Applying to an unranked law school ‘early decision’ is like playing musical chairs with one other person and three chairs.

Remember when you were applying to college how some schools had “early decision” programs? You’d apply to your first-choice school, and in exchange for them telling you early, you had to commit to go to that college and no other. As if applying to colleges was some kind of national game of musical chairs, and people who didn’t get a seat would end up being forced to pursue higher education in Mexico.

I didn’t apply to anywhere “early decision” because I value options and don’t scare easily. I applied to 11 colleges, got into ten (eff you, Stanford), and then visited four or five of them. Obviously, other kids did things differently. It’s not uncommon to see a lot of Ivy League caliber kids commit to a great school early in the process. People choose their colleges based on all kinds of factors, and when you know, you know.

Law schools are very different. Students usually go to the best law school they get into, unless a school that is slightly lower-ranked offers them a ton of money. The only places that should be running an “early decision” program that includes binding commitments are Harvard, Yale, and Stanford.

You could make a case for some other top-ranked programs doing early decision for law school. But when you see an unranked program getting in on the action, it feels like the school isn’t tempting students into “early” decisions so much as it is trying to rush people into “bad” decisions….

As we’ve previously reported, Indiana Tech is opening a new law school. If you’d like to see my thoughts on the decision to open this new school and are visiting Above the Law for the first time after years of hyper-sleep, you can read them here. Suffice it to say, I question the need for this school.

But people open up unneeded law schools all the time. What’s special about Indy Tech is their plan to bind people to the school before the students can fully explore all their options for legal education. For the sake of a reduced application fee, Indy Tech expects people who list the school as their “first choice” to commit the school if they’re accepted on early decision. From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette:

Assistant Dean for Admissions Jessica Anderson explained that the early decision application will streamline the admissions process for many people. “For those who have said that they really want to attend Indiana Tech and do not plan to apply to any other law schools, we can speed up the process and reduce their application costs,” she said. To ease the application burden, the school has developed a process to identify and admit those applicants as quickly as possible.

Law School Dean Peter Alexander said the law school has received more than 800 inquiries already from prospective law students, and some of those who have expressed interest have made it clear that Indiana Tech is their top choice for law school. “We want to acknowledge that commitment to us by reducing their paperwork and the cost of applying to law school,” Alexander said.

Committing to Indy Tech will reduce your application fee to the school — which should start taking applications this fall — from $50 to $25.

There are a flood of reasons why this is a bad deal, so I think we need bullet points:

  • Indy Tech Law is expected to cost $29,500 a year for tuition. If you are going to pay that, you can eat the extra $25 application fee.
  • If Indy Tech Law is honestly your first-choice law school, then you probably can’t read this sentence.
  • If Indy Tech Law is the best law school you think you can get into, you should consider doing something other than going to law school.
  • If you can get into a better school than Indy Tech, but want to go to Indy anyway, why don’t you try applying after you get into a better school? I bet you’ll get more than half off your application fee.

Honestly, with a new and unaccredited school like Indy Tech, there is no downside to applying elsewhere, seeing where you get in, and seeing if Indy Tech makes you a great offer for tuition. NO DOWNSIDE. And the people running Indy Tech have to know that. They have to know that cutting half off the application fee for students they want is nothing compared to waiving tuition for the kids that they do want.

Which means that the only reason Indy Tech is running this application “sale” is to trick people. They are straight up trying to trick students who are good enough to get into better schools to come to Indy Tech for $25 off instead of $25,000 off. They are playing upon the credulous simplicity of some of their prospective applicants who don’t know how the law school game is played and don’t know that schools compete for desirable students with scholarships. Hell, when UC Irvine Law started, they made it tuition-free for the first class — and you didn’t have to commit to UCI before figuring out what other law schools you could get into.

I’d love to see what Indy Tech’s slogan is going to be:

Indy Tech Law — Why research all the cases when the one in front of you seems good enough?
Indy Tech Law — We’ll take half off your first tuition payment if you direct deposit your unemployment checks with us.
Indy Tech Law — Options Are Overrated.

Of course, Indy Tech Law School might very well get a lot of people applying for early decision. Despite all the recent bad press for law school, people continue to apply in droves.

What do you think? Do you think prospective law students, even the ones applying to Indy Tech, are smart enough to see through the early decision ruse? Take our reader poll below.

Will early decision programs at unranked law schools catch on?

  • No. People only go to those schools when they have no other options. (76%, 442 Votes)
  • Yes. If you are going to apply to an unranked law school, you might as well apply "early." (24%, 137 Votes)

Total Voters: 579

Loading ... Loading ...

Indiana Tech Law School offers ‘Early Decision’ application [Fort Wayne Journal Gazette]
Indiana Tech lowers cost for early law-school applicants [Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly]

Earlier: How Many Law Schools Can You Fit In Indiana
Indiana Tech Moves Forward With New Law School Plans


comments sponsored by

54 comments (hidden for your protection) Show all comments