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Should You Say 'Thank You'?

According to several law school admissions officers we've spoken to recently, thank-you notes are emerging as a new frontier in the admissions process. Recent stories abound of prospective law students sending moving way beyond the traditional 'thank you' note to mailing candy in school colors with quirky messages, using eye-catching stationary, and even having their parents write on their behalf.

All these new twists on the use of a thank-you note – creative or not – just begs the following question: Can thank-you notes boost your admissions chances at your top-choice law schools? We asked one of our consultants his opinions on the matter.

Senior Consultant Derek Meeker, a final decision maker for thousands of applicants at Penn Law, tells us the thank-you note plays a very insignificant role in the law admissions process. "But," he says, "applicants do often meet with admissions officers during school visits, as well as those few schools that conduct interviews." Therefore, Derek concludes, "it's a nice touch if the applicant met someone face-to-face."

It can be a way for a prospective student to reassert their interest in the school. "However, when I was Dean of Admissions, I did not expect thank-you notes and the absence of one didn't influence my decisions at all."

Most schools don't offer much of an opportunity to follow this route of etiquette. However, there are a few schools that still conduct interviews, and therein lies the opportunity. So should the applicant go the kitschy route, or stick to the more tried-and-true approach?

"I think that kitschy could work as long as it is still professional, tasteful and not too over the top," replied Derek. "I recall receiving a letter from a student who had been on the waitlist all summer at Penn Law School. It was just a few weeks before classes were scheduled to begin. He indicated that he had gone to dinner with his parents at a Chinese restaurant and he had actually taped his fortune from his fortune cookie into the letter. It said something to the effect that 'great things were in store' or that he 'would be receiving good news.' He 'hoped' that the good news would be that he was getting admitted to Penn."

Did it work?

"I admitted him the day before Orientation," Derek replied. "Now, of course, it wasn't just the kitschy letter – but it certainly made me smile and kept him in my mind when I was looking to make that last offer of admission." The key is to remain professional and tasteful.

Because law schools give such rare opportunity for the use of the thank-you letter, what other ways can an applicant stand out to an admissions committee? "Just be genuine and be yourself. It may sound cliché, but it's true," responded Derek. "It's gotten to the point where sometimes applicants are so consumed with what they THINK the admissions committee wants to hear, that what they present is not reflective of who they really are."

Bottom line, says Derek? "Be yourself."

– Contributed by Derek Meeker, J.D. Derek is a Senior Admissions Consultant and former Dean of Admissions for the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

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