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Law School Graduates Enter Best Job Market Since Recession

Employment outcomes for the law school class of 2018 are showing a rebound back to pre-recession levels according to selected findings released by the National Association for Law Placement earlier this summer. The full report, Jobs & JDs: Employment and Salaries of New Law School Graduates — Class of 2018, is expected to be released in October 2019.

The employment rate, which has increased over the past three years, is up to 89.4 percent from 88.6 percent in 2017 among those with a known employment status, despite the total number of jobs declining by about 150 overall compared with 2017. Seventy-one percent of graduates obtained full-time, long-term, bar passage required work, which is even higher than rates measured prior to the recession. And, the number of employed 2018 graduates seeking a different job, 13.2 percent, is the lowest percentage recorded since 2002 and down 11.4 percentage points from the class of 2011’s record high of 24.6 percent.

James G. Leipold, NALP’s Executive Director says, “Certainly, the overall employment rate has improved because of two intertwined factors. First, and most importantly, the smaller graduating class has meant that there is less competition for the jobs that exist. Second, large law firm hiring has increased steadily since 2011, adding more than 1,900 jobs in seven years.”

Despite the positive employment report, Kaplan Bar Review Survey results released earlier this week show that most recent law school graduates say the job search process was more time consuming than they expected. Fifty-two percent of the 417 surveyed say the search required more time than anticipated while only 11 percent say it required less time. The remaining 37 percent say the amount of time required was in line with their expectations. Additionally, the survey asked respondents to grade their alma mater’s career services for their support with assisting them in finding a job. While 23 percent of those surveyed graded their alma mater an “A” and 30 percent a “B”, 23 percent gave a “C” and a combined 25 percent gave marks of a “D” or an “F”. 

Students were more positive regarding their alma mater’s ability to prepare them with the necessary legal skills. When students were asked to grade their alma mater on how well it equipped them to successfully transition from a student to a legal professional, the marks were considerably higher. One-third of students gave their school an “A”, 45 percent a “B”, 16 percent a “C” and only 6 percent a “D” or “F”.

Anecdotally, students shared that while grades are important, they may have overinflated their importance in finding a job while also underestimating the value of networking. Students said that they wished they had known to start early and to focus more on networking throughout law school and the job-search process, including using social media connections.

Commenting on the survey results, Vice President of the Kaplan Bar Review, Tammi Rice, advises that, “The job market for newly graduated lawyers has not been this strong since the start of the Great Recession, which is promising, but that doesn’t mean that jobs are just going to fall into their laps. It requires networking, starting the process early, and often passing the bar exam, as many employers won’t hire you until you’ve secured your license. We encourage all recent law school graduates to take advantage of the resources and guidance your alma mater’s career services office can provide you. They have a vested interest in seeing their graduates succeed, so they want to be helpful as you look to land a job that requires that you passed the bar.”

Despite Significant Debt for Graduates of Elite Business Schools, the Return on Investment for an MBA is High

Earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal reported that MBA graduates from the classes of 2016 and 2017 had an aggregate federal student loan burden of $3.7 billion, an average of $39,900 per student, according to data from the United States Department of Education. Graduates of elite MBA programs held even more significant debt on average. Northwestern’s Kellogg graduates averaged $116,420 and NYU’s Stern graduates averaged $105,931; similarly, alumni of Yale University’s School of Management, Chicago Booth, and UVA Darden all had average debt between $85,000 and $100,000. Notably, these data points only include federal loans and not money obtained from the private loan market, suggesting that the estimates do not represent the full debt load.

A Bloomberg Businessweek Survey on MBA debt was also released earlier this summer with similar findings. The survey, which included the responses of more than 10,000 2018 MBA graduates globally, found that close to 50 percent of students at top business schools had borrowed at least $100,000 to fund their MBA. Among the top U.S. programs, a minimum of 40 percent of the MBA graduates at Duke, Dartmouth, University of Michigan, Cornell, and University of Chicago said that they had taken on at least $100,000 in debt. The percentage was lower at MIT, University of Pennsylvania, NYU, and Northwestern, at around one-third of graduates.

