This past week was a reminder that there can be absolutely beautiful spring days... in March... in New Haven. Many of the law students were off in Belize scuba diving or home visiting family and friends - it was spring break here at YLS - but the students who stayed in town to finish up those SAWs had a welcome chance to head outside and soak in the 70 degree breeze and sunshine.
The week began less gloriously with a wee bit of rain for New Haven's annual St. Patrick's Day Parade. The St. Patrick's Day Parade is a long-standing New Haven tradition. It was first held back in 1842, making it the 6th oldest parade in the nation. The marchers number close to 3,000 and include everyone from bagpipe players to string bands, fife and drum squads, step-dancers and even a Star Wars contingent! The parade makes its way down Chapel Street to the New Haven Green and across town. Since the 1950s, the parade has been the largest, single-day spectator event in the state of Connecticut. This year, spectators may have braved the showers under awnings and umbrellas, but at least it was the perfect weather for those warm Irish wool sweaters! Of course, there was plenty of spirit to be found indoors as well. Many places in town opened early and offered breakfast specials. There were also New Haven's ever popular Irish pubs, the Playwright and Anna Liffey's (www.annaliffeys.com), where you can find the city's Irish pride any time of the year.
The parade may have passed in the rain this year, but it was a welcome reminder that spring is here and the week that followed found New Haven's residents digging out their sandals and heading for the grass. Here's to hoping there are many more beautiful spring days around the bend!
As some of you start getting antsy awaiting a decision as the end of admissions season approaches, you might have read my first BIJ post from last year, which exhorted you not to call or write to check on your status. I was admittedly grumpy in my second trimester (perpetual nausea will do that to you), and while most of you appreciated, and even found solace in, my tongue-in-cheek humor, it's probably worthwhile giving a more lucid explanation for why status checks don't jive with our admissions process.
Simply put, we only have two statuses (statii?) for applicants: Under Review and [insert your final decision here]. I've detailed how our admissions process works elsewhere, but suffice it to say that if you haven't heard from us, your file is in the pipeline somewhere, being read by someone (a.k.a. Under Review). We can't give more detail than that, so a call or email really just results in frustration for all parties involved since we don't have much to tell you.
I can see how the cricket chirping you hear from Yale might create an impression that we have a cavalier, let-them-eat-cake attitude towards our applicants. It certainly doesn't help that many of you heard within weeks (or days) of becoming complete at other schools. But consider the math. Most schools are in a position where they can afford to take all or most of the most qualified students due to their size, which means that they can usually rely on proxies to speed up the admissions process. By contrast, our extremely small size, and relatively large applicant pool, means that for each person that we admit, we are forced to turn down at least 3 other equally qualified people. We are loath to turn down anyone without giving their application a careful review, which is why we make sure to read every application, and involve the entire faculty in our process. Consider the following note I received from a faculty reader (who read for the first time this year):
I finished my files at 2:00 a.m. this morning and then I did a gut check when I got back to the office today. You and your staff did an exceptional job: whenever I thought “oh, this candidate is obviously an X,” I almost immediately discovered some new nuance to their candidacy that made my task harder. We are blessed with so many—too many—great candidates. And the parity among the candidates whose records I reviewed shows that you and your team filtered folks with care and expertise.
Although I am badly in need of a pedicure and martini, rest assured that we are not partying it up here in the Admissions Office. Our silence is actually an outgrowth of our single-minded focus on processing, reading, and making decisions on your application (which is a secondary reason we discourage status checks, as they divert our attention from these three tasks and makes everyone's wait longer).
You might think of ours as a Rawlsian-inspired admissions process, in that it offers the most advantage to numerically weaker applicants, since we do a holistic review of every application. The tradeoff is that it takes longer for us to make a decision, which will be most annoying to numerically strong applicants who likely hear much earlier from other schools. But if I were to ask you from behind a veil of ignorance (say, before you learned your LSAT score) whether you'd prefer a system that uses an LSAT/GPA index or other sorting mechanism to speed up admission or one that takes longer but gives each application an equal review in the order that it became complete, I'm guessing you'd choose the latter.
For the record, I strongly prefer using SNL skits to make my point to social justice theory.
