Mistake #3: The Fight Club In You

See previous — Mistake #4: The Waiting is the Hardest Part

(Note: Data updated to include the 2016-2017 cycle)

Fight Club was a great book, a really good movie, and gave the world one of its best aphorisms when referring to humans — “unique and beautiful snowflake.” Perhaps in no place is this more applicable than in admissions. So much so, I’ve already blogged about it in our Mistake #10.

But there is a more insidious problem with the law admissions process, and there is a fix. The problem: the law admissions process can make the most self secure of us insecure. The fix: think of yourself in a whole new light.

In respect to the problem, think about it. The pyramid, perhaps for the first time in many applicants’ lives, is really steep at the top. This past year, Yale Law had 2,862 applicants and admitted a grand total of 240 for that cycle. That is an admit percentage of 8.39%. Plus, that is a self-selecting applicant pool; i.e. most people who are not strong candidates do not waste an application on Yale. Finally, only 16% of that remarkably small number of admits came directly from undergraduate. So, if you do not have life/work experience you are pretty much dead in the water. It’s why Yale has said in the past “it would take a cruise missile to get you admitted off of the wait-list.”

That’s the extreme example but there are many others. The top is indeed a very steep peak and it’s a peak that most applicants have never had to climb. The waiting… and waiting… and waiting, this is all new. Particularly for this generation, waiting is a new experience. The rejection? Ditto on never before. The thing is, just about every applicant experiences both. Just about every applicant has a stretch school, and the applicant admitted to NYU, there is a good chance she wants to go to Stanford. The Stanford admit cringes when denied by Yale.

The “denial” letter or email doesn’t help. I have yet to hear an applicant say, “I got the most well-crafted deny letter today.” Which is almost sad from the admissions perspective in that we painstakingly craft and stress over these. It is the rare applicant who puts their deny letters on their refrigerator like the movies portray.

The problem is this. This new experience, which for some is replicated numerous times, leads to insecurity and desperation that permeates through the rest of the admissions cycle. By that I mean it shows through every interaction the applicant has with other admissions offices. (note: this is even worse in the career services/OCI world, so bookmark this if need be. I was utterly amazed how many self-secure students would get freaked out by the OCI process… and often a simple calming conversation with the students right before their interview would do the trick). Yet there is an inverse function for admissions, namely that people like upbeat, ebullient applicants. And the longer you are on the wait-list, or are waiting, the more imperative it becomes to visit the school and make a good impression. The people who make a good impression are the ones getting admitted!

So what did Fight Club give us beyond that expression? It gave us the ability to have a split persona and for it to be cool. I’m not kidding, you need to be Brad Pitt in a leather jacket and selling soap — except you need it to be YOU, in business casual, selling YOU. You need that confidence and you need to be unflappable (disclaimer: I do not condone anyone starting an underground fight club, but if you do I think that would look pretty great on a resume).

The point is this: If you are negotiating scholarships (more on that in an additional post), interviewing on Skype or in person, or sending an LOCI, or having any possible kind of interaction with the law school, you only get one shot. Put another way, if you fire off one angry email or leave one bad impression, you are in a really bad way. Done for. Just look back at Mistake #4; they have thousands of people on the WL and they want to take someone off that they will yield. If you wanted to be at Yale and Yale said “no,” and the next day you visit Chicago Law, put Yale behind you. Do not mention it ever, unless for some odd reason they ask. There are tricks to this, of course, and experience trumps all. Bottom line: Detach from yourself and enter into a professional and upbeat persona. The admissions professionals at Yale are not the admissions professionals at Chicago — it will be an entirely different experience. The past cannot hurt you unless you let it, and if you let it, it will REALLY hurt.

Good Luck, Tyler Durden!

Up next — Mistake #2: Shangri-Law