The same Wall Street Journal article notes that “The cost of a traditional two-year MBA has more than doubled since the global financial crisis sent droves of college graduates back-to-school starting in 2008, to an average of $30,100 a year in 2016, according to the latest figures available from the Education Department.” Currently, however, according to the U.S. News and World Report, the tuition for the top 15 ranked two-year full-time MBA programs in 2019 exceeds $50,000, with some priced higher than $70,000.

Even if this summer’s announcement that Harvard Business School and the University of Chicago Booth will freeze tuition for the upcoming school year portends a broader slow-down in tuition hikes, the cost of an MBA will remain significant. Despite the high cost, however, the MBA has still been shown to have a strong return on investment. Last year, QS Quacquarelli Symonds, a data and research company specializing in education, released findings from its Return on Investment Report for the full-time MBA, which include:

  • The average global ten-year ROI of an MBA is $390,751, which accounts for tuition, cost of living, and foregone wages. The highest ROI is found at Stanford at $1,023,150, the only school to enter seven-digits.

  • The average global payback time is 51 months. Europe offers the quickest return at 39 months versus 55 in North America, which is likely due to shorter program lengths.

  • The U.S. is home to 19 of the top 20 schools for highest post-MBA salary. The global average is $79,829 ($89,037 in North America) and Stanford is at number one with an average of $140,600.

  • North America also has the highest average salary increase at 74 percent.

While the prospect of taking on large debt as an investment in an MBA shouldn’t necessarily deter prospective students, the means for financing the degree should be considered as thoughtfully as the school selection.

UNC Kenan Flagler Provides Alumni with Strategies to Avoid Post-MBA Burnout

Earlier this month, the Financial Times published an article on workplace wellbeing and burnout. The article included the results of a reader survey on how employers support employees’ mental health. Two-thirds said that their work had a somewhat to extremely negative effect on their health. Forty-four percent said that they did not think their organization took mental health seriously and half said that they either didn’t know where at work to go or had nowhere to go if they needed support. While the survey respondents were self-selecting, the results show a significant issue with employer support of mental health, including stress, burnout, anxiety, and depression.

 The article warns us that the problem runs across sectors, but may be particularly relevant to graduates of law, business, and medical schools; the authors note that “Fields such as law, finance, and consulting seem particularly prone to intense, demanding workplace cultures, but the issue affects people in all sectors. One doctor dies by suicide every day in the US.” Similarly, Blind, an anonymous social app for tech employees, surveyed its users in May 2018 and 57 percent of the 11, 487 respondents said that they were burned out. Only five of the 30 tech companies represented had an employee burnout rate below 50 percent, and 16 of the companies had a burnout rate higher than the average (57 percent). Later surveys, also by Blind, found that 52 percent of tech workers responded that they do not have a “healthy work environment” and that 39 percent of tech workers said they were depressed.

The FT survey also found that reasons behind burnout clustered into four themes: overwork, cultural stigma, pressure from the top, and fear of being penalized. The article suggested that many experts point to an epidemic of overwork resulting from the common expectation that employees be available and responsive to client needs 24/7. “In his book, Dying for a Paycheck, Stanford professor Jeffrey Pfeffer posits that this crisis is getting worse over time, amid stagnating wage growth and an increasing reliance on the gig economy. ‘We are on a path that is completely unsustainable,’ Pfeffer says. ‘The CDC [Centers for Disease Control] tells you that chronic illness is 86 percent of the $2.7tn US healthcare spend. Many come from stress-related behaviours. If you’re going to solve the healthcare cost crisis, a piece of that solution has to go through the workplace.’”

In an acknowledgment of the intense positions that many post-MBA graduates find themselves in, Robert Goldberg, an affiliate UNC Kenan-Flagler faculty member, recently led an interactive session for UNC alumni to build awareness of and strategies for preventing burnout.

First, Goldberg encouraged alumni to explore various “energy zones” which, described below, he adapted from The Power of Full Engagement (Loehr & Schwartz, 2003).

