mind, I would like to introduce myself a little more: I’m a very energetic, caring and joyful person with a constant positive attitude over whatever problem, regardless of the gravity. When I promise something, I will give every single part of me to fulfill it, with absolute dedication and, above all, love. I’m running for president because I can promise you help, a person you can reach to, a friend. So trust me, vote for E&B and you won’t regret it.