Q&A: Here's how Georgetown Law crushed 2021 admissions

A man walks at an empty campus green at Georgetown University, closed weeks ago due to coronavirus, in Washington
A man walks at an empty campus green at Georgetown University. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
  • The school had the largest applicant pool on record at any law school
  • The median LSAT score for its new 1L class is three points higher than last year

(Reuters) - Georgetown University Law Center’s admissions dean Andrew Cornblatt knew something unusual was happening last October, when his office had received far more applications than normal for that time of year. The surge never died down.

By the end of the admissions cycle, Georgetown had 14,000 applicants, a 41% increase from the previous year. It was the largest applicant pool on record at any law school, outpacing the national 12.6% increase in law school applicants.

Cornblatt believes Georgetown Law's Washington, D.C., location made it especially appealing to the many applicants motivated by the protests over the police killing of George Floyd and by attacks on democracy, including the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol.

That surge in interest, coupled with a national spike in high Law School Admission Test scores that experts attribute to the shorter, at-home test called the LSAT Flex, helped Georgetown bring in a 1L class with significantly higher academic credentials than in 2020.

Its median LSAT score rose three points to 171, while the median grade-point average increased to 3.85 from 3.78 a year ago. Other top law schools also made gains in their LSAT and GPA medians this year, though Georgetown is thus far alone in posting a three-point LSAT increase. (Some law schools, including those at Stanford University, Columbia University, and University of Chicago have not yet reported their admissions statistics. It's unlikely those schools, with previous LSAT medians equal to or higher than Georgetown's current score, will beat its three-point increase)

Cornblatt spoke with Reuters this week about the past admissions cycle, how the school managed to bring in so many strong students, and what that could mean for its U.S. News & World Report ranking.

The conversation below has been edited for clarity and brevity.

REUTERS: Has Georgetown or any other top law school ever increased its median LSAT by three points year over year?

CORNBLATT: To increase by three points is unheard of. I’ve been at this a long time, and to be up three points on the LSAT, that’s never happened. At least as far as I know.

REUTERS: How did you make that three-point increase happen?

CORNBLATT: I think it was a combination of things. Number one, our applicants were up 41%. We had this ongoing tsunami of applications. Number two, I had a sense that this was coming back in October and November. We had an initial surge, and it kept not abating. I was careful as we went through the fall with admits. Number three, we did so much more interviewing. I met 2,700 kids who applied to Georgetown Law last year. That’s 1,000 more than I met the year before. All of that was on Zoom. I was Zooming four hours a day. I think that personal touch made a difference.

REUTERS: I wrote this story last week about racial diversity increases in the 1L classes at Harvard, Yale and several other elite schools. How did Georgetown do on that front?

CORNBLATT: We have 40% students of color, which is our highest ever. We have our highest-ever number of Hispanic students, Asian students, and Native American students, and the second-highest number we’ve ever had of Black students.

REUTERS: What do you think the LSAT and GPA increases will mean for the Georgetown’s U.S. News & World Report ranking? The school slipped out of the so-called T-14 last year to land at No. 15.

CORNBLATT: I think it will help. We got a pretty good jolt there. If (a rankings increase) happens, it’s a great thing and we’ll be delighted. That’s not why I did it.

REUTERS: Are there any law school admissions lessons learned last cycle that you want to share?

CORNBLATT: Personalize. That’s what I learned. Be available. When we’ve got 14,000 applications – the most any law school has ever had – to make everyone feel welcome and important is critical.

REUTERS: Do you think Georgetown can sustain these numbers next year?

CORNBLATT: My sense is that we’ve reached a high plateau of applicants. I think we’ll drop a little, but I don’t think we’ll drop a lot. I think applications will probably be flat or down a bit this year. At Georgetown, we’ll probably have 11,000 or 12,000 applicants.

Read more:

Deep applicant pool yields record-breaking diversity at top law schools

Law school applicants surge 13%, biggest increase since dot-com bubble

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Karen Sloan reports on law firms, law schools, and the business of law. Reach her at karen.sloan@thomsonreuters.com