Status Checks, Revisited

March 8, 2010

As some of you start getting antsy awaiting a decision as the end of admissions season approaches, you might have read my first BIJ post from last year, which exhorted you not to call or write to check on your status. I was admittedly grumpy in my second trimester (perpetual nausea will do that to you), and while most of you appreciated, and even found solace in, my tongue-in-cheek humor, it's probably worthwhile giving a more lucid explanation for why status checks don't jive with our admissions process.

Simply put, we only have two statuses (statii?) for applicants: Under Review and [insert your final decision here]. I've detailed how our admissions process works elsewhere, but suffice it to say that if you haven't heard from us, your file is in the pipeline somewhere, being read by someone (a.k.a. Under Review). We can't give more detail than that, so a call or email really just results in frustration for all parties involved since we don't have much to tell you.

I can see how the cricket chirping you hear from Yale might create an impression that we have a cavalier, let-them-eat-cake attitude towards our applicants. It certainly doesn't help that many of you heard within weeks (or days) of becoming complete at other schools. But consider the math. Most schools are in a position where they can afford to take all or most of the most qualified students due to their size, which means that they can usually rely on proxies to speed up the admissions process. By contrast, our extremely small size, and relatively large applicant pool, means that for each person that we admit, we are forced to turn down at least 3 other equally qualified people. We are loath to turn down anyone without giving their application a careful review, which is why we make sure to read every application, and involve the entire faculty in our process. Consider the following note I received from a faculty reader (who read for the first time this year):

I finished my files at 2:00 a.m. this morning and then I did a gut check when I got back to the office today. You and your staff did an exceptional job: whenever I thought “oh, this candidate is obviously an X,” I almost immediately discovered some new nuance to their candidacy that made my task harder. We are blessed with so many—too many—great candidates. And the parity among the candidates whose records I reviewed shows that you and your team filtered folks with care and expertise.

Although I am badly in need of a pedicure and martini, rest assured that we are not partying it up here in the Admissions Office. Our silence is actually an outgrowth of our single-minded focus on processing, reading, and making decisions on your application (which is a secondary reason we discourage status checks, as they divert our attention from these three tasks and makes everyone's wait longer).

You might think of ours as a Rawlsian-inspired admissions process, in that it offers the most advantage to numerically weaker applicants, since we do a holistic review of every application. The tradeoff is that it takes longer for us to make a decision, which will be most annoying to numerically strong applicants who likely hear much earlier from other schools. But if I were to ask you from behind a veil of ignorance (say, before you learned your LSAT score) whether you'd prefer a system that uses an LSAT/GPA index or other sorting mechanism to speed up admission or one that takes longer but gives each application an equal review in the order that it became complete, I'm guessing you'd choose the latter.

For the record, I strongly prefer using SNL skits to make my point to social justice theory.

Anyway, for those of you who still aren't mollified, a few practical points:

1. If you are facing a looming financial aid or scholarship deadline (and schools ethically shouldn't be giving you these before April 1), you can email us at with your name, LSAC number, the scholarship, and the deadline, and we will make a note of it. While we cannot expedite a review of your application, we can make sure you receive a notification as fast as possible once a decision is made, or at least give you a time frame in which you can expect a decision, so that you can ask for an extension of the deadline, if possible. (Note that we do verify the scholarship/deadline, so please don't make something up). We will usually get back to you a couple of days before your deadline, so you don't need to keep emailing if you don't get an immediate response -- we're working on it.

2. If you submitted your application in the last month or so and still haven't received word that you're complete, you shouldn't worry. Our volume spikes as we approach the deadline, which creates a bit more of a delay for completion of files. Also, we don't let incomplete files just dawdle in the Admissions Office. We will, if necessary, make every effort to proactively contact you to get any missing information before we decide you are a lost cause. And I don't fill the class until I have read every complete file. So, chillax.

3. If you've sent in an update, etc. keep in mind that you may not get a personalized confirmation from the Admissions Office. We have one person who handles ALL the email traffic coming into the office (her name is Josie, and she is very nice). As you might imagine, Josie is busy triaging the emails to make sure we're taking care of scholarship people, questions from admits, updates, etc. so it would be impossible for her to respond to every update. If you received the automated response, that means that Josie received it and will take care of it. I will refer you to the comments section of my last post on whether an update at this point will make it into your file before it is reviewed by me and the admissions committee.

4. The bulk of our admissions decisions are made this month, and a smaller portion will be made in early April. We do make phone calls for admissions offers (though as I mentioned above, we also call if we have questions or need additional materials on your file, so don't assume that a phone call is an offer -- please call us back). Other decisions are sent via snail mail, though as we get later in the season (or if we are helping you meet a scholarship deadline) we might send you a decision by email. Basically, please make sure that the phone number, permanent address, and email address on your application are correct, and check your spam filter to make sure you aren't going to miss anything coming from our office.

In short, no news is good news -- for now -- when it comes to YLS. I am as anxious to get our class finalized as you are (I'd post a photo of my feet, but I think you'll want to trust me on this one). I hope this quells your anxiety a little bit...just a little more than a month and counting!



Yale Watcher said:

Status I believe ;-), if my high school English teacher is to be trusted, the plural for ‘status’ is ‘status’ with the difference only in pronunciation...hope you get a pedicure soon...

March 10, 2010 11:16 PM

Nate said:

Whew! I am slightly less scared of you pulling some FBI strings to trace my phone call if I ask for a status check, but hang up after breathing heavily for five seconds when I'm asked for my name.

March 11, 2010 4:42 AM

S. H. said:

@Asha: I'm applying next year, and I'm just wondering if it's better to send in a hardcopy of any updates etc. to avoid any email glitches that might eat up an addendum? I don't want to do that if it makes Josie's life harder, but I also don't trust gmail to deliver ...

2. Is there any particular layout that you prefer for the activities section? subheadings? tables? bulleted lists? (sorry if this is too nitpicky but I want to make it as organized as possible).

P.S. I strongly recommend St.Ives apricot scrub as a temporary substitute for a pedicure. You'll feel like a new person! Trust me.

March 11, 2010 7:04 PM

Too Scared to Call said:

Thank you, Asha. Your posts are incredibly helpful, especially this one.

I think if I had ever been brave enough (or stupid enough) to call for a "status check," I would have wanted to know exactly what you have posted in this blog.

March 12, 2010 1:30 PM

asha said:

@S.H.: I'd say an email is probably better, as our admissions line has an automated response so you will know immediately whether it went through or not. Paper is also fine, though it will of course take a little longer (and you probably won't get a confirmation, unless you buy the one the post office can track for you). As I mention in the comments section I refer to in the post, updates may or may not make it into your file after it is complete(either by email or by paper), so you should do your best to wait to submit your application until you have everything you want in it, if possible.

I'll be writing a post in the fall about formatting the application, as we get that one a lot.

Oh, and I love St. Ives apricot scrub and have used it for years on my face...never thought to use it on my feet -- thanks for the tip!

March 12, 2010 6:05 PM

Just Wondering said:

Hi Asha,

Thank you for your updates. I was just wondering, when does Yale start sending out waitlist offers for applicants?


March 19, 2010 3:11 PM

Yale Watcher said:

06520 called :-(

March 20, 2010 6:54 PM

nitpicker said:

It's "jibe" not "jive."

March 22, 2010 6:15 PM

asha said:

@nitpicker: Um, back to the OED:

jive, v. - To make sense, to fit in.

But keep trying!

May 12, 2010 12:24 PM