If you have not heard, the June LSAT test-taker numbers are out, and they are up. Indeed, they are up for the first time since 2010: 6.6% for all test takers and 10% for first-time takers.
Most applicants applying next cycle (Sept 2015 – August 2016 are the dates we will use to define “next cycle”) understand that this isn’t necessarily good news. More test-takers means more competition. But it is still far too early to tell if this is a leading indicator for a more difficult cycle or just a bump in the one time test administration. Very knowledgeable applicants will remember that such a one-time increase in the past has been championed by some law school deans as the beginning of the rebound, and that such a rebound in application numbers have not happened yet. Furthermore, the all important granular breakdown, including LSAT score bands, has not been released. In other words, we do not have enough data to really know if this coming cycle will be any different than the go-go years for applicants of the past five cycles.
But what about this cycle? It’s not often considered by applicants, but early projections of a future cycle can influence the current one as it applies to waitlisted applicants. How can this possibly be? It works out like this:
Numerous law schools have been in an under-enrolled holding pattern, waiting to see how the WL looks to be shaping up and how strong their medians are. The strategy is to maintain medians at the expense (pun and all) of tuition revenue brought on by class size. But, if the median LSAT (or for some, GPA) does drop, accept the lower median, which will then provide more cushion from a further drop and increase enrollment numbers. In other words, hang on to current LSAT/GPA/diversity etc. numbers but if those become lost, increase class size to a more normal and profitable level.
What a 10% increase in first-time June test-takers introduces to this equation is a bit of assurance to deans that they can play this “wait and hold on to numbers over enrollment” game longer into this cycle, as the first indicators are that next cycle will be a more forgiving one to raise class size. Should they have confidence in this coming cycle? *Maybe, maybe not. *As previously mentioned, a one-time test taking blimp has led deans astray before. But some will indeed have confidence that next cycle will be bright with higher enrollments. Which means some will stick to a smaller class size this cycle. Potentially not good news if you are on the WL for a school that thinks this way. But keep in mind that at some point late this cycle they are highly likely to need a few more people and that a few more people won’t impact their metrics. In other words, stay in touch!