Harvard Law Now More Popular Than Harvard Business School

Harvard Law School is now more popular than Harvard Business School

For many years, Harvard Business School attracted more applicants and could boast a lower admit rate than its equally prestigious Law School.

No more.

Harvard Law School received a total of 9,993 applications, up 33% over the 7,505 applications received a year earlier. The school admitted 685 candidates to get to its enrolled incoming class of 560 students for an acceptance rate of 6.9%, well below the 12.9% admit rate last year.


It was a different story at the business school. MBA applications were up a mere 5%. The surge in J.D. applicants drove the admit rate at the law school below the estimated 9% acceptance rate for MBA students at HBS (see Deconstructing Harvard Business School’s Largest MBA Class Ever).

In 2020-2021, those nearly 10,000 J.D. applicants exceeded the business school app volume of 9,773. Only a year earlier, Harvard Business School had 1,799 applicants more than the Law School. For the 2019-2020 admissions season, Harvard Business school posted a 9.2% admit rate versus the Law School’s 12.9%.

More telling is the number of applicants for each available seat in the class. The Law School had 17.8 applicants for every classroom seat, while HBS had 10.7 candidates for the roughly 910 seats taken by newcomers in its applicant pool. Some 100 seats in Harvard Business School’s record class of 1,010 first-year MBA students were taken up by deferrals from last year.

Linda Abraham, founder of Accepted.com which provides consulting advice to business and law school applicants, believes the change is a result of a number of factors. "The social justice focus or "George Floyd effect" may be making law school a more appealing option to college graduates," she says. "New lawyer salaries at top law firms have topped $200K and were close to $200K when last year's applicants were applying. In a nutshell, recent graduates motivated by stratospheric salaries combined with those motivated by social justice combined to give HLS a banner year and stellar 1L class."

Law schools, moreover, are climbing out of a big hole, recovering from a much deeper and sustained dip than B-school applications. Abraham notes that first-year law school enrollment peaked in 2010 at 52,404, declined through 2015 to 37,056 and hovered through 2020 between 37,056 and 38,392, according to Law School Transparency data and the American Bar. "B-school applications declined as the economy expanded before the pandemic hit, but it was not as sharp or sustained a decline as law schools experienced following the Great Recession. Applications to all law schools soared last year by 12.6% while it seems that most B-schools are reporting more modest increases in application volume, as reflected by Harvard's numbers. The early part of the 2020-21 MBA application cycle was still influenced by more restrictive visa policies under the Trump administration and may have reduced international interest in MBA programs. Those policies play little or no role in JD admissions."

More than the base numbers in the class profiles, however, was the quality of the Law School Class. As applications to the Law School swelled, the quality of the incoming class also improved, with average undergraduate GPAs and LSAT scores rising to historic highs, at 3.92 and 174, respectively. The latest class GPA at Harvard Business School is 3.69.

For the first time, 56% of the members of Harvard Law School's incoming class identify as people of color, and 54% identify as women. That compares with 27% at Harvard Business School and 46% of women. The Law School said its Class of 2024 includes 19 Fulbright Scholars, five Schwarzman Scholars, four QuestBridge Scholars, three Posse Scholars, two Truman Scholars, one Marshall Scholar, two Rhodes Scholars, and two Gates Millennium Scholars, among many other awards and honors. Current and former members of the U.S. Armed Forces, including members of the U.S. Special Forces, are also represented in the highest numbers at HLS since the mid-20th century.

DON'T MISS: Harvard Business School Class Profile: HBS Enrolls Largest MBA Cohort Ever or Deconstructing Harvard Business School’s Largest MBA Class Ever

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