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Your Burning Questions Answered
So, rather than do a traditional "Ask Asha" post this round, I thought I would answer some of the questions -- and correct some of the off-base answers -- which have been circulating in the online forums. Yes, we do read them. And yes, it's not hard to figure out who some of you are. Please be on your best cyber behavior. (And by the way, you guys have way too much time on your hands.)
@ r6_philly: We do not have GPA/LSAT cutoffs. I am on application #2011. I read Every. Single. One. Regardless of numbers. As I've mentioned before, a weak number does usually need extremely strong everything else to make it through to the faculty, which is why I have to read through the whole thing, including the recommendations. Actually, a better topic for discussion might be what would keep someone with really strong numbers from being passed on... which happens with surprising frequency. It might be because the writing is really, really bad (have I mentioned not writing poetry for your 250?), or there is just something that doesn't fit -- like why does the person have only one academic reference (out of three) if s/he got a 4.0 all through college? Or maybe the recommendation has a big red flag like, "Sometimes Johhny's comments can border on arrogance, but usually he adds to the discussion." So, just like lower numbers don't mean you won't get a faculty review, good numbers don't keep you from getting automatically rejected, either.
@ crackberry: Numbers do not become irrelevant just because you get passed onto the full faculty review. It really depends on the faculty members reading your file. Some faculty are sticklers for the LSAT or your undergrad GPA. Some are more into your story. Some care only about what your recommenders say, because they feel that every other part of your application has been doctored. Some read every LSAT writing sample, and swear by it. It really depends on the combo of faculty reviewing your application which factors matter most. That's why our system produces such an interesting class...because the people who get the required scores have some core elements that three very different faculty members agreed on without even having to discuss them. Unfortunately, neither you nor I will ever know what those elements are.
@ Pausanias: There is no correlation between when you are admitted and whether you were a presumptive admit or read by faculty (I really don't see why this would make any difference once you are admitted, but anyway). Both I and the members of the faculty are reading files from early fall into April. So, it's entirely possible for an application to make it through a round of three faculty readers by December, just as it is possible for me to admit someone directly in the spring (it would be kind of odd, wouldn't it, if a must-have applicant applied on February 15 and I had no choice but to send the person to the faculty gamble?). In fact, I believe two years ago the very very very last file I read was a presumptive admit. Again: your chances of admission remain the same regardless of when you apply.
@ notanumber: Speaking of presumptive admits and numbers, the purpose of admitting someone directly is not to game the system so that we keep our 75th percentile high, or whatever the suggestion was. Someone who is admitted automatically is just a must-have applicant in every way. Academic promise is one part of it, but you don't need a perfect score or GPA to demonstrate academic promise. I can't really define what would make someone so compelling, since the people who fall into this category are so different, but just trust me when I say that we really use the numbers the way they are meant to be used: to predict their academic performance in law school. Beyond that, we try to put together the most diverse and talented class possible. How the numbers fall out once we do that is not something we are trying to control, though between my picks and the faculty's we do end up with an upper quartile with very high scores and GPAs.
@ Ben J: I probably do miss some typos. However, I catch a fair number of them, and whether they are fatal to your application really depends on the overall strength of your application and the egregiousness of the typo (as in, are you just sloppy, or does it call your literacy into question?). I saw some scuttlebutt about how applying late might suggest you are not really serious about YLS. We don't really interpret the date you choose to apply as having any correlation with your interest (in fact, it might suggest that you chose to spend more time applying to us than to anyone else!). On the other hand, even a typo in the "just sloppy" category might call into question how serious you are about Yale. Also, a typo will pretty much guarantee that you're out of the running for being a presumptive admit, and so even if I let it pass, you're then thrown in with the sharks for a faculty review (and I can't say how the faculty who read your application will look at it). Bottom line, please take the time to review your application for mistakes. I'll do a post this fall about the major mistakes I've seen -- I'll spare you all the list since most of you have already submitted your apps and I see that our Twitter posts are already causing you hypertension.
I hope this is helpful. Please discuss.
Desert Fox said:
Why do you place such a high value on editing perfection? Is it your opinion that a typo is a significant indicator of potential success.
Do you not also think that biases your admissions in favor of those students who can afford expensive application editing services.
