Harvard Law School will accept members of the Harvard College Class of 2015 next year in the pilot stage of a new deferred admission program for college juniors, according to the Law School’s Assistant Dean and Chief Admissions Officer Jessica L. Soban ’02.
Similar to the 2+2 Program at Harvard Business School, this new program will require admitted students to work for two years after their college graduation before entering the Law School in order to encourage work experience. The first admitted class will enter the Law School in the fall of 2017.
The new admissions process, called the Junior Deferral Pilot, will likely be open exclusively to Harvard College juniors for the first few years.
Soban said the program is intended to give students “the room to explore and be able to come back” to the Law School. During the two-year deferral period, which could be expanded on a case-by-case basis, students are encouraged to pursue a variety of job opportunities, including fellowships, Teach for America, or business.
“We’re giving people some guard rails,” said Soban, a former Crimson business editor. “It’s for people who want to have something locked down so they can focus on their job search and explore their passions.”
The program is also forward-looking, designed to help students develop “networks and work experience so that after Law School they can hit the ground running,” Soban said.
Soban said the program aims in part to attract students with a hard science background, although applicants with a wide variety of interests are encouraged to apply.
“Having a technical background as an attorney is increasingly valuable,” she said, adding that the interdisciplinary nature of the profession has established a greater need for lawyers who have experience working in other fields, particularly the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields known as STEM.
A significant portion of students at the Law School already enter the classroom with work experience. Currently, more than 75 percent of Harvard Law School students enter the class at least one year out of college, while about 50 percent enter after two, Soban said.
The program’s first applicants will face an admissions process very similar to that of normal Law School hopefuls. The application will be released in the fall around the same time as the standard JD application in September. College juniors interested in the program must submit a personal statement, scores for the LSAT, and letters of recommendation.
Unlike students who apply through the normal process, however, participants in this new program will be allowed to submit scores from the February LSAT exam and will also receive in-person interviews at the Harvard Law School campus as opposed to speaking with admissions officers via the videoconferencing software Skype.
In addition, applicants will be required to submit their transcript through the end of their junior year.
Soban added that the shifted admissions cycle allows students to complete their applications and study for the LSAT during their junior year instead of as seniors or while they have a job, a change she hopes will alleviate some of the stress of applying to Law School.
Applicants will be notified of their admissions status during the early part of the summer after their junior year. Soban said she is uncertain how many students will be admitted under the new program because the number of applicants is hard to gauge at this point, though she said the process would be “competitive.”
Brent C. Westbrook ’15, president of the Harvard College Black Pre-Law Association, said he plans to apply to Harvard Law School through the new program.
“My initial reaction to this policy is that it is good,” he said. “I think it gives you real world exposure, and you are a lot more mature going into law school. I think a lot of people don’t understand what sector of law school they want to go into right after college, and this helps them figure that out.”
Hillary Preston, a first-year student at the Law School who took three years off after college, said that she found her work experience to be valuable when she stepped back into the classroom.
“I think it puts the Law School in perspective,” she said. “Not coming straight from school, I have a more forward-looking approach.”
—Staff writer Dev A. Patel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @dev_a_patel.