Podcast: The Genre of Application Essay Writing

In this episode of Status Check with Spivey, Mike speaks with long-time Spivey consultant and former Penn Law Admissions Dean Derek Meeker about tackling the genre of law school applications.

Crafting a well-written essay is just one part of the equation — necessary but not sufficient for a strong application — and in this interview, Derek takes lessons from his graduate-level writing coursework, combined with his extensive experience in admissions decision-making, to offer valuable insights into how you can connect the dots in your law school application within the full context of your experiences, background, and personality.

Mike and Derek mention a few different examples and resources in this episode, including our blog post of example personal statements, Derek's video on choosing a personal statement topic, our interview with Michigan Law's Dean of Admissions Sarah Zearfoss, an example of a Georgetown video from one of our former clients, and an essay from Mike titled Failure is a Liar. Also check out our recent podcast with Mishka Shubaly.

You can listen and subscribe to Status Check with Spivey on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, YouTube, SoundCloud, and Google Podcasts.


Mike: Welcome to Status Check with Spivey, where we talk about life, law school, law school admissions, a little bit of everything. We're going to focus on admissions today. I’m with my partner, Derek Meeker, who was the Dean of Admissions at Penn Law. He took curriculums worth of graduate programs and creative writing, so he's done both the writing side and the admission side.

We've seen more of a progression of, “Okay, all you have to do is write a good essay and get good scores,” but that's necessary but not sufficient. You need to write a good essay, but you need to write multiple good essays, do a good interview, balance yourself out, and connect the dots.

Oftentimes it's not creative writing, it’s strategic elemental writing, and the way Derek described it I think perfectly in this podcast is, personal statement application writing is a genre all to itself. It's its own genre. I could write a personal statement and it wouldn't sell, or I can write a book and those might sell, but they would be horrible personal statements. So, we're going to talk about the genre of admissions and applications.

Without further delay, let's turn it over to Derek. How's it going, Derek?

Derek: It's good. Hi, Mike. Hi, everyone. Life is good. We're sort of at that point of finishing up with clients from the current cycle for the most part and ramping up with new ones. Obviously this podcast and the topic is very timely.

Mike: If you're on the waitlist this cycle is not timely. If you're applying next cycle, hopefully this is very helpful. And just for those listening, every data point we have thus far, although it's very early and things can change, is that the pendulum is swinging back, and next cycle looks like it's going to be a little more forgiving than these last two cycles, which were — I don't know, Derek, how would you describe these last two cycles?

Derek: The most competitive ever. You and I have both been doing this for more than 20 years, right?

Mike: Yep.

Derek: So, certainly in the 20-something years that I've been doing it, the two most competitive and I would venture to say maybe, maybe ever.

Mike: Yeah. My running joke is, you know, maybe like when William & Mary was the first law school, maybe they had like one class seat and 200 applications. But other than that, this has been a rough road.

Okay, so we're going to talk about two things. Your application needs to be in symmetry with the other pieces of the application. And far too often I think we’ve both seen when people are reapplicants, and then come to our firm, or we interview someone on a podcast — yeah, they're — each essay is strong, but they don't tie together. No admissions officer reads the personal statement then a week later reads through the diversity statement in isolation.

Derek: You have to connect the dots, as we often say.

Mike: Half this podcast, or maybe more, will be on connecting the dots. And then the other half we can talk about, even within the personal statement alone, for example, it'd be great if it's well written, that's necessary, but it's not sufficient. There's got to be more. You had a way of describing it when we talked earlier that I liked.

Derek: Basically, a law school personal statement is its own genre. It is a personal essay — personal essay is a genre of writing, and much of it can be approached that way. A lot of the same rules would apply if you were writing a personal essay, but it's not enough. It can't just be that, it's got to also somehow connect the dots, just as we are saying, right? So, I think that's one of the challenges.

