Mistakes in Law School Applications: To Fix or Not to Fix?
by Ann Levine
I received calls both yesterday and today from readers of my blog who just found mistakes in their recently submitted applications. Both were panicked about what to do, but my suggestions might have been different for each of them based on the type of mistake that was concerning them.
There are three kinds of mistakes that you could have made in your law school applications:
1. Factual – Did you put a wrong date for something or get the name of something wrong? This type of law school application mistake has the easiest solution: simply email the school(s) and let them know you made a mistake and the real date or name is “so-and-so.” No problem.
2. Typo/Grammatical – This is the most heartbreaking kind of mistake because you worked so hard to avoid it and it feels so final. One person called me yesterday and said she had repeated “the the” in a sentence in her personal statement, and another applicant called me today because she left out the word “to” in a sentence in her optional essay. If you’re going to make a mistake in your personal statement, let it be this kind. While I do advise avoiding any errors because it appears unprofessional and lacks attention to detail, it’s not the end of the world in the computer age to have a cut and paste error, etc. If you have one incident like this, just let it go. If you have something really wrong with your personal statement, you can email the school an updated copy. They will probably add it to your file but not replace the original version.
If you have an error in your resume, it can be easier to fix. Wait a week or so, say it’s an “updated resume” and send it to the schools without saying what about it is updated….they are unlikely to notice whether it’s an updated job, an honor, a description, or a typo correction.
3. Bad Judgment – If you just started reading my book or blog after submitting your applications and you are now realizing you made some rookie mistakes and wish you’d done things differently, there is not a lot you can do at this point. You can update the law school with other things, but you can’t really submit a whole new personal statement. You can add applications to other schools with improved materials, but it’s hard to do damage control after the fact. You could visit the law school and make a case for yourself in person to try to correct some perception issues and send supplemental information as appropriate (for example, if you feel you left out something crucial in your application).
Mistakes can be frustrating and cause you to lose sleep over missed opportunities, but you also have to keep it in perspective. They are part of human nature and perfection is unattainable. We just do the best we can and move on with our lives, trying to do better.
Please Don't Lie
November 9, 2011
Yes, I've been away from the blog for a while, and my plans for a fall P.S. Boot Camp II got waylaid in light of recruitment travel, flexapp issues, and life in general. Usually, when I come back on the blog after the summer I try to write some cleverly-titled post that offers some humor to kick off the admissions season. And as you know, I do troll through discussion boards to see what you guys are wondering about so I can be responsive. I was therefore disappointed to find, in my first troll through the online discussions, that some people are discussing whether or not to lie on their Yale Law School applications. So, although I have written about this before, let me be blunt:
People who lie make me angry. And you won't like me when I'm angry.
Specifically, some students are discussing whether or not to lie on the question on our application that asks whether or not you have taken a test preparation course. I explained our rationale for this question (and the one asking about any assistance you received in preparing your application), but it appears that some students believe that by saying they didn't take a course, when in fact they did, they will somehow gain an advantage in our admissions process.
Leaving aside whether or not this is true, let's just cut to the chase. Lying on an application—ANY application (job, law school, government forms, etc.)—is REALLY STUPID. Once you sign your name to anything which you certify to be true, when you know that it isn't, you have pretty much committed yourself to living under a sword of Damocles for the rest of your life. That's because, even if the underlying "lie" is very minor, and may not have been material to anything to begin with, the act of deliberately falsifying a document with the intention to mislead the recipient is a huge blemish on your character, and if your lie is ever discovered, you are basically screwed. Why? Well, obviously, providing false information is lying. And giving false information in order to gain an unfair advantage is cheating. And if you obtain a seat at Yale by lying and cheating . . . that's stealing. Your 179 LSAT is not going to be so impressive if we discover that you are a liar, a cheat, and a thief. And stupid.
You may be wondering how we would ever know. I'll be honest, unless my spidey senses go up when reading an application, I generally don't go around digging for dirt on people. But my friends, you would be shocked at the amount of random information that comes flowing into our office about various applicants, from sources other than themselves. There's more information than you realize about you out there . . . particularly if you've, you know, been out in public and interacted with people, for example in a law school test preparation class. Anyway, if and when it's appropriate, we do cross-check information we discover with the information provided on the student's application. In 98% of the cases, the information checks out. In the 2% that don't . . . well, those people get pulled from our pipeline and receive a ding letter. Pretty simple.
That's, of course, if we're being nice. Yale, like every other law school, has the option to report any instances of applicant misconduct—which includes providing inaccurate or misleading information on your applicationto LSAC's Misconduct Committee. The Misconduct Committee's investigation is limited to only an objective finding of whether the alleged misconduct occurred; in other words, your subjective intent—whether your error/omission was intentional—is not a part of the inquiry. If there is a finding of misconduct, a copy of the investigative report and the Committee's findings are permanently attached to your LSDAS report and sent to every other law school to which you have applied or will apply to. For the rest of your life.
The information you provide in your application also follows you into law school. So, for example, a discovery in your third year that you lied on your application can be grounds for disciplinary action in your law school, not certifying you for the bar, and even revoking your admission at that time. And finally, even if you skate through law school and the bar undetected, when you are sitting for your polygraph to get your Top Secret clearance to become the Special Assistant to the Director of Homeland Security or whatever, and your polygrapher asks, "Have you ever lied on an application?" (this is the one of the more specific follow-ups to the initial "Have you ever lied?" question for the polygraph), you'll ping.