February 12, 2010 5:23 PM
Asha: If I found I had a typo in my 250 after I sent it in, should I just fix it and send in a new one?
February 12, 2010 6:09 PM
Thanks for answering my baseless speculation. It is really good to know that you have a holistic process that ignores the pernicious pressure of the US News rankings.
February 12, 2010 7:39 PM
Nikkia J. said:
This was helpful (especially given the speculation that runs rampant on TLS). Is it true that Yale doesn't take students from the same (especially) low ranking UGs in consecutive years, even if they have more or less the same profiles as successful candidates in the year before.
February 13, 2010 1:14 AM
Thanks for the post, Asha. This kind of communication from the admissions office makes the process of
applying a good deal more human.
I write, though, with a consideration—about your observation that typos might indicate a lack of interest in the school. (Full disclosure: I noticed a couple of typos after submitting my application, so my remarks are hardly objective.)
I had a professor in college who remarked, about a year before he retired, that he had never put together a syllabus without some typo or other. The reason, he mused, had to do with a feeling—halfway conscious, apparently—that, despite his position, he was incompetent to teach his classes, and he had to demonstrate his incompetence somewhere. It didn’t mean that he wasn’t fiercely interested in his students. On the contrary, his typos were the result of his interest in teaching.
Now, I realize that you read dozens of applications daily, and I don’t doubt that typos are a useful heuristic. My point, simply, is that typos can signify odd things—sometimes, in fact, great interest.
February 13, 2010 2:24 PM
Asha, you are the best. I love you. Thanks for the post.
February 13, 2010 3:22 PM
Thank you for providing this forum to communicate with you. I love your blog and the wonderful insights about Yale. In my heart, I know this is the right school for me. Unfortunately, today is the deadline to apply and I will not be able to submit my materials. Do you still accept applications if they arrive a day or two after the deadline? If so, are they treated differently or looked down upon from the Admissions Committee?
I appreciate your honest and candid feedback.
February 16, 2010 12:59 AM
I find this hilarious. You Yale adcoms are the best. :)
February 16, 2010 3:18 AM
Hopeful: We are glad to hear that the blog is helpful and that you are excited about Yale.
Our electronic application lists a deadline of 2/15, but you actually have until 11:59 pm ET on 2/17 to submit your application. There is no disadvantage to applying this late.
Unfortunately, we do not accept applications after this date. If you're not able to apply by tomorrow evening, please consider applying next year.
February 16, 2010 12:17 PM
203 Blog said:
Nikkia J: Thank you for writing. It is helpful for us to hear the questions that you are wondering about. No, this is not true for any undergraduate institution. We are looking to compile a new diverse and talented class each year. We admit students from a wide variety of undergraduate institutions into each entering class and are not comparing one year's class against the previous year. The decisions will depend upon the faculty readers reviewing each applicant’s file as well as the applicant pool for the year.
February 16, 2010 12:59 PM
Tony: You can send in a new essay, but depending on where your file is in the review process, it may or may not make it in before someone reads it (in other words, if the physical file has left our office to be read by me or the faculty, your update will just wait in our office until the file comes back). Also, at this point, you should make a judgment call on how bad the typo is. If it's egregious, maybe you want to correct it, but if it's not too bad, updating could call attention to it and make it worse. Not a great place to be, I know, but that's my take.
February 16, 2010 2:09 PM
Desert Fox: I'll answer why editing is important in reponse to RNS -- as for needing to pay for a professional in order to have an error-free application, I disagree. Generally, most of the mistakes we see are errors with basic English grammar, spelling, usage, and punctuation. Since everyone who applies to law school has a college degree, they should have the requisite background themselves to correct these things. To the extent that it's sometimes easy to be "blind" to an error after you've spent time reading something over and over again, we strongly encourage applicants to ask a family member, friend, or professor to proofread their application before submitting it. In the unlikely (and sad) event that an applicant has no friends or anyone else, there are online forums (where you might find something called the U.S.S. Spellcheck thread...or something like that :)) where people seem to be friendly enough to proof your statements anonomously. In any event, the kind of errors I'm talking about don't require professional editing.
