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by Vault Education Editors | July 06, 2009


At this point, we've all heard about the law firm start date deferrals for their 2009 first-year associate class. Good news! One law school has deferred the beginning of the JD program for some 1Ls. The University of Miami School of Law is inviting its accepted students to defer their first year of law school. According to an email sent by Dean Patricia White, the school was surprised by the number of students who accepted their offer of admission.

UM isn't the first school to ask students to defer a year because of over-enrollment. In 2001, Dartmouth College asked incoming freshmen to defer their start date because they had a higher yield and not enough housing to keep them warm in the New Hampshire winter. In return for postponing matriculation, Dartmouth offered students a year of free room and board, worth about $9,840.

Here's what on the table for deferrers at UM Law: First, everything you've already paid will be transferred to the fall 2010 semester and there's no need to apply again. Second, if you participate in 120 or more hours of public service during your gap year, you will receive the $5,000 Public Interest Deferral Scholarship. Notably, all students who opt to defer a year will be reconsidered for the law school's other scholarships--you remember, all the money you didn't win the first time you applied. But with one public interest scholarship already under your belt, the school says you'll have "increase[d] your likelihood of selection for a $75,000 Miami Scholars Scholarship award ($25,000 each year for 3 years). This is a scholarship designed to encourage and reward public service." You can read more about the Public Interest Deferral Scholarship and deferral options here.

How does a school find itself in this position? All schools track their yield from year to year and accept a certain number of students based on that data. Sometimes they undershoot and sometimes they overshoot. Most often, a school overshoots its number because it is--for whatever reason--is simply more popular that year. In UM Law's case, Dean White suggests that the over-acceptance was caused by the Recession:

"While I would like to believe that this year's elevated acceptance rate reflects the great sense of excitement about the Law School and its future that led me to become its new Dean, I fear that some of it may be related to the shortage of jobs in the current economy."

To those students, she pushes the deferral option as a chance to reconsider their motivations and let the reality of going to law school marinate.

"Law school requires an enormous investment of work, energy, time, and money. It is very demanding intellectually and emotionally. Beyond this, in these uncertain and challenging times the nature of the legal profession is in great flux. It is very difficult to predict what the employment landscape for young lawyers will be in May 2012 and thereafter."

So mull it over. Do some public service work. And if you still want to go to law school in a year, you'll be in a better position to do so, both in mind and bank account.


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