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'Online Personas' Can Hurt Your Admissions Chances

Although many applicants are not aware of it, many of the top law schools actively monitor the various online admissions boards. Some schools even assign a staff person to regularly read the discussion boards. The impressions that admissions staff form of applicants who use the boards can influence some admissions outcomes.

The schools are not checking the boards because they want to recruit the members with 1,000-plus posts to their credit. Rather, they're trying to protect the integrity of their programs by keeping such people out.

Applicants who think that using an online pseudonym can their identity are making a mistake. According to a former dean for a top law school, "It is usually very easy to determine the identity of an applicant based on the information they provide in their posts. In some cases, it's obvious because of a particular communication you had with an applicant, who then shares information from the communication online. In other cases, if someone is being really obnoxious or bad-mouthing your school or one of your staff members, with a little bit of effort and searching of your database, you can usually identify the applicant."

The bottom line on applicants who cultivate off-putting online personas, our contact said, is that "We know who they are."

Applicants don't have to make inflammatory or obnoxious statements to harm their admissions chances. Just coming across as irrational about law school admissions or as overly passive about the application process may be enough to leave schools with an unfavorable impression of a candidate.

An example of being irrational about the admissions process is when someone posts a complaint about a bad experience with a receptionist at Law School X and says they would never accept an admissions offer from that program because of that one experience.

An example of being overly passive is when someone uses an online forum to ask basic questions that could be answered with just a bit of research, or to post a simple question that could be answered more quickly by a phone call.

Law school applicants who have been active on the online boards are well advised to tone down their participation once they actually begin submitting their applications. They can use their time more productively to work on their personal statements and other application components. Those activities are likely to prove much more valuable to their future endeavors than message board participation will be.

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