The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

Law school applications spike as economy dives

The famous closing shot from the 1967 hit, The Graduate, shows two young people teetering on the brink of uncertainty.

The bride and the man she left her groom for seat themselves in the back of the public bus. They smile, teeming with excitement and a feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction. They have just declared independence from authoritarian influence.

Slowly the catharsis wears off, the adrenaline wanes and the bright-eyed couple is left with the inevitable question: What now?

The answer, for many 2002 graduates, is law school.

As stocks and job security wobble, interest in law school has shot up. More students are looking at law school and have passed their resumes around to a greater number of schools around the country.

Kaplan Test Prep’s graduate programs report an unprecedented number of students in LSAT prep courses for 2002. In fact, last year’s applicant numbers for American law schools were up by 17.4 percent compared to 2001.

The number of applications sent by these students increased by an even greater margin, a staggering 26 percent, compared to the previous year.

Not surprisingly, the Dedman School of Law has felt the impact of what appears to be a nation-wide phenomenon.

The number of students applying to the law school has been rising each year by approximately 5 percent since 1998, Dean Lynn Bozalis said. The culmination of this recent trend came with the bloated application pool for 2002.

The school recorded a 48 percent increase in applications over the preceding year.

“This year we denied more people than applied the year before,” Bozalis said.

This increase means greater competition. Median LSAT scores and overall GPA have risen considerably in this fall’s incoming first-year law students.

“While before we were bringing in the top 30 percent of test takers, our most recent class more closely resembles the top 20 percent in test scores based on national averages and medians,” Bozalis said.

In other words, college freshmen who structured their undergraduate studies in order to maintain the median 3.17 GPA and receive a 157 LSAT score might find their goal of legal grandeur a little harder to attain.

While law applications are up considerably, other campus graduate programs haven’t seen those numbers. The Cox School of Business MBA and the Dedman liberal arts have seen application numbers comparable to last year, said U. Narayan Bhat, professor and dean of Research and Graduate Studies.

Nevertheless, Kaplan GRE course enrollment for 2002 and the on-campus response to grad school interest meetings last year indicate the graduate trend may not be restricted to law studies.

Jerry Alexander, director of SMU’s Career Development Center, organized last year’s graduate school meeting in response to growing inquiries and e-mails concerning graduate school. Sixty students showed up for the meeting.

Alexander estimates the number of graduating seniors interested in continuing education, either in law, business or graduate studies, at approximately 20 to 25 percent each year. Through counseling students and graduates on career options, Alexander has noticed a growing concern over employability security.

“There’s a difference between employability and job security,” he said. “People today want to make sure they are always going to be marketable for not just any job, but a good job – a job they want.”

The constantly growing number of people with education beyond an undergraduate degree reflects the ongoing quest for better jobs. People believe graduate work will make them more marketable, or possibly, help them obtain a dream job.

Andy Oostdyk, a first-year law student believed he had little opportunity to move up the ranks under his former employer.

“A law degree, for me, was about the only chance for advancement,” he said.

Fellow first-year Monica Lewis echoed Oostdyk in her reasons for returning to academia.

“I graduated from college and taught – the job just wasn’t fulfilling enough,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to go to law school since…well forever. Now I’m willing to be broke for the next three years in order to do something I’ve always wanted to do.”

Education beyond a bachelor’s degree, particularly a law degree, has become for many a necessary step in the pursuit of occupational bliss. Of course, there is the advice given to Dustin Hoffman’s Graduate character, Benjamin, by a friend of his parents.

“I have one word to say to you Benjamin.”

“What’s that, Mr. Maguire?”


Finally, the ultimate answer to the “What now?”

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