  • Performance zone: Passionate, enthusiastic, engaged, optimistic, alive, challenged, and absorbed

  • Survival zone: Anxious, impatient, angry, irritable, defensive, fearful, and frustrated

  • Burnout zone: Hopeless, exhausted, sad, discouraged, lost, empty, worried, and depleted

  • Recovery zone: Calm, peaceful, grateful, relaxed, receptive, relieved, rested, and renewed

Goldberg said that to stay in the performance zone, you must enter the recovery zone before you enter burnout. As such, those in intense professions may need to spend time recovering every working day. This can be done using various energy management techniques, including physical (stepping away from the desk at regular intervals), mental (prioritizing competing demands), emotional (feeling valued and appreciated), and spiritual (connecting work to higher purpose). 

Finally, Goldberg addressed the importance of “personal resilience” to maintain strong performance, defining resilience as “the ability to become strong, healthy, and successful after something bad happens.”

Goldberg shared the following five factors, summarized below, for building resilience capability:

  • Perspective: Take some space to view a situation, accepting the negative aspects and finding opportunities. “Recognize what can be changed and what can’t.”

  • Emotional intelligence: Become present in your emotions and name what you’re feeling. Don’t feel guilt or shame over the emotions that you experience, but give yourself time and space to process them.

  • Purpose, values, strengths: Be aware of the purpose that you find in your work, and how it relates to your larger moral compass. Use this awareness to stay centered during chaotic times.

  • Connections: Form relationships with your friends and colleagues and give and receive support from this network.

  • Managing physical energy: Take care of yourself. Exercise, eat well, and have hobbies and activities to engage in apart from your work.

Graduate students, particularly within business, law, and medical school, may want to consider incorporating these strategies into their lives now. Building healthy and sustainable stress management habits, within the hectic graduate school environment, will be good preparation for managing career stress, avoiding burnout, and maintaining wellness in the future.

Make the Most of the MBA Tour: Conduct Thorough School Research

At The MBA Tour in NYC on July 20th, you will get the chance to further evaluate the offerings of the schools on your list. But, don’t forget, admissions directors, will be assessing you too. Come prepared. Conduct thorough school research, compile a list of questions that will show your knowledge of and enthusiasm for specific programs, and be prepared to speak eloquently about yourself and your experiences.

Prior to the event, consider also the following tips:

1.       Update your resume. Ensure it is up to date with your latest professional accomplishments and includes specific results you’ve achieved as well as impact you’ve had on the organization. Try to avoid a resume full of job descriptions or industry specific/technical language a reader from a different field won’t be able to understand.  Admissions directors will be looking for your ability to translate complexities effectively because business school classes are diverse. Your classmates will hail from a wide array of industries and educational backgrounds. Finally, when registering for the event, upload your resume into The MBA Tour system so schools are able to review it prior to meeting you.

2.       Refine your post-MBA goals. The MBA Tour will provide schools opportunities to make pitches and they will likely speak to the newest and most popular offerings. This can be distracting. While you want to keep an open-mind, remain focused on your goals and those program specifics that will best get you there.

3.       Craft an elevator pitch. This should be an introductory speech of about three minutes, which will provide admissions officers a high-level view of your current state and future goals. Spend some time to ensure it feels friendly, informative and natural. Practice it aloud to a friend. And be sure to include:  

a.       Who I am (unique facts and current state professionally): What is your name and where are you from? Where are you currently working and what do you do? How many years of experience will you have at matriculation? 

b.       What I’m looking for: When would you like to start an MBA program? What MBA concentrations are you interested in learning more about and why?

c.       Where I want to go: What type of job are you looking for post-MBA? Are there specific companies you are particularly interested in? What are your long-term goals?

4.       Review the schools who will be attending the fair and select your top ten. You may have time to speak with more, but this will help you to allocate your time wisely. It will also be helpful to prioritize your top three to five schools because you will want to spend the most time speaking with their admissions directors. Research these programs and prepare relevant, school-specific questions that show your knowledge of and enthusiasm for their offerings. Avoid questions that could be answered with a few clicks on their website, as well as those regarding your odds of admittance.  

