Pressure Points in Contacting Admissions: Professional Persistence versus Pestering?

The hardest part of the admissions cycle is the wait. For many it is worse than logic games, worse than filling out applications, dropdown boxes, questions that you have to answer that you should not have to (e.g. has anyone influenced your decision to attend our law school, yes or yes?), etc. The wait only gets intensified when others start hearing from your dream school and you are, well, waiting.

What is more, if you are applying to law school you are likely a proactive person. You WANT to be doing something. But frankly, there is nothing you can do at this stage (assuming you are not retaking, etc.) other than play GTA 5 or contact the school and will yourself in. Hold on, can you do that?

So here is the thing — points of contact matter — I am a big fan. They matter to go to LSAC sponsored forums (see our blog post on the subject). They matter if you visit individual law schools before you apply. And they will definitely help if you have submitted your application and you find yourself in the long wait. But you need to be careful, because it is not as easy as picking up the phone and getting face time with a dean of admissions. There is sophistication to reaching out to law schools post-application completion, and you will want to be mindful of the why/when/what/ and where of it all. Let’s explore:

WHY

This is probably the most important component to consider if you have submitted your application and are now in a holding pattern. We have seen applicants too many times flub their contact to an admissions department because the only reason they are connecting is to put their own mind at ease. Calling, visiting, hanging out at the parking garage at their cars (true story, in this case it was MY CAR), etc. just because you have not heard from the law school in a month and you are FREAKING OUT is a horrible reason to be/stay in touch. If the anxiety is killing you, call me. Better yet, call Karen. But in calling a law school because you are anxious there is zero value added. Calling and saying “just checking” isn’t going to speed up the process and it certainly isn’t going to sprinkle your application with magical pixie dust that will make you a “high waitlist” from an “admit”. On the flip side, it might make you go from an “admit” to a “high waitlist” if your anxiety starts to freak others out (incidentally this happens all the time in post-OCI, so be very wary here).

I would guess that roughly 75% of calls and email fall into the above category. So do yourself a favor and never fall into that 75% trap. But, what about the other 25%? When should you email or call? It gets pretty easy here, and I can just list them.

  1. Because you have a legitimate question (e.g. “hey Northwestern, I want to upload an LSAT addendum but I do not see the option to upload an addendum?” ANSWER “thanks for asking, either just add it in a separate page on your PS upload or email it to us, and we will add to your file”).

  2. Because you want to visit! Heck yes, let them know. The mere fact that you are visiting will likely and immediately go into your file WHICH MAY have a positive impact on how your file is read, AND if possible the admissions office will have a decision-maker meet with you (some do, some categorically do not. Keep in mind that Sept-Dec is travel season for admissions officers and heavy file reading season). One of the most common mistakes I have seen every cycle since 2000 is that applicants visit a law school without notifying the admissions office.

  3. Because you have a legitimate update. Better GPA after the past semester, let them know. New job, let them know. Award, accolade, or differentiating accomplishment, ditto. But, exercise judgment. Telling them you designed your first webpage (again, true story) is not an update.

  4. For any of 1-3 AND you met an admissions officer previously (either at the school or at a law school recruiting event, and you can piggyback those on “just wanted to expresses my continued interest in Princeton law. See the “How section below.”

When

In a previous life I had to cold email thousands of managing and hiring partners. I experimented with my email (tremendously until that thinning was a scientific achievement I might add) and timing. Not surprisingly, I found that the best time to email was either late, late Sunday night (email is fresh at the top of inbox) or late, late Thursday night/Friday morning. The Friday morning was especially good for “sure, give me a quick call today” responses. So if you are asking to speak with an admissions officer, you might catch lightening in a bottle with this one.

What about when in the cycle? Well, if you are legitimately abiding by 1-4 above in “WHY” it won’t matter. That said, I would not expect to get a 1-on-1 with an admissions officer Sept-Dec. Also keep in mind their holiday schedules posted at their university site. Most admissions officers won’t come in on a holiday vacation or weekend to meet with you.

Finally, how often should you connect with the admissions office. At this stage, not very. Even if you fall into “Why (4)” I would say once is enough. It is, of course, a whole different ball-game if you are wait-listed and we will talk about that in a future blog. In general though, one if not the most important components of getting off the waitlist revolved around building a relationship with the office of admissions.

What

What do you say in an email. Hey, hey, I’ve already blogged about this (in an obscure title) and the same advice remains 100% true today. Be concise. Do not ramble on. Put times for calls in yours and their time zone (90% of people still do not do this). Check it all out at this blog post.

So what is the summary and what should your takeaway be? It is more than “OK” to contact an admissions office and even more so to visit in person. But most applicants do not contact to add value to their application, but because the waiting is driving them batty. There is little you can do about the wait, and there are hundreds of reasons why one law school may seem to be going slowly for all applicants or for you in particular. Don’t let anxiety actually hurt your application. Stay in touch, but for the right reason! Embrace the wait (if that is possible).

– Mike