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January 10
Chill lemur speaks.

Every year at about this time, the Admissions Office sends out an email to a portion of our pool. The intention of the email is to shine a little light on our process and bring a little transparency to the proceedings. In the main, it’s our impression that the email accomplishes this. But every year, my best drafting intentions notwithstanding, I am distressed to discover that for at least some portion of the recipients, I have succeeded only in sending them into a tizzy. The sound you hear is my beating my head on my desk, despairing of ever getting this email exactly right.

Here’s the history. A thousand or so years ago, I began working in admissions in the midst of a chaotic season that involved multiple staff maternity leaves, not to mention the Grutter trial, which demanded enormous amounts of my predecessor’s time and attention. As a result of these considerable distractions, applicants that year did not get decisions in the timely fashion they reasonably and naturally expected. That spring, I concluded, after the 10,000th or so telephone call/email asking “Where’s my decision?!?,” that being transparent about the admissions process timeline would be a huge kindness to the applicant pool, and not incidentally might save a lot of time on the part of admissions staff.

So the next year, and for every year following, I sent an email to everyone who had applied relatively early in the season, so that their file had already had at least one round of review by file readers, but for whom, for any one of a number of possible reasons, we had not yet reached a decision. The email says, in essence, thank you for your patience; we are sorry we haven’t yet sent you a decision; we are attempting to strike a balance between making decisions as quickly as possible with making the best decisions we can.

The message seems so straightforward to me, but based on the subsequent emails and calls we get, I am slowly coming to terms with the possibility that this one email’s attempt to shed a little light can’t compete with the overall murkiness of the admissions process.

Tenacity is my foremost virtue, though, so of course my solution to the communication gap is to follow up the email with a blog post! Here is a list of things that the email does NOT mean for a recipient:

1. You are definitely going to be waitlisted. Some people who receive the email ultimately will be waitlisted; others will be admitted; others will be denied. The people receiving the email all have in common two things: they applied before a particular date (which changes every year, depending on how quickly we get applications processed), and as of the morning we send the email, they have not gotten, or been slated for, a final decision. (In fact, about 20 people who got the email this year were admitted by the end of the day.)

2. You are “on hold.” I don’t actually know for sure what this means, because we don’t use that terminology at Michigan, but apparently other law schools do. As I understand it, being on hold means that your file has been read and then set aside, to be revisited at some later date. That is in essence true for some people receiving our email—although not for everyone. But in any case, it’s not a formal status; the “later date” might be later this week, or in two weeks, or three weeks, or every week for the next five weeks. It’s unpredictable.

3. You are a lesser and inadequate candidate whom we don’t really like. Definitely not the case. The majority of the people getting this email fall into one of two categories: someone about whom the file readers had different impressions, or someone about whom I just couldn’t reach a decision. Neither means there’s anything wrong with the applicant. For the first instance, frankly, sometimes one of the readers just misunderstood something. And for the second, equally frankly, sometimes I just get to the end of a reading day and stop trusting my judgment. Everyone looks great, or everyone looks not great. When that happens, I know it’s time to stop reading and try again later. Often, when I come back, I am baffled by the source of my initial indecision.

4. We are yield-protecting, and if you don’t send us some responsive rear-end-smooching communication, we’re going to deny you. In the email, I write that it ought not to be interpreted as a veiled coercive hint for additional information. I mean that. If you want to give us additional information, we will happily take a look at it, and depending on what it is, it might help. But we will certainly admit some people who send nothing, and we will not admit others who send something. “Yield protection” is a complicated topic, but it is one that has nothing to do with this email.

5. I am trying to drive you crazy. Promise, I’m not.

Bottom-line, making these decisions is complicated, and we can’t always make them quickly. We appreciate your patience as we do our best. And in the meantime, chill lemur sez:

Chill lemur sez

-Dean Z.
Senior Assistant Dean for Admissions,
Financial Aid, and Career Planning
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Comments

I wish there was a "like" button

Thank you for posting this!

-E
 on 1/10/2012 4:21 PM

For those who submitted early and did not receive the e-mail

For those of us who submitted earlier in the cycle and did not receive the e-mail, can you offer any insight as to the veiled meaning in that?
 on 1/10/2012 4:34 PM

So...

What does this mean for those who applied fairly early in the process and did not receive the email? Rejection or waitlist?
 on 1/10/2012 4:44 PM

Dean Z. responds—

Unfortunately, I really have no way of knowing. Maybe your idea of “fairly early” is earlier than my idea of “fairly early”; maybe you did get the email but it’s in your spam folder, or there was some other sort of email misfire; or maybe you have been slated for a final decision—either an offer or a denial (not a waitlist, though; those decisions have not yet been made). In the latter event, I’m truly sorry for any anxiety, but anyone who is in queue right now will be processed and notified within a week.

-Dean Z.
 on 1/10/2012 5:09 PM

RE: Those who submitted early

Thank you for the clarification!

Believe me when I say I have scouted every e-mail inbox I have for correspondence, so I must assume a final decision is pending. Can applicants expect receive their denial via e-mail or will it be snail mail?

Here's to hoping for the best.

MZ
 on 1/10/2012 5:35 PM

If there was a like button...

I would like this too! Thank you for being so transparent.