February 16, 2010 2:19 PM
RNS: I appreciate the anecdote about your professor, but I don't think that's an appropriate analogy. For one thing, I'm guessing that your professor is not particularly worried about getting (or maintaining) his position. By contrast, you are competing with several thousand other people for a limited number of slots. This is like applying for a job -- would you submit a resume or cover letter to an employer with typos and misspelled words? People who are tasked with making hard decisions among otherwise comparable applicants are often looking for reasons to take people out of the running. Typos and grammatical mistakes make you look careless, at best, and incompetent, at worst. I know that's harsh, but it's true. More importantly, you are applying to be a LAWYER. Writing is your raison d'etre, and your clients' lives will depend on how well you represent them on paper, for the most part (believe me, you may be a great oralist, but for every hour a lawyer spends talking, she's spent at least four writing). How you write is therefore exponentially more important than in any other professional setting. It may very well be that one day you will be a tenured law professor, or Article III judge, or named partner -- in which case you can write however you want, in purple crayon, and there's not much anyone can do about it -- but until then, these are the standards to which people making decisions (particularly lawyers) will hold you.
February 16, 2010 2:35 PM
Dear Asha, thank you for your response. The admission process and the philosophy behind it is what draw me to Yale over any other institution. I wish my application will be considered in its entirety, so a comprehensive view of me as an applicant and as a person can be presented and reviewed. I get the impression that many schools do not look past the numbers or they do not attach much weight to the other parts of the application in deciding who to admit. It is reassuring to know Yale is not one of them. I sincerely look forward to my file being reviewed. Thank you again.
On a side note, I sent an email from my personal email address to the blog contact address a few days ago and I hope it found its way to you. I was afraid it may have fell victim to your SPAM filter.
February 16, 2010 10:06 PM
notanumber and r6_philly: I'm glad the post was useful. I hope I didn't scare any of you -- it's just that when we see misinformation (even well-intentioned), we need to correct it because people use your forums to decide whether to apply to/attend Yale. Otherwise, whatever you say is really your business. Will keep an eye out for your email, and thanks for the feedback!
February 17, 2010 12:34 PM
Southwestern Law Grad said:
You spelled anonymously wrong. :)
February 17, 2010 7:07 PM
Asha, You use the word "oralist" incorrectly. An oralist is one who believes in using an oral method of teaching the deaf to communicate (acc. to Merriam-Webster). It also refers to a deaf person who communicates through lipreading or speech (acc. to Dictionary.com).
February 17, 2010 7:23 PM
Nikkia J said:
@ Asha & Craig: Thank you for the quick responses. Your transparency and candor is highly appreciated (& also saves me from several hours of fruitless speculation).
Just one more Q: Is there an appeals process in case of a rejection? Or any way to get guidance about how to re-apply. I'd be willing to give up another year just to re-apply but I worry about repeating the same mistake(s) that prevented me from being admitted in the first place?
February 17, 2010 9:09 PM
Southwestern Law Grad: Touche! (And proof that you can get free, anonymous proofreading online.)
February 18, 2010 11:24 AM
Nitpicker: That's interesting. Our moot court competition (among others) gives the "Best Oralist" award to the person who makes the best oral presentation. In fact, a YLS student was just named "Best Oralist of the Day" at the International Criminal Court Moot Court Competition in The Hague! Maybe it's just slang in the legal community.
February 18, 2010 11:29 AM
Nikkia J.: We do not have an appeals process. We aren’t able to provide feedback on your application, because there is no way for us to know what factors contributed to a decision due to the nature of our review process. Each decision is dependent upon the faculty members who are reading the application file. If you are not admitted it is not necessarily because there is a mistake in your application. The faculty reviewers are making decisions between highly qualified candidates. If you choose to reapply, you will begin with an entirely new application so will not be biased by a decision made in a previous year. We also accept transfer applications from students following their first year of law school.
February 18, 2010 12:09 PM
@Nitpicker, the use of "oralist" here is correct. Although this particular usage of the word rarely appears outside of the legal and political arenas, the debaters reading this will likely have encountered it.
This is a good example of the need to treat reference materials with caution, particularly in the digital world where it is so easy to create a new reference source based on a prior, incomplete one.
From a better dictionary, the OED: oralist - A person who is skilled in oral delivery; a correct or model speaker; (now usually) a person who practises oral argument or persuasion, esp. as a lawyer or politician.
