"The application asked me for my parents' job information. I left it blank, was that ok?"
I recently heard this from a candidate applying to law school. He told me some friends of his had done the same thing, so he figured it was not a big deal. Here’s the answer to his question.In short: If you think it's okay but then feel the need to ask an Admissions Counselor about it, then it is definitely not okay!
The General Rule of Thumb when filling out your application is this: Give the school what they ask for. If they want you to list your most recent jobs, for example, then do it (as opposed to writing "see résume"). Same goes for personal family information.
Now you may wonder why schools would want to know what your parents do or did for a living. Basically, they want to get as complete a picture as possible of each applicant to aid in the selection process. Giving them this information can help you in a couple of ways:
- If you come from a disadvantaged background, it could help show that you have persevered through adversity.
- If you come from a blue-collar background, then it could help to show you learned the value of hard work early on.
- If you come from a more privileged background, when coupled with a solid GPA it shows you have not rested on that privilege and are trying to be successful on your own.
In other words, it can pretty much only help you to submit that information.
What happens if you don't fill in those two short lines? The worst (and we should always prepare for the worst) is that the Admissions Officer who reads your application will think you are careless and sloppy. Second worst? The Admissions Officer will think you are embarrassed or ashamed or trying to hide something, neither of which are positive character traits that we want to allow to come through in an application. Third worst? It raises a question in the reader's mind, one which the reader was not expecting to need to know the answer to. And since the application gets read before the personal statement, this lingering question could hurt the impact of the PS.
When I explained all that to my client, he said "Oh, okay, then should I send a correction to the school?" The answer to that: no. Because what's the worst scenario? Someone in the Admissions Office receives your correction letter, pulls out your file, and sticks a note on it that says, "CORRECTION LETTER INSIDE." Which is basically drawing attention to the fact that you were careless, lazy, and sloppy.
Moral of the story: See the General Rule of Thumb above.
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