Don't Sweat It

Usually the parents of applicants drive me a little nuts, but yesterday I received a lovely email from an applicant's father who reminded me that a little perspective goes a long way when people go into panic mode. And this time of year, applicants are going into serious panic mode.

The family crisis? The applicant -- call her X -- had just found out that the superstar professor who had promised to write her a recommendation a few months back has decided not to write any this coming semester. X started stressing, called a family conference with her parents, and agonized over this lost opportunity.

Once X and I hopped on the phone, I told her the following:

  • Recommendations don't really matter all that much in the law school admissions process (unlike business school). Very few end up changing the admissions officer's analysis in a material way. You want to be smart in deciding whom you ask and how you ask, but after that, it's largely out of your hands, and not a big factor anyway.
  • Yes, sometimes faculty are jerks. Yes, talk is cheap. Nothing you can do about that.
  • If someone you ask for a recommendation declines to write one, don't push. I'd much rather he be honest wtih you and let you move on to another recommender, than have him say yes and write you a "meh" recommendation (and you'd never even know that the letter he sent was "meh").
  • There are some things you should worry about in the application process. This turn of events isn't one of them, so don't lose even one more minute of sleep over it.

The conversation took all of ten minutes, but apparently it made an impression, because X's dad then sent me the following email:

Anna -

Although we have never met or even spoken, I have with great interest and admiration observed your comments and advice to X (a wonderful young lady), and do most appreciate your helping her, as your guidance is simply terrific.

A wise man once told me "never sweat the small stuff, and it's almost all small stuff."

Should you tire of advising law school applicants (of course only after X gets accepted to several great law schools), I suggest you consider expanding your consulting practice to include advising:

a) Husbands on how to treat their wives.
b) Wives on how to treat husbands.
c) Partners on how to treat partners, or
d) large corporate clients on anything.

Thanks for all you do for my favorite daughter.

Aside from being the sweetest thing ever, this email from X's father reminded me to remind you not to confuse the big stuff and the little stuff.