Anyway, for those of you who still aren't mollified, a few practical points:
1. If you are facing a looming financial aid or scholarship deadline (and schools ethically shouldn't be giving you these before April 1), you can email us at email@example.com with your name, LSAC number, the scholarship, and the deadline, and we will make a note of it. While we cannot expedite a review of your application, we can make sure you receive a notification as fast as possible once a decision is made, or at least give you a time frame in which you can expect a decision, so that you can ask for an extension of the deadline, if possible. (Note that we do verify the scholarship/deadline, so please don't make something up). We will usually get back to you a couple of days before your deadline, so you don't need to keep emailing if you don't get an immediate response -- we're working on it.
2. If you submitted your application in the last month or so and still haven't received word that you're complete, you shouldn't worry. Our volume spikes as we approach the deadline, which creates a bit more of a delay for completion of files. Also, we don't let incomplete files just dawdle in the Admissions Office. We will, if necessary, make every effort to proactively contact you to get any missing information before we decide you are a lost cause. And I don't fill the class until I have read every complete file. So, chillax.
3. If you've sent in an update, etc. keep in mind that you may not get a personalized confirmation from the Admissions Office. We have one person who handles ALL the email traffic coming into the office (her name is Josie, and she is very nice). As you might imagine, Josie is busy triaging the emails to make sure we're taking care of scholarship people, questions from admits, updates, etc. so it would be impossible for her to respond to every update. If you received the automated response, that means that Josie received it and will take care of it. I will refer you to the comments section of my last post on whether an update at this point will make it into your file before it is reviewed by me and the admissions committee.
4. The bulk of our admissions decisions are made this month, and a smaller portion will be made in early April. We do make phone calls for admissions offers (though as I mentioned above, we also call if we have questions or need additional materials on your file, so don't assume that a phone call is an offer -- please call us back). Other decisions are sent via snail mail, though as we get later in the season (or if we are helping you meet a scholarship deadline) we might send you a decision by email. Basically, please make sure that the phone number, permanent address, and email address on your application are correct, and check your spam filter to make sure you aren't going to miss anything coming from our office.
In short, no news is good news -- for now -- when it comes to YLS. I am as anxious to get our class finalized as you are (I'd post a photo of my feet, but I think you'll want to trust me on this one). I hope this quells your anxiety a little bit...just a little more than a month and counting!
There are so many incredible speakers and guest lecturers that pass through the doors of the Law School that I admit I have become slightly jaded to the prominence and import of the visitors. Should I go to the Arianna Huffington lecture or catch up on my email? Will I spend the evening at the Albie Sachs talk or checking out a new restaurant? Occasionally I regret missing a great lecture in favor of some administrative task, but attending every event that happens around here would be a full-time job. Plus, I'm sure all of you still waiting for an admission decision would be unhappy if I neglected my admissions duties to become a professional lecture attendee. However, when a sitting member of the Supreme Court of the United States comes to your school to give a lecture, as happened here a few weeks ago, you don't miss it.
The Law School was honored to have Associate Justice Breyer visit on February 15 and 16 for a pair of lectures titled, "Making the Constitution Work: A Supreme Court Justice's View." It's uncommon for sitting Justices to give formal lectures, much less two on consecutive days at the same venue, so there was a lot of excitement around the School, and the Yale campus, when they were announced. As a testament to the significance of the event, the line of people waiting to get into the first lecture ran the length of the School (a city block for those of you unfamiliar with YLS).
The first lecture, "History: Challenges the Court Has Faced," highlighted key moments in the Court's history that illustrate the importance of public acceptance of the Court's decisions, as well as challenges the Court has faced in achieving such public acceptance. The second lecture, "Future: Will the People Follow the Court?" was open only to members of the Law School community. In it, Justice Breyer shared his thoughts on what the Court must do in the future to make the Constitution work well in practice and to maintain the public trust it has earned. Both lectures were based on a book on which Justice Breyer is currently working.
"History: Challenges the Court Has Faced" and "Future: Will the People Follow the Court?" can be streamed from the Law School's website. During his time at the Law School, Justice Breyer sat down with Professor Paul Gewirtz for a one-on-one interview. You can access the interview from the Law School's website or through Yale University's YouTube page.