5.       Review the list of attending partner organizations, which will include test-tutors and admissions consulting companies. Consider your interest in these services and do some research on the various firms so you can target those that will best suit your needs. Many will provide deals to MBA Tour attendees, so lookout for event promotions.

Most importantly, have fun at The MBA Tour.  It will likely be a meaningful and informative experience that could inspire one of your most significant professional decisions.

Even After Obtaining an MBA, Women and Minorities Continue to See Pay Gap Compared to Men and Non-Minorities

Earlier this year, the Forte Foundation released survey results reporting that a pay gap continues to exist, even after an MBA, between non-minorities and minorities and men and women. The survey, which included 900 men and women who graduated from MBA programs between 2005 and 2017, collected respondents’ pre-MBA salaries as well as their salaries from their first post-MBA position and currently.

Between non-minority and minority graduates, the pay gap improves somewhat over time, decreasing from 24 percent to 16 percent between pre- and post-MBA salaries, and then continuing to decrease to 12 percent on average for the reported current salary. Minority students, identifying as black, Hispanic, or Native-American, did see the largest return on investment from the MBA with an average pay increase of 76 percent. Minority men reported an 84 percent increase between their pre-MBA salary and their first job after graduation and minority women gained a 70 percent increase on average.

Conversely, the pay gap between men and women appears to increase over time. Pre-MBA, women were paid 3 percent less than men, this gap increases to 10 percent for the post-MBA salary, and widens to 28 percent among the current salaries. The pay differential between white men and minority women is the largest with a difference of 52 percent.  Both genders reported a positive return on investment from the MBA with women gaining a 63 percent salary bump after graduation and men seeing a larger increase of 76 percent.

The gender differential may be explained, partly, by a tendency for men and women to gravitate towards different job functions. Women enter marketing and human resources at higher rates than men, while men are more likely to pursue finance, general management, consulting and IT careers. The study shows that finance and operations are the job functions which contribute most to the gender pay gap, with men earning 60 percent and 48 percent more than women, respectively. Marketing is the only job function where women reported earning more than men (2 percent).

Forte Foundation CEO, Elissa Sangster, warned against attributing the entire gap to job functions. “While some salary disparity can be explained by the job functions women choose, there is likely unconscious bias and other factors at play,” Sangster added. "When we asked women MBAs how they intend to address the gender pay gap they’ve experienced, it’s more common for them to leave the company rather than speak about it with their manager, human resources, or company leadership. This is a wake-up call -- companies need to take proactive steps to lessen the pay gap, or risk losing highly skilled women employees."

While there is a tendency to assume that the differences in men and women’s salaries are related to women’s presumed unwillingness to negotiate, research is now showing that this is not the case. Berkeley Haas Professor, Laura Kray says, “We know that people who negotiate get more than those who don’t, but that’s not a ‘women’s issue’—two-thirds of men don’t negotiate. Women are asking, but they’re not always getting what they ask for, and they’re more likely to be told things that aren’t true.”

Kray recently published research with Margaret Lee, a postdoctoral research fellow, sponsored by the Center for Equity, Gender, and Leadership, showing that the differentials in total compensation are even more exaggerated than those spotlighted using salary data. The two reviewed surveys from Berkeley Haas alumni who graduated between 1994 and 2014 and work full-time. The data showed that “while men’s base salaries were on average about 8 percent higher than women’s, it’s in the bonuses, share values, and options—which tend to not be tracked as publicly as salaries—where the men’s salaries outpaced women’s. Overall compensation for Haas women MBAs averaged about $290,000, or about 66 percent of men’s $439,000 average. Kray and Lee also linked part of the pay gap to the fact that men manage larger teams than equally qualified women.”

 The Forte Foundation study also included career advancement statistics and found that men on average have garnered more promotions (2.3 vs. 1.8), have more direct reports (3.3 vs 1.8), and have achieved higher organizational rankings (Director level vs. Senior Manager) when compared with women. There were no statistically significant differences in career advancement for minorities versus non-minorities. Just as Sangster suggested, it appears that bias is at play, whether consciously or unconsciously, which contributes to men receiving management and leadership opportunities, earlier than women, with greater associated pay.

