- What is the Junior Deferral Program?
As an undergraduate student thinking about what comes after graduation, you may find yourself ready to apply to law school and also excited to explore other professional, educational, or service opportunities. You may know you want to go to law school and also want to teach for a few years, garner business or legal skills in the workforce, pursue a master’s degree, or embark on a mission trip. Harvard Law School’s Junior Deferral Program offers you that flexibility and breadth of opportunity. Apply to HLS when you are a college junior (or the international equivalent) scheduled to complete coursework and graduate in spring 2021, and, if admitted, commit to defer that offer of admission for at least two years after completing your undergraduate degree. You may use the deferral period to explore your broad interests before returning to the classroom. To learn more about JDP, check out our admissions blog and JDP cohort profile.
- Am I eligible to apply for the Junior Deferral Program?
You are eligible to apply for JDP during the 2019–2020 cycle as long as you are:
- Enrolled as an undergraduate student at an accredited college or university.
- Recognized by your undergraduate institution as scheduled to complete coursework and graduate in spring 2021. Internationally educated applicants may need to contact the J.D. Admissions Office to ascertain their eligibility. Generally, if you are scheduled to complete coursework and graduate in spring 2021 from a U.S. bachelor’s or international equivalent undergraduate program, then you should qualify for the program.
- Committed to deferring your enrollment at HLS for at least two years after graduating.
- Am I eligible to apply to JDP if I have taken a semester off?
To apply for the Junior Deferral Program during the 2019–2020 cycle, you must be scheduled to complete coursework and graduate from your undergraduate program in spring 2021. If you are scheduled to graduate in spring 2021, regardless of the amount of time it took to reach that graduation date, you are eligible to apply to the program. Internationally educated applicants must be scheduled to complete coursework and graduate from their U.S. bachelor’s equivalent program in spring 2021 and are encouraged to contact the J.D. Admissions Office by phone with further questions.
- Am I eligible to apply if I have advanced standing or additional course credits from high school dual enrollment, community college, etc.?
To apply for the Junior Deferral Program during the 2019–2020 cycle, you must be scheduled to complete coursework and graduate from your undergraduate program in spring 2021. If you are scheduled to complete your undergraduate degree and graduate in spring 2021, regardless of the amount of time it took to reach that date or the amount of undergraduate credits you have earned by that date, you are eligible to apply to the program.
- Is there any special process for international students to apply to the Junior Deferral Program?
The application process is the same for all current undergraduate students applying for JDP, including international students. Generally speaking, individuals scheduled to complete coursework and graduate in spring 2021 from a U.S. bachelor’s equivalent undergraduate degree should be eligible to apply.
- What if my transcript is in a foreign language?
All foreign transcripts must be officially translated into English. Accordingly, candidates with transcripts in a language other than English may need to contract a professional, third-party translating service and submit both an original copy and translated version of the foreign transcript(s) with their application. To mitigate doubt, applicants and their family members may not translate application-related materials, even if they are qualified translators. For more information, kindly refer to the instructions on the application form.
- How do I apply?
All interested candidates will apply online through the Harvard Law School J.D. Admissions website. The application form, instructions for submission, and required supplemental documentation will become available when the application opens on March 2, 2020. The deadline to apply is May 1, 2020.
- Must I register with LSAC's Credential Assembly Service?
No. JDP applicants need not register for LSAC’s Credential Assembly Service. All application materials—including transcripts, standardized test scores, letters of recommendation, and written statements—will be submitted directly to Harvard Law School through the J.D. Admissions website.
Please note, while applicants are not expected to register for the Credential Assembly Service, all prospective students who wish to apply with the LSAT will still need to create an account with LSAC to register for and take the exam. Candidates who elect to take the GRE will not need to interact with LSAC during the application process.
- What is the cost?
There is no application fee to apply to the Junior Deferral Program.
- Are JDP application fee waivers available?
No. The JDP application to Harvard Law School is free of charge. As a result, a fee waiver is not needed.
