As posted previously, I’m using my first summer in Austin Hall to get to know the J.D. Admissions Team. Here’s my interview with our Senior Assistant Director, Nefyn Meissner. – Kristi
KJ: This will be your fifth year in the office. How many applications have you read or reviewed over all of your years in the office?
NM: At this point, probably close to 7,000.
KJ: You lead the Junior Deferral Program. What excites you about JDP?
NM: I love that it opens up opportunities for students to explore their career interests and get outside of their comfort zones. I am against the idea of checkboxes in the admissions process – you don’t have to study any particular subject or work in any particular job before law school. JDP students have the freedom to explore whatever they want during their deferral, without feeling like they need to take a particular path for the sake of their law school applications.
KJ: You interview applicants for both the JD and JDP cycles. What are some of your favorite interview questions?
NM: I like to ask applicants to describe how their peers and colleagues would describe them. It helps people get outside themselves a bit. I like to see applicants who are not only thinking about their ability to succeed in the classroom or about securing a job at the end of law school, but who are also aware of the importance of engaging in the community and of the energy they bring with them.
Another favorite of mine – I ask folks to give me an example of a difficult conversation they have had. We have such diversity of political beliefs and constitutional orientations at Harvard Law, so it is important to make sure that applicants can respectfully stand by what they believe while also engaging across differences.
KJ: What is the most interesting question an applicant has asked you during an interview?
NM: A few folks have asked me what I find frustrating but also motivating about working here at Harvard. To me, it shows that the applicant is aware that Harvard is not a perfect place, but worth plugging into, because the school is always evolving and striving to improve.
KJ: You are our resident Southerner here in Austin Hall! How do you survive winter in New England?
NM: I eat a lot of spicy food and get outside as much as I can. The sun is not quite as strong as it is down home, but there’s something wonderful about the fresh air during a New England winter.
KJ: What jumps out at you when you read a personal statement or optional statement?
NM: Does it click? Does it fit into the rest of the app and stitch it all together? I think about applications – and I might be showing my Southern side here – like a patchwork quilt. Each component is a scrap of fabric that fits together to create an overarching impression. The personal statement may or may not be the centerpiece of an application, but it is a key component that brings the whole thing together.
KJ: What jumps out in a negative way?
NM: You can tell when someone is writing in a tone or voice that is not their own. I find a lack of authenticity jarring – we want people to be themselves in the application process.
KJ: What do you like to do for fun?
NM: Simple: I love to cook and I love to eat!
KJ: What are some of your favorite recipes?
NM: Lots of beans and rice, biscuits, and anything fried. I bake a lot, too. My go-to recipes are cornbread and mango pound cake.
KJ: In your opinion, what is the number one reason to come to HLS?
NM: The community.