Podcast: When Should You Reach Out to an Admissions Office, and How Should You Do It?

In this short episode of Status Check with Spivey, Mike discusses a question that tends to come up frequently this time of year—“Should I contact x law school's admissions office to ask for an update since I haven't heard back yet?”—then talks generally about when it can be advantageous to reach out to admissions, why, and how you should do it.

You can listen and subscribe to Status Check with Spivey on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, YouTube, SoundCloud, and Google Podcasts.

Full Transcript:

Welcome to Status Check with Spivey, where we talk about life, law school, law school admissions, a little bit of everything. Today is going to be law school admissions. I had promised a podcast on U.S. News rankings—we're waiting for a bit more information on these lines. I think the rankings are going to come out late March just FYI. And I think that there's going to be waves of merit aid offers and admits after the rankings come out, because right now no one knows the weights of the metrics, so no one knows if the LSAT’s going to double or half in weight, if the GPA is going to double or half, selectivity probably won't move much. So next week we'll have the rankings one up.

I saw a post on Reddit this morning, “Should I call an admissions office and ask them about the status of my application?” So I thought this would be a good time to do a podcast, a quick podcast on how to reach out to admissions offices. There's multiple ways, but the only two ways to initially reach out that you should consider are phone calls or emails, right? So don't message them on LinkedIn or find their Twitter account, etc. Don't do that.

It is all the more appropriate—I mean it's their job—to call or email them. But I want to click on why you should call, why you should email. I've talked about this before. To the post I saw, “Should I call the admissions office and ask them for the status of my application?” there's a heuristic I use: Are you doing it to placate your nervousness, anxiety—understandable, waiting—or are you doing it to enhance your chance of admission? So calling and saying, “What's the status of my application?” is not enhancing your chance of admission. If they had a status, they would tell you. The second a decision is rendered whether it's waitlist, denial, admit, or if they're putting a group in a holding pattern, they're going to let you know. So calling and saying, “Hey, what's the status?” is not beneficial at all. Emailing saying “what's the status” is not beneficial at all.

On the flip side, let me just give you the best ones: emailing and saying, “I’m deeply interested in…”—we’ll say Princeton Law School. Until there's a Princeton Law School, and a Dean of Princeton Law School to get mad at me for using their school name, it's going to be Princeton Law School. So emailing Princeton Law School and saying, “Hey, I know it's a long cycle, and I completely understand, but is there anything I can do to enhance my application? I'd love to visit. I would love to speak to an admissions officer on the phone. I can update my resume.” There's the value-add. If you have new things to offer, a visit, a phone call. But again, not a phone call saying, “Hey, what's the status?” A phone call saying, “You're my top school. I would attend and matriculate if offered”—incredibly value added.

So, an email with a new resume, if you got a new job, saying, “Please find my updated resume, I have a new job,” a letter of continued interest. I'm a big fan of letters of continued interest about five, six days after school seat deposits are due if you're on the waitlist, because that's when they get a sense for how many people they're going to take off the waitlist. So, an email saying, “Attached is my letter of continued interest, please know that blah, blah, blah,” you can say your number one choice, if it is your number one choice. Or you can say, “You're my top choice,” which a student can have three or four top choices. So, that verbiage is not startling or alarming to me. The thing I would hesitate for you to say is “You're my number one choice” if it's not. Because what could happen is they admit you, and then all of a sudden you blow them off—this doesn't happen often, but it does happen—they say, “Well, you said, ‘you're my number one choice,’ and we admitted you, we didn't hear from you.” So, there is a process that goes through LSAC's committee of infractions where they could give your name to other law schools. And if it's found out that you're telling every law school [they’re your] number one choice, that might not go away. That's why I'm a fan of “top choice.” Obviously, you can have a dream school, you can have a number one school, and you should be telling that school you would matriculate if admitted.

So, reaching out to law schools, theme of this podcast—and I promise it's going to be short, mostly because I have to run somewhere, and I felt like I owed Reddit message boards something—I’m a big fan of reaching out, it shows interest. I'm a big fan of measuring your pace. So, please don't reach out every other week. Once every month and a half, and then you can increase the pace because the risk-reward factor changes over time. And also, late in the cycle when schools' medians are locked in. Remember it’s medians not means. This is greatly to your favor. When medians become locked in, if you just happen to email someone on the right day, and all of a sudden their medians are locked in, and they had three people drop off… this is why also I’m always a fan of a signature block; if you're going to email someone or, look, if a Dean of Admissions gave you their cellphone number at a forum or a fair and you text them—I get these texts all the time, “Hey Spivey, blah blah blah,” and then there's no who this is. So, if you're going to text them, say who it is. If you're going to email them, have a signature block with your phone number in the signature block. Why? This is going to amaze you, but this happens every year. They can just mash the button on their phone and call you and say, “Hey, we do need to make a few admits. We want to know, would you attend if we admitted you?” And if you say yes, you can get an admit on the spot, just because you’ve made their lives easier to call them. That kind of admit happens late cycle, not right now—it's a slow cycle.

Someone asked what my admissions friends are saying. What my admissions friends are saying right now is, and this is—I don't mean this to sound judgmental; it's just the view from the admissions offices—“We are getting bombarded with incredibly anxious people. And we get it, we're going slowly, but it’s doing them no good to be incredibly anxious.” So, a very calm professional email—even better by my estimation, a very calm professional phone call—to the admissions office, “Hey, this is Mike Spivey”—by the way don't say that, but—“Hey, this is Mike Spivey, I'm an applicant. And I just wanted, if anyone had time, I know you all are super busy, two to three minutes, just to let an admissions officer know you're my top school.” That kind of phone call differentiates because so few people do it. The kind of phone call where it's, “Hey, this is Mike Spivey and it's been four months. When am I going to get in the decision?” That also differentiates, but differentiates in a poor way.

So, let me end on the heuristic. If there's an update, if you're going to do something value-add, if you're going to do something upbeat and calm, if you're going to do something professional, fire out that email. But on the flip side, if you're really just reaching out to calm your own nerves, which are incredibly understandable. I'm nervous for people. It’s an incredibly slow cycle. But admits are coming, and they're going to let you know when you're admitted or waitlisted or denied. They're going to let you know. So, if you're doing it for those reasons, just to get an update, no, it's not a good idea to reach out. I hope this was helpful. This was Mike Spivey of the Spivey Consulting Group.