We are essentially at the midway point of the admissions cycle, probably a bit more than that as far as applications submitted and a bit less in respect to admit decisions. But what should the second half — late January through August — look like? Let's dive into some scenarios.
For starters, after a slow but steady downward trend, we are about to see an increase in the overall number of applicants and applications submitted. This is because January registrants were up 60% (we will know much more on test-taker data come February 3), and currently February LSAT registrants are up 100%, or twice as many as last year (though, as always, we have to note here that this number will come down as we approach the test dates and some registrants withdraw). What is interesting to note here is that Fall LSAT test-takers were not up nearly that much relative to last year. Which brings up the question — where has this 20%+ in applicants and 34%+ in applications come from? Mostly from yield – in other words, there has been an incredible increase in the percentage of those taking the test who actually go on to apply.
So, I would expect the applicant/application numbers to bounce up in February and March – maybe to over 30% applicants and over 40% applications. The bad news here is that this will slow down the process even more, or probably more aptly stated, create an admissible pool that will push back wait list movement for those who applied earlier in the cycle. So there will still be waves of admits, like we have seen on some days in January, but wait list waves may come later than usual. They also, depending on if those LSAT taker numbers come in as high or close to it as registrants, might make WL waves smaller and more spaced out. This will be especially true at the 170+ LSAT score ranges.
On the better news front, reverse splitters should start to see more movement. If schools have been cashing in on the LSAT deluge, they will invariably turn to GPA and other factors — including softs — at some point in the second half of the cycle. High GPAs above a school's target median GPA should be next in line, and I would expect some love toward reverse splitters to come in the near future. Further out you'll see a scatterplot pattern of admits who school simply want to admit – not because of their numbers but for diverse and differentiating reasons.
What does this all look like, then? It's hard to say exactly, because we don't yet know the percentage of first-time test-takers or the scale for the January (and obviously February) LSAT. But we do know that this cycle has been slow – which also means schools need to make admits. We will see a steady pattern of that for the next month or two. "Doomed" is a word that comes up in a lot of direct messages to me, but if you are on hold, or haven't heard from a school at the macro level, so many are far from doomed. Admissions is never a race; it feels just as good (or better!) to be admitted on February 1 as it does on September 15. By March, numbers should also trend down again, because the cycle was likely very front-loaded. Which leads us to the endgame. We suspect applicants will end up between 20-25% up, certainly a substantial and close to unprecedented increase, and equally certainly we are in a competitive cycle. But at the halfway point, the numbers of which can be viewed here, the LSAT numbers at the top will come down some and there will be more focus on GPA and softs as we progress. We will provide a more detailed data analysis once January results are shared in about two weeks.