I have noticed from talking to my law school minded friends and from reading this blog that the next law school admissions cycle is in full swing. With this comes the one-two punch of meticulous application preparation followed by the seemingly endless wait to hear back from the various schools people have applied to.
I know that it can be easy to feel that you are somehow behind in the process, or that your results aren’t matching up with those of others. I figured that being a newly minted 1L, I am not that far removed from the process, and it might be helpful to talk about my experiences with the dreaded law school admissions cycle.
My trip to Harvard Law was pretty non-traditional. By May, I was still on the wait-list at HLS and had subsequently made arrangements to go to a different law school. I was quick to set up my housing and financial aid with that school because I knew that I was going to be be out of the country all summer doing volunteer work in South Africa. I left for my summer abroad in early June, assuming that there was little to no chance I was going to make it off the waitlist so late in the admissions game.
I arrived back in the US in late July and almost immediately received an email asking if I was still interested in a spot in the entering class at HLS. To put this in context, I had been in the country for less than a day and I was planning on leaving my home in less than a week to go to a different law school. Even if I were able to prepare for the phone interview, I would still need to divert all of my energies to going to a new law school, essentially accomplishing in a couple days the preparations that every other 1L had all summer to arrange. However, HLS was my dream school, and if I didn’t at least try to get in I would always wonder if I could have. I replied to the email and arranged to take my phone interview the following Monday.
I’m going to let you guys in on a secret about the HLS phone interviews. After your interview, you will feel that your performance was anywhere from “meh” to “terrible”. Personally, mine probably leaned towards terrible. I had planned on spending most of the time talking about my experiences that summer in South Africa. My rationale was that my application talked in detail about the things I had done while an undergraduate and my summer was something new that would add color to my application. However, when I got on the phone I think interview jitters seized me and I only spent about a minute talking about my summer before delving into the activities I had done in college. Every one of my answers seemed like an unhelpful rehash of things from my application. At the end, I was pretty certain that in an attempt to sound interested in the school (which I was) I asked too many questions and I came off as poorly researched about the school (which I wasn’t). When my mother called me that afternoon to ask how the interview went, I assured her that she didn’t need to worry about adding crimson to her wardrobe any time soon.
Assuming that whoever is reading this is aware of what website they are on, you probably also know how this story ends. The next morning I got a phone call offering me a spot in the entering class at HLS. In my excitement, I pumped my fists in the air so hard that I broke a ceiling tile in my basement.
I thought my story might be helpful for any potential applicants out there to hear. I know that it’s hard sometimes, but it is important not to stress about the process too much. I remember agonizing over what I was going to say in my phone interview, only to do something completely different in the actual interview. If you are relaxed and talk about yourself and your accomplishments honestly and openly, you will be fine. It is also important not to get freaked out if your application results aren’t matching up with the results you are hearing about from other people. I had heard all the message board chatter about how not getting off the waitlist by Date X was the death knell for my application. I also had a lot of friends and friends of friends that were getting into their dream schools (including HLS) while my application results were just trickling in. It’s easy to get discouraged with all of the activity going on around these applications. It is important to stay positive about your chances, because in the end you will almost certainly end up in a school that is a good fit for you.