Harvard Law School (HLS) has announced that it will allow applicants to submit scores from either the GRE or LSAT as part of applications to their three-year J.D. program beginning this fall.
Harvard Law School is attempting to increase access to legal education for students in the U.S. and internationally. In contrast to the LSAT, which is offered just four times a year, the GRE is offered throughout the year and in many locations throughout the world. Many prospective law school candidates take the GRE as they look at their grad school options. HLS’s decision to accept the GRE will ease the financial burden on students who prior to this had to prepare and pay for an additional exam if they wanted to consider law school.
The LSAT has been used exclusively for law school admissions as it acts as an indication of serious intent as well as ability to succeed in the first (and usually hardest) year of law school. However, an HLS study, designed in 2016 and completed earlier this year, assessed the GRE scores of current and former HLS students who took both the GRE and LSAT. The goal of the study was to determine whether the GRE is a valid predictor of first-year academic performance in law school. The statistical study showed that the GRE is an equally valid predictor of first-year grades.
HLS has taken other steps in recent years to attract a more diverse community in terms of academic background, country of origin, and financial conditions. They have begun conducting interviews via Skype, eliminating a “seat deposit” for accepted students, and launched a deferred-admissions pilot program to encourage and accept applications from Harvard College juniors who make a commitment to two years of post-collegiate work experience before starting law school.
The GRE is a familiar and accessible test for international, multidisciplinary, and joint-degree students. For HLS to accept it as an alternative to the LSAT furthers its mission to increase access and broaden the applicant pool. In addition to increasing diversity, accepting the GRE and easing the challenges of the law school admissions process may be a response to the decline in law school LSAT volume, which has declined sharply since the financial crisis almost ten years ago.
It is unknown if other schools will follow Harvard’s lead. HLS, which admits approximately 560 students to its first-year class annually, has seen an increase in applications recently. Most other law schools in the United States have experienced declining application numbers.
Kaplan Test Prep conducted a survey of 125 law schools last year and found that 56% had no plans to allow applicants to submit GRE scores in place of LSAT scores. That implies that 44% are at least considering if not planning to take the GRE.
Accepted’s founder and CEO, Linda Abraham predicts: “More and more law schools will begin to accept the GRE. They will go down the path that business schools traversed in the last 10-12 years. Today, the overwhelming majority of business schools accept the GRE. I believe the first one to accept it was HLS’s neighbor, MIT Sloan, in 2006.”