Law school application numbers rise with waived fees, ‘Trump bump’

Media Credit: Meredith Roaten | Hatchet Photographer

The number of applications to the law school rose by about 9 percent this year.

Applications to the law school jumped up by 9 percent for this year’s admissions cycle as the school received the second largest number of applications nationwide, a law school spokeswoman said last week.

A 9-percent increase means more than 7,500 students applied to the law school this year – up from about 6,900 a year ago and the largest pool since 2011. Faculty and experts said the school’s decision to waive its application fee coupled with President Donald Trump’s administration sparking an increased interest in law, likely contributed to the increase.

Liz Field, the director of strategic communications and marketing for GW Law, said it is “difficult to point to one specific reason” for the increase. She cited the school’s new Student Ambassador Pipeline, a program where law students returned to their undergraduate universities and hold informal events for prospective students, as a possible reason for the increase.

“This was different than the traditional route of reaching out to pre-law advisors and attending law fairs, which we also did,” she said in an email.

Official admissions numbers will not be released until October, Field said.

The law school also dropped its $80 application fee this admission cycle for the first time. John Banzhaf, a public interest law professor, said the fee waiver was likely the biggest driver of the increase in applications.

“If they can do it on the cheap then they have a better chance of applying to that school,” he said about potential law students.

Banzhaf said it was possible that resistance to Trump has created a greater interest in legal professions. After Trump signed his first executive order banning immigration from several Middle Eastern countries, immigration lawyers flocked to airports to represent those who had been detained entering the U.S.

Anne Richard, a former dean of admissions at GW Law who now leads AMRichard Prelaw and Educational Consulting, said she thought waiving the fee played a role in increasing student interest, but that many applicants were likely enticed by going to law school in D.C.

“I think a lot of people want to be involved in what’s happening. D.C. is a really hot town right now for applicants – whether you’re a supporter of the administration or not,” she said.

David Mainiero, the co-founder and director of operations of InGenuis Prep – an education consulting firm – said law schools typically don’t have this large of an increase in applications “without a fairly obvious reason.”

Most top-tier law schools have seen interest wane in recent years, he said. Applications to GW’s law school declined for three consecutive years, reaching a five-year low of 5,952 in 2014.

Mainiero said many celebrated the legal system for resisting or stalling parts of the Trump agenda, but a “Trump bump” would have come too late in the application cycle to make a difference this year.

“Still, though, I think it’s clear that people have been fired up about politics generally. Many people see law as a path to politics, and rightfully so,” he said in an email.

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