February 18, 2010 12:11 PM
February 18, 2010 12:12 PM
@asha and craigj, Thanks for the info! And the OED definition sure beats the Urban dictionary one.
February 18, 2010 12:56 PM
This is incredible! Thank you so much for taking the time out to instill some fun into the whole process. I recently sent in my application, but I am still waiting on a letter of recommendation to post on the LSAC site. If I forward it electronically when it becomes processed, will it be updated to my file or just wait in the office much like the newly edited 250 would?
Thanks again Asha--you rock!
February 18, 2010 8:52 PM
Wow, this blog is incredibly helpful and calming! After reading so many blogs across the web, my stomach was in knots, to say the least. I have been out of school for a few years, and did not have law school on the brain when I was in undergrad. I felt as if I put 110% into my applications...before I began reading the posts of other applicants and began second-guessing myself. Thank you for providing insight as someone who has actual knowledge of how decisions are made!
February 19, 2010 12:50 AM
@nitpicker, I'm sure it does, but I'm too afraid to look.
February 19, 2010 10:44 AM
@MJ, when your letter of recommendation posts at LSAC an updated copy of your LSDAS report will automatically be sent to the Admissions Office. If your file is in the office, the update will be added before being sent for review. If your file is out for review, the update will be added the next time your file returns to the office.
February 22, 2010 1:04 PM
I visited YLS in February and discovered a few things:
1) It's cold in New Haven, but the snow really is bearable... even for someone from the south.
2) No photo, viewbook, or oral description can really capture the unique spirit of the YLS community. Despite my lofty expectations, I still left New Haven awestruck.
3) My preference for YLS is even greater than I imagined. Would submission of a LOCI reaffirming my interest and discussing what I gleaned from my visit be helpful or would it be frowned upon (something akin to the "waitlist freak show").
February 28, 2010 3:46 PM
Thank you for your blog; it has been very helpful. Is it okay to send a brief update by mail to the admissions office on new leadership positions / awards? I know that the update will not be added until the next time the file returns to the office if the file is complete, but is it still okay to do this?
February 28, 2010 3:51 PM
Bad Idea Leisure Suit said:
What is YLS's attitude toward application updates? Is a letter mentioning that updated transcript and a recent award potentially helpful, or, unless the update is very significant, is it just annoying? Other schools seem to encourage this, but one does not want to cross the YSL admission gods.
March 1, 2010 9:16 AM
Obligatory chuckle at all the "Asha, you misspelled this!!" posts...
March 2, 2010 9:08 AM
@LOCI: I am happy to hear that you had a good visit to New Haven. If you are placed on the waitlist a simple LOCI can be helpful to us. At this point, however, it is too early to send one in. The LOCI is not particularly useful to us during the initial review of an application.
March 2, 2010 11:25 AM
@ CL & Bad Idea Leisure Suit: Updates can occasionally be helpful to your application. For example, if your grade trend in college has been going steadily upwards and an updated transcript would show an additional completed semester of very strong grades. It is also helpful for us to know if you are the recipient of a significant award. As with each part of your application, however, you should exercise your judgment about sending in updates. Updates may be sent by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
March 2, 2010 11:29 AM
I did send a resume update with a significant award to email@example.com, but I got only an automated response. Should I send it again, or is it likely that you received it?
March 3, 2010 12:48 AM
In Canada said:
Holistic approach eh? Wow, that is good to hear.
March 5, 2010 7:45 PM
I submitted an application early in the fall and am still waiting for a decision. I've recently decided to defer law school for a year to take on a service position abroad. So, if I am lucky enough to ultimately be accepted, I would still be deferring a year (I'm under contract at this point). Is this the type of information I should send to the admissions office? Would it be helpful to know? Thanks.
March 8, 2010 5:24 PM
It is my opinion that tYale Law School’s admission process is clearly biased against applicants who cannot afford Microsoft Word 2007 spell checking software.
April 30, 2010 2:03 AM
No, Modesty, I think YLS presumes that anyone who owns a computer can download OpenOffice for free and use its excellent spell-checking feature; or, that anyone who does not own a computer can go to one of the many public libraries spread about the country and type up one's personal statement/application/&c. there.
June 10, 2010 2:30 PM