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The Beginning and End of the Michigan ‘Wolverine Scholars’ Program
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Way back in 2008, a few people noted with derision that University of Michigan’s ”Wolverine Scholars” Program. The initiative allowed the Michigan undergraduates with a very high GPA to get into Michigan Law without actually having to take the LSAT.

Everyone could see that the program was just a very obvious attempt to game the U.S. News rankings. It was so obvious that the, now disgraced, former Dean of Admissions for Illinois Law, Paul Pless, who had a similar program at his school, had this to say about all of it:

  
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”I started a new program for U of I undergrads to apply in their junior year and we don’t require the LSAT. We have additional essays and an interview instead. That was, I can trap about 20 of them with high GPA’s that count and no LSAT score to count against my median. It is quite ingenious.”

Pless was actually talking about Illinois’s iLeap program, which was substantially similar to the Wolverine Scholars program over at Michigan.

The Pless statement came out earlier this month, as the admissions director was being ushered under the bus by the Illinois Law as the ”lone gunman” for its incredibly embarrassing admissions scandal.

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With all of the spotlight on a Big Ten school that had manipulated admissions statistics for years, Michigan cancelled its Wolverine Scholar Program very quietly.

Coincidently, there was much less fanfare over the end of the program that there was about the start of it. Actually, someone obtained FOIA documents that contained various emails from Michigan Law Dean Even Caminker and the Dean of Admissions Sarah Zearfoss.



They talked all about the program, and how ”the blogs” were covering all of it…

Now, first off, let’s establish the fact that the cancellation of the Wolverine Scholar program should have come as a shock to anyone who actually took the time to listen to Zearfoss and believed her claims that the program was not all about keeping the school looking good to U.S. News. She wrote in an article just this past June that everything was going very well:

”Overall, we’ve been very happy with our Wolverine Scholar ”experiment.” I am very optimistic that at the end of our five-year trial run, we will choose to make it a permanent fixture in our admissions toolkit.”

To be clear, Zearfoss wrote this article by herself, long over the furor over the programs had died down a little.

This definitely looks like the Illinois scandal spooked Michigan. The only way anyone knew anything about the program being cancelled was because Zearfoss said so in a Daily Illini article about Paul Pless:

”We believe that there are very talented Michigan undergrads who don’t apply to the Law School out of a mistaken conviction that our high median LSAT (169) would foreclose admissions,” said Sarah Zearfoss, senior assistant dean for admission, financial aid and career planning for the Michigan law school. ”The LSAT though, is the only one of many factors we consider, and we wanted to attract these very talented, high-achieving students.”

Zearfoss said the program was not producing the results the school had originally hoped for and, thus, was discontinued.”



 

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