Declining MBA Applications Prompt Business Schools to Change Program Delivery Models

Late last month the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign announced its decision to shut down its two-year MBA program and reallocate funds to its online MBA. Just prior to this announcement, earlier in May, the last two-year MBA class graduated from the University of Iowa Tippie School of Management.

And they’re not the only ones. Wake Forest University, Virginia Tech, and Stetson University in Florida have also cut their two-year MBA programs. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, “Between 2014 and 2018, the number of accredited full-time M.B.A. programs in the U.S. shrank nine percent to 1,189, with schools reporting 119 fewer two-year degrees in the most recent survey by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.”

At the University of Illinois, the numbers told a clear story: In 2015 the incoming full-time, two-year MBA program had 74 students, in 2018 it had 49, and the current matriculation for the fall of 2019 is 38 students. Applications for the online MBA program, however, have tripled since 2016. Jeffrey Brown, dean of the business school at the University of Illinois, said the full-time MBA program will lose two million dollars this year. “This was an easy business decision to make, and a relatively easy educational decision, but it was an extremely hard call to make from the emotional side of things,” said Brown.

With the documented lackluster application volume to MBA programs and amidst a strong economy, some schools are focusing on offering competitive online MBA programs, as well as more specialized master of science degrees. The Wall Street Journal noted that among the business schools included in the aforementioned AACSB survey, there were 140 new specialized master’s programs in 2018, a 16 percent jump from 2014. And the number of online MBA programs doubled to 390.

Believing that one component of the decline in applications may be due to the steadily increasing costs of the two-year MBA, Harvard Business School and University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business have both decided to hold tuition costs steady while also increasing scholarship funds.  An article in Forbes recently noted that the “decades-long steady march of escalating price increases” has been consistent across almost all business schools and has typically exceeded the cost of inflation. The article notes that last year, tuition costs increased at variable rates from 11 percent at MIT’s Sloan to 1.6 percent at UCLA’s Anderson. Chicago Booth’s decision to freeze tuition garnered praise from Dean Edward Snyder of the Yale School of Management who said, “I think that is a brilliant move… It’s not because of weakness. It’s because of strength, and it’s the first school that is stepping back and saying we are not going to keep going down this path... It doesn’t indicate how the business model is going to get redone, but it is a signal that it needs to change.”

While online models may not be able to offer the corporate recruiting and networking opportunities, or prestige that the full-time, two-year MBA provides, the programs appear to meet a need in the market for developing business skills. And they do so with added flexibility and without the high costs of tuition and time out of the workplace.

This is good news for prospective students. The online route is providing a closer substitute for educational delivery than we’ve seen in the past. And for those still interested in the full-time, two-year model, lower application volume could mean a higher likelihood of securing both a coveted spot at a top ten school, as well as scholarship money.

Top Medical Schools Take on Student Debt in Bid to Increase Diversity and Encourage Broader Specialty Selection

Recently, Washington University in St. Louis announced that it was going to commit $100 million over the next ten years for scholarships for medical students and to “enhance and modernize the school’s medical education program.” Up to half of the program’s future students will be able to attend the school tuition-free, with many others receiving partial tuition support. The program will begin with the 2019-20 entering class.

Washington University is the latest in a string of schools working to reduce the student-debt burden associated with medical school. Last August, New York University Medical School shocked and delighted students when it announced that all current and future medical students would be attending tuition-free. Kaiser Permanente, the following February, made a similar offer for its first five graduating classes. Additional schools, including Columbia University’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA also have created substantial scholarship funds to ease student loan burdens.

The rising cost of medical school debt negatively impacts not only medical students but also the greater public. Students graduating from public medical school programs carry a mean debt of just under $189,000, while those graduating from private medical schools have a mean debt closer to $209,000. This debt load can impact many aspects of public health, including deterring promising students from entering medical school, encouraging those in medical school to opt for higher paying specialties post-graduation, and creating higher stress and lower wellbeing for physicians and those in training. In late April, the AAMC published updated physician shortage numbers, with the projected shortfall of primary care physicians, a lower-paying specialty, ranging between 21,100 and 55,200 by 2032.

