Find out the latest admissions news and what it all means [Show Summary]
It was a very newsy November and in this episode, Linda Abraham is covering the most notable updates in the graduate admissions world: law school test waivers, top school withdrawals from US News rankings, accommodations for laid-off workers, and more!
In this bonus episode, Linda Abraham, Accepted founder and CEO, talks about the latest admissions news and what impact this can have on applicants [Show Notes]
Thanks for joining me for this bonus episode of Admissions Straight Talk. Last month was indeed a very newsy November. It was full of admissions news and I just decided I’d be remiss if I didn’t touch on it for Admission Straight Talk listeners. Hence this bonus episode.
In the meantime, if you have any thoughts or feedback for me on this episode or any other episode, feel free to email me at email@example.com.
American Bar Association Ceases Requiring Admissions Tests From Law Schools [0:55]
All right, the first news item that I’d like to touch on is the American Bar Association. It looks like it will cease requiring that law schools require admissions tests which would mostly be the LSAT and the GRE. (A couple of schools accept the GMAT) And they’re going to do that as of 2025. If this change is finally approved, as is very likely, law schools can individually choose whether to require an admissions test or not.
Based on the experience of business schools that have gone with a lot of test optionality, most law schools will either require it of all incoming applicants, or they will require the test, but offer applicants the opportunity to apply for a waiver. Or they might say, “Those who meet certain requirements can automatically get a waiver.”
How will this apply to you? If you have good grades and tend not to test well, optionality is fantastic news for you, because you won’t have to take the test if you apply to schools where the test is optional after 2025. However, schools do want to know that you can do the work. If your academic record leaves something to be desired or doesn’t convey your abilities adequately, it would probably still be wise to prepare for and take the test so that it will better show your abilities.
It’s too early to tell, but in the business school realm, I think it’s true that a high test score can enhance somebody’s chances of getting a scholarship. As I indicated, it’s my gut feeling in the B-school world, and it may become true in the law school world as well.
If a scholarship is important to you, even if you have the grades, and particularly if you test well, it may make sense for you to take the test, even if it is optional. Whatever it is, just keep in mind that schools want to admit people they believe can thrive in their programs. Make sure that somehow, you’re providing them that confidence.
Top Schools Withdrawing From US News Rankings [3:08]
Newsy November item number two is that top-15 law schools are withdrawing, with two exceptions, from the US News rankings. It all started when Yale and Harvard withdrew from the US News rankings on November 16th. They were followed by Berkeley, Stanford, UCLA, Columbia, Penn, University of Michigan, Duke, Northwestern, Georgetown, UC Davis, and UC Irvine. Today I read about the University of Washington, and there may be more by the time we get this recording posted. The University of Chicago and Cornell Law announced that they currently intend to stay in the rankings.
For the schools that decided to withdraw, what’s their motivation? They say that the rankings simply don’t jive with their values. They’ve discouraged diversity and they’ve discouraged schools from accepting applicants who are more interested in public interest law which pays less than corporate law.
You might have noticed that it was mostly the top 15 or so schools that withdrew from the rankings. Top schools don’t need the publicity they get from the rankings as much as programs lower down the ranking food chain. Their reputation and their placement are well-established, so while their decisions are still affected by the rankings, they can afford to not have that influence on their decision-making. They want to be able to increase the diversity of their classes, both ethnic and socioeconomic, and they are concerned that the rankings are taking away from their success in that area.
US News says it will continue to rank law schools and might just use publicly available information as opposed to the ranking reports and the surveys. If it still continues to rank law schools and if applicants, parents, recruiters, and alumni, still value the rankings as highly as they have in the recent past, rankings could still influence law school decision-making, but probably to a lesser extent.
What are the implications of this mass withdrawal of elite law schools from the rankings? I think the advice in terms of school choice still holds. For other kinds of programs, I’m sure there are a lot of admission directors and MBA programs and medical schools that would love to see their schools withdraw from the rankings. It might happen but we’ll have to wait and see. I wouldn’t be surprised if other law schools withdraw, as I indicated, or if US News makes changes that will make the rankings more acceptable to law schools and perhaps try and move them back in.
But for you, my advice would be that you should be the one ranking law schools, not US News. In fact, in my opinion, the only one ranking law schools or any graduate program should be applicants, deciding where to apply and not based on someone else’s criteria, but on a thoughtful consideration of what’s important to you in a law school or graduate program. You’ll have to research it to determine which programs provide what you’re looking for. The data in the rankings may be part of your research, but not everything that will be important to you or should be important to you in law school is going to be captured in US News rankings data, or even data on the law school website, though you’re going to find a lot more there. I have long said that the rankings are misnamed. They are excellent stores of data and information, but they are not a universally valid ranking for everybody, and that’s why I say you should be the one ranking the law schools.
They’re also occasionally prone to fraud, because they’re not audited and there are a lot of benefits to being highly ranked. There’s a motivation to fudge, if you will, some of the numbers and get a higher ranking. That has happened occasionally in the past in different markets. I don’t think it’s a mass problem.
I think the biggest problem is that applicants, parents, recruiters, and alumni put too much weight on the ranking and don’t realize the rankings are storehouses of information. They can be part of your research and decision-making, but no applicant should decide based solely on rank. I’ve talked to too many applicants who say, “I want to go to a top X school,” and that’s whether it’s in law, business, med, or whatever. What’s top X for you?
