Harvard Law School to make applications to Junior Deferral Program free

Move builds on efforts to expand access to legal education

Harvard Law School today announced plans to eliminate the HLS application fee and reduce other application costs for college juniors applying through the School’s Junior Deferral Program (JDP). The changes will save each applicant more than $300.

“Harvard Law School is looking to attract and admit talented applicants, regardless of their financial means,” said Kristi Jobson ’12, Assistant Dean for Admissions and Chief Admissions Officer.  “We hope and expect that eliminating the application fee and other costs for this group of applicants to our J.D. program will encourage more college juniors, particularly those for whom these costs are more burdensome, to apply to Harvard Law School.”

The Junior Deferral Program enables college students to apply to 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. Students admitted to the program enter the senior year job search with the law school admissions process behind them, and thus may feel more free to explore a full range of opportunities. Current HLS students who matriculated through JDP worked in a broad range of sectors during their deferral period, from medicine to community service to the military.

Dennis Ojogho ’21, who worked as a youth organizer for Community Coalition in South Los Angeles while on deferral in the Junior Deferral Program, said, “It was great to have law school as something that was set so that I could do something that I really wanted to do. And it was great to be able to go back home—to where I’m from—and to be able to work with the community and try to make an impact.”

Anna Dimitrijevic ’21, who worked on aerospace and defense strategy at a D.C.-area consulting firm during her deferral, said she found great value in “working with different people, trying out different industry areas” with the assurance that she would be returning to law school in a few years.

The costs of applying to law school can be a burden, particularly for students of modest means.  Harvard Law School plans to reduce those costs for applicants to its Junior Deferral Program by eliminating the Law School’s $85 application fee and by allowing students to apply directly to the school, thereby relieving applicants of associated costs.

The move builds on recent efforts to expand access to a legal education. In recent years, the Law School has taken other such steps, including: accepting the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) as an alternative to the LSAT; conducting video interviews via online platforms; and eliminating the requirement for a “seat deposit” for accepted students.

Asked if these changes, which only affect those who apply through the Junior Deferral Program, could be broadened to include all applicants, Jobson deferred judgment.

“Right now, this is a pilot program involving a limited number of applicants,” Jobson said.  “We hope to learn a great deal in the coming years and to be able to make those types of decisions after we have some hard data.”

Upon matriculating at HLS, students admitted through the Junior Deferral Program are eligible for need-based financial aid on the same basis as all other students. HLS is currently one of two law schools in the country which exclusively award financial aid on the basis of need. Harvard also supports its students’ career choices through guaranteed Summer Public Interest Funding; a new preferred lender program to reduce their overall borrowing costs and the amount of debt they must ultimately repay; and the Low-Income Protection Plan, a comprehensive loan repayment program for HLS alumni.

For students considering the program, Ojogho says, “Once you go into law school, your legal career begins. So really pursue an opportunity that you feel will be fulfilling for yourself, because those two years can be very valuable for your growth and professional development.”

For more information about the Junior Deferral Program application process, please visit the Harvard Law School JDP Frequently Asked Questions website.