I keep seeing people out here laboring under the illusion that they have "good softs" when they don't and it makes me sad because those people are gonna be hella disappointed when they don't get into their dream school with a subpar LSAT score or whatever.
I suspect the main reason this is happening is because the word "soft" confuses people. It puts them in a college-applications mindset of "yeah, grades are cool, but if you really want to get into Princeton you need to demonstrate leadership skills and a go-getter attitude". So to maximize the strength of your application to an (elite, American) undergraduate program you want to be the chair of your county's youth outreach board, or start your own business, or spend a summer in rural Mexico digging wells. That's all good and well, although I am personally of the opinion that admissions officers' emphasis on that kind of thing stacks the deck in favor of people with the sort of privileged upper-middle-class background that already give them a huge leg up on other college applicants.
So people apply to law school, and since they're like 23 years old now, their "softs" are the kind of stuff that, if presented via Common App, would make the adcomms at Princeton cream their pants in unison:
- "I just got a big scoop of VC ice cream for the tech startup my roommate and I founded."
- "I interned with the Bronx Defenders last summer, and at the UN the summer before that!"
- "I'm the Editor-in-Chief of a publication comparable in renown to the Princeton Daily."
We get it, you're hot shit. Not even being sarcastic about that; these things are genuine accomplishments that one should take pride in. But law-school admissions counselors are pretty much apathetic about that kind of thing for three main reasons:
1) Lots of people do stuff like that in college, many more people than there are 1L seats in the entire T13
2) None of it correlates very strongly to doing well in law school
3) There's no US News criterion for "leadership experience of matriculating students"
So what kind of softs matter?
My personal theory on softs is that they make an impact when law schools engage in dick-measuring contests. This happens all the time: it happens when they're trying to recruit faculty, it happens when admissions counselors get together for industry events, it happens when Yale posts fun facts about their entering class (4 kickboxers this year!). Softs matter when the Columbia guy starts talking shit about LSAT medians and then the NYU guy gets to riposte with "oh yeah? well one of our students is the highest-ranking pretender to the ducal throne of Tuscany". Conversation over, people's eyes in the audience visibly widen, NYU leapfrogs Columbia in every peer assessment. If, on the other hand, our protagonist puffed out her chest and tried to brag about the cool malaria-prevention website one of her matriculates did some graphic design for, she'd get laughed out of the room.
We need to stop using the word "soft" in the context of things that affect one's chances of getting into a given law school. I propose that instead we talk about bling.
People with bling:
- Olympic medalists
- Literal royalty
- Medal of Honor/Nobel/Pulitzer winners
- Champions (not runners-up) of some intercollegiate competition
- Published in a prestigious law journal
Bling includes neither any internship you can do the summer between junior and senior year of college nor any normal career path. Planning out any part of one's non-academic life with the aim of building a resume for law school is, therefore, stupid, and we can get people to better understand this if we stop talking about "softs" and focus instead on the value of "bling".