Top law schools begin accepting GRE Tests
By Cadila Vaz
The SAT and ACT are well known standardized tests that play large roles in the college application process. For some college students, a bachelor’s degree will complete their educational career but on the other hand, many go on to pursue other degrees by choosing to enroll in graduate school. Much like the undergraduate application process, graduate programs require students to submit the grades they received on a standardized test as well as their GPA. However these tests can be a bit more specialized than the SAT and ACT.
There are four main graduate school admission exams: the GRE, MCAT, GMAT, and LSAT. The MCAT and GMAT are admission tests for medical school and business school respectively. The Graduate Record Examination, commonly known as the GRE, is accepted by many schools to enroll in their masters and doctoral degree programs. The LSAT has been the admission test necessary for law school applications that is, until recently.
Offered four times a year, the Law School Admission Test has existed since 1948, and was taken by a hundred thousand people in the last year. The LSAT has held a monopoly over the law school admission process, but its hold is loosening. This year, several law schools have announced that they will begin to accept GRE test scores if students wish to submit those scores instead of LSAT scores.
During the past year, the University of Arizona was the first law school to make this change, effectively admitting students in this fashion. The school went through a process of examining the GRE scores of students who were admitted based solely on their LSAT scores in 2016, and they deemed that if they were to have reviewed their applications based on their GRE scores, those students would have been admitted under those circumstances as well. Following the example of the University of Arizona, many schools have said that students can apply by submitting their GRE scores, including several of the country’s top law schools, like Northwestern, Georgetown, Columbia, and Harvard, recently announcing this change in their admission process.
Accepting GRE scores will make applying to graduate school easier for students. For example, if a student is on the fence of attending law school or another graduate school program that requires GRE scores, that student will only have to focus on one exam. Moreover, students have more opportunities to take the GRE, as it is administrated about once every month. With this flexibility in their schedule, students can take the exam when they feel they will be the most prepared.
Additionally, only having to take one standardized test will allow students to allocate money to perhaps use for tuition costs, as they would be saving at least $180, the cost of taking one LSAT. Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow has described this tactic as a means of diversifying their school setting. Dean Minow said that, “All students benefit when we can diversify our community in terms of academic background, country of origin, and financial circumstances.”
This seems like a motive coming from a place of well meaning, but is there more to this change than beneath the eye?
Expanding their pool of applicants may also be a way for law schools to raise their numbers. When comparing the number of LSAT takers throughout the years, schools can see that there has been a great decrease of test takers. The hundred-thousand students who took the LSAT last year is a bit less than the hundred and seventy thousand students who took the LSAT in 2009 and 2010, so surely law schools have felt their pockets getting tighter through the years. While there are over two hundred law schools in America today, many smaller law schools have buckled under the pressure.
It is important to note that GRE scores are also valid for a total of five years. This means that it is possible for students already enrolled in a graduate program or, who have already graduated, to apply to law school if they wish to do so, as long as they are applying within this five year period when their test scores are still valid. There is not necessarily a specific major required or preferred for consideration into law school in order to bring together future lawyers in an environment where there is a student body with a diverse educational background. In a likewise fashion it may benefit to have students with bachelors and master’s degrees learning with each other.
Since the acceptance of GRE scores in lieu of LSAT scores is very recent, it will be interesting to see how things will play out for law schools: will this process actually diversify the student body? Or just pad the total number of applications submitted to each school? I’m sure we’ll find out in the following years.