The schools offering reduced and tuition-free opportunities for their students believe that reducing student debt will encourage a more diverse applicant pool as well as empower graduates to pursue a broader range of medical specialties. “For most medical students, debt is a significant factor in selecting a school and a career path,” said Eva Aagaard, MD, Senior Associate Dean for Education and the Carol B. and Jerome T. Loeb Professor of Medical Education at Washington University in St. Louis. “We want to help alleviate that financial burden and instead focus on training the best and brightest students to become talented and compassionate physicians and future leaders in academic medicine….This is an investment in our students and in our institution, as well as in the health of St. Louis and the greater global community.”

 While many schools have adjusted their admissions processes to attract more minority applicants, using a combination of pipeline programs, more holistic admissions standards, and a focus on diverse representation on admissions committees, the problem has thus far remained. “From 2014 to 2018, the percentage of black students enrolled in medical school rose from 6 percent to 7.12 percent, according to the AAMC. Additionally, Latino medical students increased from 5.3 percent to 6.4 percent of total enrollment while Native Americans still account for less than one-half of a percent of all medical students.”

While it is still too early to gauge success, NYU has seen promising results in its first application wave since it eliminated tuition. While overall applications to medical schools in the United States have increased by 47 percent, African American, Hispanic and American Indian applicants only increased by two percentage points. At NYU, however, almost 9,000 applications were submitted for the 102 seats in the 2019 incoming class. There was a 103 percent increase from the previous year in applicants who self-identify as disadvantaged, a 140 percent increase in black applicants and a 40 percent increase in Pell Grant recipients. Dr. Rafael Rivera, Associate Dean for Admission and Financial Aid at NYU said, “The accepted pool that we have thus far reflects increased diversity in socioeconomic status, which is an important facet of diversity in the physician workforce that hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves.”

 The other objective of tuition-free and reduced medical school programs is the freedom that it affords graduates to select less lucrative specialties or career paths. The relationship between student debt and specialty preference is well-documented. An article reviewing research on the impact of student debt on primary care physicians, included references to a 2012 study that showed students with larger amounts of student debt are “more likely to switch their preference for a primary care career to a high-income specialty career over the course of medical school” as well as a 2016 qualitative study which found that, “students described their debt as making them feel more cynical, less altruistic, and entitled to a high income.” These findings suggest that reducing the debt, through reduced tuition or increased scholarships, will positively impact graduating students’ ability to select a specialty based on preference rather than need.

 Though only time will fully show the impact of these schools’ commitments to reducing student debt on the physician workforce, there is reason for optimism about the benefits that will be seen for medical students, physicians, as well as the public.

Law School Students Still Not Receiving Adequate Mental Health Support

Forty percent of recent law school graduates say that their school is not doing enough to support students’ mental health and assist students struggling with the stress and pressure of law school. An additional 31 percent do not know, while only 29 percent answered favorably, saying that they feel their school is doing enough. This is according to the Kaplan Bar Review survey results released earlier this month, which include data gathered from over 300 recent law school graduates. Despite the well-documented struggles that law students face and the recommendations for sweeping reforms put out by the American Bar Association in August 2017, there have been few noted improvements. Tammi Rice, vice president, Kaplan Bar Review commented on the survey results saying, “What students are telling us is that law schools need to do a better job of providing the kinds of services that they need for self-care, and also communicating how those services can help them. This is an important conversation to have. We have to conquer the stigma traditionally associated with mental health, particularly in the legal community… May, in particular, can be an emotionally taxing month in the life of law school graduates, as it is when they begin preparing to take the July bar exam…”

 The Kaplan Bar Review survey also asked students for their opinions on the state bar examiners’ ability to inquire about past mental health and addiction issues. Seventy-four percent of students were opposed to the bar examiners’ application asking if the applicant has ever been treated for a mental health issue. At 61 percent, there were fewer, but still a strong majority who were opposed to the bar application asking about past treatment for a substance abuse issue.

