By virtue of my job and the age of my children, I have a lot of friends and acquaintances who ask me questions about undergrad admissions. In truth, I am not very well-suited to answering these questions, for the most part. It’s a little like a foot surgeon saying, “How much different can a hand really be? Let’s open it up and take a peek! Wait, what’s that bone there?” (Actually, maybe feet and hands are totally interchangeable, surgery-wise; I know even less about anatomy than I do about undergrad admissions. Let’s just assume that’s a reasonable simile, though, and move along.) But I can never resist giving advice—hell, I don’t even need to be asked! Just stand still a while in my vicinity, looking quizzical, and I’ll offer something up. So my lack of actual knowledge about undergrad admissions has never made me hold back too much from giving advice.
Here is one thing I know about undergrad admissions—and it’s completely different from the law school process, at least at schools like Michigan and its peers, where the size of the applicant pool remains reasonably healthy despite an overall downturn in application numbers: Undergrad admissions offices care, a lot, about facetime. When admissions officers visit high schools, they keep track of who drops by to see them. When prospective applicants visit campus, they keep track of that too. When applicants visit their website and fill out forms, or go to college fairs, or, I don’t know, accost Tina Fey on campus, track is being kept. Frankly, I don’t know how they manage it all, but they do, and so if you’re interested in a selective undergraduate program, you’d be well-served to let them know. Coyness is not the right move.
Over here in law school land, however, we’re more of a whacky, laissez-faire, laidback operation. We simply just do not track information like this. Our failures may simply be a function of relative staffing size, because undergrad admissions offices tend to be much larger than law school admissions offices—or maybe law school offices have smaller staffs because they don’t keep copious notes on stuff like this. Chicken, egg. Or maybe we’re made of sterner stuff, without desire for ego-stroking. (Well. Probably not that.) But I can tell you that while there may be good reasons for you to visit a law school you’re considering applying to, or to which you have applied but haven’t yet heard, getting brownie points for showing up does not number among them; same goes for showing up at law school forums. If you have questions, if there’s information you’re hoping to learn—by all means, go. Nuggets of wisdom might be imparted. But don’t go simply because you think not going will be a sign of lack of interest, and are concerned that a lack of interest will be held against you. Because that is just not part of the process.
For that reason, I typically tell candidates that if they can bankroll a visit only one time, they ought to wait until after they know where they’ve been admitted, and attend an admitted-student event if possible. More about those events on another occasion.
Now, I don’t mean to make too grand a claim here. Law schools, naturally enough, take into account apparent interest, to the extent they can discern it. But that’s relatively simple to signal in the application materials. Likewise, if you do visit, law schools very well may notice if you are a tremendously wonderful person, or an unbearably obnoxious one. And schools that offer interviews to applicants do so because they are trying to gauge your commitment. But Michigan and its peer law schools don’t have the kind of sophisticated customer-relationship-management systems in place for counting each “touch” during the pre-admissions stage, and don’t plug your interactions into an algorithm that determines your fate based on your perceived level of interest.
So, if you’re so inclined, come see us. But no need to break your neck to do it, or to stress that a failure to visit is going to be the thing that dooms you.