Law School Direct Admission: What to Know

Law school applicants often lament the time and effort it takes to study for the LSAT. Many desperately wish for a shortcut to get into law school without taking the test.

The American Bar Association may soon grant this wish. Only a couple of years after permitting accredited U.S. law schools to accept the GRE as an LSAT alternative, the ABA is debating dropping the test requirement entirely.

[Advice for Law School Hopefuls Thinking of Taking the GRE]

This decision would allow law schools to accept more applicants who have not taken the LSAT or GRE. Currently, ABA-approved law schools can waive the testing requirement only for up to 10% of incoming students, provided those students meet certain conditions.

Many law schools are eager to drop the testing requirement, which may pose an unfair barrier to entry. While there are many free and low-cost test prep options, there is no question that some applicants are able to invest more time and resources into studying for the test than others.

Even if law schools drop testing requirements, change is likely to come gradually. Many applicants and admissions officers will likely still see standardized testing as a reliable and proven indicator of academic potential in law school, whether or not it is required.

Meanwhile, some law schools have been experimenting with forgoing the LSAT through novel admissions pathways. A major example is direct admission, which is currently available at law schools such as the Texas A&M University School of Law, the William S. Boyd School of Law of the University of Nevada–Las Vegas and Loyola Law School at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California.

The Basics of Law School Direct Admission

Direct admission programs allow eligible undergraduates to apply directly to law school at a partner institution, generally within the same university.

Like typical J.D. applicants, direct admission applicants must submit their resume, personal statement and recommendation letters. However, instead of the LSAT or GRE, they submit their SAT or ACT scores, which typically must be at or above the 85th percentile.

[READ: How to Get a Compelling Letter of Recommendation for Law School.]

The admissions process for direct admission programs tends to resemble the process for accelerated B.A.-J.D. programs. Applicants must be enrolled in an undergraduate program within the same university or at a partner institution.

For example, the University of San Diego School of Law accepts applications from USD undergraduates, while the Stetson University College of Law in Florida has a direct admission program with the University of South Florida’s Sarasota-Manatee campus.

Applicants must have high undergraduate grades, although some programs are more lenient than others. Indiana University–Bloomington’s Maurer School of Law requires applicants for direct admission to have a minimum GPA of 3.8, while the requirement for the Robert H. McKinney School of Law at Indiana University–Indianapolis is 3.5.

Applicants who are no longer undergraduates have few options for direct admission. One rare exception is the Master of Legal Studies Honors program at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University, which allows high-performing students in the program to transfer into the regular J.D. program without taking the LSAT or GRE.

Benefits and Downsides of Law School Direct Admission

Direct admission programs are perfect for undergraduate applicants who meet the admission requirements, want to stay in the same area and want a shortcut to law school without the hassle of studying for the LSAT or submitting multiple law school applications.

Some direct admission programs provide substantial scholarships and other perks like academic counseling.

[Read: How to Go to Law School for Free.]

However, direct admission is not a good choice for those who want a range of options for law school. It can be hard for applicants to know in advance which law school will offer the best opportunities for their interests, the best location for their career or the best financial aid package for their budget.

If you are considering direct admission, make sure you won’t feel too limited to have only one option for law school. If you’re going to put all your eggs in one basket, make sure it’s the right one.

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