- When is the application due?
The Junior Deferral Program application opens March 2, 2020. The deadline is May 1, 2020.
- Will this be a regular rolling admission process? When is it best to apply?
Unlike the regular J.D. admissions process, this program does not operate on a rolling admissions basis. We will accept applications from the date the application opens (March 2, 2020) through the application deadline (May 1, 2020). All decisions will be released at the same time.
- What are the application requirements?
- Expected to graduate with an undergraduate degree in spring 2021
- HLS application, personal statement, and resume
- LSAT and/or GRE score
- Undergraduate transcript(s)
(update required with junior year final grades by July 1, 2020)
- Two letters of recommendation (preferably both from academic sources)*
- Online interview, by invitation only
*We strongly encourage you to submit your two required letters from academic sources. If you feel a third letter, perhaps from a professional experience, might contribute additional perspective or dimension to your candidacy, you may arrange for the supplemental, optional recommendation to be included with your application. For more information on letters of recommendation, please see our admissions blog.
- Should I submit my Spring 2020 grades once they become available?
Yes. Unofficial, finalized spring grades are required before any candidate is offered admission to the Junior Deferral Program. We require that all spring grades be submitted through the status checker by July 1, 2020.
- I am studying abroad in Spring 2020, and my grades will not be available until late summer. Will you still consider my JDP application?
Yes. We will complete an initial review of your application. If you are a likely candidate for admission, we will hold on our determination pending receipt of your unofficial spring grades. You may submit your grades directly through your status checker.
- Which standardized test scores can I submit along with my application?
Harvard Law School accepts either the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) or the Graduate Records Exam (GRE). We do not have a preference for either exam. Similarly, a candidate is not considered more committed by taking both exams or disadvantaged by taking the same exam multiple times. Individuals considering either test should explore several factors, including timing and geographic location, and any other plans they may have for graduate study.
Harvard Law School requires disclosure of all valid LSAT and/or GRE test results from the last five years. For example, if a student has taken both exams twice within the last five years, then HLS requires that all four test results be reported. Applicants may not choose which results they will share. A failure to comply with this policy may result in a withdrawal of an offer of admission.
- How should I submit my LSAT and/or GRE score(s) to HLS?
All applicants to the JDP, whether taking the LSAT or GRE, will report their standardized test scores through their application portal. Instructions for submission can be found on the application form. Admitted students will receive further information on the score verification process.
Please note, GRE test scores are officially reported within approximately two weeks of the test date. Candidates must wait until the official scaled score has been released before reporting their test results. Applicants who disregard this policy and report a raw, composite score may jeopardize their chances of admission to Harvard Law School.
Additionally, Harvard Law School reviews all LSAT and/or GRE results from the preceding five-year window during which the scores are valid. For example, if a student has taken both exams twice within the last five years, then HLS requires all four test results. Applicants may not choose which results they will share. A failure to comply with this policy may result in a withdrawal of an offer of admission.
- When should I take the LSAT or GRE and how long are my scores valid?
To apply to JDP, you must take the LSAT and/or GRE by the application deadline of May 1, 2020, even if the score(s) will not be officially available until after the deadline. We review all LSAT and GRE results taken within the five-year window during which the scores are valid.
The LSAT is administered multiple times per year. In order for your application to be considered complete by the May 1 deadline, you must take the LSAT no later than the April 2020 administration of the test. Please visit the Law School Admission Council website for more information.
The GRE is administered year-round. We strongly recommend that you take the GRE prior to April 15, 2020. GRE test scores are officially reported within approximately two weeks of the test date and should be reported through the applicant portal prior to our May 1 application deadline. Please visit the ETS website for more information.
- Is there a fee waiver process for both the LSAT and the GRE?
LSAC offers fee waivers for the LSAT. Please find more information here.
ETS offers a limited number of GRE Fee Reduction Certificates. Please find more information here.
