Law School Application Update: Up, Up, and Away!

The law school application season is just beginning to wind down, and the application numbers coming in are up, up and away. Applications are up at many schools, but the “away” award goes to Cornell Law School — reporting a 52% increase over applications filed last year. Cornell Law School’s Dean of Admissions, Richard Geiger, told the University’s paper he was as mystified as anyone. “The increase is probably the result of a number of things working together,” Geiger told the Cornell Daily Sun. “What I can’t explain is why it’s 50 percent and not 20 percent.”

A 20 percent increase is more consistent with trends nationwide. The number of people who took the LSAT climbed 20 percent in October 2009, reaching an all-time high of 60,746. The New York Times recently reported that many other schools have reported substantial increases in applications over last year. “Washington University in St. Louis has had a 19 percent year-to-date increase in applications to its college of law. At the University of San Francisco School of Law, applications are up 35 percent over last year, and at the University of Iowa’s College of Law, applications are up 39 percent.” According to the New York Times, “applications to the Maurer School of Law at Indiana University have risen 54 percent this year, an increase that might be related to its rise in the U.S. News & World Report rankings to 23 in 2009, from 36 the year before.”

Richard Geiger, Cornell’s Dean of Admissions, cannot point to any obvious reason for the increase in applications. He told the New York Times, “I’m a little thrown off by the fact that our increase is much bigger than expected. There’s nothing big we’re doing to explain that kind of increase.” Cornell’s U.S. News & World Report Ranking has remained relatively stable.

Dean Geiger said that the 52 percent increase in applications means that “we’ll be a little more cautious in making decisions.” He explained that “the increase in applications will make us scrutinize things a little more carefully since we don’t fully understand what this is all about.”

What does this mean for applicants? Well, increased competition, most likely. The Cornell University newspaper reports that the law school “does not plan to increase its enrollment cap and remains committed to continue as ‘a small, intimate collegial law school.’”

For applicants still waiting to hear from Cornell, that’s not good news. Like most law schools, Cornell accepts students on a rolling basis, and many have already received their acceptance letters. Future law school applicants might want to make note of that for next year. Law school admissions deans around the country have been guests on Law School Podcaster shows and they tell us this over and over — with rolling admissions, getting a law school application in early is key.

Cornell Law School Dean of Admissions Richard Geiger will be a guest on an upcoming Law School Podcaster segment, “Getting In Off the Wait List.”