We know there are more students of color applying to law school now than ever before, but successfully attracting, enrolling, and supporting law students from underserved groups requires highly responsive, intent-based recruitment strategies and intentional follow-up, and devoted resources. Here are a few of the lessons I have learned about intentional class shaping and increasing diversity from my time on campus in law and graduate admissions roles and from our EAB Law School Enrollment Services partners.
Demographic Changes in Law Applicants, 2020 to 2021*
* Data from LSAC
Prioritize personalized outreach while building awareness
Lesson 1: Understand and speak to your students’ concerns
Attracting and enrolling students who are the best fit for your law school can be challenging in part because every prospective law student has unique motivations and timelines. As we know, while all prospects share the goal of attaining a law degree, their concerns and paths differ. And outreach that one student appreciates might be irrelevant to another. To recruit students in a highly competitive market, especially when communicating with underrepresented students, law schools need to be hyperresponsive to engagement signals and each students’ specific needs.
Consider sending prospective students a micro-survey prompting them to share what their primary goals and motivations are for pursuing a law degree. Once you have collected information about a student’s unique interests and concerns, your team can customize marketing responses that meet their needs. For example, if a student shares in the micro-survey that they are interested in learning more about employment outcomes for students of color specifically, you’re then able to send them outreach on that topic.
Provide prospects with relevant context as they are considering your program
Lesson 2: Help students envision themselves at your school
This may seem like common sense, but we know that now more than ever, students want to see themselves represented in the law school community they join. One way to achieve this is to give prospects the opportunity to experience your campus in a meaningful and personalized way, regardless of their location, at no additional cost to the student. In your marketing materials, invite students to engage in one-to-one communication with future classmates, student ambassadors, faculty, alumni, and other campus leaders who share their backgrounds and interests. One way to do this is leveraging a comprehensive, one-stop platform that fosters peer-to-peer engagement for the full enrollment lifecycle, offering students a place to ask direct questions, form genuine connections, and get timely and relevant information while authentically building interest and connection.
As I saw firsthand when I worked in law school admissions, creating a sense of community for students before they even set foot on campus is critical, and can significantly increase yield—and is likely one of your favorite parts of your work. This can be especially important for historically underrepresented students, who, without this additional effort, might find it difficult to imagine being successful and supported at your institution.
Lesson 3: Use application deadlines to drive urgency
The law schools we work with have found that offering multiple admissions deadlines, especially early application deadlines, is a great way to build urgency among prospects and convert interested students to applicants. Doing so drives application activity throughout the year, gives admissions teams flexibility in their admit strategies, and can reduce strain on staff resources.
Similarly, inviting key prospects to apply using unique application benefits is a wonderful way to lend a warm welcome to your community while driving application activity. Clearly managing applicant expectations about timing of admission and aid decisions (and attempting to release decisions as quickly and clearly as possible) lengthens the period you have to cultivate your admit pool and connect them to your community.
As law schools strive to recruit an ever more diverse incoming class, creating urgency and offering incentives through deadlines not only helps you stand out amongst your competitors, but can also put your program above other programs.
Create motivation while lending support as students consider applying
Lesson 4: Optimize your financial aid packages
We all know that cost of attendance is a huge factor and potential barrier for many prospective law students. In fact, in our recent survey of prospective and current adult learners (which included law students), respondents identified “cost of attendance” as their top barrier to enrollment. And among the students we surveyed, African, African American, and Black students and international students disproportionately shared that program cost is the top reason they cannot or will not pursue graduate or professional education.
Given both how prohibitive the cost can be for students, and institutions’ limited financial aid dollars, it is imperative to optimize the use of scholarships and grants. Leveraging multi-year data and analyzing trends by student group to model potential outcomes to set an aid policy, and then monitoring the class as it comes together in real time, enables law school leadership teams to leverage an enhanced aid strategy to help further support and incentivize your most desirable students.
Lesson 5: Survey admitted students
Once you have extended offers of admission, survey admitted students to understand their intent to enroll. When I first joined EAB, I was astounded by not only how many admitted students responded to our survey tools, but how much information they provided! Using the survey tool we offer, admissions teams can identify which students will “maybe” or “probably” enroll—and prioritize their outreach to their most desirable students based on this response data. This prioritization process saves your admissions staff resources and time, all while nurturing those students in a customized way by removing the remaining barriers to their enrollment.
But this is not the only benefit of an admitted student survey. Students who indicate they will not be enrolling at your law school provide competitive intelligence about where they do plan to enroll—and why. This information can have a meaningful impact on future cycles’ recruitment and messaging strategies, particularly for subsegments of your overall population.
Enrollment teams at law schools have long been and continue to be strong advocates for equity and access in legal education, and I am honored to partner with my colleagues on campuses across the country as we strive to diversify their institutions and the profession. Shaping an incoming law class and hitting a range of enrollment goals can be a tall order, particularly given the pandemic and the outsized growth in interest this past cycle. And while there is no single solution for tackling this enormous task, each of these five proven tactics aim to help you more effectively recruit and enroll a more diverse class.
Interested in learning how these lessons can be applied to your enrollment strategy?
Join our on-demand webinar to see how innovative practices can help your institution engage, prioritize, and nurture your diverse prospects—even in uncertain times.