- What are the range of standardized test scores and GPAs of last year's admitted JDP applicants?
Information about the testing statistics, academic backgrounds, and demographics of our previous JDP admitted students is reflected within the larger 1L student body. For reference, please review our 1L Class Profile.
Please note, however, that admission decisions are based on the Admission Committee’s experienced judgment applied to individual cases, and many factors are considered. Quantitative factors, while informative, are not dispositive in our selection process. There are no “cut-off” standardized test scores below which an application will not be considered in its entirety, and there is no minimum score required to be granted admission. Applicants are encouraged to prepare for and provide the strongest standardized test results possible while noting that they comprise only one of the various application components.
- Are admissions criteria the same for JDP as for the regular application cycle?
Yes. Standards for Admission are the same for applicants to JDP and to the standard pool. Admissions decisions are based on the totality of available information about each applicant and a careful evaluation of the candidate’s past accomplishments and future promise.
As a general guideline, most admitted applicants demonstrate potential for success in law school through an exceptional undergraduate academic record, competitive LSAT and/or GRE scores, and substantial accomplishments in work or extracurricular activities; however, no one of these aspects of an applicant’s file is dispositive in the admissions decision.
Our assessment includes factors such as work experience and demonstrated leadership, and also intangible qualities such as energy, ambition, judgment, ability to overcome adversity, high ideals, and concern for the welfare of others. Our Admissions Committee seeks to identify characteristics that are important to academic success in law school and qualities that will contribute diversity of perspective and experience, general excellence, and vitality to the student body. In line with the standard J.D. application review process, there are no “cutoff” scores or minimum scores for an applicant’s GPA or standardized test score.
Please consult the HLS 1L Class Profile for more information.
- Does a summer internship help with admission?
Work experience is a valuable aspect of any application. The Admissions Committee will consider the nature of your work and volunteer experiences when evaluating your ability to handle the academic rigor of our program.
- What is the advantage to applying now as a JDP candidate versus applying to the regular J.D. admissions program during my senior year?
JDP is distinguished from the regular J.D. application cycle by its mandated two-year deferral period. The purpose of this policy is to allow admitted JDP students the opportunity to gain post-undergraduate experience to enrich their 1L year at HLS. Conversely, seniors and admitted applicants to the regular J.D. cycle are expected to enroll in the fall of the year in which they apply. Applicants may want to apply to JDP so they have an answer about law school before starting a job search. Such individuals feel certain they want to go to law school but also want to spend some time exploring other professional or educational opportunities before entering the law school classroom. Conversely, others will want to take junior year to focus on seminars and classes rather than an application process. It’s your decision, and we encourage you to talk with your pre-law advisor and/or mentors.
- What if I don’t apply to JDP but I decide to apply as a senior? Will it hurt my chances?
No! There is absolutely no penalty in the admissions process for not applying as a junior. You should apply when you feel you are able to present a strong application. We expect that students who apply as seniors will enroll the following fall.
- How do I find out whether a document has been received or if my application is complete?
Given the number of applications we receive and the limited time we have available to process, authenticate, and review each of them, it is not possible for us to reply to individual inquiries asking us to verify receipt of application materials or confirm the status of your application.
Instead, you should refer to your online status checker to review the progress of your application and receipt of all required items. Please note, your status application page will only become available after your application form has been submitted and received by our office.
- Can I find out my status via email or over the phone?
No. When decisions are rendered, applicants are notified through their status checker and by an email notification. If you are a current applicant, please refer to the “Application Received” or “Application Complete” emails for details. Please note, your status application page will only become available after your application form has been submitted and received by our office.
- If you are not admitted, can you reapply later?
Yes! If you are not selected for the Junior Deferral Program, we strongly encourage you to reapply. You can read more about how our Admissions Committee reviews JDP reapplicants here.
Please note, the application process is distinct for the regular J.D. Admissions cycle. For more information on the differences and requirements, kindly review our Admissions FAQs.
