Law school recruitment 101

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Law school recruitment 101

4 foundational strategies to grow law school enrollment and improve class quality

It’s a challenging time to work in law school recruitment. Concerns about melt loom large as anxious students (understandably) wonder what fall instruction will look like and for how long will it be like this before it changes. At the same time, law school admissions teams are gearing up for newly virtual orientations, contending with canceled LSAT forums and the introduction of LSAT-Flex, and facing renewed questions about the prospect of remote learning for their JD programs as they begin to recruit their next class.

But even when “unprecedented” seems like the word of the day, there are a few fundamentals of law school recruitment that remain the same. Here are four tried and true law school enrollment strategies from our work with EAB’s Law School Enrollment Services partners that can improve the size of your qualified applicant pool and help you reach your class profile goals.

1. Develop a robust deadline strategy

When I first started working with law schools, I was surprised to learn how many law schools only promote an early action/decision or final application deadline. While JD admissions are unique in the graduate program portfolio, our analysts have found offering multiple admissions deadlines—a strategy we use to help recruit other graduate and professional school students—expands and improves the quality of law school applicant pools. Application deadlines are a great way to build urgency among prospects and convert interested students to applicants. And increasing the number of applications deadlines allow you to amplify this effect at multiple points throughout the admissions cycle.

Earlier application deadlines are especially important. An earlier application deadline allows admissions teams to engage with high-ability students earlier in the recruitment cycle when there is less noise from other law schools promoting their own upcoming deadlines. And earlier deadlines give you more time to build relationships with high-ability prospects. This also presents an opportunity to admit these high-quality candidates early and gain insight into their intentions of enrolling at your institution. More than 50% of the time, a prospective student will enroll at the first school to accept them.

2. Reach out to prospects who haven’t taken the LSAT yet

With questions about admission tests swirling (How will COVID-19 continue to impact testing dates and formats? Do we accept GRE scores in lieu of LSAT?), now is the time to increase engagement with students who haven’t taken the LSAT yet. Although your team can’t predict how those students will score, you can begin to focus recruitment efforts on future LSAT testers by engaging registered students with high GPAs or who meet other important admissions criteria.

It might seem premature to recruit students who haven’t taken the LSAT yet. But in my work with our law school partners, I’ve seen data that show stronger yield from candidates who are engaged earlier in their decision-making process than those who’ve already taken a test. The earlier you engage prospects, the higher the likelihood they consider your institution. Our analysts have also found that around 35% to 40% of enrollment activity for our law school partners comes from this pre-test group.

3. Survey admitted students to learn more about their decision

The most stressful time of year for any law school staff is after you’ve released your decisions. Which of your admits will choose you? How does that impact your class profile goals? And which competitors have made better offers? And so on.

Believe it or not, there is a way to gain insight into these answers almost immediately. Consider surveying admitted students to learn more about their intent to enroll. The surveys we deploy on behalf of our Law School Enrollment Services partners typically receive a 75 to 85% response rate, giving admissions teams a wealth of data to predict their class and where to focus their resources. Most importantly, the survey helps enrollment leaders know who is not planning to enroll so they can prioritize high-touch outreach to students who are still considering enrolling. This intel helps focus your staff’s efforts and skills on winning over prospects who just need an additional nudge towards enrollment.

For example, admissions teams can reach out to admitted students who say they will “probably” or “maybe” enroll with additional information or a revised financial aid offer. The added attention from your institution can make those students feel like a priority, which can be hugely influential in students’ decision to enroll.

Survey Responses Help Identify High-Priority Admits for Outreach

Students who indicate in the survey they don’t intend to enroll rarely change their mind, so it’s typically not worth focusing additional recruitment resources on those students. But it’s still worth asking those students why they don’t intend to enroll at your institution. We’ve found most students who respond “no” to our survey received a better financial aid offer from another school. That information can be invaluable for future recruitment cycles. Through admitted student surveys, one of our law school partners recently learned they were consistently losing students because their financial aid packages were not as competitive as they thought.

4. Segment your applicant pool to drive class quality

Especially as marketing budgets tighten, many of the law schools I work with have focused limited resources on recruiting high-priority prospects. Divide your prospect pool into segments by LSAT score, GPA, or other admissions criteria to identify your highest priority students. From there, you can develop marketing messages specific to each of those segments.

For example, let those high-priority applicants know your institution will consider them for scholarships because of their high GPA. Or you can set up a priority application review policy for top prospects and let them know that if they apply by a particular date, they can expect an admissions decision more quickly. Recognizing prospects’ accomplishments will also help foster affinity with your institution among those prospects and help you stand out from your competitors.

From my work with law school enrollment leaders, one thing is clear: law schools face continued pressure to grow their qualified applicant pools, improve their class profiles, and remain the cornerstone of the institution’s graduate portfolio. Ultimately, these four tactics can help law schools grow but are just the beginning of a comprehensive law school enrollment strategy.

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EAB’s Law School Enrollment Services offering combines intent marketing, market research, strategic consulting, and consumer analytics to help law schools meet their recruitment and enrollment goals.

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