Law schools up standards

Junior Kara DeAngelo said she is ready to face steep competition and heightened admissions standards when applying to law school this year.

One of 50,000 students who took the law school entrance exam in October, DeAngelo received her score last week and is currently in the midst of filling out applications.

The number of prospective law students taking the LSAT has increased by almost 25 percent since 2000, according to Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions. Officials attribute the increase to a poor economy.

“People are returning to graduate schools because jobs are hard to find and they hope to acquire more skills,” said Sandra Oakman, assistant dean of admissions for American University School of Law.

Executive Director of the GW Career Center Marva Gumbs said while GW does not track how many graduating seniors specifically attend law school, about 31 percent of graduates from recent classes began pursuing graduate education the semester after graduation.

Admissions officials said an increased interest in law school over the past few years has forced them to increase their admissions standards.

GW Law School Dean Michael Young said one out of every seven prospective law students in the country applied to GW in 2003. Five years ago, the school received 6,200 applications – about half of this year’s number.

Out of about 12,000 applications for the fall semester, GW accepted 1,750 people after considering students’ grades, LSAT scores and other experiences such as public service. GW enrolled 536 students.

The majority of this year’s first-year law class scored between a 160 and 164 on the LSAT, according to the school’s Web site.

Most admissions officials said they are more concerned about grades and LSAT scores than activities and work experience.

Oakman said American received 9,822 applications and accepted 1,985 students last year. As of last week, American received about 700 applications. Its rolling application deadline is not until March 1.

She said American University looks for students who have about a 160 out of 180 LSAT score and a 3.45 grade point average, a well-written personal statement and strong letters of recommendation.

Ronald Cass, dean of the Boston University School of Law, said the school received 5,200 law applicants to fill 250 spots this year.

Since LSAT scores are a determining factor in the admissions process, more students prepare with programs such as Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions, which saw a revenue increase of 40 percent in the past two years, said Kaplan’s executive director, Justin Serrano.

As Serrano explained it, “the prospect of going to school becomes more favorable when the job market is unpredictable.”

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