Harvard Law School extends deadline to apply for Junior Deferral Program

Amid COVID-19 pandemic J.D. Admissions dean addresses pass/fail grading, announces two-month JDP application postponement

With the COVID-19 pandemic creating unexpected hardships and dislocations for college students across the world, the Harvard Law School J.D. Admissions Office announced last week that the deadline to apply for the School’s Junior Deferral Program (JDP) has been postponed by two months, and clarified that pass/fail grades in spring 2020 will not harm an applicant’s chances of admission.

The Junior Deferral Program enables college students to apply to Harvard Law School (HLS) during the spring of their junior year and receive an offer of admission prior to the start of senior fall, if they agree to defer admission for at least two years after college graduation. The program was created to encourage students to gain practical work experience before beginning law school.

The HLS Admissions Office has extended the application deadline from May 1, 2020 to July 1, 2020 to give undergraduates, many of whose semesters have been disrupted by impacts from COVID-19, additional time to apply.

“We recognize that many colleges and universities across the country are making serious changes—including switching to remote instruction and sending many students home—in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus,” said Kristi Jobson ’12, assistant dean for admissions and chief admissions officer. “Given this extraordinary level of disruption in the lives of so many students, we wanted to make sure we gave applicants additional time to complete the process.”

Last November, HLS eliminated the application fee and reduced other application costs for college juniors applying to the program. More information is available on this FAQ page on the J.D. Admissions Office website.

Jobson also reminded potential applicants that HLS now accepts results from both the LSAT and the GRE, which is now available to take at home for a limited period of time. “The GRE could be an especially important option for applicants as in-person LSAT test dates are cancelled due to the coronavirus,” she said.

Jobson also clarified that no applicant’s chances of admission will be affected if their undergraduate institution has altered its grading policy to pass/fail this spring. HLS, she noted, has long accepted pass/fail grades and, in any case, the Admissions Office is “determined to be as flexible as possible to ensure that COVID-19 does not further exacerbate society’s many inequitable barriers to a legal education.”

“We understand that many institutions, including Harvard, are also adapting their grading policies in response to the evolving COVID-19 pandemic,” Jobson said. “We wholeheartedly respect these decisions and those of individual students as we all navigate this situation. As always, Harvard Law School remains committed to taking a holistic approach to evaluating each application, including those from students whose current institutions have implemented optional or mandatory pass/fail approaches in response to the pandemic.”

“Although applicants do not need to explain any pandemic-related changes to their coursework or grades for spring and summer 2020, students are welcome, if they choose, to submit a brief addendum explaining any changes,” she continued. “That said, our goal in navigating this situation is to make the application process—this year and in future years—as simple as possible.”