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While Harvard and Princeton universities are dumping undergraduate early admissions programs, the nation’s law schools are moving in the opposite direction with their students. In the last three years, several prominent law schools have introduced early decision programs for students who have picked a school as their top choice and are required to go there once they’ve been accepted. This year at least five law schools-New York University School of Law, University of Virginia School of Law, University of Pennsylvania Law School, Chicago-Kent College of Law and University of Missouri School of Law-introduced binding early decision programs. More than a dozen law schools also have introduced early decision programs in recent years, including the University of Michigan (U.M.) Law School and Northwestern University School of Law. Law school officials say what’s driving the early acceptance trend is fiercer competition among law schools. They say that with students applying to more law schools than ever before-the national average is six-schools have to fight that much harder to win top students over. “The point is that to get a class of 360, we’ve had to increase the number of offers that we have made in recent years, and so has everybody else, at least at our peer schools . . . .[T]he problem is that students have more choices because they’ve applied to more schools,” said Bill Bergen, assistant dean of administrative services at the University of Virginia School of Law, which started an early admissions program this year. “If you have an early decision process, at least you have a base of people who you’re sure are going to come,” Bergen said. But what about concerns-expressed at Harvard and Princeton-that early admission programs favor the rich who apply early to assure them spots at the best schools, and who don’t have have to hold out for the best financial aid offers? Law schools argue that law school applicants are more mature and sophisticated than high schoolers, and more certain of what they need to do to advance their careers. “Unlike the undergraduate experience, law school is really about preparing you for a career . . . it’s often less about emotion at the law school stage,” said Sarah Zearfoss, assistant dean of admissions at U.M. Law School, which, she added, has no intention of getting rid of its four-year-old early decision program. Competitive factors As for Harvard’s decision, Zearfoss said, “I don’t think Harvard would have made the decision to drop early decisions unless that was a decision that was good for it from a competitive point of view.” Some law schools, meanwhile, believe early admissions programs make them more competitive. “We feel like the sooner we can let our interested students know that they are admitted, the more likely they are to choose Georgetown,” said Andy Cornblatt, dean of admissions at Georgetown University Law Center, which also has no plans to end its early decision program. “I don’t feel bad about what we do,” Cornblatt said. “We think it’s fair across the board.”

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