The other thing is, most people don't train in this sort of writing, right? Like even if you're a creative writing major, I mean, I suppose you might be focusing on personal essay/memoir, but it's unlikely that people who are 18 or 19 years old are doing much in that genre. So, that alone is challenging. But then you have the added component of, it's a personal essay, but for a law school application. So, it is its own genre, and it's just completely foreign to most people.

Mike: When demand says “okay, you should hire someone for your firm,” think about how many months it takes us to hire someone — because there's not that many people who have trained in this genre. They have to have strategic admissions expertise and strong writing expertise. Really we kind of stopped growing the firm, not because of lack of demand but because lack of — there's only so many people who do this for a living.

Derek: Yeah. Essentially, as an applicant, and when you're writing a personal statement, you have to kind of try to think in the same way. Like I have to have a compelling story, and it has to be really good writing, but I also have to keep in mind that I'm not just writing a compelling, well written story. It is part of an entire application with other components, and that is an application for law school.

Mike: And we can help with stories, and it's on our website, so you can go to spiveyconsulting.com and we have sample personal statements. And there's one that comes up from time to time, it's about an applicant who learned to ride her bike as an adult. And I even think when you first read it Derek, you were like, well, what's the backstory before we put it on the website?

Derek: Exactly.

Mike: And there was a backstory, of course there was a backstory. This applicant had a great resume with legal experience in Google's Legal Department, paralegal experience. The resume screamed, “I want to go to law school.” And when Karen Buttenbaum, our other — one of our other partners, we both worked with her — when we talked to her on the phone, her personality just, like, jumped at you as fun and whimsical, almost the opposite of her resume. So what we did is, we explored in this process of “moments where everything changed.” Like what was a moment that captures your personality, and not the serious side of all these other component pieces of your resume?

So she wrote this awesome personal statement about, as a 20-something-year-old, on a bike with training wheels on it, crashing down this hill in San Francisco and — you know San Francisco, it's very hilly — and all the neighbors are like, “What in the world? Why did this 25-year-old crash into my mailbox and take out my mailbox?”

If you read that personal statement in a vacuum it's kind of confusing, or if an applicant without a great resume that pointed toward law school were to look at that personal statement, they might say, “I don't know if I can do this, or if I should do this,” and you probably would chime in that they shouldn't without knowing the backstory.

Derek: Absolutely. Well, it immediately puts me in the mind of one of the other essays that's on our website that was someone that I worked with. And it may be my favorite personal statement ever. It's certainly in the top five. That's saying a lot because I’ve read so many.

Mike: I think I've read over 50,000-60,000, and I'm guessing you have too.

Derek: Yeah, I mean, we got like 6,500 applications [per year] at Penn, and I read every one of them. And then just all the number of years I've been doing this. But it's the cattle ranch essay. I have yet to meet someone who doesn't love that essay. Here's the word that we hate, but we ultimately use, it's a “unique,” pretty unique experience. This person who worked on a cattle ranch, all four summers of his college career, in a different language, with two cowboys from Mexico. It doesn't get much more differentiating than that. And there's no mention of law or law school whatsoever. But similarly, this person was working in the legal field in a very high-level corporate type of position. The resume definitely conveyed why they would be interested in going to law school. They had a professional letter of recommendation.

So, yes, in looking at all of the components, you knew why this person was going to law school, and they could write this essay that was more about conveying their personality and the skills and perspective that they developed from this experience. And what's interesting is I've heard this now several times from people, you actually interviewed someone for this podcast — you'll have to fill in the details — I think it was someone who had strong numbers but wasn't faring well in the process, and so it seemed like there was clearly something wrong with their essays. And one of the things he said was, “Well, I tried to model my essay on the cattle ranch essay.” And the problem was, I think for him, he didn't have that experience, right? So, he didn't connect the dots.

It's so critical, because you have to think about, “Okay, what are those moments when something changed for me?” and brainstorm those and find something that's going to be compelling and hopefully differentiating for you. But the next step is, what do all the other components of my applications say about me? Am I connecting all the dots? Is it clear why I’m where I am now, i.e., why I'm applying to law school?