Rest assured that the Admissions Committee does not view multiple applications negatively. Decisions are made on a case-by-case basis for all applications. In the past, we have admitted a number of applicants who have applied more than once.
- If I am accepted to the program, how much time do I have to respond?
If you are accepted to the program, then you will be asked to respond to the offer in late summer.
- If I accept your offer of admission, can I apply to other law schools?
No. If you accept the offer of admission and commit to defer and then enroll at HLS, you cannot hold our active deferral and apply to other schools at the same time. If you decide you want to apply to another law school, you would need to withdraw from HLS before submitting other applications.
- What if I am admitted and the timeline of my graduation changes?
Our eligibility requirements state that all applicants must be scheduled to graduate in spring 2021. However, we understand circumstances may change after a student has been admitted to JDP. Exceptions to this graduation requirement are determined on a case-by-case basis. Please note that all JDP admitted students must defer their enrollment at HLS for at least two years after graduating. There are no exceptions to this requirement.
- If I am admitted to JDP, can I attend the Admitted Students Weekend in the spring?
Admitted JDP students are welcome to attend the Admitted Students Weekend in the spring of the year they intend to matriculate. Further information with registration details will be sent by email to admitted JDP students at that time.
- Can you explain more about the interview process?
Evaluative interviews are available by invitation only. All interviews are conducted via an online platform. No applicants will be admitted without an interview, however, not all applicants will be invited to interview. If you are selected to interview, you will be notified by email with more detailed information.
- What majors are you looking for?
Harvard Law School considers applications from all undergraduate majors. There are no fixed requirements with respect to the content of pre-legal education. The nature of a candidate’s college work, as well as the quality of academic performance, are reviewed in the selection process. However, in preparing for law school, a broad college education is usually preferable to one that is narrowly specialized. The Admissions Committee looks for a showing of thorough learning in a field of your choice, such as history, economics, government, philosophy, mathematics, science, literature or the classics (and many others), rather than a concentration in courses given primarily as vocational training.
- Is a STEM background less advantageous than an applicant with a humanities or social sciences foundation?
Harvard Law School encourages applications from every academic discipline. Lawyers with experience in the sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields are currently involved in some of the most important legal and regulatory questions of the 21st century and will continue to be similarly engaged. If you have a STEM background, you may wish to spend your deferral period working in the field for a few years to garner practical experience in the sciences before studying the legal aspects that regulate such work.
- Does it make a difference if I am pursuing a B.A. or a B.S.? Do you account for differences in GPAs across undergraduate majors?
Harvard Law School considers applications for all undergraduate majors. The Admissions Committee will review your entire transcript, which includes examining the rigor of your curriculum as well as grades received. The Committee will be looking for both breadth and depth in your curriculum. Advanced seminars, lab work, and classes with extensive research and writing components are often ways students can demonstrate knowledge in a particular field. Additional information on how we contextualize your undergraduate performance is available on the admissions blog.
- Am I required to submit transcripts for any study abroad program(s)?
If you have completed any of your undergraduate coursework at a foreign institution, Harvard Law School requires that your foreign transcripts be submitted. The one exception to this requirement is if you completed the foreign work through a study abroad, consortium, or exchange program sponsored by a U.S. or Canadian institution, and the work is clearly indicated as such (including course name, grade, and credit hours) on your home institution’s transcript.
Please note, however, that all foreign transcripts must be officially translated into English. Accordingly, you may need to contract a professional, third-party translating service and submit both an original copy and translated version of the foreign transcript(s) with your application. To mitigate doubt, applicants and their family members may not translate application-related materials, even if they are qualified translators
- Are there any restrictions on what I can do during my deferral period?
You may decide to spend the deferral period between college graduation and matriculation at HLS in a variety of ways. Most students will choose to pursue full time employment or a master’s degree program. Students may also choose to pursue research or fellowship opportunities. The time must be spent in a structured educational program, employment situation, or service opportunity.
