Brian Leiter's Law School Reports

Brian Leiter
University of Chicago Law School

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Friday, June 23, 2006

"Yalies and Their Fake Scholarships"

A graduate of Yale Law School who is now a law professor asked me to post the following observations (sent under the title, above):

As the next faculty recruitment season begins in "quiet search" mode, I have come across a CV from yet another candidate who lists on his or her resume a "scholarship" from one of a handful of non-profits based in New Haven, Connecticut. Lots of people who went to Yale (like me) and others recognize these trust associations as the formal names of Yale's undergraduate secret societies. So what are these candidates thinking in listing these "scholarships" on their CVs?

Listen up, Yalies: The days of the secret handshake are over. Noone is going to give you an academic job (let alone an interview) just because you were in a secret society. These "scholarships" aren't necessarily competitive or academic (I know, because I had a few myself), so putting them on the CV smacks of resume padding. Also, your membership in a secret society may be seen (fairly or unfairly) as elitist, which doesn't play well at most law schools. Including on a CV your "scholarship" from the Kingsley Trust Associaton, Russell Trust Association, Stone Trust Corporation, Colony Foundation, Wrexham Trust, Elihu Club, Inc. or the Anthony Trust Association tells the appointments committee nothing other than you got picked for one of the "right" undergraduate clubs and that you still think it is important enough to share this with the world. Do yourself a favor and take the fakescholarships off your CV. Boola, boola.

One of the things that struck me when I was a visiting professor at Yale Law School during 1998-1999 was how many prizes the school awarded for student writing.  This isn't resume padding quite as egregious as that noted by my correspondent, but these days a YLS graduate who hasn't won some kind of "prize" for his or her writing is probably a slacker!

What other kinds of resume padding should hiring committees watch out for?   No anonymous postings, unless you want to e-mail me first so I can verify the particulars of your experience and educational background.

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Comments

Not being a graduate of Yale College, I can't speak directly to most of the thoughts your correspondent passed along. I can, however, use Google, which pointed me to Yale's page on the Kingsley Trust Association Summer Travel Fellowships (http://www.yale.edu/iefp/fellowships/individual/kingsley.html). The KTA Summer Travel fellowships appear to be funded by the Kingsley Trust Association (the corporate name of Scroll and Key, see http://www.conspiracyarchive.com/NWO/Tombs_and_Taps.htm) but administered by the Yale Office of International Education and Fellowship Programs. From the overview on Yale's page, the KTA Summer Travel fellowships appear to be legitimately academic and not connected to membership in a secret society. It would also appear that these fellowships, which were established in 2001, are recent enough that they might not have been in existence when your correspondent attended Yale College.

Posted by: James Grimmelmann | Jun 23, 2006 7:13:48 AM

I think members of appointments committees are pretty familiar with what kinds of honors are worth noting at the schools that tend to graduate lots of future law professors. So it's pretty hard to pad a resume. In any event, my sense is that committees usually appreciate understatement more than overstatement.

Posted by: Orin Kerr | Jun 23, 2006 9:48:06 AM

I just want to chime in to say: those scholarships are from Yale College, right, not YLS? It's not really fair to conflate the two.

As for the writing prizes--sure, there are a lot at YLS, but there's a lot of good things getting written there, too. It's not some sort of "everyone shall have prizes" system.

I just write as a YLS grad from a lower-middle-class background. I am generally sympathetic with the post's levelling spirit. But be aware that hierarchies are to some extent inevitable, and to the extent they exist in the academic world they may well help to counterbalance those in the business, entertainment, and military world.

Posted by: Frank | Jun 23, 2006 10:48:50 AM

Regarding Professor Pasquale's comments:

1. I assume my correspondent was referring to Yale undergrads who end up on the law school teaching market, via YLS or some other law school. But you're right that I may have confused things by switching to talk about YLS. (However, a lot of Yale undergrads end up at YLS.)

2. I'm a big fan of (meaningful) hierarchies, as a few folks may have noticed, so this wasn't meant in a "levelling spirit." My judgment is that the "prizes" are awarded well out of proportion to the amount of good writing, but others may well have a different opinion.

Posted by: Brian Leiter | Jun 23, 2006 10:53:30 AM

On the class point (and having nothing to do with Yale in particular):

People on financial aid at college and law school routinely get fancy sounding "scholarships" -- which have nothing to do with merit and everything to do with need. Schools simply use these "scholarships" as a way of disbursing grant money. Still, because these "scholarships" look good on resumes and are indistinguishable from merit-based awards, financial aid recipients often have more "scholarships" than those who pay their own way. Not that there is anything wrong with that, of course.

