"The only guarantees in this life are death, taxes, and email blunders" is how the expression should be updated. We pretty much all have made said blunders and will almost be guaranteed to make them again. This happens to hundreds, if not thousands of applicants in the admissions process each year at some level, ranging from disastrous to laughable. How bad can the mistakes be? Epically bad of course — you have likely heard some from friends or online. But those aren't mine to tell. So instead, here is my worst, which at many levels rivals any applicant story I have heard to date and which also includes a bit of advice at the end. If you don't want to laugh at me (and I'm totally cool with that) feel free to skip to the end.
Years ago, when I was in my 20s and an admissions officer at Vanderbilt Law School, email list-servs were brand new. Different lists would auto-populate based on a few inputted letters, which was also new, efficient, and probably exciting to us at the time. Anyway, I am a sci-fi nerd of the highest order. At the time I had just read a book; I can't remember the name, but we can safely assume it was very nerdy, e.g. "The Wizard and the Dragon." Having just completed said book, I was eager to share it with a few friends whose nerdiness in book genres rivaled mine, including my friend Stuart, universally known as STU.
Stu is a great name. Short, strong, and by chance also the first three letters in "STUDENTS [all]." So, this is what all students at Vanderbilt Law School got on that said epic day:
"Hey man, I just finished The Wizard and The Dragon. It's totally badass, let me know when you are done too."
I, of course, didn't catch that when it went out to every student enrolled at the school. Nor would it have mattered then (but it can be reversed now, read on for the trick below). You can imagine, then, my initial confusion when for the next few days everyone with a book in their hand was telling me how badass I looked that day. "Hey Spivey, look'n badass" was actually a thing.
Obviously someone soon told me, and I could do nothing but laugh at myself and learn from it (and probably avoid the dean in the hallway for a few weeks). Here is what I have learned from that.
1. Accept it. Own it. The best thing about the above was that after the momentary shock of learning what I had done and the sick, embarrassed feeling in my stomach, I was able to laugh at myself. I just recounted this story to a client on a phone call and I'm still laughing at myself. So too was the client and Anna Hicks of our firm, who was on the conference call. Anna is going to get to laugh at it many times over I suspect.
2. Don't rush to immediately fix it. I've actually learned this from a law school that made a mass email blunder, and then immediately rushed out a second email with 600 typos in it. The second email compounded the mistake 500x over. If you send a law school the wrong email pump the brakes. It will be hard to do. But call someone. Call us if you want. Don't frantically keep emailing that school. Think to the voicemail message seen in the movie Swingers if you have seen it. The last thing that will help is over correcting with 100 apology letters.
3. Here is a trick I just learned from telling this story. Have gmail? You have a way to recall messages! Go to Gmail Settings -> General Settings -> Undo Send, and turn it on and set the cancellation period (there are options of 5 to 30 seconds; note that this will delay all of your regular emails by that amount of time). Here are slightly more detailed instructions with screenshots if needed.
We've all made email errors. You have, I have, the dean of every school you are applying to has. People can understand and tolerate the vast majority of them. Hopefully yours have been learning experiences too, and if not, there are always law school list-servs I'm happy to share with you.