We've concluded our recruiting for the season, and I hope that many of you got to see us in person, either at your school or on one of our webinars. I think I've covered most of the questions usually asked in our information sessions at some point in this blog (the very early Ask Asha posts covered a lot of ground). However, one thing that has come up with some frequency in the past couple of years, and which is easier to answer in print than in person, concerns proper formatting on your application. I'm not sure why, but apparently our application causes a lot of anxiety over technical issues. I also promised a commenter last spring that I would address this issue this fall, and need to fulfill my promise. So, here goes:
1. We do not have a page limit for the required Personal Statement. Generally, the rule of thumb is two pages, though some people do a little more or less. You want to make sure you cover everything you want to say, so if you go a little over two pages it's probably fine. However, keep in mind that your application is really your first "lawyerly" presentation -- you're making a case for yourself, after all -- so you want to show that you are able to convey what you need to say as clearly and concisely as possible.
2. Keep your 250-word essay at or below 250 words. There is (at least) one faculty reader who counts. That's just an insider tip.
3. Neither your Personal Statement nor your 250-word essay requires a title. Labeling them "Personal Statement" and "250-Word Essay" (or by question number) is fine.
4. You may answer each question on a separate page, or as a continuous document with appropriate spacing between questions. Just label each question.
5. You must answer Question 5a-c (honors, extracurriculars, employment during school), even if you are including a resume. Please. We won't complete your application without these answers. Many of you spend a lot of time (based on the questions we get in the office) wondering whether to answer these in bullet format, or in a little spreadsheet, or some other manner. Really, it just needs to be readable. Bullets are fine. If there is some honor or activity that isn't self-explanatory or on which you feel you need to elaborate further, a short narrative is OK.
6. OK, I'm going to get dicey here and, after the overwhelming response to my post on proper punctuation, I have a feeling this might get controversial. If you do include a resume (which we don't require), it should be one page. This is standard business practice, unless you're an academic with a lot of publications to your name which might take several pages to list. Now, this isn't a job application, and I'm sure we admit many people every year who have multiple-page resumes, so it's not an application-killer. But from a practical perspective, I'll note that it's really a lot easier to read a one-page resume and to see your life highlights at a glance. If you're concerned that you won't be able to fit everything you want to show on one page -- voila! We have a question on our application just for you -- Question 5a-c (see above).
7. We do not require a Diversity Statement, but you may include one if you like. For my thoughts on things you should consider if you are deciding whether to include a Diversity Statement, see this post.
8. You may include an addendum if you feel that there is something in your application that requires further explanation. Examples of issues that might require addenda are: an aberration in your grades in a course or semester; a significant score differential after taking the LSAT twice; or some period of time when you withdrew from school. There may be others, and you should make the call on whether you need to include an addendum. Remember that the purpose of an addendum is to clarify an issue that might otherwise be overlooked or misinterpreted, so you just need to flag it, give your clarification/explanation, and be done. Brief, to-the-point addenda are always more effective than lengthy narratives.
9. By contrast, if you answered "yes" to either of our Character and Fitness questions, you need to come clean and provide all of the relevant details surrounding the criminal/disciplinary event. Simply stating "I was arrested for a DUI in 2008" and moving on to the next question is not going to cut it. Details, please. Obviously, the more serious the incident, the more explaining you need to do. But you want to avoid having the Admissions Office contact you for more information because the ensuing exchange, which is then included in your file, suggests that you weren't as forthcoming as you should have been in the first instance. For more on the C&F part of your application, please see here.
10. For everything else, just use your best judgment (see the Sandra Lee Rule). Apart from sloppy writing and typos, we're much more concerned about the substance of your application than in your formatting choices.
Hope this is helpful and reduces your anxiety. The applications I've read so far look great, so keep them coming!