Summer continues in Austin Hall! Continuing our series introducing the J.D. Admissions Team to you, here’s our two admissions officers, Tina and Courtney. – Kristi
KJ: I’m so excited to talk to you two today! Let’s start with the reading applications, one of your main tasks as an admissions officer. How many applications did you read or review last year?
TL: Every year, I average around 1300 to 1400 applications.
CM: I started as an Admissions Officer in February, so a little later in the cycle. I read over 400 applications this year.
KJ: What jumps out at you when you read a personal statement or optional statement?
CM: I love when a personal statement or optional statement supplies a missing puzzle piece – when it reveals something I wouldn’t have otherwise known, or answers a question I didn’t know I had. The best statements bring the application together and complete an applicant’s story.
TL: The personal piece is key. It helps me to get to know you, and understand what you are passionate about.
KJ: Great advice. What jumps out at you in a negative way?
CM: When there’s an indication that the statement was taken lightly, either with grammar or style or content.
TL: Yes, when it takes away from the application, and there are small, easily avoidable mistakes.
CM: Sometimes I put down an application, and I can tell that the applicant really could have written a much better personal statement. It can feel like such a missed opportunity for an applicant.
TL: Getting another set of eyes on your essays and soliciting feedback is key. The main thing to know is that we really care a lot about your personal statement. It really, really matters – it can damage an otherwise strong application, both with us and with our faculty readers. The faculty take your personal statement very seriously as a writing sample.
KJ: You interviewed Junior Deferral Program applicants this summer. What is your favorite interview question to ask an application?
TL: I like to ask what they would bring to their section – not just in terms of classroom discussions, but the section community.
CM: My favorite question is behavioral – I like to ask how an applicant anticipates handling difficult conversations in the classroom. Some interviewees tie their answers to other classroom experiences, their backgrounds, or past professional experiences. I love it when I call tell that an interviewee is someone the faculty and fellow students would like to have in a discussion.
TL: Often people focus on the numbers, but we’re really looking to learn more about the person behind the application.
KJ: What is the most thoughtful question an applicant has asked you?
TL: One student specifically wanted to know my favorite thing about HLS through the perspective of being a staff member. It was fun to share more about events I’ve enjoyed attending and my experiences getting to know the amazing students at HLS.
CM: One student asked how HLS students navigate their privilege. The school offers so many resources to students, but the applicant asked how we circle that back to the community, which was a very thoughtful question.
KJ: Tina, you are a Masters of Education candidate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. It’s so impressive that you can balance your student life with a demanding job. How does your concurrent student experience impact your viewpoint on applications?
TL: It is really interesting to learn and work with other higher education professionals and learn more about the larger state of higher education. My classes and research help me think broadly about our applicant pool, and the role Harvard plays in higher ed. It widens my perspective.
KJ: Our team travels across the country during the fall. What is one place you are each looking forward to visiting this fall?
TL: My old stomping grounds, western Massachusetts. It is my favorite trip every year. There are so many excellent schools, from UMass to Smith.
CM: The Rocky Mountain region! I am headed to BYU, University of Utah, and Arizona State.
KJ: Courtney, you are our newest admissions officer (except for me!). What inspired you to apply to be an admissions officer here at HLS?
CM: This role provides me opportunity to connect with students on a deeper level. Before I moved to this admissions officer role, I was an admissions assistant in our office. In that position, I spoke with applicants at many points in the process. This new role allows me to zoom in on individuals and their files – the person behind that application. As an admissions assistant, I dealt a lot with the technical elements of the law school application process, and now I’m more focused on the applicants themselves.
KJ: You two lead the Admitted Students Weekend planning. What is your favorite event at ASW?
TL: There are tons of cool events, but the highlight for me is the Supreme Court moot case. We have three HLS faculty act as Supreme Court justices and have student oralists argue a current case in the Supreme Court. This year was the first year that we had current students argue the case and I hope it inspired admitted students to think about becoming an Ames oralist themselves one day. The moot court demonstration also shows a personal side of our faculty – they can be pretty funny on the bench.
CM: Dinner with current students. Dinner occurs after a long day of programming with everyone. It is great for the admitted students to relax, and current students take over and answer questions. Our current students are so excited to be there (for the admitted students, not just the free delicious food!). It is social and informal – such a nice way to end that day.
KJ: What do you find most interesting about working in admissions?
TL: The individuals that apply – the people I meet on the road, and those that I only meet on paper through reading their applications. It is a great privilege to read applications and get a personal look into so many inspiring lives. I find it to be humbling and interesting.
CM: I agree with that. It’s a privilege, and our team does not take it lightly.