So, there was a recent article in the Straits Times about how admissions to the faculty would be tweaked to reflect a wider diversity in the backgrounds of each fresh intake of undergraduates.
(That is reality. What we are going to write from now, is pure fiction. In fact, this will be so separate and detached from reality, it will be almost ridiculous. Know the difference.)
This comes at a time in an alternate dimension, where university admissions requirements are known to be a complex matrix of academic ability, soft skills, course aptitude and many other qualities subject to an undisclosed algorithm engineered to select only the best. In this illusory realm, they obviously want only the best. Many imaginary studies have shown that institutions nowadays cannot merely select their future students with a few vague benchmarks. Certainly, we are rather familiar with the usual criteria, and many of us probably made sure we aced them to secure our place here. But could there be any we’ve possibly missed out? What other mystical admissions criteria in this parallel universe could be imposed on potential law undergraduates?
1. Hawk eyes
One thing that is noticed among many law students is that they can really, really stare. Be it scrutinising our laptop screens, surveying the library bookshelves, or “observing” fellow students and professors in and out of class, those hawk eyes are often put to good use. We spend more of our lives staring than using the toilet. They are all the more useful for cross-examinations and staring down opponents in court (when all else fails). But more than this, we should aim to be more perceptive – knowing when something is amiss even when everyone else thinks it’s super watertight and loophole-free, or giving a slant to a tired perspective. It’s one of the hallmarks of an effective lawyer. So keep that eye contact going, and remember to always look interested. Pretend, if you really have to.
2. Right-brain stuff
“Wait, what? But law students (most of us anyway) are not good at math,” you remark in exasperation, with a lace of dismissiveness (why do we need math anyway?!). While most of us can at least add and subtract to save our lives, there are some of us who embarked on law just to avoid doing so – not that there’s anything wrong with that. After all, why bother with something we’re not good at, when we can (nearly) do away with it! (Except, math may help us find a way to beat the bell-curve! Though the latter has its intermittent existentialist crises – somehow appearing when we least want it to, and nowhere to be found when we are desperate for it.) But let’s not be too concerned about math, and look at the science of it: logic. Even if we can’t deal with numbers, we need to make good sense when we speak and write. And, we need logic to make sense of the insane and frenzied lives we lead after entering law school. Applicants are gently reminded to keep their minds and wits about them when sitting for the tests, speaking to the interviewers, and more importantly, living their lives.
3. Coffee connoisseur potential
It certainly takes quite a healthy liking (or addiction?) for coffee across the general population of the school to produce the phenomenon that is the sizeable queue at the Summit drinks stall each weekday morning. While it doesn’t exactly pass for gourmet coffee, the coffee there does enough for our much needed caffeine boosts, without which many of us would be unable to function. Besides, those with more exacting tastes could always try Sapore, though at a much bigger price tag. The opportunity to down more cups increases exponentially as the semester wears on, so even if you weren’t a coffee drinker before, you would likely be one by the end of a few months. Noting this trend among law school students, we are sure that applicants who are well-versed in the art of java tasting may just have that edge over others. They are likely to be slated as future forerunners in sustaining this coffee culture that would make us true muggers, in every sense of the word. Papa Palheta might be proud.
4. Mastery of the ping-pong table
Ah yes, the new, popular delivery to our freshly refurbished and flowery scented student lounge. Occupied by students throughout the day (and more puzzlingly, for even longer periods during the exams), the ping-pong table is sufficient to merit its own module code LC8888 and 8 credits across 2 semesters.
(You might ask why we say 8 credits? If the students who spend their time on the ping-pong table spend that same amount of time on their studies – they could probably get an A+ for an 8 cred mod. Just sayin’)
We propose that incoming freshmen be proficient in the forehand, backhand, underhand, overhand, fore/back/under/overlegs (you never know when legs come in handy), and the ability to scream in Chinese when scoring or not scoring (which is essentially all the time). That said, we law students know that technical skills are not enough – we need theory as well. Therefore, students will also need to be familiar with the history and jurisprudence of table tennis. The ability to recite å”è¯— (Tang poems) and sing æå–œå‘è´¢ (‘gong xi fa cai’) would be a plus.
5. Sensitivity to current affairs and social dynamics
Quite a mouthful, but really, all that’s expected is an adequate grasp of what’s going on around you and how you react to external stimuli.
Much like browsing through Wikipedia to expand our knowledge or 9GAG for contemporary societal insights.
Often enough, our intricate understanding of the complexities of this world are shaped and moulded by our extensive exploration of these sources of information. Though sacrilegious in the hallowed halls of academia, they cannot be underrated as influences. There is perhaps value in instating this as one of the criteria: anyone who manages to derive a complete and meaningful understanding of the world around them merely through these sources must likely be an incredibly brilliant individual.
Like a boss.
6. The X-factor
And yes, of course, there is the incontrovertible yet loosely used “X-factor” that is at times indeterminate, increasingly becoming a sorry excuse for the inadequacy of human judgment in spotting talent. While we cannot identify or explain the exact reason in choosing one applicant over another and put it down to the “vibes” or “feel”, we can try to explain how one can cultivate this enigmatic X-factor.
Write in convoluted sentences such that the entire meaning of what you are trying to express in the test in the essay doesn’t seem apparent as there is hardly any syntax so that whatever you say becomes abstract and subtle and hard to pin down which is like a Picasso that keeps falling off the wall; therefore you win.
Mystery is the name of the game. Don’t put all the cards on the table at once. Give the interviewer tidbits of information, little by little, by answering in monosyllabic grunts, from which others can only make out a vague yes or no, and nothing more. Remember, empty vessels make the most noise. Another thing you can do is to enter the room wearing an over-sized cap that shades the top half of the face to create that much sought-after aura of mystery. Sounds simple, but so often overlooked that no one does that nowadays.
- Be a cool cat. See above.
- Be, erm, comfortable in your own skin and er, try your best… Yeah, we told you it was vague. Anyway, see above.
Just like how it is in reality television talent competitions, once the X-factor is activated, the panel may give you their approval because they want to see more of you and what you can do in future (perhaps due to the fact that you gave them nothing much to begin with).
For sure, there are many more possible criteria, such as proficiency in playing the game of pick-up sticks (which demonstrates the art of nit-picking) or the ability to lick your elbow (just because not many can do it, and it’s fun to see people try). In fact, being good at something, or anything, is better than nothing, and will be of great advantage to your application. But some criteria deserve greater emphasis than others. Case in point: ping-pong.
Article contributed by: Marc Teh (Law 1) and Clarence Tan (Year 1)