How to explain WD


“I see you have a superlative transcript, and … but what is this WD?” Ah, the feared interview question for the unlucky students who happened to drop that oversubscribed course just minutes too late. Time to pay the Piper. You begin sweating profusely. “What am I going to do now?” you ask yourself.

The Registrar’s Office unhelpfully counsels you to take “the proactive approach.” But what does this mean? “Just tell them about our quirky policy,” they say. Quirky or perky, this approach is doomed. What do you say?

“Ahem, yes, um, Madame, I was sleeping during the five-minute window that I could officially withdraw so my own law school has chosen to stigmatize me”? Or, “Sir, I’m not as lazy as it makes me look.”

Faced with this ugly possibility, students have been seen lining up outside the Registrar’s Office, raising their fists and transcripts in angry protest. These people are annoying. In the famous words from Oliver Wendell Holmes’ Lochner dissent, “Say it, don’t spray it.” But still, they have a point.

Accordingly, I propose a paradigm shift in how we explain our WD’s. Let me call it, “The New Way.” I’ve asked the Office of Career Services to run a workshop, but they rejected my proposal. “Explaining the WD is not a core skill,” they said. This is from the same people who brought you panels such as “Dressing for the Interview,” “The Handshake: How Hard is Too Hard?” and “Using Interview Bathrooms.” In lieu of a panel, I’ve brainstormed some potential strategies:

Strategy 1

When your interview asks about the WD, explain that it stands for “With Distinction.” If the interviewer is unimpressed, say that WD represents the highest grad in the class. In fact, explain that it is the rare avis of grades, given out but once in a year, nay, once a generation. It stands for “genius.”

Disclaimer: This strategy has potential shortcomings. It will be obvious from your uneasy tone that you are lying; further, the interviewer may see the key revealing that the grade really stands for withdrawal; as a result, you may be forced out of the interview process and ostracized by your peer group. People may even call you “ass” or “donkey.”

Strategy 2

This strategy requires skill, decisive action and acting ability. When the interviewer asks about the WD, immediately begin gesticulating wildly like some sort of grouse or other easily scared bird. Then fly, fly, fly like that bird!

Your interviewer will find this cute, perhaps give a chuckle, then ask you amicably about your participation in Sasha Volokh’s new Shooting Club. Note: In some cases, this approach may upset your interviewer.

Strategy 3

Repeat the words “not know” in the voice of some sort of Neanderthal. Attempt to groom your interviewer for head lice, drooling copiously. Repeat until interviewer starts laughing, offers you mini bar treats and gives you a callback, or until the hotel concierge has forcibly removed you from the premises.

Strategy 4

Concede that you will never work for Covington Burling, D.C., or any other “prestigious” firm. You have spoiled your career with all the “Big Guys.” Potential benefit: You might end up enjoying what you do with your life.

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