-mk
 on 1/10/2012 8:35 PM

Dean Z. responds—

 on 1/11/2012 8:47 AM

Suggestion

Here are three possible solutions to your communication issues: 1. Email every applicant the same thing at the same time (you should be able to do this.). Everyone is waiting for answers so just send out an email this time of year to everyone - thank them for applying and ask them to please keep waiting patiently. Don't discriminate based on any factor- time of application, retakes - just send it to everyone.

2. Send an email when an application is complete stating the same information.  Tell applicants they will only get future emails if 1. You need additional information or 2. A decision is made.  And then resist the urge to make people feel better just because they have been waiting a ling time.

3. Make decisions faster.  Figure out how to expedite the process without sacrificing the end result of a strong class of admits.

Unfortunately your efforts to communicate selectively with students will never be effective now that there are so many ways for applicants to compare information.




 on 1/11/2012 2:40 PM

Next year...

Include a link to this post in your e-mail.
 on 1/11/2012 3:12 PM

Top-Law-Schools.com

I'm sure there is a better place to bring this to your attention, but as I know this wil be read and does not have to appear on your blog, I don't feel as if this is the worst place, either.

A poster on TLS is claiming Michigan reduced their scholarship from $67.5k to $54k due to a 0.01 drop in LSDAS GPA. This may be true, it may not, but from reading your blog, I know you have in the past made posts regarding misinformation on TLS (specifically, the person that said they would not be let out of their ED agreement).

I hope you do correct the record is this information is false, as it does portray Michigan in a negative, petty light.

 http://top-law-schools.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=162870&p=5160642#p5160642e
 on 1/26/2012 2:02 PM

Dean Z. responds-

Thanks for the question and the TLS clipping service! I have literally no idea what the person could be referring to--we occasionally revise awards upwards when information  changes significantly, but I can't think of a single time when we revised it downward. But--it is such an odd-sounding claim that I am going to do a little investigating. I would encourage the poster to email me directly with his or her concerns, though, if only to save me a little sleuthing time!

-Dean Z.
 on 1/26/2012 2:39 PM

More from Dean Z--

Breaking news: We think we have identified the person who has posted his financial aid woes on TLS, and I’ll be giving him a call. I won’t to go into detail, but I can say it is not correct that we changed his award based on a GPA decrease following the fall semester grades; we have no info about that alleged decrease, for one thing, and for another, it is not our policy to reduce awards because of a subsequent decrease in scores. In any event, his file is actually still being processed by the Financial Aid Office.

I really appreciate your letting me know about the situation, and would just say, generally, that people would be far better served to bring their concerns to us directly than to bring them to TLS and rely on some good TLSamaritan to alert us.  MUCH more efficient.

-Dean Z.
 on 1/26/2012 4:10 PM

Ouch

Please go easy on them. And thanks for clarifying.

E
 on 1/26/2012 5:05 PM

TLS

I am the person who made the absolutely false claim on TLS and I would like to apologize for it. Instead of calling the office about such a simple matter, I came up with a completely illogical explanation and even made that post on TLS. I simply didn't think rationally or about the consequences of my actions, and I sincerely apologize to Dean Z and everyone at Michigan Law.

I am terribly sorry and embarrassed about this whole thing, but thank you so much, Dean Z, for your kindness.
 on 1/26/2012 6:01 PM

Why didn't I check the blog sooner?!

Thanks for this post. I was out of the country when I got that email. I of course read it as, "Sure I'll go to the prom with you... as long as someone cooler doesn't ask me in the meantime." Ouch. But then I got home and there was an acceptance letter in my mail box. Thanks for your sincere attempt at communication, and for those wonderful blue-ink notes.
 on 1/26/2012 7:27 PM

Dean Z. responds—

I am as gentle as a lamb, habitually, but in this case, there truly was no call for extraordinary restraint on my part. Just a question of clarifying and soothing an understandably anxious applicant.  People should ALWAYS feel free to contact us.

-Dean Z.
 on 1/27/2012 8:05 AM

TLS

Dean Z,

I wanted to take the time to commend you and the TLS poster for handling the manner in such and open and professional manner.  I really appreciate your behavior at all times and I believe the remorse the applicant expressed.  Although I will go out on a limb and say that perhaps it is a bit daunting that what you think you're putting out to other students can become such a hindrance to everyone involved in the application process.

Thank you,
J
 on 1/27/2012 9:14 AM

Response to "Suggestion"

I agree with this person that getting admission decisions faster would be totally awesome. Srsly. You'd think we'd like to wait longer but no -- shocking I'm sure -- we'd like to know ASAP.  How come you haven't figured it out yet????
 
So while you're figuring out how to expedite this highly individualized process, please fix the country's health care system, balance the budget, find a cure for cancer, and, while you're at it, throw global warming into the mix of problems for you to figure out.  You know, now that I've typed all this up, this does look like a lot. Perhaps you could solicit some help from the person who wrote this comment. All evidence suggests that he has plenty of time on his hands.
 
I have heard a lot about the admissions process at Michigan and it sounds like all the time and effort your office puts into it is designed for the benefit of the students.  Personally, I would rather wait a bit longer than attend law school with 360 people who are just like me. 

Signed,
A
 on 1/31/2012 11:52 PM