(203) Admissions Blog

Technical Matters

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!

Posted: Dec 03 2010, 10:23 AM by asha | with 21 comment(s)
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Comments

SB said:

I wish I had read this before sending in my app! Dear Asha, would you recommend sending the office an updated 1 page version of my resume? Thank you so much!

# December 5, 2010 9:29 AM

asha said:

@r6_philly:  It was great meeting you, too.  Thanks for attending the information session and good luck this admissions season!

# December 5, 2010 10:09 AM

asha said:

@SB:  If you've already included a resume in your application, I wouldn't send in an update at this point -- as I said, a longer resume isn't going to be a dealbreaker.

If you didn't include a resume at all and would like to, you can send one in, but it is not required or necessary if you answered the other questions in our application completely.

# December 5, 2010 10:11 AM

bkhopeful said:

Thanks very much for these helpful pointers! Is it okay if 5 a, b, and c occupy more than one page?

# December 9, 2010 8:26 PM

asha said:

@ bkhopeful:  Yes, you can go over a page for 5a-c if it's necessary to answer the question completely.

# December 10, 2010 1:17 PM

Don't ding Me for this! said:

Dear Asha,

While on the subject of "technical matters," I just thought I'd bring up a small innocuous typo/grammar error on the Yale app: The declaration for the Bar fitness section has the sentence, "These requirements differ from state to state, and *applicants* should inform *yourself* of the requirements of the jurisdictions in which *you* are interested." While I know that the stakes are set much higher for us applicants, I was hoping given the typo on the hallowed app itself, the committee would take a lighter view of such harmless typos on apps (hint: mine!)?

This wasn't meant to be rude, just in case it came off that way.

Many thanks!

- DDMFT

# December 13, 2010 3:37 PM

asha said:

@ DDMFT:  Yes, I noticed some discussion about that on TLS.  All I can say is: Touche.  FWIW, we updated the certification and it went through several pairs of eyes and the Yale GC's office...and no one caught it.

Which means: 1) you can never proofread too much; 2) even lawyers make mistakes; and 3) when someone catches it, it can be really embarrassing and make you look bad.

Ideally, your app will be error-free, but there are humans reading it, and we at Yale are not utterly lacking in compassion.  Just remember that it's a comparative review process, so you don't want your typo to be the one thing that keeps you from making the cut.

And speaking of making the cut, I'm glad Yale made it on your list and that you're applying regardless of our own typo!

# December 13, 2010 5:16 PM

Waylon Bryson said:

Asha,

  My LSAT dates won't fit on the application in the specified form (mm/yyyy) because I have taken the test three times.  However, I can fit all three dates if I abbreviate the year to only 2 characters (mm/yy).  Is this acceptable?  Alternatively, I could drop the first score and stick with the specified form, but since this was my lowest score, I am afraid that you might think I am being a bit cheeky.  You have my thanks in advance for any and all guidance!  I love this blog.  

# December 15, 2010 8:39 PM

Brunhild said:

I had the three-dates issue as well, and I am still awaiting my December score.  Is it easier on your office to simply send an email when the new score is released?  

I find the blog delightful, even if it causes me to to cringe at the thought that my representation of myself in my application file is possibly analogous to Sandra Lee's Tablescapes (as pioneering as they may be).

# December 21, 2010 12:40 PM

craigj said:

Waylon, Brunhild,

Feel free to shorten the year to two characters if you have sat for more than two administrations.

# December 22, 2010 11:29 AM

Waylon Bryson said:

Cheers for the feedback. And Merry Christmas!

# December 23, 2010 7:02 AM

Drew said:

I wish I'd found this before I submitted! My CV was two pages, but I could probably shrink it to one without losing much. Is it in my interest to resubmit with a more concise resume? How would I do that?

# December 28, 2010 8:43 PM

M said:

I sent in my application already. However, when I showed my personal statement to a friend, she was quick to point out ONE typo (students teaching instead of student), which as many times as I had read my statement, did not notice. In fact, neither did another friend I had proofread it.

Should I send a new version by mail? Or just leave it as is?

Thank you

# January 3, 2011 7:12 PM

Kimberly said:

Dear Asha,

Thank you for your very informative blog. After submitting my application, I realized that I left one of my scholastic honors out of Question 4, but it is still on my resume. Should I submit a new copy of my Question 4? Thank you!

# February 11, 2011 1:09 PM

C said:

Hi Asha,

I was wondering whether you would suggest including an addendum to explain taking time off from school.

I took a year off in undergrad because I was quite depressed. While I hesitate to include this because I thought it might hurt my application, I was wondering whether this was something that you would want applicants to disclose.

Your input would be much appreciated. Thanks in advance!

# October 22, 2012 2:30 AM

Sue said:

@C: Ultimately, whether to disclose the reason behind your year off is really up to you. While you aren't required to disclose it, the risk you run by not providing a brief explanation is that we would be left wondering why there was this gap in your undergraduate education/record. As a general matter, the fewer unanswered questions in your application, the better, so you may want to consider disclosing what happened, just so it isn't left as an open question.

# October 23, 2012 2:38 PM

Steve said:

Dear Asha (and the admissions office),

I have one more technical matter, and I'd appreciate your help. I'm struggling to "describe what [I] have been doing" since I graduated from college. The way you've worded the prompt suggests that you're looking for a narrative account, but I've been out of school 5+ years, which leaves me a lot to describe. I worry my account will be long and boring. Can I approach this like Question 5(a) - (c) instead (i.e., by listing jobs, schools, and activities, and providing a short description where appropriate)?

Thanks in advance for your help.

Steve

# December 13, 2013 3:14 PM

Sue said:

@Steve: The responses that we receive to this question typically are in narrative form, but that doesn't mean you have to do it that way. If you'd like to answer it with lists or bullet points and brief descriptions, that's fine.  If you'd actually prefer to write it in paragraph/narrative form and are just worried that it'll be too long if you describe every single thing you've done in the last 5+ years, you could just hit the most important things (e.g., graduate work, employment, particularly meaningful or time-consuming activities). Really, we're just trying to get a sense of what you've been up to since you've been out of school -- it doesn't have to be your whole life story. Good luck!

# December 16, 2013 10:26 AM

RC said:

Is it a problem to include no title at all for the Personal Statement and 250-word essay, even "Personal Statement" and "250-word essay"?

# December 18, 2013 3:28 PM

Sue said:

@RC: No, that's not a problem. We receive many submissions that have no title at all.

# December 19, 2013 9:13 AM
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