Incoming class at Michigan Law, on top of the world

By Katie Vloet

At 29,000 feet above sea level, Xun Yuan decided to learn his fate.

Seven days earlier, at base camp on Mount Everest, his online status had not been updated to say whether he was admitted to the University of Michigan Law School. He feared the worst, then started the weeklong climb to the top of the world.

“When we got to the summit, I decided to check again. I was able to get a signal there,” says Yuan, who was working as a writer in Tibet for Lonely Planet. “I went to the online status checker and found out I had gotten in. I was screaming. My fellow travelers said to stop screaming, or I would cause an avalanche.

“I only regret that I didn’t have my Michigan flag with me” to plant in the ground at the summit, he adds.

Yuan now is a first-year student at Michigan Law, one of 267 students chosen from a pool of 4,368 applicants. The class is tied for highest GPA in the School’s history and has the second-highest LSAT average score, says Sarah Zearfoss, senior assistant dean for admissions, financial aid, and career planning.

It is a group with widely varying backgrounds: ice carver, Olympic-caliber runner, FBI investigative specialist, an electrician who co-founded a Haitian solar cell company. Their culinary backgrounds are impressive: One was a pastry kitchen assistant at Zingerman’s Bakehouse; another wrote a thesis on the chemistry of baked chocolate desserts, and a third worked at an Italian winery, Zearfoss says. They represented a variety of media organizations: The New York Times, The New Yorker, Al Jazeera. The air controller from Camp Pendleton may be in some classes with the pilot combat trainer from the U.S. Air Force or the intelligence analyst from the Air National Guard.

Racial and ethnic minorities make up 24 percent of the class, while LGBT students comprise 7.5 percent. Three-quarters of the students took at least one year off from school after college, Zearfoss says.

Other details about the new 1Ls:

•The class is 50 percent male, 50 percent female

•Six are military veterans, 11 are Americorps alumni, six were in Teach For America, two are Peace Corps vets, three were Fulbright scholars, and one was a Truman scholar

•11 percent have two parents with no degree past high school; 26 percent have one parent with no degree past high school

•They represent 15 countries, as well as 41 states and the District of Columbia

•They attended 157 undergraduate institutions

And at least one of them has climbed Mount Everest. Yuan vows to go back again, but on his next trip, he will make a change—one that surely will make the rest of his classmates proud: “I’m definitely going to take my Michigan flag,” he says.


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