We often talk about using the moments when everything changed as a brainstorming activity, and it’s such great advice and an amazing place to start. I learned that, actually, in my writing classes, from an amazing instructor at UCLA in the writer's program, her name is Alison Singh Gee. And that is essentially where we always started. If you're stuck, start with the moments when everything changed. I just have to give her credit, because I didn't come up with that. Our clients find it really helpful for starting points. Step one, step two, but how does it connect to all the other pieces of your application, those moments?

Mike: Yeah. And sincerity matters more than anything, which is why the moments where everything change matter, and kudos to you for giving her props. Hopefully people will Google her name and buy her book.

Derek: Yeah.

Mike: I mean, we could go on this one forever. I think of this one on my personal blog. It's so confusing we took it off Spivey Consulting, it literally is my favorite personal statement of all time. I'll use the word “unique” again. It's one out of a million where you can write about someone else in your personal statement and it be successful. That's so, like, a one out of a million. That's like rule number one, the operative word in personal statement is the word “personal.” There are no absolutes in admissions, and what this applicant did, who got in below Chicago's median as an applicant, was he wrote about someone else. Show, don't tell. It showed all about him by writing about someone else. The way he cared for someone else, the way he protected someone else in his life, who was bullied, sort of traumatized, showed a ton about him. And this thing comes up often. Like once a year, it'll come up on a message board and people will say, “I don't understand why this makes sense for law school.” It wouldn't make sense for you. It wouldn't make sense for most applicants.

Another example I have in mind is someone who applied to Yale who wrote their 250 about their first kiss. At face value when I say that, that makes no sense, even to you and you've done admissions. But the personal statement was on, like, AI and machine learning. And number two, it wasn't about the kiss, it was about how he turned and ran. You know, he got all nervous and he was a teenager, and it was 250 words of hilarity, which pinged so well off of a personal statement on machine learning and AI. That shows the broad depth of this person's personality.

Derek: That's an amazing example, writing about something that's going to convey something totally different than the other essays that you might be writing, whether it's a diversity essay or the Yale 250 or another supplemental, and showing different parts of your experiences and personality. Which we can dive a little deeper into the “why I'm here now and why I'm going to law school” piece of it. And looking at all of the components of the application, is that coming through? And the reason why I want to talk about this is because there’s sort of two extremes that we're discussing here.

I'll use a couple of examples that actually happened this cycle with two clients that reached out to me, who asked me to review their application and their personal statement, which they thought was the final draft. They were ready to apply the next day and they just wanted another set of eyes on it. I had to tell both of them that they had to start over on their personal statement.

The first one, it was similar to what we are already talking about. They said that they modeled their essay after the cattle ranch one and wrote this beautiful story. It was about a unique experience that they were very engaged in as a child and throughout their adolescent years. And I loved the story and it was compelling, but I got to the end — I kept waiting for the transition — and I got to the end of it and I thought, “What was the point of this?” Because they never carried it forward. It stayed through the childhood experience. And the other problem was when you looked at this person's resume and the other pieces of their application, there was no clear indication why they would be going to law school, so it really was just this essay that it made no sense given the rest of the application. So I was like, “Look, this would be a great essay to submit possibly for a publication of some sort that accepts personal — or if you were applying for an MFA creative writing program — but it's not going to work for law school. There's no understanding as to why you would be writing about this experience.” And this was also someone who'd been out of college for a few years that had been working, so it was really far removed. So the good news is, I was able to have that conversation and get them to think about a more recent experience that really changed how they perceived things and was able to connect that to why they were going to law school, and this person ended up with really great offer.

