Chaos reigns: Notre-Dame law school tells non-wealthy students “ Thank you, but no thank you ”
Amid a global pandemic that already has people worried about their future and an application cycle that was like no other, Notre Dame Law School has turned their admission process into a pressure cooker.
Last night that pressure cooker exploded.
Notre Dame makes application decisions on an ongoing basis instead of a preselected date. Once a candidate is admitted, the school requires two deposits to confirm enrollment. Law schools have used this process (more or less) without incident for decades.
Most law schools require applicants to file by a certain date, traditionally from mid-April to early May. Notre-Dame’s first deadline was April 15 and required a non-refundable deposit of $ 600. Notre Dame’s letter of offer, however, increased the pressure with an unusual warning. The school informed applicants that they had until the deadline or “when we reach our maximum number of deposits”.
Mike Spivey, a veteran law school admissions consultant and former law school administrator, told us the warning was “unprecedented” and that he had never seen anything like it. Sarah Zearfoss, Senior Associate Dean, University of Michigan Law School, called the warning “Insane” and “unbalanced”.
For applicants who received a scholarship offer, the pressure mounted with a second warning.
While most law schools frown on double filing (holding seats in more than one law school), Notre Dame has warned scholarship recipients that they could lose their scholarship offer if the candidate also files in another. school.
To be fair to other students admitted to law school who have not yet received an award, we ask that you do not hold active seat deposits in other law schools if you accept our offer of admission. and stock market. We reserve the right to withdraw the scholarship offer from any student who violates this request. Please note that you may remain on the waiting lists of other law schools if you accept our offer of admission and scholarship.
In other words, if you want to come to our school at the price we offer, you had better send us a non-refundable deposit now.
In isolation, asking applicants not to double deposit may be a reasonable request, even if reasonable minds differ. (We won’t discuss it here.) But in the context of an offer that expires at an unknown time – which, again, is unprecedented – this demand creates increasing pressure to make a career-defining choice without full consideration.
The pressure kicked in immediately. Candidates feared their offer might explode as they weighed in and waited for other offers. Notre Dame responded on March 19 with an email to all admitted candidates in an attempt to “allay some fears.”
According to the admissions director, the school added the warning after over-enrolling their incoming class in fall 2019. Notre Dame pointed out, however, that 2019 was only the second time in 20 years that this has happened. was producing and that successful applicants shouldn’t really worry because it was so unlikely to happen a third time. Even if it did happen again, it was unlikely to be more than a day or two before the April 15 deadline.
However, that did not allay fears. Now the prelaw advisors have started to vaguely describe how a major law school had reversed a precedent on at least one prelaw advisor listserv and at least one webinar on prelaw advisers. (They were vague for fear of reprisal.) Candidates on social media have expressed outrage and unease.
On April 6, this unlikely possibility became a reality.
This week, successful applicants are in conversation with friends, family and advisers to try to finalize scholarship offers and choose where to start their legal careers. This year has already been particularly stressful for the candidates. Applications to law schools increased by 32%, which has caused many schools to delay admissions decisions and increase the size of waiting lists.
While longer waiting lists are unpopular with prelaw students, they are generally a reasonable strategy for law schools that are unwilling to enroll. Schools that end up with more students than expected often offer incentives to convince students to defer to the next year. Notre Dame has chosen a different path with its alert offer. Their pressurized admission process yesterday revealed a fundamental inequality and contempt for student action when the school withdrew its offers of admission.
At 11:50 am, Notre Dame emailed applicants who admitted they had reached 67% of their maximum number of deposits, “a level that we typically hit two or three days before the filing deadline.” They told applicants they would contact again when they hit 80% and then back to 90%. In addition, if the school reached the maximum number of deposits, it would notify all remaining admitted applicants that they had been placed on the waiting list.
Of course, people panicked.
At 5:04 p.m., Notre Dame emailed candidates who admitted they were at 80% capacity.
By 5:56 p.m. Notre Dame had reached 100% capacity and deactivated its deposit form. Anyone who had not yet filed and who had not checked their emails during that six hour period was now on the waiting list.
The students work hard on the applications. The application process is expensive, and where you go to law school (and how much you pay) can affect your career path for decades. Notre Dame should not have expected successful applicants to make this decision as if they were participating in a quick auction. Worse yet, this situation favors candidates who had $ 600 accessible and who paid a fine to keep their options open. There is no doubt that many of those same applicants will withdraw their deposits if they receive a response from another school, receive a more generous scholarship offer later this month, or simply change their mind.
Meanwhile, applicants who did not have a reliable internet, were working, or were crippled by the unexpected choice in front of them had their offer canceled. Even if a candidate knew Notre Dame was the school they wanted to attend, some candidates just couldn’t lose $ 600 all the time. These students have earned their places and perhaps saved up for the deposit and wait for family, friends or a future paycheck.
For low income applicants, especially applicants who may be funded by LSAT preparation, exam fees and school registration fees, the deposit (and in some cases a second deposit) is not is just one more obstacle. You cannot pay the deposit for your law school seat from loans or scholarships.
Explosive offers cannot become the norm. The law school admission process will be untenable if applicants are concerned that every offer will have an unpredictable expiration date. Additionally, these offers penalize applicants who cannot show up $ 600 after a series of emails over a six-hour period. And to be clear: it’s perfectly okay not to be able to get to $ 600 in six hours.
This whole situation is optional and preventable. Not all law schools need a financial deposit to save a seat. Applicants deserve a firm timeline from schools to carefully weigh their offers and plan and budget for deposits. When a law school fails to properly manage enrollment, the onus of being reasonable in the midst of chaos should not fall on applicants.
Kyle McEntee is the executive director of Transparency of law schools, a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization whose mission is to make entry into the legal profession more transparent, affordable and fair. You can follow him on Twitter @kpmcentee and @LSTupdates.
Sydney Montgomery is the founder of S. Montgomery Admissions Board, a consulting firm specializing in working with first generation and minority law school applicants. She recently published a free guide to apply to law school. You can follow Sydney on Instagram @smontgomeryconsulting.