- What if I want to do something entrepreneurial or start my own business during my deferral period?
Great! If you decide to pursue something entrepreneurial, we will ask to see a copy of your business plan, commitments from financial backers, etc. Students admitted to the program in prior years have launched social entrepreneurship projects funded by fellowships and other funding sources. To get a sense of what students have done while on deferral through JDP, check out our profile on the JDP cohort.
- Will applicants be judged on what they say they intend to do during the deferral period before enrolling?
As with any applicant for law school, we are interested in how you plan to use your law degree, which includes how the time spent before matriculation will help shape or refine that vision. As you learn more about the programs available to you at HLS and consider your post-college graduation plans, we understand that vision may change. However, we expect you to have a general vision for how you might spend your deferral in academia, public service, or the private sector. There is designated space in the application for you to share any and all ideas you have about how you might spend your time while on deferral.
- What are the implications of the Junior Deferral Program on my employment search?
You should discuss this with career service advisors at your undergraduate institution with regards to specific employment options. However, universities, companies, and employers are increasingly familiar with this type of academic program. We do not anticipate difficulties in the job search process; however, if an employer has questions, the J.D. Admissions Office will work with you to help however we can.
- Can I defer for more than two years?
If an applicant is admitted to JDP, we consider each request for a deferral extension on a case-by-case basis. Typically, we do grant an extension beyond two years, provided the JDP candidate will continue to engage in productive work experience or academic pursuits during their extended deferral period. The duration of the extension will be determined individually at the time of the request.
- What if I decide that I don’t want to defer?
Students admitted to the Junior Deferral Program cannot bypass the mandated two-year minimum deferral period. If you decide you would prefer to go directly to law school upon graduation, you must relinquish your seat and reapply to HLS in the standard admissions process during the fall of your senior year.
- How is financial aid awarded at HLS?
Financial aid at Harvard Law School is exclusively need-based; there are no merit or “full-ride” scholarships available. All students who demonstrate financial need according to a combination of federal and institutional guidelines receive adequate financial assistance to complete their course of study. For more information about financial aid, visit the HLS Student Financial Services Office website. Similarly, refer to the Standard Student Budget to review an estimate of total cost, including living expenses, and tuition for the 2019–2020 academic year.
The Low Income Protection Plan (LIPP) is one of the most generous loan forgiveness programs in the nation. This program helps relieve the burden of repayment of educational loans for J.D. graduates in lower income employment options. Qualifying jobs include all full-time jobs in non-profits, government, or academia, as well as law-related jobs in the private sector.
- How will the financial aid process work for JDP students?
You will apply for financial aid during the spring before you intend to matriculate. More information will be available to students after they are admitted for planning purposes.
- How many students will be admitted under this program?
The number of offers for admission will depend on the size and strength of the applicant pool.
- Is this compatible with other graduate school programs?
Applicants to JDP who are considering a joint degree should contact our partner schools (HKS, HBS, HMS, GSD, HSPH, or GSAS) for more information about the degrees offered. To be eligible for a joint degree program, you must be admitted separately to both Harvard schools. Masters or PhD work will be counted towards the deferral period at HLS.
- What if I am also considering the 2+2 program at HBS?
Applicants may apply to both the 2+2 program at HBS and JDP at HLS. Both programs require two years of work experience before matriculating. The student, in conjunction with HLS and HBS Admissions will need to determine which program they will enroll in first, and which program they will defer for a third year.
- Do you offer feedback to JDP applicants who are not accepted?
No. During the first few years of this pilot program, we offered JDP applicants the opportunity to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of their applications with a member of the Admissions team. This post-application discussion was intended as a means to reflect on the application experience and to provide suggestions for enhancing future applications to law school. Based on survey feedback from applicants, we discontinued the post-application reflection program in 2018. We encourage all interested candidates to consider reapplying after JDP. The Admissions Committee shares insight and advice for improvements on our admissions blog.