Incoming students, transfer students, and those applying this fall may be affected by the surge in applications for law school.
A tumultuous year is a good time to look back before the next law school admissions season begins. Law school applicants, students, and graduates alike were affected by the coronavirus pandemic in many ways, including the greatest number of applications since 2011.
Law School Admission Council statistics for the 2021 enrollment year show that nearly 71,000 people applied, an increase of roughly 13% from the prior year. More than 481,000 applications were submitted to law schools last year, about 27% more than the year before.
Law schools have seen an increase in applicants over the last year greater than any time in the past decade, and the number of applicants has exceeded expectations.
Media reports indicate that law school admissions officers worked into the night to accommodate this surge. Some law schools delayed decisions, tiered waitlists, and contradicted information about application statuses.
There are more applicants than law schools can accommodate, knowing that some admitted applicants will not pay their seat deposit, defer admission or be unable to attend due to competing opportunities or unforeseen circumstances. The many months that pass between the time applicants apply and the start of school can change a lot.
On a normal day, schools are cautious, and they are prepared to fill any gaps with waitlist applicants. Many schools miscalculated this year, and they accepted more student applications than they could handle.
Oversubscribed schools sometimes deferred admission for a year to accepted applicants. In some cases, deferring applicants were even given financial incentives or other incentives, similar to the rewards airlines offer passengers for giving up seats on overbooked flights.
Impact on Incoming Law Students
There is no lockdown this year for incoming law school students, so they should feel relieved. Most law schools have implemented health measures like social distancing and regular COVID-19 tests.
Law schools may have more students than usual, resulting in tougher competition for jobs, clerkships, and other opportunities. A new initiative in social justice could increase opportunities in public interest law. In contrast, the legal sector is generally doing well economically.
However, with so many law schools in demand, students may have a harder time transferring schools than usual.
Implications for New Applicants
It is likely that there will be fewer available spots this year due to more applicants deferring admission. The higher demand may prompt some law schools to increase class sizes.
More importantly, it’s still too early to know whether applications in the coming year will increase, stay at the same level, or decline.
Applications surged during recessions and protests in the past but tended to fizzle quickly. With the recovery of the economy and more openings for employment, applications may decline. Furthermore, the competitiveness of the prior cycle may scare away potential applicants.
LSAC statistics show that the number of LSAT test-takers between July 2020 and June 2021 grew by 36% from the year before, indicating a larger applicant pool for fall 2022 admission. In spring 2020, tests will not be given because of the COVID-19 pandemic and tests will be remotely proctored online.
Those worried about the competition may wish to monitor LSAC statistics as well as changes in the median GPA and LSAT scores of the law schools they are considering.
Nevertheless, it is easy to misinterpret admissions trends. The best thing applicants can do to increase their chances is to focus on the steps they can take.
The fall application season starts in September or October, so it is best to apply early. Plan ahead and expect a retake if your LSAT scores are low.
Finally, make sure you apply to a wide variety of law schools, including several where your scores and grades will make you highly competitive. Despite the uncertainty, you can prepare for the future by starting now.