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The 2017-18 Law School Application Data Are In …

Things were more competitive this year, but what about next year?

More people are applying to law school this cycle. Maybe it’s an improving job market. Maybe it’s a bunch of idealists inspired by politics. Maybe it’s both, and maybe some other things, too. But regardless, the law school admissions game just got a little more competitive.

A while back, we pointed out that there was an especially large increase in applicants with high LSAT scores. We also noted that it was still early and that the trend might well abate as the cycle carried on.

Well? The new numbers are out, and the increase in high scorers has slowed. A little. Back in November, the number of applicants with scores at or above 175 was up a whopping 86.6%. Now, it’s only — only — up 68.7%. The bad news for applicants is: that’s still a huge increase. The good news is that there aren’t very many people with scores that high to begin with, so the effect isn’t as big as you might think.

All in all, a score of 165 is kind of a dividing line for this trend. Applications with scores at or above 165 generally saw a big jump early in the cycle. That jump then slowed a little, though note that high-scoring applications still increased pretty majorly for the cycle as a whole. On the other hand, applications between 150 and 165 saw their biggest increase late in the cycle.

So what does this mean? To put it bluntly, more people with high LSAT scores are applying to law school, and they’re applying earlier. If the competition is applying earlier, then it might make sense for you to apply earlier.

But keep in mind that no one knows the future. It seems likely to me that this trend of more people applying to law school will continue, but nothing is guaranteed. Also keep in mind that the advantage from applying early depends not only on who else applies but also on how that lines up with law schools’ expectations. Law schools have to make a best guess about who’s going to apply and set their standards accordingly. Occasionally, when law schools get a weaker-than-expected applicant pool, it can be better to apply on the late side.

But all in all, given the trends, it seems unlikely to me that you’ll hurt yourself by applying on the early side, and you might even help yourself. That means it’s time to get your application in order. If you’re not already studying for the June LSAT, target the July or September LSAT. Start thinking about that personal statement. Ask for those letters of rec. Get on it.

Oh, and there’s one more piece of uncertainty. The LSAT calendar changed. That’ll certainly affect when people generally apply to law school. It was never important to get your applications in at the earliest possible instant, just on the early side. But the early side may well shrink this year. The LSAT will be given in November, not December. So a lot of people will be submitting applications in late November/early December, not late December/early January. If you’re taking the June, July or September LSAT that means you should get the rest of your stuff in order so that you can definitely apply before that crush.