April 2009 - Posts
Some of you may remember the new B.I.J. feature I introduced a couple of months ago. We'll, it's time for a new lesson, as I know many of you are on the wait list (either at Yale or elsewhere, some of this info may still be useful to you). Before we begin, I'd like you to take a brief quiz. Please watch the following clip:
Now, choose one response that best describes your reaction:
a) I would rather be waterboarded than watch that again.
b) Give the guy a break, everyone does that now and then.
c) Why call when you can show up in person?
If you answered (a), you can probably skim the rest of this post. If you answered (b), you should read this post carefully, as you may be at risk for B.I.J. For anyone who answered (c) and is currently on the Yale wait list, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, LSAC number, and "My answer to the quiz is (c)" in the subject line. It will be extremely helpful to me -- thanks!
So look. I get it. This is a very stressful time, and you really want to come to Yale, and you want to let us know that. But here's the deal: there is a fine line between enthusiasm and...stalker. At this critical juncture, it is important to keep the OCD in check, at least until you get your foot in the door. Here are some suggestions to help you do that:
1. Status Checks. I think you know my feelings on status checks. While it may appear at first glance that such a check would be more applicable to a wait list than for general admission, it isn't -- at least not at Yale. Your status is that you are waitlisted. We do not rank our wait list, so there's not much more to report to you than that. When I get an opening, I cull through the people we have on our wait list and select someone who I think will best complete the class as it is comprised at that moment. And no, that doesn't not mean I try to fill the spot with someone with the exact same "profile" -- that's actually not really possible to do since to get on our wait list you have to be pretty accomplished and interesting and therefore somewhat different than everyone else. Anyway, despite what the guidebooks tell you, please don't call to ask about your status. If we get an opening, and we think you'd be a great addition to the class, we'll call you.
2. LOCIs. These are actually useful. Sort of. When I get an opening in the class, I do want to fill it as soon as possible. Therefore, it's helpful to have something in the file that says, "Yale is my first choice and I will definitely come if admitted." Unfortunately, people have been known to lie on this front so I don't place a ton of weight on such letters, but the fact that you made an effort to say something does offer a feather on the scale in your favor. However, if I open the file to find several letters, odes to Yale, journal entries, head shots, etc. then you are venturing way too far into Mikeyland and really not doing yourself a favor. One. LOCI. Punto.
3. Letters of Recommendation. These are generally not as useful and won't make much of a difference in whether you are admitted off the wait list. I say this because usually the stream of LORs we get from wait list people tend to come from employers, high-ranking politicians, and other people who are probably very nice individuals but who do not carry a whole lot of weight in our admissions process. As I've mentioned before, the type of recommendations that we really pay attention to are academic references. To that end, if there is a professor whom you've blown away with your brilliance in the last couple of months (like s/he supervised a senior thesis that just won a departmental award, for instance), by all means have him or her write to us. But please do not clutter your file with a high volume of low-impact pieces of paper. Remember, what you choose to add to your file is a reflection of your judgment, and we do not want to admit people with poor judgment.
4. Supplemental Materials. Please don't. If I want to read your thesis, I will ask for it. (I have done this exactly once in my entire time as Admissions Dean -- to someone who was already admitted. He had done some mathematical modeling of traffic flow through the Holland Tunnel and, having spent a good portion of my waking hours while living in NYC stuck in that tunnel, I was curious. But that's it.) Other things -- work writing samples, video clips, news articles -- honestly, I just don't have the time. If there is a specific accomplishment about which you'd like us to know, you can send us a short -- short! -- statement indicating what it is, with a link or a polite offer to provide more information by request. Ideally, you would combine any such updates into your LOCI (see #2) so that you provide a professional, comprehensive, and concise update to your file which reiterates your interest.
