The Law School’s decision to include the GRE—a test usually reserved for applicants to non-professional graduate studies—in its admissions process represents a major shift in its admissions criteria. The Arizona University Law School is the only other law school to accept the GRE in addition to the LSAT, which it began doing for the current admissions cycle. The American Bar Association is currently reviewing which exams law schools may accept from applicants.
Still in a pilot stage, the program is part of a broader strategy to encourage a larger population of students to apply to the Law School.
“Harvard Law School is continually working to eliminate barriers as we search for the most talented candidates for law and leadership,” Law School Dean Martha L. Minow said in a press release. “For many students, preparing for and taking both the GRE and the LSAT is unaffordable. All students benefit when we can diversify our community in terms of academic background, country of origin, and financial circumstances.”
The Law School conducted a study in 2016 to determine whether the GRE served as a similar predictor of first-year law student success to the LSAT. The study, which considered the test scores and success of law school students who took both the GRE and LSAT and concluded in early 2017, indicated that the tests equally predicted academic performance at the Law School, according to the press release.
Under current ABA standards, schools may accept another admissions test if they can demonstrate that the alternative is an equal indicator of preparedness.
Many students take the GRE to apply to other types of graduate schools, while only applicants to law schools traditionally take the LSAT. Applicants to the Law School’s Junior Deferral Program—which allows Harvard College students to apply to the Law School as juniors—will be able to apply with the GRE starting with the next application cycle, according to the Law School’s Associate Dean of Admissions, Jessica L. Soban ’02.
“This is about much more than application volume in any one year,” Soban said. “This is about ensuring that top candidates from many disciplines and many geographic locations continue to consider Harvard Law school.”
While the number of applicants to the Law School dropped significantly after the financial recession in 2008, the number of Law School hopefuls increased 5 percent in the 2016 application cycle and 5 percent again in the 2017 application cycle.Accepting the GRE is one of several steps the Law School has taken in recent years to expand its applicant pool. In particular, it started accepting younger applicants through the Junior Deferral Program and conducting interviews over Skype, among other steps.
Staff writer Jamie D. Halper can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @JamieDHalper.