The Notre Dame Law School Failure

Author: E. Liz Kim

In times of economic instability, more people look to graduate or professional schools, thinking that they will ride out a recession through a few years of graduate school or professional school and enter a recovering job market.

During the economic downturn from 2007 to 2009 the number of LSAT test-takers increased more than 20% from 2007 to 2009. As expected, during the COVID-19 pandemic, law school applications as well as medical school applications surged. Law school applications went up 32 percent and medical school applications 18 percent from 2019. 

Generally, a larger waitlist is the reasonable admissions practice by schools that do not want to over-enroll. One law school caused an uproar with its unprecedented admissions strategy. Most law schools ask applicants to deposit by a certain date, traditionally mid-April to early May. Notre Dame Law School’s first deadline was April 15 and required a $600 non-refundable deposit. However, Notre Dame’s offer of acceptance came with an unusual warning. The school informed applicants that they had until the deadline or “when we reach our maximum number of deposits.”

The Notre Dame Law School debacle is detailed in an article by Kyle McEntee and Sydney Montgomery. https://abovethelaw.com/2021/04/chaos-reigns-notre-dame-law-school-tells-non-wealthy-students-thanks-but-no-thanks/

On April 6, Notre Dame emailed admitted applicants at 11:50am that it had reached 67% of its maximum number of deposits, at 5:04pm 80% capacity and at 5:58pm, it had reached 100% capacity and turned off its deposit form. Anyone who hadn’t deposited yet was now waitlisted. Hundreds of applicants went from being admitted to being waitlisted in a string of emails over the course of six hours.

Notre Dame Law School failed us all with its questionable admission strategy but particularly those students at the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum. This situation favored the applicants who had $600 accessible and were fine paying the deposit to keep their options open. Notre Dame’s improper enrollment management highlighted its fundamental inequity. 

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