The End of the 2021-2022 Law School Admissions Cycle: Data & Takeaways

As the 2021-2022 law school admissions cycle comes to a close, we looked into the data (which is interesting!) and wanted to share our thoughts on the cycle as a whole.

(1) Applicants applied to more law schools this past cycle (6.87 on average) than any of the last four cycles. (That average number of applications was 6.78 in the 2020-2021 cycle, 6.05 in 2019-2020, 6.08 in 2018-2019, and 6.38 in 2017-2018.) This is likely due to the increased competitiveness of the applicant pool these past two cycles; with more uncertainty, applicants are (shrewdly) casting a wider net. It will be interesting to see whether this trend continues.

(2) Early data suggested that the 2021-2022 cycle would be another one with very high applicant volume, but that went down quite a bit in the latter half of the cycle, and the overall number of applicants ended up normalizing to pretty close to the pre-pandemic numbers. The total number of applicants this past cycle ended up being down 0.1% compared to 2019-2020, up 0.4% compared to 2018-2019, and up 3.5% compared to 2017-2018.

(3) Those normalized overall figures, however, belie the actual competitiveness of the cycle. This is largely due to the still-disproportionate number of high LSAT scorers relative to the historic norm (see the table below). Applicants with 165+ LSAT scores made up 19.28% of the total applicant pool in 2021-2022 — similar (down a slight bit) compared to the historically competitive 2020-2021 cycle (in which 19.58% of applicants had a 165+), but still way up from prior cycles. In 2019-2020, only 15.34% of applicants had 165+ LSATs, in 2018-2019 it was 13.65%, and in 2017-2018 it was 14.29%. Other factors contributing to the competitiveness of 2021-2022 included the huge number of deferrals from 2020-2021 and a number of law schools decreasing their fall 2022 class sizes to make up for that cycle's over-enrollment.

(4) Nearly half of the LSATs administered this past cycle were retakes, notably higher than the historic norm. This again is probably due to the increased competitiveness of the past two cycles, driving applicants to try to achieve higher scores.

(5) Non-LSAT applicants (GRE, SAT, ACT, etc.) were down by about 15% from the 2020-2021 cycle. They made up approximately 4.7% of the applicant pool, down from 4.86% last year. The mid-cycle announcement by the ABA that the GRE can now be considered equally alongside the LSAT doesn't seem to have spurred much change in behavior yet, at least on the applicant side.

(6) On average, applicants applied earlier in the cycle in 2021-2022 than in past years. We reached the midway point in total applicant volume 10 days earlier this cycle than last, and three weeks earlier than the cycles prior to 2020-2021. At the same time, law schools moved very slowly this year in response to the relative volatility of the applicant pool compared to pre-2020 cycles, which were more stable and predictable. This led to many applicants having to wait longer than ever between submitting their applications and receiving their decisions, which increased the stress and anxiety of the cycle.

Percentage of the Applicant Pool in Each LSAT Score Band Over Time

2017-2018 % of Applicants 2018-2019 % of Applicants 2019-2020 % of Applicants 2020-2021 % of Applicants 2021-2022 % of Applicants
< 140 Applicants 6.74% 6.53% 6.19% 4.96% 5.06%
140-144 Applicants 9.66% 9.67% 9.16% 7.67% 7.44%
145-149 Applicants 16.86% 16.76% 15.71% 13.89% 14.15%
150-154 Applicants 20.07% 20.42% 20.42% 19.19% 19.76%
155-159 Applicants 18.12% 18.60% 19.07% 18.93% 18.97%
160-164 Applicants 14.27% 14.36% 14.12% 15.77% 15.34%
165-169 Applicants 8.89% 8.66% 9.72% 11.00% 10.88%
170-174 Applicants 4.20% 4.05% 4.46% 6.38% 6.23%
175+ Applicants 1.20% 0.94% 1.16% 2.20% 2.17%

The competitiveness of this upcoming 2022-2023 cycle will depend not just on the overall number of applicants (remember, this past cycle ended up with a more normalized overall number of applicants but was still quite competitive) but also on the LSAT. Will the proportion of high LSAT scorers remain high in the 2022-2023 cycle? It remains to be seen. For a more in-depth discussion of the various factors that will influence next cycle, you can read our recent blog post on the topic.

Note: You may notice that our data varies slightly from the numbers that LSAC publishes. This is because LSAC reports only an applicant's ultimate high score, even if they didn't achieve that score until months or even years after the date in question. For example, if someone applied in 2019-2020 with a 160, then retook the LSAT the following fall and scored a 170 to reapply for 2020-2021, LSAC's data would include them as an applicant with a 170 even in the 2019-2020 data. To avoid this effect, we record applicant volume daily in real-time so that we can later compare to the data as it actually was on that date, rather than factoring in any new LSAT scores that were achieved after that date.