 These high numbers were no surprise in the wake of last year’s successful movement to update the mental health questioning on the Virginia Bar application. Law school students, who saw the questioning as a barrier to getting treatment because of the stigma, organized and sent letters to the Virginia Board of Bar Examiners, who were examining the mental health questions. After receiving a recommendation from a Supreme Court of Virginia committee coupled with “valuable input” from lawyers, judges, law school deans, and students, the bar has—as of January 1, 2019—eliminated the question asking applicants to disclose past mental health treatment. The board also edited another question to focus on conduct and behavior. “Knowing that the students who hope to one day join the Virginia Bar will not have to experience fear of ramifications for disclosing any treatment they sought during law school on their bar applications is a wonderful thing,” said Catherine Woodcock, last year’s Student Bar Association president at Washington and Lee University. “The more we normalize and encourage sound mental health and wellness, the better we will be as a profession.” In January, the Michigan Supreme Court also gave notice that it is studying “whether questions regarding mental health should be included on the personal affidavit that is part of the application for the Michigan Bar Examination, and if so, what form those questions should take.”

Law schools and legal professionals still have considerable ground to cover in increasing awareness of mental health needs within the profession. However, kicking off this month, is “Minds Over Matters,” a year-long deep dive into the mental health and well-being of law professionals by Law.com and its affiliate professionals. This site and its affiliate ALM partners, which cover a wide-ranging scope of legal topics are looking to “more deeply cover stress, depression, addiction, and other mental health issues affecting the legal profession. We aim to create a place for open dialogue, to shine a light on these issues that have so long been stigmatized, and to hold the profession accountable to work toward change. With ALM’s broad coverage of the legal profession, we think we are uniquely situated to address these issues.”

All prospective law students, recent law graduates, and legal professionals should stay abreast of these trends and follow the work showcased on law.com. Prospective law students will want to be conversant on these issues for interviews and as they consider the cultural fit of various law school programs. Current students and recent law graduates will want to educate themselves on how to begin cultivating their own wellbeing despite the stress of law school and their upcoming professional lives. These groups may also want to look out for opportunities to engage with and make changes within their own state’s board of bar examiners. As seen in Virginia, a group of engaged students can make a difference.

Reduced International Demand for U.S. Business Schools and a Robust Economy Create a Beneficial Environment for Applicants

New data released this month from the General Management Admissions Council (GMAC) shows that U.S. graduate business schools are still suffering from a decrease in international applicants. Just under half, 48 percent, of U.S. programs reported in the GMAC Preliminary Application Trends Survey that they had received fewer international applications at this point compared to the same time last year. This survey, which collects mid-cycle application data from graduate business schools, includes data from over 700 graduate business programs around the world. Among full-time two-year MBA programs in the U.S., about 68 percent reported application declines from international students, while another 9 percent reported that applications were flat. Fewer than a quarter of the programs reported that applications were up. Among the 68 percent reporting declines, almost one-third of respondents reported that the applications were significantly down, 17 percent reported moderate declines, and 19 percent reported slight declines.

This report coincides with data that GMAC released last week from the Prospective Students’ Survey. While prospective students’ plans to apply to international programs have stayed relatively flat over the last few years, hovering around 58 percent, there have been changes in students’ location preferences. Among applicants who plan to apply to international programs (not within their country of residence), 62 percent plan to apply in Western Europe, with U.S. programs following at 61 percent. While the percentages are close, this is a switch from 2017 when the U.S. was the most named location at 63 percent followed by Western Europe at 58 percent. Prospective students were also asked to select their one most preferred location. Both the U.S. and Western Europe received equal proportions of respondents at 40 percent each. The longer-term trend, however, shows a gradual decline in preference for the U.S. between 2009 and 2016, with a sharper downturn in the last two years to 40 percent; the exact opposite trend occurs for Western Europe, which shows a gradual increase in preference with a more marked uptick to 40 percent since 2016.

