How Law School Admissions Myths Get Started

From September through late November, most admissions officers are on the road. They crisscross the nation visiting colleges and universities (which is a pretty wonderful way to get paid). The nearly only downside is that this travel gets repetitious — not just in staying in hotel beds every night, but in hearing the same thing at every school. But it is because I lived through this repetition that I can dispel just about every bad piece of admissions advice you have heard from a fellow student.

Back to traveling. Early on in my admissions career (we are talking 2000/2001 cycle) I noticed that at each school I visited that also had a law school, students asked me the exact same questions: “is it true that if you go to Westeros College it is much more difficult to get admitted to Westeros Law School?” So I started looking at the data. The answer was much more often the opposite. If you go to the undergraduate institution and apply to that school’s law school, you are often more likely to be admitted at said law school. Yet this myth persisted, and has persisted, for 15 years (actually much longer just for 15 years for me).

Let’s jump forward in time to this week. I was talking to a prospective law student about a Pass/Fail course. Here comes the myth again, and it is another common one, “a few Pass/Fail courses will doom your transcript!” we hear time and time again. And it is not close to true (you should see a Brown University transcript, they are replete with P/F courses and it doesn’t keep schools from admitting Brown students).

What is going on here is what is going on with so many of the law school admissions myths. A student, let’s call him Jon Snow, is at Westeros College. Jon is highly functional, has pretty much succeeded at what he has set his mind to in the past. So he has high aspirations and applies to Harvard Law. Jon, like many students who are admitted to HLS, has 3 Passes on his transcript. He is a reverse splitter with a 3.97 and a 170 LSAT. Note both of these are “his” scores. Yet he is denied at HLS. How does Jon internalize this? Often it is, “those people at Harvard hate my 3 passes.” Or whatever, you fill in the blank. They hate his work experience or his school, or something else.

But Jon doesn’t just sit on this. He tells his classmates. He tells his prelaw advisor. And this starts getting passed down as fact, when it had nothing to do with the decision on Jon’s application. Before you know it, everyone applying to law school at Westeros College thinks Pass/Fails are death knells. Or, if Jon got denied at Westeros Law, everyone at Westeros College thinks it is a handicap to go to Westeros College for WLS. And thus, the myths are formed, have been formed, and will continue to be formed for years to come.

Which gives us at Spivey Consulting a bunch of fun phone calls.