Which only brings home how dumb it is to lie on your application, especially about something like taking a test preparation course. I mean, lying is bad no matter how you do it, but someone who, say, forges an entire LSDAS report is dumb in a "Holy crap I can't believe he tried to get away with that!" kind of way. A person who lies about taking a test prep course is dumb in a terrorist who tried to get back his Ryder truck deposit after blowing it up kind of way. There's stupid, and then there's stupid.
Anyway, it's your choice. I'll be back with some condensed Personal Statement tips, as well as a new series that will be exploring our employment numbers in details. And I'll be starting to read apps this week!
UPDATE: As a follow-up to this post and an example of how anything you put down on paper could be verified years (and decades) later, here is a current story from the Yale Daily News.
Quick question: I registered for the recent webinar, but had a pre-scheduled conflict. The email invitation said it would be recorded for registrants. Do you know when that will be available?
November 9, 2011 11:43 AM
Asha, I know this nit-picking the issue, but what if I signed up for an LSAT course a few years ago, attended half the sessions, decided the course and the test was not right for me at the time, and stopped. Then, two or three years later, I began studying for the LSAT on my own and took the test without the help of a paid course. Clearly, the easiest option is to just tick the box and say I took the course, but I feel as though that undercuts all the effort and time I spent in studying on my own, which is the overwhelming majority.
Even in writing this, I feel like I am making a mountain out of a molehill, but these small details are driving me a bit crazy.
November 9, 2011 5:59 PM
Asha- Thank you for your post. I am in a slight predicament that perhaps others are in as well. I read the assistance question to mean paid or professional help with the application. Of course, I had a couple of friend read over my essays to be sure there weren't any glaring mistakes. I did not, however disclose this on my application. Now that I have read this post, read your previous post on the topic, and realize that the question was even addressing the proof reading type of unpaid second rate help, I am a little worried.... do I submit an addendum to address this issue?? Thank you!
November 14, 2011 7:43 PM
@Terrance: Sorry for the delay in responding. I would check the box that says yes, and just explain that you took part of a course, and then self-studied, but that in the interest of full disclosure you wanted to provide these details. It is truly not going to be a factor in the ultimate decision in your application, but I do tend to have respect for applicants who take the time to be candid and complete in answer to every question.
November 24, 2011 12:30 PM
@worried: Yes, you can submit a short addendum to the admissions email address. It does not have to be long, most people just say that so-and-so proofread their application for errors. Thanks for being so thorough!
November 24, 2011 12:31 PM
Hey Asha, I don't mean to get in to semantics, although we know at times individuals feel there can be a thin line between lying and bending the truth, when submiting ones aplication,and in life. Everyone knows, well, at least I believe in the Confucian sense right from wrong, truth from lie, and if one is embarrased or feels THAT wrong about something, they've done, then maybe they aren't ready to be at YLS, complete disclosure about the questions you are asked I believe at least is important, you will be representing Yale, or whatever law school you attened, and if you are masterful and decietful enough to slip through and become admitted, which you won't be, eventually you will be caught; how embarrassing would it be, to be called down halfway through your fist year, to be questioned on something you knew you should of cleared up, or disclosed. Thanks Asha for making me remember how powerful the truth is, and how stupid people look when they lie!
December 1, 2011 2:23 PM
As an Admissions Officer for a HIGHLY COMPETITIVE Business School, liars make me VERY angry as well! I am pretty sure that we are NOT interested in producing the next Enron executive!
December 8, 2011 12:13 PM
Thank you for writing these terrific blog posts.
I am currently a UCLA undergrad. I was wondering why the Yale Law School application asks about having taken LSAT preparation courses. Should I stay away from them? Or should I look for an alternative preparation method?
February 17, 2012 7:46 PM
Chris Sanchez said:
Early on in my education I worked full time and attend school full time. My GPA suffered severely. I went on to the military so I could get the G.I Bill to allow me to just focus on school. My first 90 were a 2.85 ,but my last 90 hours have been a 3.7. Will the admission consider my post bach GPA or overall?
May 30, 2012 1:19 PM
Quite an insightful post; thanks for the info!
Just to piggyback on Julian's post, what effect does taking a prep course have on admissions chances? In some cases prep courses have very little effect on scores and would you recommend staying away from a prep course in that instance? Let's say 1 person took the class and another didn't, ceteris paribus: Who would get admitted?
June 4, 2012 6:52 PM
@Julian: I would direct you to Asha's September 5, 2008 blog post ("New Questions"), in which she addresses a similar set of concerns. Hope that helps!
October 25, 2012 3:33 PM
@Kwame: Please see the previous response to @Julian - it should address your questions as well.
October 25, 2012 3:35 PM
@Chris Sanchez: We would consider your entire academic record and any relevant context that you provided. If there is a significant discrepancy between your performance/GPA during the earlier and later years of your education, you're welcome to submit an Addendum to explain the discrepancy. We would use the information in your Addendum to better understand what happened and would be able to see the circumstances that contributed to these different grades.
October 25, 2012 3:44 PM