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Law Schools Predict 2020 Class Sizes Same as Last Year
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While the COVID-19 pandemic is a looming question mark over every corner in the legal universe, including the education sector, law schools across the nation find surprising stability on the admissions landscape with admission officers predicting the entering 2020 class sizes to be the same size as last year, a new Kaplan survey shows.

An optimistic 52 percent of admissions officers surveyed by Kaplan Test Prep said they expect their entering class size for fall 2020 will be about the same as their fall 2019 entering class size, 26 percent of respondents said it would be larger; and 22 percent think it will be smaller.

This sudden optimistic view comes after initial concern among law schools regarding the upcoming academic year, as the applicant pool looked likely to shrink due to the disruption of the Law School Admission Test.


In June, applicants to ABA-accredited law schools were down 2.5% from that point in the cycle last year, according to the Law School Admission Council data. By June 2019, law schools had received 95% of all admissions for the coming fall.

While both the March and April in-person LSATs were cancelled due to health concerns caused by the pandemic, the council rolled out a pared-down, remote version of the exam in May known as the LSAT Flex.

The most recent data shows a small increase of 1 percent in law school applications.

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The uptick in applications, the introduction of LSAT-Flex, and the economic upheaval aren’t the only deciding factors that have convinced law schools that they will see a solid class size for 2020, the survey suggests. Two thirds (67 percent) of survey respondents say they have made their admissions requirements more flexible, which could entice fence-sitters.

According to the admissions officers who answered the survey, this includes everything from extending application deadlines, to relaxing deposit requirements, to allowing prospective students to apply using their unofficial LSAT scores.

However, the survey found that LSAT is the one area where law schools remain inflexible, with all but one law school surveyed saying they are unlikely to allow applicants to waive submitting LSAT or GRE scores.

“While this has arguably been the most unusual law school admissions cycle in decades, the stability, in terms of just the numbers, is remarkable. If you look at an application increase of just under 1 percent, the casual observer might think that things were business as usual, but behind the scenes, there has been a lot going on to ensure a seamless process during unpredictable times, from the rollout of the first at-home version of the LSAT to extended application deadlines. This has made a stressful situation for prospective students more manageable,” said Jeff Thomas, executive director of legal programs Kaplan.

According to the survey, the upcoming 2020-2021 application cycle may be among the most competitive in years: many seats for next year may already be filled before new applicants even submit their paperwork because of deferments.

One admissions officer said, “As the American economy is placed on hold for an indeterminate amount of time, now is the best time to begin your legal education so that when the economy returns, you’ll be ready to dive in…While this will not be the typical law school experience, it will not be a substandard one.” In addition to competition for seats, signs point to fewer scholarships due to declining revenues for some schools.

“I would counsel prospective students to consider what they would be doing instead of enrolling in law school. If they do not have alternative plans that would allow them to fill their time productively, they might want to proceed with their law school enrollment. I also believe competition will be stiffer next year and budgets will decrease, so applicants can expect admissions rates and scholarship offers to decrease,” another admissions officer shared.

“If you are an accepted applicant still deliberating about what to do, our advice is to consider the long term. While the COVID-19 crisis is likely to continue for at least the rest of the year, your future legal career is something that will last for many decades. Also, listen to what admissions officers are telling us. Next cycle might be more competitive and budget shortfalls may make financial aid less available. Overall, this may be a more advantageous year to enroll.”



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