February 17, 2006

Law School App Figures Tumble

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While Cornell and other top universities this year saw increases in undergraduate applications, their law schools did not fare as well.

According to the test preparation company Kaplan, 60,397 students nationally applied to law schools this year, a 10 percent drop from last year.

Not surprisingly, The Law School Admissions Council is reporting a similar 4.8 percent decline in the number of Law School Admissions Tests [LSATs] administered.

This year’s disappointing figures come on the heels of smaller application drops in 2004-2005 and 2003-2004 – 1.8 and 0.3 percent, respectively – and increases of 10.3 and 23.1 percent in 2002-2003 and 2001-2002.

Not all law schools have been hit by declines, however.

Cornell Law School’s numbers this year are “almost exactly even” with last year’s, according to associate dean Richard D. Geiger. 4,030 applications so far have been received for 185 seats, he said.

Last year, the Law School received 3,717 J.D. and 1,068 LL.M. applications – a total of 4,785 – according to its website. 22 and 19 percent, respectively, were accepted.

Fellow Ivies Yale and Harvard seem to have weathered the trend as well. Yale has received only five fewer applications than last year, according to the New York Times, while Harvard has also managed to tread water.

“Right now, we’re not seeing anything significantly different from last year,” said Michael Armini, Harvard Law’s director of communications. “This doesn’t mean that we might not be two or three percent different from last year, but we’re not seeing a significant change.”

Elsewhere in Ivy-ville, the story is different.

Columbia Law School’s figures fell almost four percent while the University of Pennsylvania Law School’s numbers tumbled 12 percent.

Derek Meeker, dean of admissions at Penn Law School, attributed the decline mostly to the national downturn, also noting that Penn had received 23 percent more applications last year than it had the previous one.

“Due to our substantial increase in applications last year, our acceptance rate dropped to 12.5 percent,” he said. “This is significantly lower than the roughly 15.5 percent acceptance rate we had had for the three previous years.”

Meeker also theorized that because applicants base their decisions on “their probability of admission given their LSAT score and undergraduate [GPA],” many had decided that Penn was above their reach.

Archived article by Chris Barnes