Posted by: Ethan Leib | Jun 23, 2006 11:35:04 AM

My "favorite" resume-padding item is the M.A. from Cambridge or Oxford. Any Oxbridge student can get an M.A. 7 years after matriculating as an undergraduate, upon payment of a small fee, without doing any further work or taking any further examinations. (The M.A. should not be confused with the "M. Phil.", the "B. Phil." or the "D. Phil.", all of which are real degrees that require real work.) In other words, the M.A. from either school will be worth as much as a degree from a matchbook-cover correspondence school -- but I assume that people put the Oxbridge M.A. on their c.v. with the hope and expectation that unsuspecting potential employers will assume that real effort and achievement were involved.

Posted by: Brian Bix | Jun 23, 2006 7:34:04 PM

I've noticed countless resumes with senior editor of the YLJ proudly emblazoned on them. But the title of "senior editor" of the Yale Law Journal is a deceptive label. Senior editors were all the editors of the YLJ who didn't take any kind of executive or committee position. In other words, they were the ones who slacked off in their third year while on journal.

Also, at Columbia, what students aren't Harlan Stone Scholars? I think that nearly everbody is.

Posted by: Daniel J. Solove | Jun 24, 2006 5:21:29 PM


Dan S.:

Just what do you propose that Senior Editors at YLJ put on their resume instead? And how "proudly" are they "emblazoned"? In 3-D font? I would assume most people know exactly what it means and that no one on the academic market in particular thinks they are getting away with anything using the title; certainly any law professor who has looked at the Yale Law Journal recently would be aware of this. In any case, at the extreme, the Senior Editor has been on journal for two years rather than one, suggesting, perhaps, that she passed her Blue Book test the first time around. Finally, the idea that it is somehow "slacking off" to decide not to become a Notes Editor or Essays Editor or Admissions Editor when there are plenty of more meaningful things one can do in law school is a bit ridiculous.


Ethan

Posted by: Ethan Leib | Jun 24, 2006 5:41:50 PM

As Dan mentioned, the "Stone scholar" title at Columbia is a very clever gimmick: it sounds like a typical honor at graduation (i.e., restricted to a small group of top students), but in reality is merely equivalent to having made in to the Dean’s list – once! After each year of coursework, and on results of that year alone (not cumulatively with prior years), the top third of the class is named “Stone scholars.” So, if you had one year of top-third performance (say, by taking lots of off-curve seminars), you get to put “Stone scholar” on your resume, even if you nearly failed every course during the other two other years and ended up graduating at the bottom of your class. Depending on the distribution of grades, the entire student body may turn out to be Stone scholars.

Posted by: Kate Litvak | Jun 25, 2006 5:24:02 PM

Ethan -- I didn't say anything about senior editors being slackers generally. I said that they slacked off "while on journal." There are plenty of great alternative things to do other than journal, so I don't look down on those who didn't take an board or committee position. Perhaps this was the wise decision.

But resumes often list two entries for YLJ -- one line reads "Editor, YLJ" for the 2L of law sch, and then there's a separate line for the 3L year, "Senior Editor, YLJ." To folks unfamiliar with the system, the label is a bit deceptive. It's true that this is the official title, but why not just put on the resume "Editor, YLJ" only and have a two year span for the entry? True, you don't have to do this, but I've always found the senior editor title to make it seem as though it were some kind of honor, when in fact it is just the default of what any editor of the YLJ becomes in the third year unless taking an advanced position.

I even recall seeing it professor bios, where it says that so-and-so was a "senior editor of the YLJ." It makes it sound like it is an advanced position when it is not.

Posted by: Daniel Solove | Jun 25, 2006 5:48:40 PM

Regarding Professor Bix's comment on the Oxbridge M.A. "title", the M.A. is also the entering status of graduate students who did not obtain their first degree from Oxford or Cambridge. Having said that, however (and I agree with Professor Bix's comment), I wonder if foreign degree-holders entering the US law school hiring market put "M.A." instead of, say, "LL.B" on their resumes as a way to "compete" with J.D. holders.

Posted by: Mary Wong | Jun 25, 2006 7:11:26 PM

Re: the Bix and Wong posts: I believe - but could be mistaken - that it is considered unseemly to identify oneself as merely "M.A." when it's one of those automatic Oxbridge degrees. My sense - as Anglophile and, briefly, Oxford student - is that one ought always write "M.A. (Oxon.)" or "M.A. (Cantab.)," since other UK degree-granting institutions have been known to award bona fide M.A.'s.

Posted by: Scott Shuchart | Jun 26, 2006 12:52:25 PM

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