5. Visits. In the event that you are offered a spot on the wait list, you need to be prepared to give an answer ASAP (within anywhere from 24-72 hours, depending on how close we are to registration day). This is not the time that we are going to be able to court you, provide travel subsidies to fly out, connect you with students and professors, etc. There are a couple of reasons for this. For one, we are trying to fill the class. Every extra day/hour/minute you take to make your decision is time that the person who is "on deck" behind you is spending making plans to enroll elsewhere (including placing deposits on an apartment, buying books, etc.). Just as you want to be able to change your plans as soon as possible, so do the others waiting with you -- please be considerate. Second, once classes are over next week, our students and professors start leaving (a lot of exams happen remotely). We just don't have people around to connect you with.
Basically, if seeing Yale in person, sitting in on classes, and talking with students will be critical to your decision to accept an offer from the wait list, the time to do these things is NOW. The only unknown piece of information (from our end) that should stand in the way of your accepting an offer from the wait list is your financial aid package, which we will try to get to you as soon as practicable after you are admitted. By keeping your name on the wait list, we assume that you have considered all the other factors and are ready to make a decision on very short notice.
6. Deferrals. We don't offer them. For anything. Punto. Again, we are trying to fill a spot for this fall. Even if you get offered a Rhodes or Marshall or some other amazing opportunity, your only choice is to turn down the other opportunity or withdraw and reapply. My advice to you, if you do get a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that will prevent you from enrolling this fall, is to take it -- you can always reapply, and your application will be richer for your experience. (If you do turn down a Rhodes or Marshall to stay on the wait list, please send an email to email@example.com with your name, LSAC number, and "My answer to the quiz is (c)" in the subject line -- thanks!)
Oh, and one more thing. We really can't send individual confirmations for every piece of mail we receive, email or otherwise. We're not Amazon -- we're the Yale Admissions Office, with literally two people handling thousands of files. If you really need confirmation, I would recommend that you use the U.S. Postal system (the most reliable in the world) and get something called "Delivery Confirmation" for about 50 cents. If the online tracker tells you that it arrived at the Law School, then it will make its way to our office and your file. I promise.
I have been admitted to Yale and am a little torn about where to go. Yale has a ton of great opportunities, but I keep hearing that you should only go to Yale if you want to become a professor. I don't think this is the path I want to pursue. Would I really be out of place at Yale?
You ask a great question. As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, Yale grads are ubiquitous in legal academia. About 10% of all law faculty are YLS grads, and about 13% of each graduating class has entered academia five years after graduation. But while it may be tempting to conclude from these stats that Yale is only seeking and producing aspiring academics, the reality is a little more complex.
I can tell you, from the surveys we do each year of admitted students before they matriculate, that the majority of students come to Yale intending to practice law. If you check out our five-year post-graduation surveys, most students do in fact follow this path: around 60% of our graduates go to work for a firm as their first non-clerkship job, while another chunk of about 30% go into public interest jobs. About 6% -- probably the students who came in with PhDs or did joint degrees while they were here -- go directly into academia.
So why does this number double for Yale graduates so soon after graduation? It's hard to say, but one reason is, I think, that a lot of people get burned out practicing. Let's face it, if you're given the choice (as in the case of working for a law firm) of keeping track of every hour of your time, for 15-18 hours a day, and working on cases that may be of marginal interest to you or, for about the same salary, being in complete control of your life, writing about ideas that completely excite you, and having your summers off with grants for travel and research...um, which one would you choose?
Frankly, I think a lot of lawyers discover that they might prefer to be academics. The difference is that when Yale graduates make this discovery, they find that they already have a leg up in this very competitive field. For one thing, they have had a chance, through the course of their legal education, to work closely with professors to produce at least two pieces of substantial legal scholarship -- one is the Substantial Paper, and the other is the Supervised Analytical Writing (SAW). Both are papers that you work on with one-on-one supervision from a faculty member, either through a class or independent research (the difference between them is just of length). Many students have even published their papers in a journal by the time they graduate. Since a major component of being able to compete on the legal job market is to have published scholarship, Yale graduates are not starting from scratch: either they've checked off this requirement already or have something they have already spent significant time on, that they can build on.
