We are about 50% through the cycle, and I wanted to share some observations, data, and then remaining predictions with everyone. Much of the data can be found here, and, for the first time ever, is publicly available and updated daily by LSAC. A deep-dive analysis is also done weekly by our intern on his blog weekly blog here.
A quick summary is that, for the first time this cycle, LSAT applicants are now down, and total applications are also down by 1.8%. Once January test scores come out, the trend will likely reverse (and there will be a bit of panicking by a few) until we reach the point in the cycle at which point, last year, February scores were released.
Here are the individual score ranges:
- 175+: -22.2%
- 170-174: -4%
- 165-169: -2%
- 160-164: +2.4%
- 155-159: +5.5%
- 150-154: +0.4%
- 145-149: -0.6%
- 140-145: -2.2%
- <140: -10.1%
- Total applicants (including GRE GMAT MCAT etc.) remain up 2.4%, 767 applicants. We're seeing a high volume of non-LSAT applicants in January.
If you like to see things visually, as we do, this is a graph of the LSAT bandwidths versus last year:
What does this all mean going forward? Prediction isn't easy, and I will be the first to say there is no guarantee that I won't be off the mark, but we have been lucky enough to twice now get this cycle pretty close to dead-on, once before the cycle started and then here as well. These predictions are linked because they look more and more true – we are staring straight down now at a flat but somewhat slow cycle.
With the added data, though, I'll be more specific. Late February and early March should be slow. This is where we will see a bit of cooling of the pace from Adcoms, I would suspect. But the pool numbers will start backing down again and mid- to late-March we will see another uptick, still in what I will call "initial admits" (i.e. not off the waitlist). The big movement after after March will correspond with initial law school seat deposit deadlines (these were last year's, and important to know going forward). Look for WL admit waves to occur roughly 10-20 days after deposit deadlines for each school, and remember that unlike in initial admits, waitlist admits really do trigger what we in admissions refer to as waves, i.e. they trigger domino effects from the top schools all the way down. When HLS admits 100 applicants off the WL, that inevitably causes schools right below them to look at their WL, and so forth all the way down. I continue to believe this will be a strong WL year with a very significant increase in WL admits versus last year.
In closing, let me include one more significant link. The math of the waitlist deals with volumes much higher than most applicants realize – both in the numbers on the WL and in the numbers and percentages of a total entering class they comprise. I go into this in more detail here.
With the exception of some initial scholarships awards and some degree of negotiation leverage, there is zero difference in an admit off the WL than an admit on Day 1 of the admissions cycle. Certainly professors and employers have no way of knowing this. And even the scholarships can amount to the same by the end of the cycle with some skillful negotiation or simply schools getting a good deal back (every time someone turns a school down that school gets their money "back" in a sense – and the summer is the season of turning schools down where the power equation flips).
I heard an expression the other day from a martial arts fighter I happened to catch on TV. He had just won his first big TV fight where he entered with a 7-5 record (most people on that night's card had records like 18-1, 10-0, etc. — sound familiar? That's always how it seems others are doing in their admissions cycle early on from message boards) — and he won in a very convincing fashion. The first thing he said to the interviewer was:
We don't lose. We learn.
I like that so much that I am working on an upcoming blog about my 20 years of admissions experience, and that is a central theme. But my point here is this. There are no losses yet. Many people, even those who haven't had near the results they wanted yet, are going to be admitted to great law schools over the next 7 months. Yep, all the way through August. A denial from a school you never attended is far from a loss. There is no way of even knowing if that school would have worked out. But there is still plenty you can do for the rest of the cycle (see examples here and here, just a few among tens of thousands more I have seen in my career).
Stay strong! There is a heck of a lot of admitting left to be done this cycle.