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Law School Admission Standards Have Been Declining. That’s Good News … Right …?

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Harvard Law recently decided to allow applicants to submit GRE scores in lieu of LSAT scores. The move has added fuel to the fire that law schools are needlessly lowering their academic standards. Good news for those who are about to apply, right? Well … lower standards come with ramifications both positive and negative.

First and foremost, declining admission standards shouldn’t lead you to choose a school at which you’ll be unable to compete academically. I would strongly consider looking at historical data about a school’s admission standards before you choose a school. If, a few years ago, you wouldn’t have received an offer of admission to a certain school based on your LSAT/GPA, then I would advise a hearty dose of caution before accepting an offer.

I don’t necessarily put much stock in the predictive value of the LSAT, but it has been a hurdle for generation of law students. If you haven’t put in the work, or just aren’t geared toward the type of information the LSAT test—and you’re barely eking out an offer of admission—it isn’t going to bode well for your performance at any given school. While schools might be lowering their standards to fill the class, odds are that many of your classmates will have a leg up on you. Three months of studying for the LSAT without it yielding much fruit can be extremely frustrating, but if you multiply it over three years of often banal legal studies, then you’re in for a much more tedious experience. In sum, just because schools are deviating from their norms doesn’t mean you’ll perform well once you get to the school.

Now, on the other side of the coin, if you are a strong candidate for a school based on its past admission standards, you can benefit from lowered admission and academic standards. At the application phase, you’ll likely find yourself with a higher financial aid offer than you’d traditionally receive. During school, you may also get a boost on the curve if other students aren’t as prepared for the academic rigors that await them at your school.

Zooming out a bit, I believe in high admission and academic standards precisely for the reasons articulated above. I think it is patently unfair to applicants and to students to lower admission and academic standards to fill out a class. Those individuals on the margin will find themselves struggling once they arrive at a school, merely because the school wanted to pad its numbers.

At the end of the day, the takeaway from all of this is that you should do your utmost to prepare for the LSAT. Not only is there more of an upside now, as potentially weaker candidates are able to apply, but you should use the LSAT as a litmus test for your ability to run the pedantic marathon that is law school. Schools may be relaxing their standards, but that will only hurt you if you don’t study hard and gauge your ability to succeed (before you commit three years of your life and hundreds of thousands of dollars).

I applied for law schools only a few years after the economic collapse. My brother applied shortly before, when applications were at an almost all-time high. Even then, admission standards were declining, and I received better offers than I would’ve when my brother applied. I benefitted from those lowered standards, but I also knew that my scores historically put me squarely within the 25th and 75th percentiles for LSAT/GPA at my school, so I was confident I could hold my own with my classmates. If I’d managed an offer without being safely in that range, I would’ve thought long and hard about my decision to attend. I would encourage you to do the same.