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Stupid Application Questions

Every application season I get asked a bunch of really stupid questions. The only thing that keeps me from either screaming at these poor souls (if they're clients and I have a stake in the outcome of their application process) or laughing at them (if they're strangers dropping in for a bit of free advice) is that I realize they don't hear the same question I do.  So as a public service, I am including some commonly asked questions, my interpretation of them, and the answers thereto.

Question: "It says to list my activities here. Should I do that or just attach a resume?"

What I Hear: Should I follow the instructions or ignore them?

Answer: I dunno; depends on whether you want to be accepted there.

Question: They want a two-page personal statement. Mine is 1500 words, but if I play with the margins I think I can make it fit. What do you think?"

What I Hear: I've decided not to follow the rules. I think they're too stupid to notice, or that they'll agree that their rules don't apply to me. Please tell me I'm right.

Answer: Nope; you're wrong. In fact, many an admissions officer has told me just how wrong you are.  

Question: "I have an arrest record, but I really don't think I have to tell them about it because (fill in Extenuating Circumstances of your choice). What do you advise?"

What I Hear: I'm thinking of committing fraud, and inviting you to be a co-conspirator; want to join me?

Answer: I can understand your being stupid enough to ask, but what makes you think I'm stupid enough to advise committing fraud in writing?

Question: "What should I write my personal statement about?"

What I Hear: Do you have a superficial and generic answer about how to make myself sound insightful and unique?

Answer: If I did, I'd post it on the web and go back to my ceramics.

Question: "I am a mainstream applicant with a 3.x gpa and an LSAT of xxx. What schools can I get into?"

What I Hear: "I'm too lazy to open an ABA-LSAC Official Guide and look at published data. Could you do it for me?"

Answer: No, I'm too lazy too. Now if you were a minority of some sort I'd bestir myself, because published data doesn't help them without expert interpretation. But seeing as you're not, you can open the Official Guide or the Ouija Board, as you prefer, all by yourself.  Or better yet, read my web page.  You're here already, or you wouldn't be emailing me.  

What these applicants all share is a desire to get into a good law school the easy way. I don't know of any easy way to get into law school, with the possible exception of having a major alumni donor in the immediate family. Every shortcut, every failure to follow instructions, results in your rejection someplace. Enough shortcuts and in April or May you have a handful of rejection letters.

The best and surest way to get into law school is to follow all the instructions, jump through all the hoops, dot the i's and cross the t's. Diligence is not a substitute for gpa and LSAT, but it is a very fine addition to them. So my answer is always the same: read the instructions carefully, do what they want, give it the time and attention it deserves. You'll be much happier when the answer comes.

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