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So Far, Fewer People Have Taken the LSAT This Year

…and that is probably good news for you.

Admissions consultant Mike Spivey tweeted that LSAT takers for June, July, and September are down 4.9% from last year (which only included a June and September test). If this trend continues into November — which is by no means a certainty, as there was a huge spike in December test takers last year — this could impact the application cycle in several ways.

Before we get into the potential impacts, let’s discuss one thing that is highly unlikely to happen: schools decreasing the size of their classes. In years past, when applications were down much further than they are this year, some schools decreased their class sizes to ensure quality applicants filled all the seats. Rather than lowering their admission standards, these schools opted to preserve their rankings (a component of which is incoming students’ median GPAs and LSAT scores) by admitting fewer students. I do not think this is going to happen given that the number of applicants is still going to be relatively high overall.

So, what will happen? Well, if your numbers are on the borderline for getting admitted to your target school, the decrease in test-takers may result in a better chance of admission. After all, if there are fewer people taking the LSAT, there might be fewer potential applicants. And if there are fewer potential applicants, there are fewer options available to schools. They may end up with no choice but to accept students who they might otherwise waitlist or reject.

Back when I was applying, I had an appreciably lower undergrad GPA and a slightly higher LSAT score than my brother, who applied three years before me. Because the landscape of applicants changed during the periods in which we were applying, my scores got me offers of admissions from several schools that rejected my brother, despite our very similar overall application package. While I wouldn’t expect the effect to be nearly this dramatic — I was applying during a sharply declined cycle — the principle may hold true this year.

Similarly, for students who are already competitive for their target schools, there is a slightly better chance of receiving financial aid. For those schools that don’t allocate aid purely on the basis of need, the potentially smaller pool of applicants might allow financial aid offers to trickle farther down the applicant food chain.

Again, these decline in test-takers isn’t huge, so these positive effects are unlikely to be particularly pronounced. Nevertheless, a decline in applicants shifts the overall application “market” toward the “buyer” (i.e., the applicant) rather than the “seller” (i.e., the schools).

To the extent that an applicant becomes more competitive to receive an offer of admission, I would be cautious about accepting an offer merely because it allows the applicant to go to a better-ranked school. An offer from a higher-ranked school is certainly seductive, but the prospect of paying the full sticker price should be equally, if not more, off-putting. With that word of caution, this is still good news for applicants!