The following questions and answers apply to Junior Deferral Program applicants.
What is the Junior Deferral Program?
The Junior Deferral Program (JDP) is an excellent option for students who know they want to go to law school but want to explore other professional, educational, or service opportunities first. Through JDP, undergraduate students in junior standing (or the international equivalent) can apply to HLS as long as they are scheduled to complete all required coursework and graduate the following year. If admitted, they must commit to defer their admission offer for at least two years once they’ve completed their undergraduate degree. Students can then use this deferral period to explore their interests and gain hands-on work experience before returning to the law school classroom.
Am I eligible to apply for the Junior Deferral Program?
To apply for the Junior Deferral Program (JDP), you must be in junior standing (or the international equivalent) at your undergraduate institution and scheduled to complete coursework and graduate by the following spring. If you are scheduled to graduate by spring 2025, regardless of the amount of time it took to reach that graduation date, you are eligible to apply to the program in summer 2024.
Am I eligible to apply to JDP if I have taken a semester off?To apply for the Junior Deferral Program, you must be a current college junior or the international equivalent who is scheduled to complete coursework and graduate from your undergraduate program by the following spring. If you are scheduled to graduate by spring 2024, 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 by spring 2024 and are encouraged to contact the J.D. Admissions Office by email 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, you must be in junior standing (or the international equivalent) at your undergraduate institution and scheduled to complete coursework and graduate by the following spring. If you are scheduled to complete your undergraduate degree and graduate by spring 2024, 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 in summer 2023.
Can I apply to JDP if I am scheduled to graduate a semester early?
Yes, you are eligible to apply to the Junior Deferral Program if you are in junior standing at your undergraduate institution even if you are scheduled to graduate a semester early in December. However, if you are accepted to the program, you will be required to defer for a minimum of 2.5 years after graduating from your undergraduate institution.
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 2025 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.
How to Apply
How do I apply?
Please submit your JDP application directly through the Harvard Law School Application Portal. The HLS JDP application is not hosted on the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) website.
Do I have to register with LSAC’s Credential Assembly Service?
No. JDP applicants do not need to 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 application fee?
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 for the 2024 cycle will open on May 1, 2024. The deadline is July 1, 2024.
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 through the application deadline. All decisions will be released by August.
When will I receive a decision?
All applicants to the Junior Deferral Program will receive a decision on their application by August.
Additional information is available on our JDP Application & Deferral Timeline.
How should recommenders submit their letters?
When filling out the JDP application, you will be prompted to list the individuals who will provide your letters of recommendation. Providing their information will immediately generate an automated email to each recommender. Recommenders must submit their letters directly through our portal rather than through email or through the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) website.
Application Process & Requirements
What are the application requirements?
Please refer to the JDP online application and components.
Should I submit my spring semester 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 the application deadline.
I am studying abroad in the spring of the year I am applying, 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 and come to a preliminary decision, pending receipt of your study abroad grades. If you are admitted, we expect that your academic performance reflects the same caliber of academic achievement demonstrated by your original application to Harvard Law School.
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 Record 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 whether they intend to apply to other law schools that may only accept the LSAT, timing and geographic location, and any other plans they may have for graduate study.
Applicants who elect to take the LSAT must report all LSAT scores from the past five years. Similarly, applicants who choose to submit a GRE General Test score (instead of, or in addition to, the LSAT) are required to report all valid test scores from the previous five-year period. Applicants who apply with an active LSAT test score may elect to submit valid GRE General Test scores as well, but are not required to do so.
If you have concerns about sharing every test result from the last five years, please consider attaching an addendum to your application elaborating on your circumstances. We will still require all test scores from the last five years, but the Admissions Committee will review those scores along with your addendum.
How should I submit my LSAT and/or GRE score(s) to HLS?
All JDP applicants, 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.
Please note, GRE test scores are officially reported approximately two weeks after the test date. Candidates should 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.
When should I take the LSAT or GRE and how long are my scores valid?
To apply to the JDP, you must take the LSAT or GRE before the application deadline of July 1 even if the official score(s) will not be available until after the deadline.
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 view 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.
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. We encourage you to talk with your Pre-Law advisor and/or mentors to determine the best option for you.
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 regular J.D. 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 fall following their graduation.
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.
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.
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 in a future cycle. You can read more about how our Admissions Committee reviews JDP reapplicants here.
Please note that if you are not selected for the Junior Deferral Program, we expect you to spend a minimum of two years after graduating from college in a structured educational program, employment situation, or service opportunity before applying. We strongly advise against applying to the JDP and regular JD program in the same application cycle.
The Admissions Committee does not view multiple applications negatively. Decisions are made on a case-by-case basis for all applications. In recent years, we have admitted former JDP applicants to HLS through the regular JD Admissions cycle.
If I am accepted to the program, how much time do I have to respond?
If you are accepted to the program, you will be asked to respond to the offer by mid-August.
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 the spring after you apply. 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.
Can you explain more about the interview process?
Evaluative interviews are available by invitation only and are conducted via Zoom. If you are selected to interview, you will be notified by email with more detailed information. Not all applicants will be invited to interview and no applicants will be admitted without going through the interview process.
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?
No. Harvard Law School encourages applications from every academic discipline, and the type of degree you hold will not affect your chance of admission. 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.
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, and the type of degree you hold will not affect your chances of admission. The Admissions Committee will review your entire transcript, which includes examining the rigor of your curriculum as well as grades received. The Committee is mindful that GPAs can vary across different majors and different undergraduate institutions. 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. 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 to 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 during the regular admissions cycle in 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 current 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 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.