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I hope it's of some help

November 20, 2005

This blog is working on a fantastic concept.

I’m sure that the author of the blog, Toby Stock, has started the blog because he believes there should be more transparency in the law school admissions process. And I bet there are students who are convinced that’s why he’s doing it, too. And I am sure some transparency will result. But this blog is also a marketing technique, and one geared at a particular brand problem: yield.

Harvard Law School is a great school. Some wonderful people I know went to HLS and I know some wonderful people are at HLS now. I sincerely hope that everyone at HLS is there because they want to be. But I know that Harvard is also concerned about its reputation among the subset of law school applicants who can be reasonably certain they’ll get into HLS as well as into one or more of the other “super-elite” schools. And it’s concerned about losing students to those schools. I know because Toby posted this the other day.

I was bothered by this entry. Granted, I’m not really part of the blog’s intended audience, but it still left a sour taste in my mouth.

Look, a lot of prospective law students–particularly the ones who can get into HLS–are not interested in law school because of the number of prestigious faculty. (I think they’re more likely to say, “HLS has So-and-so, but Yale has Such-and-such”; not “HLS has twenty and Yale only has five.”) And a lot of the prospective students who can get into HLS know that they’ll be surrounded by really bright and interesting people no matter what school they go to. So maybe the fact that some students chose a different school over HLS isn’t because that school is “better” but because it’s smaller.

I chose my law school for a number of reasons, but one of the big reasons I even applied to my school was because of its student-faculty ratio. One of the other schools I applied to, which didn’t accept me, was even smaller, and was even higher on my list. The biggest school I applied to was lowest on my list. Basically, I wanted a small student body.

I know I’m not the only law student who values a small student body. I also know that a lot of law students are NOT like me. They do not WANT to go to small law schools. They’ve been at institutions of every size, from large state university to small liberal arts college. And for whatever reason, they don’t want a small law school environment. They want a LOT of people around them–for the intellectual stimulation, for padding, for whatever. And I think that’s great. If they know they want a larger student body in which to blend, great. But I just hope they KNOW it. Harvard seems to be implying, though, that the larger student body is the best student body. The PREFERRED student body. And more so, that people who choose “other” schools over Harvard are doing so for the “wrong” reasons–or at least are completely unaware that “bigger” equals “better.”

I hope Harvard’s blog gives prospective law students some insight. My suspicion, though, is that it won’t. Because it’s nothing more revealing than information they’ve heard over and over and over again from other sources–both official and non-official. Harvard is big? Yep, Toby will tell you that–and tell you why it’s a good thing. Applications get read carefully? Sure, Toby will tell you that, too. And then you can get on the boards and read about the student perspective. And share information with other applicants. Are you any more informed than you would have been without the blog? Probably not.

I think everyone should blog. So I am glad HLS has a admissions blog. But I’m not convinced that, in this case, there’s a lot of value added by the blog. I hope I’m wrong.

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  1. November 20, 2005 at 4:27 pm

    Perhaps I’m just too cynical, but I don’t think transparency in the admissions process is going to come from a blog written by the Assistant Dean for Admissions. It’s *far* more likely to come from anonymous student bloggers relating their real experiences in the admissions process. There may be value in an official blog such as the one offered by HLS, but it’s not transparency–it’s marketing.

  2. jeg
    November 21, 2005 at 6:29 am

    I’m annoyed by the constant, not-so-subtle, slams of Yale Law School. I went to Yale, and I can honestly say we didn’t sit around talking about how awful Harvard was all the time. I almost think Harvard’s getting desperate. I know it hired consultants my third year of law school to figure out why its students were so miserable. (And, yes, I got into Harvard Law; no sour grapes here.)

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