Press Release, In Pilot Program, Harvard Law Will Accept GRE for Admission:
Accepting the GRE is part of an HLS strategy to expand access to legal education.
Starting in the fall of 2017, Harvard Law School will allow applicants to submit either the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) to be considered for admission to its three-year J.D. program.
The pilot program to accept the GRE is part of a wider strategy at Harvard Law School to expand access to legal education for students in the United States and internationally. The GRE is offered frequently throughout the year and in numerous locations around the world. Many prospective law school applicants take the GRE as they consider graduate school options. The Law School’s decision to accept the GRE will alleviate the financial burden on applicants who would otherwise be required to prepare and pay for an additional test.
The change is supported by an HLS study, designed in 2016 and completed earlier this year, examining, on an anonymized basis, the GRE scores of current and former HLS students who took both the GRE and the LSAT. In accordance with American Bar Association (ABA) Standards for Legal Education, the aim of the study was to determine whether the GRE is a valid predictor of first-year academic performance in law school. The statistical study showed that the GRE is an equally valid predictor of first-year grades.
“Harvard Law School is continually working to eliminate barriers as we search for the most talented candidates for law and leadership,” said HLS Dean Martha Minow. “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. Also, given the promise of the revolutions in biology, computer science, and engineering, law needs students with science, technology, engineering and math backgrounds. For these students, international students, multidisciplinary scholars, and joint-degree students, the GRE is a familiar and accessible test, and using it is a great way to reach candidates not only for law school, but for tackling the issues and opportunities society will be facing.”
In recent years, the Law School has taken other such steps, including: conducting interviews via Skype; eliminating the requirement for a “seat deposit” for accepted students; and launching a deferred-admissions pilot program to encourage and accept applications from Harvard College juniors who commit to two years of post-collegiate work experience prior to starting law school.
Jessica Soban, associate dean for Admissions and Strategic Initiatives, said, “We believe the admissions process should be reflective of the values of the Law School more broadly, and that means experimentation and innovation. Each admissions cycle, we evaluate the changing landscape for top talent and determine how we can continue to attract the best students to the field of law.”
The ABA is currently reviewing possible changes to rules governing which tests law schools may use in making admissions decisions.
Minow said, “We look forward to working with the American Bar Association on finding the most effective ways to encourage the best students to enter the legal profession.”
From Jeff Thomas (Executive Director of Pre-law Programs, Kaplan Test Prep):
Harvard Law School’s decision to allow applicants to submit GRE scores instead of LSAT scores has the potential to create a domino effect among other law schools. When Harvard changes their admissions strategy, other law schools take notice.
In reality, to create a true two-test admissions landscape, the vast majority of law schools would have to make this decision too.
Kaplan Test Prep’s view is that choice is always good for students. With the GRE offered almost every day of the year, this will open up doors to applicants who would have otherwise missed deadlines, since the LSAT is only offered a few times per year, or who have shied away from the LSAT.
In a survey that Kaplan Test Prep conducted in May 2016 of 125 law schools, 56 percent said they had no plans to adopt the GRE as an admissions alternative to the LSAT, which at the time was only something the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law had implemented. Just 14 percent said they planned to do it. The remaining 30 percent said they were not sure, which signified a lot of room to grow. We think that number is likely to increase over the next few months. However, for the vast majority of students, this change will have no immediate impact.
Our advice for pre-law students is that unless the only law schools they plan to apply to are Harvard University and the University of Arizona is to take the LSAT, since it’s still the only admissions exam accepted by every law school.
One other point to consider is that over the past few years, law schools across the United States have experienced slumping applications and enrollments, which has even led to some law schools closing or merging. While Harvard is in no danger of falling into any of those categories, other law schools may see the GRE option as a way to grow their applicant pools and as a way to diversify their student bodies, which has long been a goal for many.
Prior TaxProf Blog coverage:
- Is Wake Forest Law School's Offer To Pay Students To Take The GRE A U.S. News Rankings Ploy? (Jan. 30, 2016)
- Christine Hurt (BYU), Could The GRE Replace The LSAT? (Feb. 6, 2016)
- Arizona Is First Law School To Admit Students Based On GRE Instead Of LSAT (Feb. 11, 2016)
- WSJ: Law Schools Replace LSAT With GRE To Goose Enrollment (Feb. 23, 2016)
- The First Two Law Schools to Drop the LSAT Could Be Just the Beginning (Feb. 25, 2016)
- The Empire Strikes Back: LSAC Threatens To Expel University Of Arizona Over Use Of GRE In Law School Admissions (May 1, 2016)
- 148 Deans Demand LSAC Rescind Threat To Expel University Of Arizona Over Use Of GRE In Law School Admissions (May 5, 2016)
- The Antitrust Implications Of LSAC's Threatened Expulsion Of University Of Arizona Over Use Of GRE In Law School Admissions (May 8, 2016)
- LSAC Backs Down (For Now) On Threat To Expel University Of Arizona For Use Of GRE In Law School Admissions (May 9, 2016)
- Poll: Majority Of Law Schools Are Not Racing To Follow Arizona In Replacing LSAT With GRE (June 6, 2016)
- Taylor: The GRE Is No Law School Diversity Tool (June 16, 2016)
- University Of Arizona Is 'Preying On Low-Information Prospective Law Students' (June 21, 2016)
- Rick Bales (Dean, Ohio Northern),75% Of Law School Deans Support Arizona's Use Of GRE As Substitute For LSAT, Not Its Use Of 'Misleading Employment Stats' (June 23, 2016)
- The Empire Strikes Back, Part II: LSAC Stops Certifying Matriculant Admissions Data In Response To Law Schools' Use Of GRE (Aug. 4, 2016)
- LSAC Rescinds Threat (For One Year) To Stop Certifying Matriculant Admissions Data In Response To Law Schools' Use Of GRE (Sept. 25, 2016)
- Proposed ABA Accreditation Rule Sets Process To Determine Validity Of GRE, Other LSAT Alternatives In Law School Admissions (Feb. 15, 2017)