I recently received a question from one of the students in our law school admissions counseling program:
I was checking the status of one of my applications through the status checker that’s provided by the school, and I saw that they had put me in the “reviewed, no decision made” category. What can I do to make them speed up the process? Should I send them an email? I don’t really have much to update, but I can tell them that I saw the status and want to know what I can do to speed up the process.
This got me thinking. There are definitely times when contacting the Admissions Office of the school(s) you’re applying to after you’ve already submitted your application is appropriate. They include:
- When they ask you to.
And that’s it.
I might add an asterisk to that and say that there is one other time when it’s okay: When you’ve been placed on the wait list and the school gives you no specific instructions on how to convey your continuing interest. Then it’s okay to send one–one–letter or email of continued interest, detailing why you feel the school is your first choice, as well as updating them on anything substantial that has happened to your candidacy (i.e., a new job or considerable promotion, a new award, etc.). Outside of that or the occasional contact information update, sit on your hands boys and girls. Stay away from your email and your phone.
As regards the specific query above, this is what I wrote back:
You need to sit tight and wait. At this point, a status of “reviewed, no decision made” basically means exactly what it sounds like: Your file has been received, it has been deemed complete, it has been read by at least one person, and no decision has been made on it. Since you know that a decision will be made on it (and you won’t just sit in limbo forever), this basically means that (1) they are waiting for more applications to come in so that they can compare you to them and make a final decision, or (2) they need more people to read your application before a final decision can be rendered. As annoying as the waiting game can be–and, believe me, I know it’s maddening–waiting is what you must do now. It won’t be long; schools know that you need to make some very important decisions very soon, and they won’t hold you back indefinitely. Find excuses to get out of the house, away from your computer, and leave your phone at home so that you’re not constantly checking the status of your app or being tempted to shoot off a “quick email” to the Admissions Office.
This is the problem with technology nowadays. You can track packages from the moment they leave the warehouse to the second they land on your doorstep. You’re able to see what that kid from elementary school that you didn’t even like very much but you’re still friends with on Facebook is eating for dinner. You can read tweets from celebrities about their latest cause updated in real time.
And you can obsess endlessly about the status checker on your law school application.
Repeat with me: These updates are just for my convenience. These updates are just meant to update. These updates are not meant to elicit a response from me.
And now repeat this: I will not become that student. I will not wear out my welcome before I’ve even been accepted. I will not make admissions office staffers shudder at the sound of my name.
What’s the Drawback?
It’s easy to convince yourself that just one phone call is okay or one short email might make the difference. The problem with that train of thought is this: You don’t know if you’re the first unsolicited email or phone call of the day (which, while it may not be welcome, at least won’t be annoying), or the 1000th (which will be both unwelcome and annoying). If you’re the 1000th, now there’s a nice little stigma attached to you. Remember, admissions staffers are people, too. They have very busy schedules, and this is particularly hectic time for them. Having to stop to read and reply to an email saying “What do I need to do to get an answer on my file faster?” will (maybe) result in an eye roll and (definitely) in a standard, “We will inform you of an admissions decision as soon as one is available. Thank you for your patience” message. And, really, will getting an email like that make you feel better? Probably not. You just went to all that trouble and anxiety for nothing.
Just hold on tight, law school applicants. Waiting time is the hardest time. But find ways to get out of the house and away from temptation, and the time will go by faster. And, if you do get an email or letter from a school requesting a specific form of action, respond to it in a timely manner in the way requested and then walk away again. They’ll let you know of an admissions decision as soon as one is available. Don’t worry.