Applications go to the law and medical schools

This is the year that admissions officers have to take care of enrollments. The number of enrollments in basic studies has therefore fallen by 4.4 percent the latest data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Freshman enrollment is down 13 percent. Community college freshman enrollment is down 19 percent.

The enrollment of university graduates increased slightly by 2.9 percent.

But applications to law school are picking up, and some signs suggest the same is happening to medical school. While the application cycle is not yet complete for either sector, the numbers have encouraged officials.

Kellye Y. Testy, president and CEO of the Law School Admissions Council, said applications have increased 32 percent compared to this time last year. And there are more applications for each applicant, with the average student applying to six law schools instead of five. Applications are possible across geographic borders and LSAT scores.

For medical schools, the Association of American Medical Colleges found no significant increase in the number of students completing the MCAT over the past year (only about 2 percent). But applications to medical schools are up 18 percent year over year.

applications to osteopathic medical schools are also up 18 percent.

A quarter of medical students attend osteopathic medical schools. Robert A. Cain, President and CEO of their association, said, “Physicians of osteopathic medicine are physicians with a philosophy. We focus on overall health and well-being, making sure we look at the whole person – mind, body and spirit – and not just focusing on treating the disease. In these complicated and stressful times, this philosophy is resonating with more and more students.”

Medical schools are in the midst of a phase trying to increase the number of doctors in the US

Law schools are more complicated.

Testy said that if the increases continue, they would represent a major turnaround for law schools. Law schools lost their enrollment after the Great Recession and (last year) had only just begun to recover.

She gave several reasons for the change. Law schools have worked hard to improve their programs’ ability to get students good jobs. Likewise, some law schools have shrunk, so there’s another boost as graduates look for jobs.

Certain events, such as the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, drew public attention and showed people how important the law is and how much a single person in the law can make a difference.

But law schools have also responded to the pandemic. The Law School Admission Test can now be taken at home, and many law schools have increased their digital outreach to prospective students.

“In times of economic instability, students are looking for law schools,” Testy said.

She stressed that she doesn’t see law schools expanding back to pre-recession levels. “They try to be responsible,” she said.

Some are more skeptical of the law enforcement increases. Jeff Thomas, executive director of legal programs at Kaplan, cautioned against reading too much into this early data.

“In a year in which we’ve been desperate for good news, it’s heartening to see that the number of law school applicants is increasing across the board, at almost everyone [American Bar Association]-recognized law school that sees a leap. And while there are reasons to be optimistic, we caution against premature exuberance. While many are speculating about an ‘RBG effect’ which, to be fair, could be a contributing factor, the surge we’re seeing is more a simple result of timing,” he said.

“Between last year’s move of the LSAT to a digital format, which resulted in many prospective attorneys having to test later than usual, and this year’s COVID situation, which gave many test-takers the opportunity to test earlier than usual, we’re just seeing students are applying earlier in the cycle this year compared to last year,” he said.

He noted that according to LSAC data, the number of first-time test takers for this test year that feeds into this new application cycle has actually decreased by 3 percent. Also, at that time last year, only 24 percent of the final applicant count for the incoming Fall 2020 class was in.

“In short, don’t get too worked up about a [boom] just about for applicants,” said Thomas. “Leading indicators suggest this is likely a time lag. We’ll have more definitive reading in the new year when we’re halfway through the traditional application cycle.”

And Kyle McEntee, executive director of Law School Transparency, a group striving for more information about law schools and careers, said via email: “So often increases in applications are described as positive because the primary framework is through the business side of higher education But: I am very concerned that law schools are neglecting the job market for their graduates because they or their parent university are in financial distress.” It is easy to say: “We can solve this problem in 2025 for people who are interested in apply in 2026. ‘ It’s not until the 2025-26 cycle that there will be any accountability for decisions made in that cycle. That’s beyond the tenure of the average law school dean Applicant market reacts and flushes and repeats for many years means making responsible decisions.”

He added that “there are still significantly more people enrolled in law schools than there are legal jobs, and the number of legal jobs has been fairly constant for a number of years, even in relatively boom times. (I’m ignoring the pandemic. We don’t know how that will affect the number, nor how long that impact will last [last]. However, the current cycle will be in 2025 and early 2026 in the labor market, so it’s still a long way off.) Even before the jobs decline, the best years on record were ~30,000 jobs and that’s over 20+ years. We’re at 38,000 1L registration with the latest data (no idea what 2020 will be). But if we move up from there, that’s bad news for students — especially because students are likely to pay more, not less, when demand for applicants is higher.”

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