So why I want to talk about this is because the other example is someone who did the other extreme of it, which was they focused their entire essay pretty much on why they want to be a lawyer. In this person's case, they were either a political science or history major, I don't know which, but it was essentially the kind of a generic, “I took these classes in political science and history, and this is why I'm interested, and now I'm seeing these social and political issues that are happening in the world, and now I'm going to be a lawyer.” It's like, no offense to history and political science majors, it's a great curriculum for law school. But the reality was that essay could have been written by any other political science or history major.

Mike: And the thing you're also not saying is that essay is written 12,000 times a year.

Derek: Exactly, right. So if you're — and this is something that I tell my clients all the time — you have to understand that an admissions officer, when they're reading, you may be the first application they read that day or you might be the 50th, right, or the 60th. That might be, like, late at night after they've worked, after they've made dinner, put their kids to — bathe their kids, put their kids to bed, helped their kids with their homework, you know, whatever the situation is. So it's got to be something that's going to be interesting, and if it's just, if it’s another generic “why law” essay, it's not going to work.

But again, think about, “Am I at least conveying that, somehow, why I would be a good lawyer or why I'm doing this? If not in my personal statement, is it coming through in the other pieces of the application?”

Mike: Yeah. If you look at someone with the exact same numbers, I'll just make this up, a 160 and a 3.8 and then another person with a 160 and a 3.8 and another person with a 160 and a 3.8. Same race, same caliber of undergraduate curriculum, same gender, hold it all constant. With those numbers, every cycle, a few might get admitted, a large chunk might get waitlisted, and then a few might get denied, holding the schools constant. So what's the difference?

Well, there’s one of two things. That poor admissions officer was tired after dinner after a long day and you didn't have their full attention. It's a lot easier to waitlist someone and go back to them, than to admit someone who's a narrow margin below or at your school's medians. And we talk openly about this. We can't control this. You can’t, I can't, the applicant can't. And/or that poor person had read 60 applications, they all sounded the same, and you had this opportunity to wake them up and you didn't seize it. Again, you gotta strategically wake them up. I think we were going to talk about the symmetry of the applications, which we have. Do you have anything else to talk about there?

Derek: I just want to say two more things really quickly related to that. That example that I just gave, that person when I talked to them and said, “Was there something else that you thought about writing about?” they immediately had a story, and it was a much more personal one about challenging familial situation but that really developed their character and the way that they essentially had to become an adult at a very young age. And they told me that someone had told them that they shouldn't write about that because it was not appropriate for a law school application, and they should write something more about why they were going to law school. And the first draft of this essay that was based on this personal challenge was better than the final draft of that other “why I want to be a lawyer.”

The other thing I'm going to say really quickly is, so I did a video on how to choose a personal statement topic for our YouTube Channel. And I re-listened to that just to see, is there anything that I missed on that that I might want to add here? But as I was watching it, I noticed something that came up as a suggested watch was an interview with Sarah Zearfoss on writing the personal statement. And I thought she said something really interesting and also helpful, which gets to what you were just talking about as far as capturing the reader's attention. And if you're the 100th application they read that day, she said that she reads the personal statement last, and I think that's pretty common.

Mike: Always resume first, right.

Derek: Right. And so one of the things she said that basically, by the time she gets there, she's already, you know, developed an opinion on whether you're someone that she's interested in admitting or not. So basically the personal statement, you're either going to affirm her thought on, “I'm going to admit this person,” or she's thinking you're — she's going to reject and you have an opportunity to change her mind with a personal statement. So essentially you're either writing yourself in or writing yourself out.

Mike: And this is why we spend hours on the phone with our clients, I mean, unless they're hourly clients so we're trying to be mindful of that. But this is why we spend long conversations with our clients, “Let's talk about ages 3 to 25.” Again, we don't like the word “unique” because – I don't like that word “unique” for two reasons. One, is it's not “unique” that you lived in Europe, so the overuse of non-unique things — but everyone does have a unique story in them. Of course. We all have unique lives; that doesn't bother me. Number two is, I hate it when people qualify the word “unique.” Please don't do this. I see this every week of my life. Something can't be “very unique,” right?

