Majoring in Minor Things

When you are a Dean of Admissions, or an Admissions Consultant for that matter, seemingly innocuous everyday sights have a way of relating back to the admissions process. I saw this shirt and it had me thinking how annoyed admissions officers get when applicants confuse “you’re” from “your” or “there” from “their.” That, then, got me thinking about how annoyances to admissions officers can make all the difference between admit and deny. In other words, you are clicking away, getting to know the admissions office, building good will so that they are leaning towards admitting you and BAM! POW  WHACK! Just like a punch from Adam West you are flattened because you simply do a small but untimely thing.

So what are these crucial missteps to avoid. I call this process “Majoring in minor things” and here are 5 of them to be aware of, in a count-downesque order:

5. Time Zones

This one must not be obvious (others are, but still are well worth saying) because 90% of applicants get this wrong. Indeed, when I hired employees in my departments at the law schools where I worked, at least 50% of job seekers got this wrong too, le sigh. I’m not saying they called at the wrong time, but I am saying they did the following:

Dean Spivey

I would like to discuss blah blah blah with you, can I call at 10am tomorrow?

Here is the rub and annoyance at this. I well know 10am mountain time is likely not your time zone. So I have to stop what I am doing, gather information on you to find out what time zone you live in, and make the calculation to adjust for this. This all takes unnecessary time and anything that fits into that category is an annoyance. Here is how you should word the same exact email:

Dean Spivey

I am a wait-listed applicant and I would be eager to chat with you to discuss my application. Are you available for a brief phone call at 10am Mountain Time/Noon Eastern to discuss?

There is a nice reverse effect that transpires here too. Because so many applicants/job seekers do this wrong, you are going to positively stand out by not doing so. It’s simple, will take you an extra 30 seconds tops, and can make a positive impression… and once you make partner at a firm, you can let people account for your time zone.

4. Date on each document

This one is really simple too. Most admissions deans are former lawyers. All hiring partners are lawyers. Lawyers want dates on documents. So, by process of inclusion, you should date your attachments of Letters of Continued Interest, Addenda, etc. that you send to admissions offices and you should date anything you send to a hiring partner. I should add that if you are just sending an email without a document, no need to date it. Indeed, it would look pretty odd if you did.

3. Name and LSAC Number on each document

This is really minor but it makes the life of the administrator putting your application together easier. And, if this person likes you it may very well speed up how quickly you receive an admission decision. I have yet to hear an applicant say “I wish the admissions process would take longer” so there is no reason not to add your name AND LSAC number to every document you send to the admissions office. Plus it looks professional and buttoned up and these impressions have a subtle way of making a big difference.

On the flip side, if you send in a document to add to your file and it does not have your name/LSAC # and the administrator prints it up with 50 other documents she/he has to then read the document to try to match a name with a file. This (1) annoys the heck out of the person and (2) runs the severe risk that your wonderfully crafted addendum goes into someone else’s file, which then mucks up the entire process. Not good for you.

2. Knowing how to get exactly to law admissions office (on time meetings)

This obvious little bit of advice once cost a company between 25-30 BILLION DOLLARS. They were one of three bidding of the US Air force next generation air refueling plane, had their delivery carrier arrive with the bid an hour early to the base, who then proceeded to drive around for over an hour lost and did not get the bid in on time. By law, this company was disqualified.

Admittedly, the stakes aren’t quite this high. Also, admittedly, some admissions deans are much more particular than others about timeliness. But why risk it? Admissions deans, like all professionals, are busy people. In many cases, especially during the height of the admissions season, each hour in their day is meticulously planned. If you show up 5 minutes late that very well might be 5 minutes they spend looking over your application in an increasingly agitated state. Most admissions offices are strategically placed at the entrance to the law school but not all. Indeed, in 2000 when I started my admissions career at Vanderbilt Law School our main building was under construction and we were across the street. This lead to a good deal of late appearances from appointments–all who only had to have done a drive by the night before or morning of to have figured this out.

Tardiness to meetings with admissions officers happens in droves every year. If you are on the bubble it very well could lead to not being admitted. Indeed, if you are on the bubble every second you have with a decision maker matters. Make them count, starting with being on time.

1. Get the school name right…

Please, please, please if you are applying to Princeton Law School make sure you say “All my life I have wanted to go to Princeton Law School” rather than “All my life I have wanted to go to Dartmouth Law.” Be crazy precise about double and triple checking this. The most surefire way to spend years getting a wonderful GPA and countless hours working to ace the LSAT, only to have it cave in around you, is to get the name of the school you are applying to wrong. This is obvious, right? Yet it happens to thousands of applicants a year. Don’t let it be you!

One more note. Most of these apply to hiring authorities x100. In the hiring processes, in this environment, the hiring authority is looking for a reason to ding you. Every little mistake matters to the nth degree, so proofread and proof-do everything. Major in minor things because the minor things matter!