How Competitive?

In case you haven't seen it yet, the first volume report for this (2017/2018) admissions cycle is out, and the numbers are almost categorically up.

The fact that applications are up doesn't come as much as a surprise. We've had hard data on test-takers and forum attendance for a while now, and as far back as June we started having an inkling that apps and apps at the top would be up.

(As an aside, we will make a prediction blog for next cycle around June of the coming year, so if you applying next cycle you may want to take a peek around then.)

But what has caught just about everyone off guard thus far is the massive jump at the 165+ ranges (and increases in just about every other LSAT bandwidth). It will be a more competitive cycle than the past few; we are near certain of that. But how competitive? Let's take a deeper look and put things in a bit more perspective.

  1. Things are far better as far as an applicant applying now than they were in the go-go years of law school admissions. Put another way, LSAT test-takers from June and October are still down 39% from 2009-2010. And merit scholarship amounts are substantially up since then. Be glad you weren't a prodigy that graduated college at 12.

  2. Per our first volume report, less than a quarter of applications are in. So while we have data, we don't have even 1/4th of the entire applicant picture. Which leads me to (3).

  3. The LSAT is graded on a curve. There are up years and down years, which often correspond with increases in applicants and decreases, but the outliers we see so far at the 165+ ranges are likely due more to extenuating factors of earlier submission that sustainable increases. In other words, yes scores at the top will be up but those percentages are inflated. Keep in mind too that if you take the LSAT and crush it, your application has probably already been submitted. As applications continue to come in we will almost certainly see those percentages go down. Additionally, we may see the effects of LSAC's new loosened retake policy with more applicants retaking the LSAT.

  4. Matriculation and enrollment at law schools has been on a pretty steady glide path downward. How do almost all law schools make the majority of their revenue? Enrollment! And check out what has been happening with enrollment.


I'll wrap it up by sharing a secret of sorts. You know how it's very understandable and common for applicants to go through stages of great worry during the admissions cycle? Admissions officers go through the same ebbs and flows of worry too (hence the waves of admitting). For sure, this cycle will be a bit more competitive than in the past few years. But there will also be a bunch more of admitting that needs to be done. When it all shakes out, I think the end result will be increases are more toward "bit more" than "substantially more." Thus, it will likely be a bit more competitive a cycle, but not substantially more. Some schools will be able to move their LSAT medians up, others may focus, or readjust during the cycle to focus on enrollment rather than LSAT.

Button up your applications, be positive while on the wait-list, visit schools if you can, and try not to worry if you are hearing from others who have or have not been admitted to other schools. The admissions cycle is long and full of admitting – and we have just begun.

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