Decisions, deadlines and “Good Admission Practices”

The Law School Admission Council (LSAC) has long had a Statement of Good Admission and Financial Aid Practices that seeks to guide law schools.  They are not enforceable or binding rules, but merely “principles” designed to “improve the admission and financial aid processes in law schools and to promote fairness and the highest standards of professional conduct for all participants.”  You can find these guidelines in their entirety here.

Because many people have reported to me that they are facing conflicting deadlines from law schools, are still waiting for scholarship decisions from others, and basically having a difficult time making final choices with incomplete information, I wanted to share with you what the the guidelines have to say in this regard.

5. Except under binding early decision plans or for academic terms beginning in the spring or summer, no law school should require an enrollment commitment of any kind to an offer of admission or scholarship prior to April 1. Admitted applicants who have submitted a timely financial aid application should not be required to commit to enroll by having to make a nonrefundable financial commitment until notified of financial aid awards that are within control of the law school.

6. After April 1, except under binding early decision plans, every applicant should be free to accept a new offer from a law school even though a scholarship has been accepted, a deposit has been paid, or a commitment has been made to another school. To provide applicants with an uncoerced choice among various law schools, no excessive nonrefundable deposit should be required solely to maintain a place in the class. Beginning on May 15 of each year, law schools that participate in the Commitment Overlap Service will be provided with information concerning all enrollment commitments to any law school made by those applicants who have indicated an intention to enroll in that school’s entering class. A law school should clearly communicate its policies on multiple enrollment commitments upon admission.

7. Law schools should maintain a waiting list of reasonable length and only for a reasonable length of time.

In the Financial Aid section of the guidelines, they go on to say the following:

When extending institutional scholarship or grant offers the law school should:
1. Establish a fair, coherent, and consistent process in selecting candidates for scholarship awards. It should also disclose if it has a policy or practice in which a candidate may appeal the offer or amount of a scholarship award, as well as the school’s process, procedures, and criteria.

2. Permit applicants to choose among offers of admission, scholarships, grants, and loans without an enrollment commitment of any kind, binding or non-binding, until April 1. Law schools should not require a candidate to make a binding commitment to accept an offer of institutional aid prior to April 1 (except under a bona fide early decision plan). Other than seat or tuition deposits required of all candidates, scholarship and grant recipients should not be required to submit an additional deposit to accept a scholarship or grant.

3. Law schools that have not made institutional financial aid awards (for funds within the control of the law school) by April 1, should not require a nonrefundable financial commitment from applicants who have submitted timely financial aid applications until after such awards are made.

4. Provide clear information about the requirements and/or expectations of aid recipients (e.g., academic or service requirements). In the case of renewable or multi-year scholarships, maintain reasonable eligibility requirements and fully inform candidates, at the time the offer is made, of the criteria he or she must satisfy to maintain or renew eligibility for the institutional aid.

Please keep these guidelines in mind as you make your decisions.  Should you have concerns that any law school is in violation of these guidelines, please remember first that they are not binding or enforceable guidelines.  However, it is in the interests of all law schools to follow these guidelines and demonstrate that they are upholding the highest levels of professional conduct.  In case of actions or statements that appear to be contrary to the guidelines, respectfully raise the issue with the admissions official or dean.  For example: “My understanding of the LSAC Good Practices guidelines is that you shouldn’t ask me for a deposit before you tell me what my financial aid award is.” 

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me to discuss your situation and your options.