Derek: I think a better way to say it is just don't use the word “very” ever.

Mike: So Dean Zearfoss, great point by her — just so people know, she's the Dean of Admissions at Michigan, Derek and I both know her very well… now I'm stuck on the word “very” — and that's another good podcast to tune in. These are all the same; they're admissions experts who have done admissions their entire careers.

I'll give another example in the opposite direction. There’s also videos that you can submit for some schools. We have a video on our blog, and we’ll link it as part of this podcast. So, we'll link this video. And the video is someone with his family, it's half of him at a baseball stadium. He actually happened to train the Baltimore Orioles baseball players in physical fitness, in a form of martial arts. So, he trained them in this Israeli form of martial arts. But then the other half was him with his family, bouncing his baby up and down. And people are kind of confused. They're like, “Well, it's high video quality, but why is he in a baseball field? Why is he with his baby?”

Well, his personal statement was about how he was in Special Forces in the Israeli Defense Forces — which is required if you are from Israel. So this is a very classic, particularly with military applications. There’s something — if you're a veteran or if you're in the military, this is great to know. Military applications tend to be very undifferentiated. The letters of rec all sound the same. The personal statements are understandably very often about military experience. So what we were doing with this video is, we were showing a very different side to this person who wrote his personal statement on his experience in the Special Forces. He's now an incredibly popular LinkedIn figure. I think his name is on the video. So he does LinkedIn videos. He's a biglaw partner now; this is how long we've been in business. But if that video had been talking about something serious, professionally-oriented, I don't think he would've ended up at Georgetown Law. He was well below their medians too.

Derek: Right. The human side would've been missing. Just as in the case of the bicycle essay and the cattle ranch essay, right? People who are very ambitious and in very high-stakes types of jobs. And by the way, you don't have to have had one of those experiences, either. A lot of those nuggets and interesting experiences come from sort of everyday experiences, or — I had someone this cycle write about a particular personality trait that was sort of different from anyone else in their family, so they kind of felt like the outsider, but it was a trait that was also inhibiting them when they got to college. And they had that moment when someone said something that kind of shined a light on, “Oh, maybe I need to engage differently.” But the point is, that was just like a moment that happened when they were encountering a classmate, when they were walking into their dorm, it wasn't like they were in a fighter jet or working on a remote ranch. It was just kind of an everyday experience, but wrote such a, I thought a compelling essay, and as a splitter had really great options.

Mike: Again, everyone's got a story. And our job as a firm is to help get that story out of them. But even if someone is just listening to this for free advice, and I hope many people are: You have a story in you. Talk it out with people. Why was it important to you? Just like your example, the very first year of this firm, I had a client who talked about her reflections of visiting her grandfather's tombstone in the cemetery, and then she was on a train back to New York City. And she was just talking about her introspection about that moment. She didn't start an elephant refugee camp in Afghanistan, true story.

Derek: Yeah. And I often say to clients, there's often beauty in simplicity. I think that some of the — what are seemingly just simple experiences or revelations that one has about themselves, sometimes those make for the most compelling personal statements,

Mike: You use the moments where everything changed. And Anna and I — Anna is our COO who went to UVA Law on a Dillard, but she also does calls with clients with me — we used to do these “1 to 10 “things. If you're thinking about your lifetime memories, I don't want anything 1 to 8; it's the 9s and 10s where your hair stands up, or you stand up when you're thinking about it. But it's no different. It's the same, it's the same concept.

We can talk a little bit about writing now. This shifts to — I can tell, and you can, I imagine you can — the second one of my clients shifts from what's important to them to, “I'm trying to impress the Dean of Admissions,” the writing just changes for the worse.

Derek: Absolutely. It's got to be your voice, genuine. What I always tell my clients is it should read like a conversation, because ultimately that's what it is. Even for schools that interview, you're not going to get the interview unless the personal statement is well written.

Mike: Right.

