So Harvard Law School is now conducting admission interviews — via Skype. Yaaay.

I’m all about Skype. It’s a wonderful and useful technological tool. Still, I would want to trust my hypothetical law school admission process to it as much as I would entrust my (also hypothetical) new Ferrari to a 17-year-old on a Friday night.

Let me spell it out…

First, Greedy Associates gives a few tips that supposedly will help you ace the Skype-terview (we briefly mentioned this yesterday). Some are legitimately useful for at-home video calls generally. Like, take all that crazy s**t out of the backgrond. Put your bong back in the closet, and fold your dirty towels. If your mother was coming to visit you in person, hopefully you’d do the same. And your mom is probably way nicer — and more forgiving — than the HLS administrator you’ll have to speak to.

Greedy Associates also recommends wearing pants. This is good advice. As a blogger who works exclusively out of a closet bedroom, I have extensive firsthand knowledge of how working in PJs versus some level of real clothing makes a difference in my general attitude. When you put on jeans and shoes, it makes you just a little more awake and alert, as opposed to one step away from a not-so-quick nap.

More importantly though, here’s the real problem, which Greedy Associates doesn’t adequately solve:

Have a Geek Handy. If you’re not that technically advanced, make sure your cousin or friend who knows something about technology is nearby. If you only lose your Internet connection once a year, it’s probably a safe bet that one time will be during your Harvard interview.

Anyone who’s not a transnational corporation with a multimillion-dollar technology budget and has only one internet outage per year — well, I’ve never met such a person, and I sincerely doubt he or she exists. Anyone who’s used Skype video for more than five minutes at a stretch has dealt with Skype’s periodic screen freezings, sound issues, random window re-sizings, etc.

Now, sometimes those tech issues are not a big deal. For college students studying abroad, Skype is a simple, affordable way to stay in touch with family and friends back home. Same for, say, people in long-distance relationships who want grainy video images instead of just crackly voices on cell phones. (For just audio, using Skype is also waaaay cheaper than conventional phone services for making international phone calls.)

But no one wants to have a law school interview over the internet. Regardless of your opinion of law school interviews to begin with, this is a bad idea. Here are a few specific tech-related reasons why, on top of the general unreliability of the service:

  • Some people’s computers, especially if they are a bit older, will not handle Skype well. At a certain point, no army of geek friends will fix a computer’s overall jankyness.
  • Same with internet connections. If you’re too broke, or too cheap to buy fast, consistent at-home internet service, GFL. And no, I don’t recommend changing your plan for a law school interview.
  • Again, ditto with noise level. Some people live in urban areas. You can’t just skip off to wine country where it’s all peace and quiet and rainbows and sunshine. Some people’s homes echo with the sounds of sirens and gunshots. Or maybe just garbage trucks and loud motorcycles.

The Greedy Associates post recommends just moving your setup to an alternate location to circumvent these issues, but that’s easier said than done. Coffeeshops are loud and distinctly unreliable w/r/t connectivity. Libraries are way too quiet, and besides, it’s not the kind of conversation you want to have in public anyway.

It all feels unpleasantly Up In The Air. Using a webcam provides a sometimes necessary illusion of personal contact while, in reality, keeping the communication unsettlingly impersonal.

But then again, it’s Harvard Law School. They could make cockroach eating a part of the process and people would say, “Pass the hot sauce.”

5 Ways to Prep for your Harvard Law Skype Interview [Greedy Associates]


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