Among all candidates, those applying domestically and internationally, the U.S. is still the most popular destination to apply for an MBA. However, the percentage of all applicants planning to apply to U.S. programs declined from 2017 to 2018 by three percentage points, from 68 to 65 percent, while interest in Western Europe increased from 37 percent to 42 percent. Interest in Canadian programs increased just one point, to 20 percent.

The decrease in international student applications, combined with the strong economy, and the rising cost of MBA programs, appears to be impacting overall application volume to U.S. business schools. Poets and Quants published an article last week declaring it a “buyer’s market” for admitted students. Though acknowledging that official numbers have yet to be released, according to admissions officers, there have been lower application volumes again this year, even among the top ten schools. This makes for the second year of decreasing applications, even amongst the highly competitive programs. Admitted students are reportedly receiving higher than normal numbers of acceptances from rival schools, as well as generous scholarship offers. The Poets and Quants article quotes an unnamed admissions officer from a top-ten ranked business school as saying, “When you have this many schools down and many are down for two years in a row, yield is going to be a nightmare because everyone has had to dig deeper in the pool. I would not be surprised if schools had to go deep into their waitlists or have to shrink their classes. It’s the collective impact of so many schools being down that is unique.“ Yield, which is the total number of admitted students who matriculate into a program, is important for balancing both the selectivity and revenue components of the program. 

Medical Schools Limited on Use of Race in Admissions Decisions but Still Seek to Promote Diversity

Last week, The Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. Education Department is requiring the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center medical school to discontinue its practice of factoring race into its admissions decisions. The medical school agreed to a deal with the Education Department in order to end the long-running federal investigation into its use of affirmative action. In 2003, after the Supreme Court ruled that race was admissible as a factor in admissions decisions in Grutter v. Bollinger, the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center resumed use of race as a criteria in admissions decisions. In 2004, the Center for Equal Opportunity filed a complaint against the school, and the next year the Education Department began the investigation, which this agreement concludes.

Texas Tech had previously ceased using its affirmative action policy for admissions in the pharmacy school in 2008 and for undergraduate programs in 2013. However, the medical school contended that, “It must continue weighing race in its admissions process because a cohort of doctors from different backgrounds could best serve Texas’ racially and ethnically diverse communities.” However, the recently signed agreement stipulated that the school was not providing an annual review of the necessity of race-based admissions and therefore could not rule out that other factors may provide similar diversity-levels. The agreement also suggested that the medical school use other “race-neutral factors” to meet diversity aims, “such as recruiting students from low-income areas and favoring bilingual or first-generation college students.”

Earlier this week and just following news of this agreement, Kaplan Test Prep released survey results showing that 80 percent of 245 pre-med students surveyed in January 2019 say that “It’s important for the American medical profession to be more demographically representative of the general patient population.” Among the students who agreed with this statement, one commented, “While it is certainly possible to be empathetic and ‘tuned in’ to your patients despite differences in language, culture, etc., it is important for patients to feel like they can relate to and trust their clinician…If American clinicians were more demographically representative of the population as a whole, patients would likely find it easier to connect with a care provider they are most comfortable with.” Those in the 20 percent who did not agree with the statement were more likely to focus on the importance of drive and technical ability in becoming an effective doctor.

Additionally, an earlier Kaplan study with medical school admissions officers showed that many felt competent with their school’s diversity efforts. When the admissions officers were asked to grade his/her medical school on diversity, the majority gave themselves a B (35 percent) or C (34 percent), while fewer rewarded themselves with an A (18 percent) and even fewer a D or F (5 percent).

While it is clear that prospective medical students and doctors see the value in diversity in medical school admissions, the process by which the schools will implement these diversity goals is changing based on the views of the current administration. And these changes should be noted, especially by prospective medical students.

For future applicants: Overall, it is wise to seek experiences that improve your ability to work with others, particularly those unlike yourself. And throughout your application, you will want to speak to these experiences in a manner that showcases your commitment to serving a diverse population of patients, highlights areas where you will bring diversity into the program, and show how you have thrived and what you have learned in diverse environments in the past.