Applicant Pool Projection Remains at 61,000 to 63,000
Two months ago, I posted a blog with projections for the 2018 application cycle based on the initial Current Volume Report from the LSAC. I am writing now to update the applicant pool projection and provide some further analysis regarding the composition of the applicant pool.
The applicant pool remains up nearly 10% over last year as of late January. As of January 19, there were 29,287 applicants at a point in time when 48% of the final applicant count had been received last year. That extrapolates to approximately 61,000 applicants. As of February 3, there were 35,974 applicants at a point in time when 58% of the final applicant count had been received last year. That extrapolates to approximately 62,000 applicants. So, at the moment, we probably still can anticipate a total applicant pool for the year in a range from 61,000 to perhaps 63,000, depending upon exactly how things unfold over the coming months.
A total applicant pool of 61,000-63,000 would be the largest applicant volume since the 2011-2012 admissions cycle, which saw a total applicant pool of roughly 67,900. For the last four years, the applicant pool has hovered around 55,000-56,000. (Note that due to changes in LSAC reporting on total applicant pool starting in 2016, the comparisons with prior years are not exactly apples to apples.)
Fall 2018 First-Year Class May Be 40,000-41,000
If the percentage of applicants who become matriculants remains around 66% for the current admissions cycle (roughly the average over the last several years as show in Table 1), the entering class in fall 2018 would be between 40,000 and 41,000 first-year students (up roughly 10%).
Improvement in Strength of Applicant Pool (and Matriculants)
While the increasing size of the applicant pool is certainly good news for law schools, for highly-ranked law schools there is some even better news buried in the details of the Current Volume Report. From 2010 to 2017, while the overall applicant volume declined from roughly 87,900 to roughly 56,000, the “composition” of the entering class profile also shifted. During this period, the percentage of applicants and matriculants with a high LSAT of 165 or higher declined, with the percentage of applicants dropping from over 14% to less than 12%, and the percentage of matriculants dropping from just over 18% to just over 15%.
TABLE 1 -- Percentage of Applicants and Matriculants with a High LSAT Score of 165 or Higher from 2010-2017 Based on National Decision Profile Data
Apps. at 165 and Higher
% of Apps. at 165 or Higher
Matrics as % of Apps.
Matrics at 165 and Higher
Matrics at 165 or Higher as % of Apps. at 165 or Higher
% of Matrics at 165 or Higher
The late January Current Volume Summary for this cycle continues to show a significant increase in the number of applicants with a high LSAT of 165 or higher compared to the five most recent admission cycles. This likely will translate into a significant increase in the total pool of applicants with a high LSAT of 165 or higher and a corresponding increase in the number (and percentage) of matriculants with a high LSAT of 165 or higher.
As noted above, when the late January Current Volume Summary was released, it corresponded with the point in time in the last admissions cycle at which 48% of the final applicant pool had applied. But at comparable points in the applicant cycle over the last several years, nearly 80% of the applicants with a high LSAT of 165 or higher had already applied. Thus, we should expect slower growth in the pool of applicants with a high LSAT of 165 or higher over the remainder of the admissions cycle compared to applicants with lower LSAT scores.
Nonetheless, as shown in Table 2, if one assumes we presently have roughly 77% of the final pool of applicants with a high LSAT of 165 or higher, we can anticipate having over 8,100 applicants with a high LSAT of 165 or higher (roughly 1,600 more this year compared to the 2016-17 admissions cycle (an increase of nearly 25%)). And if we continue to see roughly 83% of the applicants with a high LSAT of 165 or higher turn into matriculants, the number of matriculants with a high LSAT of 165 or higher also may increase to roughly 6,750 (roughly 1,000 more this year compared to the 2016-17 admissions cycle (an increase of over 18%)).
TABLE 2 — Estimates of Total Applicants and Matriculants with a High LSAT of 165 or Higher for the 2017-18 Admissions Cycle (with Comparisons for 2012-13 through 2016-17)
Number of Applicants with LSAT of 165 or Higher in Late January Current Volume Summary
Final Number of Applicants with LSAT of 165 or Higher
% of Final Number in Late January Current Volume Summary
Number of Matriculants with LSAT of 165 or Higher
Matriculants with LSAT of 165 or Higher as Percentage of Applicants with LSAT of 165 or Higher
If the number of matriculants with a high LSAT of 165 or higher is roughly 6,750 as shown in Table 2, and if the Fall 2018 first-year entering class comes in at roughly 40,000-41,000 (as noted above), then the percentage of matriculants with a high LSAT of 165 or higher will rebound to nearly 17%, the highest percentage in five years.
Trickle Down Effect
This projected increase of 1,000 matriculants with a high LSAT of 165 or higher would roughly mirror the total decline in matriculants among top-25 law schools over the last several years. While I don’t think it would make sense to assume that all of these additional matriculants with a high LSAT of 165 or higher would be absorbed by top-25 law schools, a significant percentage likely will be, possibly resulting in some top-25 law schools seeing modest rebounds in enrollment. This also may mean that top-25 law schools will not be admitting as many students with LSATs of less than 165 (155-164), which should mean more of these students will be available to help fill out the entering classes at law schools ranked from 25-100. This may mean that some of these law schools ranked from 25-100 will be able to strengthen their entering class profile a little bit and/or increase enrollment a little bit.