Law in Contemporary Society

Our Experiences at Admitted Students Day

This topic is meant to be a documentation of what we experienced at our admitted students day, how we made our decisions to come here. It is pulled from the discussion here, and should serve as a basis for a discussion on how admitted students day can improve. For the specific issue of choosing CLS over a public state school, see here.

NYU vs. Columbia

One major focus of the Admitted Students Day is to convince students that there are substantive opportunities for public interest. This either is designed to appeal to students simply because incoming students often speak of wanting to do public interest work, or is specifically targeted to counter the prevailing perception that NYU is more public-interest friendly than Columbia. Following are individual recollections of this sale and the following decision-making process.

The panels I attended all included students who had done public interest work and students who had done clinics/externships talking about their experience. At NYU, I attended a session with a professor who runs an indigent defenders clinic who talked about how NYU has a much greater focus on real-world clinical education than Columbia. Focus there seemed to be on innovation, here more on prestige.

At admitted students day last year, Columbia sold the prestige of the school, the expertise of the professors, and the dynamic current students. Columbia then sent an enormous number of materials after admission. What else would you expect the school to do? NYU sent materials as well, and had alumns who had chosen NYU over CLS call to talk about their choice.

Our role in the process

During Admitted Students Day, I found myself cheerleading for Columbia at various events. Others say this is 'perpetuating the con.' I don’t know if I’ve just completely guzzled the law school Kool-Aid, but I am happy here, and don't feel like I'm conning anyone, but I wonder if I'm in the minority, of if others are having conflicts.

The admitted students program follows a script -- the admit knows which questions to ask, and which answers to expect, and the student provides them. Glorifying CLS's public interest focus, for the purpose of selling the school, reeks like a con.

Although it is a script, we can easily change it: just make a conscious effort to be very thoughtful and as honest as possible in your discussions with admitted students next year. Instead of telling the admits about things they probably can't understand or be interested in until they actually interface with the law (e.g., public interest), I generally try to let my happiness with Columbia shine through. If anything, the approach makes me feel less like a conman.

Other possible topics not discussed, feel free to add your experiences:

Columbia vs. "higher prestige" schools (did anyone make this decision? how was it sold to you?) Choosing to go to law school at all Issues of competition

-- AndrewCase - 02 Apr 2009


For what it's worth, Columbia and Harvard accepted me. As noted above, while Columbia attempted to sell its prestige post-acceptance with a deluge of materials, Harvard attempted to market its prestige both prior to and following acceptance. In order to gain an offer of admission, candidates in high-standing were required to phone interview with the Dean. The same dean gave a phone-call acceptance and hand-signed acceptance letter. During the phone acceptance, the dean said something along the lines of "Welcome to the Class of 2011. You are going to love it here."

While perhaps just personal touches by a caring admissions dean (he seemed like a nice guy), these actions can be viewed as tactics designed to heighten the sense of accomplishment of those accepted. The fact that my matriculation was presumed, is indicative of the strategy that higher prestige schools may employ with regard to students considering "lesser-caliber" schools. The implicit message seemed that since Columbia et al. were not on Harvard's radar it should not be on mine. When I submitted my withdrawl notice, the dean emailed me and wrote something to the effect of "are you sure you are making the correct decision..." Again, the sowing of doubt seemed another tactic employed to induce reconsideration of my choice to attend Columbia.

Ultimately, personal (relational and geographic) not prestige factors informed my decision. Peers, relatives, and professors constantly encouraged me to reconsider. At social gatherings, I was introduced not as a CLS 2011 student but as the guy who "got into columbia and HARVARD" or more commonly as the guy who "got into Harvard and ISNT going (read: what an idiot!)."

Making an important decision on the basis of what I, and not what society, thought most important felt empowering. I hope I can be courageous enough to continue carving my own path and to remember, come the 2L and 3L years, that defying society's expectations is not the end of the world and, in fact, yielded an increase in my general happiness.


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r9 - 07 Jan 2010 - 21:35:10 - IanSullivan
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