Graduate school apps. up

by Judith Phillips | 10/18/01 5:00am

A dismal year in the economy has prompted many college students to seek haven from a tight job market. The upshot: a sharp rise in applications to graduate school.

"With the downturn in the economy, students have been returning to business and law school in droves," a representative for Kaplan Inc. told The Dartmouth.

According to the Law School Admissions Council, there was an 18.6 percent increase in the number of those who took the LSATs this June as compared to the previous year. Moreover, applications to national law schools this fall increased by 5.6 percent.

"Business school became popular as soon as the dot-com world began to collapse. Kaplan saw a 20 percent increase in enrollment for its GMAT classes for the second half of 2000," according to the Kaplan representative.

Harvard Business School saw slightly more than a 9 percent increase in application for the Class of 2003 than for the Class of 2002.

Similarly, Kaplan saw a 16 percent increase in enrollment in LSAT classes from the previous year.

When asked if he thought that the increased interest in business and law schools might be attributed to the current economic crisis, Albert Chen, Executive Director of Graduate Programs at Kaplan, responded "absolutely."

He noted that the recession of 1991 showed a similar trend of increased interest in business school, followed by increased interest in law school.

People tend to "freak out and go to business school" when the job market severely tightens, Chen said.

He believes that those who take the LSATs take longer to deliberate -- "sitting at a job," and taking time to think, "Do I want to go to business school or law school?"

Chen noted that the acquisition of a JD law degree is a "more stable approach," because law "academia is more insulated" than business enterprises, and because one "can practice law" on one's own.

He added that while a similar interest occurred with the 1991 economic crisis, the current "economic trend is very unique right now," because of the events of September 11. There has been a "huge spike as people start reevaluating their lives," he said.

M.J. Knoll, Assistant Dean and Director of Northeastern University Law School, acknowledged the increase in law school applicants and anticipated an even greater increase within the next year. But he attributed these increases to demographics as much as economics.

"The 'baby boomlet' coming through is creating more students," Knoll said, "and the economy is also creating some of the attraction to law school. When the economy starts to do poorly, they (students) think about grad school."

Chen also cited a "second bump off the baby boom," but he maintains that the economy is playing the primary role.

According to Todd Morton '78, Director of Admissions at Harvard Law School, his institution also saw an increase in applications for the Class of 2003. Yet he is slightly more hesitant to attribute the increase to a faltering economy. Morton said that it is typical for application volume to fluctuate year to year.

He does agree, though, that there is generally a link between economics and the number of applicants to graduate schools -- specifically, the dot-com crash is playing a large role.

"A lot of layoffs in the high-tech parts of the economy prompt some people to apply to graduate school," Morton said.