The concept of admitting select students into law school without requiring the Law School Admission Test is gaining momentum.
The University of Illinois College of Law became the second school recently to announce a new admission program that will enable juniors at the university’s Urbana-Champaign campus to apply without taking the LSAT.
Last month, the University of Michigan Law School grabbed attention with the announcement of its new Wolverine Scholars Program, in which Michigan juniors with a grade point average of at least 3.8 can apply without taking the LSAT.
Michigan Law School officials said they wanted to bring in more Michigan undergrads, many of whom may think the law school is out of reach. That explanation didn’t stop some critics from accusing the school of bypassing the LSAT to boost its ranking, though school officials said the new program is too small to have any impact on its ranking.
Similarly, the University of Illinois College of Law wants to keep more of its top undergraduates, said Paul Pless, assistant dean for admissions and financial aid.
“We were worried that we were missing out of some of the best University of Illinois graduates,” Pless said.
By admitting those students in mid-March of their junior year, officials are hoping that they won’t opt for other law schools. This year, 38 of the 188 students in the law school’s entering class got their undergraduate degrees from the University of Illinois. Pless said it¹s not clear how many students will be admitted under the new program, but it will likely be about 10.
While the concept is similar, Illinois’ pilot program has some key differences from Michigan’s program.
There is no GPA cutoff at Illinois as there is at Michigan. Instead, admissions officials will require additional essays from applicants as well as interviews that will look at the “motivation and maturity” of students.
“We anticipate that the students we admit will have high GPAs and that they
will be in the campus honors programs,” said Pless.
He said the law school didn’t set a GPA cutoff because certain degree programs, such as engineering, are more rigorous and produce lower GPAs overall.
In the Wolverine Scholars Program, applicants may not take the LSAT. University of Illinois students may take the LSAT if they so choose, but are not required to do so, Pless said.
Timing was the biggest factor in the decision not to require the LSAT, since juniors may begin applying for the new program in November, Pless said. The typical law school applicant hasn¹t taken the LSAT by that point in his or her undergraduate career.
“We didn¹t want them to take the LSAT earlier than they normally would,” Pless said.
If students aren’t accepted into the early admission program, they have plenty of time to take the LSAT and go through the normal application process at Illinois or other schools, he said.
Pless said that undergraduates are excited about the new program, but there was some initial skepticism from faculty members when it was unveiled. Those faculty concerns were largely dispelled after staff members learned more about the various steps in the selection process, Pless said.