Derek: So it really should be kind of, like, a pretty intimate conversation with the reader, so not highly academic or using stilted language. I think that that's something that yes, we see a lot. It gets in the applicant's head that, “Oh, I'm writing a personal statement for Harvard Law School, so I have to take on this other voice and use academic terms” — and “bloviation,” I think, is one of your favorites, right?

Mike: Right. They use the word “bloviating” as they’re bloviating, it’s a double entendre that cracks me up.

Derek: Right. But the more it reads like just like a conversation, like a story, the better it is.

Mike: We had Mishka — he's a great writer, no doubt about it, and we're still sitting on this podcast because — that's great writing, it would sell books, but it's not a great personal statement. And that's why we're struggling about what to do. We've tried to — you've heard me mention Leslie Jamison a hundred times, my favorite modern writer, I think the best writer on the planet today. But if we had her on the podcast, this person at Yale who writes best-selling New York Times books, who's writing about herself, it's a personal essay, these books are personal — so in theory, having Leslie Jamison or Mishka is great, but again, they're selling books. They're not talking in a conversational way. And by the way, just when we say “conversation,” we don't mean, like, “I said, ‘Eureka!’ This was a great moment. My dad then said…” — we don't mean that; we just mean don't use words you would never use in a conversation. Don't speak in a stilted manner you would never speak in a conversation. Be your freakin’ self. Be the best written version of yourself, but be yourself.

Derek: While also remembering — because this is, I'm glad that you're pointing this out and the Leslie Jamison and Mishka examples, because yes, they're writing obviously for a different audience. Your personal statement — yes conversational, yes somewhat intimate. You want to be revealing, because part of it is, of course, how are you going to add perspective and value and to the law school community. You're still writing to people who are complete strangers. Keep that in mind too, in terms of how much you are sharing while being open and vulnerable.

Mike: Yeah. And that's a, that's such a fine eye of a needle, a thread, because you don't know — and they're all different. Sarah Zearfoss, I think I can speak for her, and maybe she'll tell me to edit this out. But if you're making fun of yourself or talking about a failure, she's going to like it 9 out of 10 times. She'd probably like it. But not everyone. Not every admissions officer would. Go to Mishka's Instagram page, not every Dean of Admission is going to want to see a half-dressed person in 19 out of 20 of their pictures. So you gotta keep in mind, you don't, you don't know these people. You know yourself, even if you're making fun of yourself, even if you're swearing, maybe, maybe not. Even if you're talking about a very vulnerable situation, keep in mind that you don't know the personality or the mood of the person reading. So, you get — this is an art, this is a complex art. I wasn't good at understanding it for the first five years of my career, for sure. And we don't hire people at our firm with five years of experience, we hire people at our firm with 15 years’ experience for that reason.

Derek: Yeah, I mean it — so again, it just, it gets back to what I said at the very beginning. It is its own genre. Yes, you wanted to have those elements of storytelling and you know, the things that Mishka talks about, but you are still applying for a professional degree, and it's a story that is part of an application for a professional education.

Mike: I mean basically strong writing, creative writing, strong personal writing is necessary to get that bump, but not sufficient. It also has to be sincere writing, and you also have to be strategic about what you're talking about. Is that a fair statement?

Derek: Absolutely. After you've done the 1 to 10 approach, or the moments when — I think I altered it from “moments when everything changed” to “moments when something changed,” because I think “everything” is a little overwhelming for people who are in their early 20s for the most part, right? Whichever approach you're taking, and you're putting together, recalling and putting together those experiences, then yes. Then thinking strategically, okay, now how does this fit into everything else that's in the application, the symmetry, the connecting the dots?

Mike: I have a good example, and we don't want to belabor, so maybe we can end on the personal examples. If I were applying to law school —

Derek: I was going to ask you, Mike, what was your moment?

