HLS is for Lovers…of Applying Late

Harvard is causing quite a stir this year. As announced on their garish blog, they will be accepting the February LSAT for applicants who want to begin law school this upcoming fall.

Their stated reason is the postponement of the LSAT for many test-takers due to winter storms throughout the country. And many people are saying that’s most likely the case.

However, there is another, vocal group who insists that they’re accepting later applications to make up for the decline in applicants – a decline of 11% again, continuing the recent downward trend.

So which is it? A nice gesture to those who were screwed by Mother Nature, or a blatant attempt to get a few more applicants to pad their numbers? A magnanimous act, or an act of desperation?

If I had to guess, more of the former, but a bit of the latter.

Harvard is always ranked 2nd or 3rd; it ranks at the top of name-recognition. It’s pulling in solid applicants. I don’t think they are (yet) desperate for enough qualified people to fill their ranks. Sure, they may have to admit a few students with sparse resumes; they’re still filling their ranks with people who have high GPAs and LSAT scores.

I have also found that the people taking the LSAT later in the application season tend to be those who work full-time; a group that has it hard enough already trying to balance their real life with law school applications.

So HLS, wanting to create the best class it can, saw an opportunity to allow those who might have more experience apply despite bad weather conditions, they took it.

But. The decline in applicants is definitely breathing down their necks. Everyone must be feeling it at this point, and it will be easier in the future to loosen their admission requirements (e.g. the deadline) if the precedent has already been set.

So while I don’t think they needed to relax the deadline this year, I do think they will need to eventually (see my post next week on predictions for law school in 2014). And relaxing the deadline next year will be easier if they’ve already done it this year.

2 Responses

  1. John says:

    The 11% decline is for total enrollments, not applications. Although correlated, the enrollment numbers indicate students who made it through the application process and actually matriculate at a school. Of note from the linked article, this diminished supply of law grads is still 20-25% more than the market can absorb.

    Also, although this trend is generally bad news for the below average applicant (the people most likely to be squeezed by the lack of job opportunities), it’s good news for average and above-average applicants. With less competition for seats, average applicants are more likely to make it in to the T14 schools, and above average applicants can more likely get in to a T3 or T6 school. Additionally, schools may be more willing to throw merit-based scholarship money toward the shrinking number of truly strong applicants in order to make sure their 25/75 numbers don’t slide.

    • Matt Shinners says:

      Yep, I definitely misphrased that. Though the point still holds.

      And absolutely – there’s never been a better time to be an above-average applicant to law school!

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