HLS To Offer Free Summer LSAT Course

Harvard Law School will begin a free summer test-preparation program for low-income college students in an attempt to boost socioeconomic diversity at law schools and to create a template curriculum for other schools to use.

But whether the Training and Recruitment Initiative for Admission to Leading Law Schools, a joint effort with NYU Law School and Advantage Testing, will accomplish its goal of increasing socioeconomic diversity depends on whether or not other law schools adopt the system since only 20 students will gain entry to this summer’s pilot session.

As of Sunday, at least 5000 applications had been received for the 20 slots, said Philip Lee, a Harvard Law School admission officer who administers the program.

People associated with the program have described it as a chance for low-income students to level the playing field with more competitive peers who have been “immersed” in an environment that fosters the critical reading and thinking skills essential to high LSAT scores.

“Everyone has an opportunity to attend what some people might call the pinnacle of education, and common sense tells us the credentials required to attend are only going to be achieved when you have tremendous opportunities.” said Arun Alagappan, the president of Advantage Testing and one of the principal financial sponsors of the program. “We’re trying to level the playing field by increasing opportunities.”

Students will participate in the usual hallmark activities of LSAT test-prep services, including logic games and argumentation, but the program will also draw on the sizable resources of Harvard and NYU to bring in legal scholars and practitioners to address the students.

Even though the program is closely associated with Harvard and NYU, with both schools providing some funding, it is not aimed at funneling students to those institutions. Rather, it tries to make students competitive applicants to a wide range of top-tier law schools, said Lee.

In addition to not charging a fee, the program also offers a $3,000 stipend to offset the lost wages of a summer job.

Though similar programs provide free or low-cost test prep services to needy students, none lend the institutional imprimatur of a prestigious law school such as Harvard or NYU—which might explain the large number of applicants it received in its first year.

Applicants will be selected in a two-part process that considers the student’s academic record, background, and financial need. The final stage of the application process closed Sunday.

The inaugural program will be held at Harvard Law School this summer. Next year, the students will be housed at NYU, and the program will alternate locations each year after that.

—Staff writer Elias J. Groll can be reached at