Mike: Well I'll tell you what I wouldn't write about. I would not write about starting a business. I love this firm, I love the people that work at this firm, I love what we do. I love that we do pro bono work. I love that we take care of each other as teammates. That just jumps off the resume. It would be hard to write a two-page thing about founding this business without it sounding like it's a humble brag. I would write about overcoming a challenge, whether it was finding a therapist and learning about my covert insecurities I didn't know. And I could talk about that. That would be not unique, but unique to me — when I turned 40, I looked deeply in inward. I investigated my own life, and my life changed for the better. I no longer feel rejection anymore. Things like that. I mean, yeah, I could literally talk about how I went from someone who felt rejected and had performance-based esteem that was off the charts, to someone who decided this is the time of my life, Mike, to sort of be compassionate and loved, embrace who you are, both the flaws and the strengths. I don't know if that would be my personal statement, what would yours be?

Derek: I was actually thinking about this yesterday as I was preparing a bit for this podcast. And if I'm going back to my 21- or 22-year-old self, what immediately comes to mind is when I was 18 years old and had already submitted applications for college. And my dad came home from work, he worked in a steel mill, and said, “We can't afford to send you to college. You're not going to be able to go.” You'll have to go to community college or something like that. And all of those feelings of shame and anger — and I had already applied and had to tell my friends I wasn’t, and now I wasn't going, I was going to be living at home. But the reason that that moment is so pivotal is because I realized, I'm kind of on my own, right? Like I have to figure out how to navigate this, because I don't want to stay at home. I have to get — and this is in a small town in Ohio, right? I need to do other things. So I have to figure out how I'm going to find the resources to go to college and do all the things that I want to do. And so essentially that sets the theme for the essay, which is I become a problem solver, figuring out how to navigate college and getting a job. And so it sort of sets up the theme for being a pioneer, being your own self advocate. And that I think is also a good example of, there is a childhood or adolescent experience that sets the stage and says a lot about my background, who I am, but I'm going to carry it forward, right? How does this now connect to who I've become and why I would make a good lawyer?

Mike: You know, I did one of those on my personal blog. It’s called Failure Is a Liar, and it's similar. So, if people want to read — I didn't write it as a personal statement, I should one of these days. Everyone in our firm’s writing personal statement. But I just did it as part of a personal blog. I remember a Dean of Admission saw it and said, “I wish I read one personal statement a week that was like this,” and it wasn't even meant to be a personal statement. So, they're out there and we can link that one too on the blog.

I think I'll end on this note. Tell me if you agree or not. Let's pretend you're applying this coming cycle. There's a couple things I know over 23 years that seem to be commonalities, and here's one. People that stay upbeat, ebullient, and optimistic, they start the cycle and they head into the cyclem and if they get their first rejection, if they stay upbeat and optimistic, they seem to do better, holding all the other variables constant, than people who let the cycle beat them down.

Derek: Absolutely. It's challenging to do. It's a long cycle. They seem to be getting longer, right, because schools were slower at making decisions. If you're on a wait list, it's still going. We still have what, three — we have almost three months left in this cycle, which is so crazy to think about. So it's not easy, but you just have to stay present and positive and optimistic and trust that, ultimately, it's going to work out as it should. If you are following your passion and truly on a path to do what you want to do and accomplish your goals, it will work out.

Mike: You're right. It's not easy. Look, every day of my life is not happy and optimistic, but I also have to be a professional and do professional phone calls, so what I do is I roll up my sleeves and I, you know, look in the mirror and I say, “You’ve got this Mike.” And I can be optimistic even on days when I'm feeling down. So, if I can fake it, I bet you, a lot of other people on bad days, can fake it.

Derek: Ultimately, admissions officers want to admit happy people who have a positive outlook on life.

Mike: It was great to catch up. We saw each other last month in DC, and we'll do another podcast!

Derek: Yeah. I love doing these. And of course, I could talk about writing for days, so.

Mike: We'll get Jamison on and have you interview her and we'll see how it goes. Have a good week. Stay safe.

Derek: Same to you. Bye everyone.