Earlier this week, I accepted an AnBryce Scholarship offer from NYU.
The support I received from current and former AnBryce Scholars—both on this board and off—was a huge help to me as I navigated the application process. In return, I want to post some thoughts about my experience while the memory is still fresh in mind—my hope is that future applicants will find them useful.
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For starters, applicants should be aware that the AnBryce (AB) application process has many moving parts to it. One’s full NYU application (letters of recommendation, personal statement, etc.), the specific AB scholarship essay, the panel interview, and (to some unknowable extent) one’s interactions with AB scholars/NYU faculty/fellow finalists are all (so far as I can tell) relevant to the selection process. As such, I’m going to try and treat the entire process from start to finish.
Again, I hope it’s helpful.
1) The NYU Application & The AnBryce Essay
Getting into NYU is hard. There is a lot of competition for a limited number of spots. Obviously, you can’t even be considered for an AB Scholarship without first gaining admission to the law school. Point being, get your application pristine. Retake the LSAT, write and rewrite your personal statement, get some work experience. Do what it takes to become a compelling candidate for admission. With specific regard to AB, you should be aware that the interview panel will consider your entire package in preparation for meeting you as a finalist.
Along somewhat similar lines, put as much care into your AB essay as the rest of your application. It’s easy to treat the supplemental essay as being less essential than the rest of your materials (and thus slack on it), because as a supplement it isn’t expressly tied to admission. Be aware, however, that the AB selection committee comprises four separate panels, and this means that the majority of the people ultimately deciding whether or not you get selected for the AB Scholarship will not actually have met you. The larger AB committee will know you only through the opinions conveyed by the panel with which you did interview, and by your writing sample—most likely the AB essay.
Also, AB hopefuls should bear in mind the fact that Anthony Welters (one of the AB Foundation’s founders) believes that good writing is, in no uncertain terms, essential to success. So use complete sentences to put your best foot forward.
I didn’t really consider these issues very seriously when I was applying, but, in hindsight, I think they have the potential to be hugely important to one’s chances.
2) Finalist Selection
OK, you’re in at NYU, and you’re thrilled, and you can’t wait to visit, but you’re not-so-secretly thinking, “How in the world am I ever going to pay for this? The cost of living is bonkers. And I’m not the Dean’s progeny! %&*!”
Then, out of the blue, you get that lovely AB finalist notification email, and all of a sudden you’re back in the game!
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One great thing about being named a finalist is that from day one you will have access to tons of support from folks involved with the program. Alums and current scholars alike will be eager and willing to share their experiences with you in detail. Take them up on this.
Naturally, you’re going to have many many questions at this point: What is the interview panel like? What sorts of questions will be asked of me? On what criteria, exactly, am I being evaluated? Is there any sort of adversity threshold to meet? Am I going to be judged during the entirety of my stay in NY/DC?
These are the right questions to be asking, and you should get as many different perspectives as to the answers as you can. With respect to questions about the interview panel, I for one picked up on some themes in the answers I received. “You can’t prepare for this interview” and “it isn’t something to fear” were the most common sentiments I encountered. I agree with the latter point 100% (more on this later), but I disagree with the former statement. Talking to past and current scholars will give you a sense for the wide range of topics that can come up in the interview and what to expect of the AB Finalist Event Series. More importantly, you’ll begin to understand that the people who get AB Scholarships are supportive and kind and thorough. Now, as a finalist, so probably are you, but I still think it’s helpful to grasp what this means through interaction with real people. Moreover, if you can identify these shared qualities in yourself, being able to talk about how you acquired them will be important in your interview, regardless of what questions are ultimately asked therein. Finally, the different people you speak to will have interviewed with different panels, which is yet more reason to seek an array of perspectives.
One last thing to keep in mind: NYU asks you to handle some of your travel stuff through a third party, and this comes with deadlines. Be respectful and meet these deadlines—it’s just good juju to do so.
3) The AnBryce Finalist Event Series
This is the point where the AB experience becomes less uniform depending on your panel. If, for example, you interview in DC, which I did not, you might go through the interview process before you have a great deal of time to meet the other finalists. Similarly, NYC panels do not all take place on the same day, so how well you know your hosts and colleagues at the time of the interview can differ from panel to panel. No way around it.