The second advantage Yale students have is that they are not navigating this field alone. As I mentioned above, all Yale students develop at least one or two close relationships with faculty members, if by nothing else than default. So when it comes time to brush up that paper to turn it into an article, or apply for a fellowship to spend a year working on a new idea, they have a faculty contact and mentor to help guide them through the process. The professors at Yale don't get more excited than when a former student of theirs wants to follow their own chosen profession and, since we have a small school with a smaller alumni pool, they aren't inundated with requests from tons of graduates -- so they're happy to respond, give feedback, and write recommendations. Don't underestimate the value of having professors who will actually remember you personally, 3,5, and 10 years down the road!
Finally, Yale is proud of its record in placing students in academia, and to this end, we make resources available to both current students and graduates. For current students, we have a Law Teaching Series, which is a series of workshops offered each year that cover everything from how to develop a research agenda to what, exactly, a "job talk" consists of. The Series can give students who might not have otherwise considered a career in academia a window into how to pursue this path, either directly out of law school or sometime down the road. For alumni, we have for the past couple of years offered a "Moot Camp," which brings together graduates with scholarly works in progress with current students and faculty to workshop (i.e. grill) the graduate on his or her paper. Finally, for both current students and alumni, our Career Development Office offers counseling and access to resources for students interested in this field.
I've listed some of the reasons Yale graduates are successful in entering legal academia, even if it's not something they considered when they came in or during the time they were in school. In fact, even students who do intend to teach usually practice for a little while...after all, you have to be a professor of something. Going out an practicing in the real world can help give context and depth to the intellectual ideas you've been playing around with, and can make your later scholarly work more nuanced. So pretty much everyone at Yale, even those who are interested in academia, have substantive interests that they pursue through journals, extracurriculars, centers and programs, and summer jobs.
The point is that if you don't plan to be a law professor, don't worry, you'll have plenty of company at Yale. And if you decide later that you do want to become a law professor, well, you'll have plenty of company then, too. Either way, you can't go wrong!
One of the perks of attending law school at one of the world's premier universities is being able to take advantage of the academic, cultural, and social resources of Yale's other schools and departments. From taking classes in other departments for credit towards your JD to spending a random Tuesday afternoon browsing at Yale's museums and galleries, the wealth of the University is available to our students. Given the Law School's central location on campus, it's easy to run across the street for an afternoon lecture at the Hall of Graduate Studies or to sneak away between classes for a lunchtime concert at the School of Music.
Another benefit of the prime real estate and beautiful facilities the Law School occupies is that we frequently host talks and lectures not directly to the law for other University departments, so taking advantage of broader University offerings is sometimes as simple as walking across the hallway after class. I blogged two years ago about NYT columnist David Pogue's visit to the Law School as the University's Poynter Fellow in Journalism. Countless University guests have spoken at the Law School since then, but students were especially excited about the recent visit of another renowned journalist.
The Law School had the pleasure of hosting a lecture by Ira Glass, award-winning producer and host of the public radio program "This American Life." The standing-room-only crowd listened on as Glass played clips from his show, spoke about the state of American journalism, and described his successful approach to developing and presenting a story.
"This American Life" has taken a different approach from the very beginning, said Glass, by "applying the tools of journalism to things so small no one was paying attention." For example, Glass said, while hundreds of the detainees have been released from Guantánamo, "none of us on our staff had heard any of them interviewed." His program decided to do a show asking former detainees such normal questions as, "How were you treated?" "How do you feel about America now?" and "What did you do to get thrown into Guantánamo mistakenly?" Through these firsthand accounts, the show was able to bring attention to the U.S. government's practice of paying bounties to individuals who turned in potential suspects in the war on terror, among other broad subjects.
After his lecture, Glass answered audience questions and offered advice to would-be journalists. He told them, "It's normal to be bad before you're good." Good stories "are not about logic, not about argument," but are about "motion."