Hundreds of top-tier US undergraduate schools no longer require the traditional SAT from their applicants, citing the exam’s bias toward wealthy families who can afford test-specific coaching. Now, Harvard Law School is the first elite law school to drop the SAT’s legal counterpart for graduates, the LSAT—also in the interest of diversity.
Harvard Law announced this week that, beginning later this year, it will accept either a score from the LSAT or the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), a standardized test taken by most graduate school applicants in the US. “Expanding access to legal education for students in the United States and internationally” is the school’s official line on the decision. “Harvard Law School is continually working to eliminate barriers as we search for the most talented candidates for law and leadership,” said dean Martha Minow in a statement.
Translation: Harvard Law School needs more applicants. Thanks to dips in an uncertain job market for lawyers and hikes in tuition costs (Harvard Law costs a mere $90,000 a year to attend), law school applications are tumbling down.
While Harvard has proven a slight exception because of its spot at the top of law school rankings, the school likely hopes to attract a new group of people that’s flirted with the idea of going to law school, but previously felt daunted by the LSAT—a notoriously difficult test, routinely yielding its fair share of horror stories.
Harvard’s decision to drop the 70-year-old test from its requirements is also a sign of the school’s desire to become—finally—more accessible. The LSAT doesn’t just have a reputation for being difficult: Like the SAT, the exam also comes with an elite tinge, its intellectual questions gearing themselves toward students from more privileged backgrounds.
With one of the most prestigious law schools in the country now on board, more schools are sure to follow suit. The University of Arizona’s law school did away with the LSAT requirement last week as well.