That said, I really enjoyed the AB Finalist Event Series (the Reception, dinner, drinks, etc.), and I think certain general principles apply to general enjoyment: First and foremost, as soon as you can, really try to get to know the people you’ll be interviewing with. The night before the big day, my group went out to dinner and shot the breeze for a few hours, and I took this time to share stories with other people at the table. Looking back on it now, I would urge finalists to actively try and realize that other AB finalists are awesome people. They come from everywhere, and their successes have been hard-earned. These are rare birds in close quarters, so digest the beauty of the feathers around you, but try not to preen.
Getting to know your comrades early can also A) soften the blow of not getting the Scholarship, or B) exhort you to take full advantage of AB in the event that you’re fortunate enough to receive it.
Very early on I was quite convinced that other finalists deserved AB more than me. I remember flying home feeling confident I would not be offered the scholarship—but I was OK with this because I knew the award would go to someone who really deserved it.
As to point B), the Program Acceptance form I signed explicitly asked me to acknowledge that by accepting the Scholarship, I was closing an opportunity for someone else. If you get to know your fellow finalists well, you’ll understand that “someone else” is someone great. Let that sink in and motivate you.
Beyond this, make sure you enjoy the city and have fun. NYU went to great lengths to make this experience a blast—so revel in it. Try to think about things other than law school acceptances, TLS, scholarships, LSAT scores, and GPAs. This is easier said than done, of course, but do it anyway.
4) The Panel Interview
Though the panels differ in many respects, they all share a basic structure. Approximately 10 applicants interview in succession before a panel of 5-7 prominent legal/NYU/AB Foundation people, with one person serving as the putative panel leader. Interviews take place either at an NYC law firm office, or in a special DC location, and each interview lasts for about 25 minutes. Finalists wait together (along with their student hosts and a faculty supervisor) in a lounge area for the entirety of the interview process.
In my experience, the waiting room was a totally supportive and friendly atmosphere, and hanging out there was a nice way to spend a few hours. Butterflies do begin to flutter as your turn to interview approaches, but the hosts are great about calming you down in the moments before you meet the panel. All in all, it’s pretty low stress.
I would echo the common wisdom that trying to predict the contents of your interview is a futile endeavor. From one interview to the next, at least on my panel, there was no consistent topical focus, nor was there any one panel member who consistently “led” the discussion. My interview felt very organic in that the questions asked of me were predicated on my responses. I didn’t get the sense that (but for maybe one or two questions) the panel’s queries had been prepared ahead of time. In all, I was asked probably ten to twelve questions—whereas other people who interviewed with my group said they only answered three or four. This speaks, again, to the level of variety built into the process.
Everyone did agree, however, that the panel had scrutinized our applications in detail. The panel can definitely ask about the nooks and crannies of your application materials. Someone was asked why he or she took a certain (and seemingly random) class in undergrad; I was asked to explain the timing of a change in my academic focus. Some people felt their interviewers focused more on their essays; others felt that that the focus was more on their resume. You just can’t know what’s going to come up—the interview is a box of chocolates.
And while it’s true that the people interviewing you will know you well, be aware that they are absolutely NOT trying to grill or embarrass you. Your interviewers care about you, they are trying to understand you in a meaningful way, and they want you to succeed. Every finalist I interviewed with walked into the “Panel Room” nervous, and every finalist walked out beaming and at ease. Understand going in that this is likely going to be your experience. Again, no way around it.
To prepare for all this, maybe try to figure out one or two key points that you absolutely want to convey, and find a way to work them into your interview. I, for instance, knew that I would accept the Scholarship if it were offered to me, so I made sure to let the panel know this even though they did not directly ask me about it.
Also, think about the fundaments of yourself and your story such that you’re able to articulate them on the fly and in different contexts—academic, in terms of the adversity you’ve faced, etc. Bonus points if you can sincerely (general rule of thumb: BE SINCERE) tie these things to the mission of the AB Foundation. Just anecdotally, I think these are the issues at the heart of the AB interview process, but then again I can’t say for sure.
5) Selection Criteria
Throughout much of the AB Finalist Event Series, there was talk among finalists about what the selection committee is looking for in a candidate. Do numbers matter? Is there favoritism for one panel over another?
No one who hasn’t been on a selection committee can answer these questions definitively. I can only say that I was offered the scholarship as a non-URM with at least one below-median statistic.
If you believe the AB rhetoric from alums, current scholars, and NYU faculty—as I do—then you can safely assume finalists are on a level playing field. At the end of the day, what really matters is who you are and who you want to be.
And in that, take heart.