When you decide where to apply, based on your goals, preferences, and qualifications and you have multiple acceptances, then take a look at the rankings. If there’s a significant difference in ranking, I would consider that as one of the factors in deciding where to attend. But for minuscule differences in rankings, I really wouldn’t and I wouldn’t recommend that you do either.
My concern with the law school withdrawal from the rankings is that law schools may become a little bit less forthcoming with information that applicants should have, like LSAT, GPA ranges, perhaps salary data, bar passage rates, and those kinds of things. I’m hoping it won’t happen, but that is a little bit of a concern that I have. I hope it won’t lead to less transparency. I do hope it will lead to less emphasis on the actual rankings numbers as in the past.
Business Schools Offer Accommodations for Laid-Off Workers [8:39]
The third item in Newsy November was accommodations for laid-off workers in applying to business school. This started with Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management on November 14th. Some MBA programs since then, in addition to Kellogg, have offered a helping hand. They’re really reaching out to recently laid-off workers and encouraging them to apply this cycle for their MBA. I think this started with Kellogg and specifically with tech workers because these employees at elite tech companies are usually very good applicants and MBA students.
The accommodations vary from school to school, and eligibility for the accommodations also varies from school to school. They can include separate deadlines for recently laid-off workers such as at MIT Sloan and Berkeley Haas. It could be a test waiver offered by Kellogg, Cornell Johnson, NYU Koo Tech MBA, or Berkeley Haas. It could be application fee waivers such as at Indiana Kelly, UCLA Anderson, or Georgia Tech. Or it could be a later deadline for tests and recommendations which is what UCLA Anderson is offering laid-off workers. Here’s a link to a summary of B-schools with accommodations for laid-off workers. But for full details of these accommodations, check our summary and then check the school’s websites for all the details because there are nuances and you should understand them directly from the schools.
Also, assume that more schools are going to join this parade. I think in general, these accommodations are genuinely trying to help people who just recently lost a job, but I also think they reflect the fact that application volume is down. I think they also mean that schools are going to use the waitlist more.
They’re going to compete more with each other for students that they really want. That competition is going to take place via scholarships and grants, and they’re going to probably accept more Round 3 applicants or perhaps even, and this is truly speculative, extend final deadlines or add a round or two, if application volume is really, really down.
What triggered all of these accommodations? I think the big trigger was the increase in layoffs, specifically in the tech field and among white-collar workers. According to True Up Tech, over 210,000 workers in tech have lost their jobs in 2022. Obviously, there have been some layoffs in other industries too, although the overall job market is still really strong, as I’m sure you all know.
Considerations for Applying to MBA Programs During a Recession [11:17]
As I discussed way back in June during my previous bonus episode, right before a recession is a good time to apply to graduate schools and business schools in particular. Application volume goes up during a recession when layoffs increase, which means there is more competition among applicants for spots, as opposed to among schools for applicants. During an economic expansion when unemployment is low and opportunities abound, young professionals question the value of a full-time, two-year MBA. However, if you earn your MBA during a recession, you gain shelter from the economic storm in business school and improve your skills and marketability. Plus, if the recession isn’t too long, you can graduate into an expanding economy.
However, applying during a recession means that you apply when everyone else is also seeking shelter from the economic storm. This is what I touched on in the last bonus episode. The last application cycle saw a decline in applications. We had an expanding economy, a really strong job market, and another decline was anticipated this year. My take is that it’s happening, and MBA programs are really motivated to actively recruit recently laid-off workers, partially because application volume is still low.
If unemployment increases, application volume is also likely to increase because young professionals tend to seek graduate education more when there are fewer opportunities for advancement, as there typically are in a recession. What are the implications for you as an applicant? Well, I checked briefly with accepted staff, which includes former admissions committee members and directors from Carnegie Mellon, Tepper School, Cornell Johnson, Michigan Roth, Dartmouth Tuck, Vanderbilt Owen, and Yale School of Management, and all agreed that if application volume remains low or simply declines from last year, schools will be forced to use the waitlist more and also accept more applicants during round three, even if they aren’t getting the PR for these accommodations. They also felt that while the accommodations are a genuine help to applicants, there’s tremendous PR value in these schools’ moves.
In other words, even if schools don’t actually announce accommodations, reality may force them to accept more Round 3 applicants, use a waitlist more, and be more generous with financial aid. If you’re ready to apply, do take advantage of these accommodations and apply during Round 2. And if you only become ready for Round 3, this may be a year when Round 3 is going to be more widely used than in previous years.
Now, this is all good news. Waiving tests or application fees or giving applicants more time, is just helpful to you. My reading of the tea leaves implies that schools are experiencing a drop in applications, particularly business schools, though I believe it’s true of law schools and other graduate programs also. As a result, they’re taking more initiative to recruit applicants for Round 2 in the case of business schools. It also implies to me that even schools that are not announcing accommodations will probably use a waitlist more and also accept more applicants than usual Round 3.
And the final implication is that it’s a little easier to get accepted this cycle than in some other years and schools may be competing for admitted applicants by being a little bit more generous with scholarships than they otherwise would be.
Yes, November was newsy. No question about it. And most of the news was positive for applicants.
Law school applicants, we’re here for you. If you want an experienced admissions eye to review your personal statement and addenda, go to accepted.com/law/services and explore how we can help you.
MBA applicants, take advantage of the apparent drop in MBA applications to apply when you can get into the programs that you may not be able to get into if application volume increases. Again, we are here to help. Go to accepted.com/mba/services and check out our flexible options.
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