Where I’m going to Law School – and a few words on how I made my decision

I was admitted to Stanford in mid-February at 8AM. At the time, I was preparing to move to Philadelphia to start my current job, which is to say, I was fast asleep. Honestly, I expected better from a school located – like I was at the time – on the West Coast, but I think I managed to hide that fact from Dean Deal.

And when I say ‘I think’, I mean, ‘I hope’.

I’ll be honest: at the time, I did not give the school much thought. In my mind, there was not a great deal of doubt about where I would be come Fall. You see, I had already been admitted to Yale Law School. YLS was the first place I toured; the school that got me thinking, “Maybe this is something I want to do.” When Yale’s Director of Admissions handed me an admissions binder* (moments after I walked in for a tour), I excused myself and texted a few friends something like, but not necessarily, “holy shit i got in.”

*only the second most-unusual way in which a school accepted me, after ‘phone call to grandpa’

As has been pointed out, Yale is Yale. And while that specific context may have been a joke, the sentiment was expressed to me repeatedly in its various forms, most commonly: “Nobody turns down Yale Law School.” I considered accepting on the spot, but I knew that a bit of time and space might be helpful in making a clear-eyed, rational decision. So I made my way to Claire’s Corner Copia to celebrate. I went out of my way to order the most unhealthy-looking item on the menu, and the most unhealthy-looking drink for good measure – this, despite the fact I had just eaten a few hours before. I imagined three years of lunch at Claire’s, and it was good.

But due diligence was important to me, and I decided to wait until I’d heard from every school – especially Stanford – before making a decision. I’d heard nothing but wonderful things about the school, so when I was accepted two weeks later, learned that the school offered reimbursement for airline tickets, and that I could stay with JJ and see Boris and zvi Zvi, I went West. When I stepped off the plane in California, I put my odds of ending up in Palo Alto at around 5%.

I won’t give a blow-by-blow of ASW, but I will say this: Stanford put on a rather convincing Admit Weekend. Palo Alto is beautiful, and I’m West Coast at heart. Everybody seemed extremely friendly – granted, it was Student Admit Weekend – but the other admitted students couldn’t have been ‘in on it’. I was impressed by the environmental and technology programs, and the ease with which SLS students can earn additional degrees throughout the University without spending a fourth year in school. And even though Yale had talked a big game, Stanford’s financial aid package was qualitatively better.

Furthermore, the weekend managed to allay a lot of my reservations about Stanford:  its rank (whatever), its professors (students seemed more engaged in class than they had elsewhere), its students (many, even, who turned down Yale! – so much for the old adage), and even its quarter system (just meant I would get to pick ten more classes than I would at a school run on semesters).

When I returned to Philadelphia, I answered queries about the weekend – and my decision – with, “I’m somewhere between buying a T-Shirt and sending in my deposit.” I even considered buying a ‘Stanford Mom’ shirt for Mother’s Day (no, not for myself). I had gone from maybe 5% to about 80-90.

But part of the reason I didn’t hand in a deposit while still there was that I knew a bit of time and space is always helpful in making a clear-eyed, rational decision. It was unfortunate that Stanford and Yale scheduled their visiting weekends for the same weekend. Given that I’m not very decisive, it was even more unfortunate that said weekend was hardly a week before decisions were due.

When I finally sat down to decide, I realized that amidst the hubris of my visit to Stanford, I had forgotten a lot of the reasons I fell in love with Yale in the first place. It was more than just, ‘Yale is Yale’. Yale is near New York, where there are some people I might like to visit from time to time. Yale’s grading system is slightly more arbitrary than at Stanford (Stanford students repeatedly told me something like but not necessarily, “The first year is hell, but I imagine it’s like that everywhere” – students at Yale did not). Yale has both the School of Forestry and the Himalaya Initiative, two institutions outside the law school I am interested in getting involved with. And while Stanford is closer to Seattle, Yale is closer to family in New York, Bristol, and Boston (and Waltham).

The decision was not easy, but when I tallied the score at the end of the day, it came out 51-49, Yale. And my time was up.

‘Breaking up’ with Stanford was not fun – were one or two things different, my decision could have easily gone the other way – and there is no doubt in my mind that I will spend many cold and rainy days in New Haven pining for Palo Alto (pun intended). But with this post, I hope to put the decision behind me: come this Fall, I’ll be a Bulldog.

And don’t you worry, fellow Quakers: when it comes to college sports, I’ll never forget who I really root for.

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