Coronavirus and Law School Admissions: What Do We Know?
Universities across the country continue to close their doors as the coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread and worsen. This leaves a lot of uncertainty for law school applicants as to what will happen in the admissions process and what impact the closures will have on the review of applications and seat deposit deadlines.
In this post, we explore what we know so far about the impact of the coronavirus and law school admissions.
Coronavirus and Law School Admissions: What Do We Know?
Disclaimer: Each school is operating differently. Do not assume that what one school does, will apply to another. Furthermore, these university policies are changing daily. Stay in communication with law schools for the latest updates on their admissions policies.
Continuing to review applications:
Most admissions officers are continuing to work remotely without interruption. Admissions offices will continue to review applications and make admissions decisions. All decisions (including admit decisions) are likely to come via email. Traditionally, positive decisions are sent via snail-mail letter or with a larger admissions package.
With the March LSAT being canceled, and the uncertainty of April occurring, schools may be more willing to go to their waitlist sooner than later. Note, right now the April LSAT is still scheduled to be administered but a final decision will be made by April 10, 2020, per LSAC news release. (The April LSAT is not canceled but LSAC is waiving change fees to the June or July 2020 LSAT before March 31.)
Seat deposits are a payment that an admitted student makes to the law school to reserve a seat in the incoming class. Most schools require two seat deposits, one in April and one later in the spring, typically in June. Most seat deposits are due on April 1 or April 15.
In light of the impact of the coronavirus on law school admissions, some schools are doing the following:
- Lowering the deposit amount due.
- Some schools are lowering or halving the amount due, making it easier for students to shoulder the financial commitment.
- Waiving their first seat deposit.
- This makes the seat deposit $0 but still requires a good-faith commitment from the student to attend the law school.
- Making seat deposits refundable.
- Normally, seat deposits are non-refundable. To provide flexibility for applicants, some schools will allow you to get a refund within a designated time frame after you make the initial deposit.
- Extending seat deposit.
- This permits students more time to gather the information, and money, to make an informed decision regarding their seat deposit.
- Keeping everything the same.
- Not all schools are making concessions for the impact of the coronavirus on law school admissions. At these schools, the deposit remains due at the date designated in your admission materials in order to reserve your seat in the incoming class. If you do not pay it, you are giving up your seat in the class and are no longer guaranteed admission if you change your mind.
Impact on applicants:
The impact of the coronavirus on law school admissions is creating a lot of stress and uncertainty for applications. The full magnitude of the virus and its impact is yet to be seen.
Right now, it means that applicants must:
- Not visit schools.
- Visits and off-site admitted student events have all been canceled.
- Make uninformed decisions.
- Without school visits, students must strictly research which school is right for them entirely online. They are likely not given the opportunity to converse with staff, professors and current students about their experiences in a program.
- Navigate different policies.
- As noted earlier, different schools are employing different policies. Some are making large changes to accommodate students and others are not changing anything. Be aware of what your law school policy is so you can comply with all requirements.
- Make difficult financial decisions.
- Many applicants are experiencing financial instability right now as the coronavirus shakes the US and global economy. It may be difficult for students to come up with the hundreds of dollars needed for a seat deposit if they are not currently working or without paid leave.
- Rely on later LSATs.
- With the March LSAT being canceled, applicants and schools will have to rely on the April LSAT (if it happens as planned) or even the June LSAT to make admissions decisions. Traditionally those test dates aren’t relied upon very heavily because most of the incoming class has already been admitted by then. This may not be the case this year.
What you can do:
- Stay in touch with each school via email and social media.
- Join FB groups for admitted students and follow the school or admissions office on Twitter. Be sure to check your email regularly for updates or possible extensions.
- Inform admissions offices if you are feeling financial strain.
- Though seat deposit deadlines are intended to be strict, many schools will be willing to work with individuals during this uncertain time. If you’re experiencing financial strain or illness, I encourage you to reach out to schools directly and communicate details of your situation.
- Notify admissions offices of any illness.
- If you’re not feeling well, you should definitely follow proper Coronavirus protocol, which may include visiting a hospital. If you are ill and perhaps battling the Coronavirus for weeks, I encourage you to inform law school admissions offices to request a circumstantial extension on any deadlines you might be facing. It will be very difficult to determine which schools you want to make a deposit at if you are sick in bed or the hospital.
While the impact of the Coronavirus on law school admissions is palpable and likely to continue to grow, I encourage applicants not to panic. Stay in touch with schools, and don’t be afraid of asking for help in the form of extensions or even waivers/payment plans to make seat deposit deadlines.