A plurality of responders to my survey prefer letters with notes, which is a result that makes me feel good about me, about you, and about the world as a whole. But … the results also show that a majority of responders want some kind of instantaneous answer, although the preferred format varies. So we in Admissions have food for thought, and I've already scheduled a meeting for Monday to start brain-storming how we can accomplish this. I'm thinking the answer will be reprogramming the online status-checker in some fashion; that's the recommendation of our IT person, who shudders at the possibility of sending the wrong email to the wrong set of people. If she shudders, I shudder. (Every time we read one of those stories about admissions email mistakes, everyone in my office who sends group emails has to self-medicate and get therapy.)
But let me just say right here that the solution is not going to be a telephone call. First, I have all the anxiety I've already spelled out. Second, I have hard data backing me up: Twice as many people in the "I am applying to law school" category preferred letters to phone calls. And the two endeavors are mutually exclusive; it takes me roughly three hours a week to sign offer letters, and calling would take between five and ten. A girl's gotta get some other work done, too.
Still, I have on occasion made offers by telephone, particularly when it's getting late in the season and time is of the essence—or when there's some serendipitous connection. I think in particular of the afternoon when I went out for beers with some current students, one of whom asked me to keep an eye peeled for the application of a friend of his. Now, honestly, telling me while I'm drinking beer to remember to keep an eye peeled for a particular application is perhaps not a fail-safe plan, but as it happened, the name was unusual and I remembered that I had in fact sent him an offer letter earlier that day. So it seemed like a good idea for the student to call his friend and hand the phone to me so I could convey the good news. Once we'd gotten past the "No, seriously, who are you?" part of the conversation, he said, "It sounds like you're calling from a bar." It was at that point that I thought, "Hmm. Maybe this isn't such a good idea, after all."
Although perhaps that just suggests the appropriateness of a second survey, so we can drill down on who, among the people who want telephone calls, thinks it's fine to get their call from a bar, and who prefers instead that I call while, say, running on a treadmill, or petting a cat. I draw the line at petting a cat while running on a treadmill, though, because that's also when I sign letters, and I only have two hands. Also, the cats have registered their displeasure.