Fourth-Years Enter an Uncertain and Competitive Graduate School Application Cycle

Several of UChicago’s graduate schools have seen an increase in applications during the pandemic.

By Lukian Kling

For graduating fourth-years planning to go to graduate school, completing this quarter will represent but a small break in their academic careers. As the pandemic bears on and other life circumstances are altered, though, some students have rethought or changed their plans.

Sam Landon, a fourth-year studying history and religious studies, intended on going to grad school next fall, but changed his mind when he found out some of the schools he was interested in were not considering applications due to the pandemic. Now, he plans to take a gap year. “Some grad schools I was planning on applying to were not accepting any applications for this upcoming year,” he said. “I [also] wanted more time to consider and discern exactly what I wanted to do.”

The University of Chicago’s own law school was among the schools that stopped accepting applicants for some of its programs this year. Its master of legal studies program will not accept any applications during the 2021–22 admissions cycle, although the Law School plans to reopen applications in early 2022.

Some other students reconsidered their options during the pandemic but wound up sticking to their original plans. Fourth-year Jack Schwab is seeking a master’s degree in urban planning and will be attending graduate school in New York next fall. Though he ultimately wound up deciding to continue his education, the pandemic made him rethink following up four years of undergrad with more school.

“I was on the fence between going straight through or taking some time, but COVID made getting a good job or going overseas much more difficult and simultaneously made applying to grad school very easy with test waivers,” he said. 

Schwab was not the only one to make this calculation; UChicago Law School saw a 30 percent increase in applications this admissions cycle. Ann Perry, Associate Dean for Admissions at the Law School, told *The Maroon* that this was consistent with nationwide trends in law school applications. 

She attributes the uptick to a variety of conditions over the past year, both logistical and political, that made the prospect of going to law school more appealing. “The ease of the LSAT test being able to be taken at home was a helpful factor in the increase in applications,” she said. “I also think that everything going on in our country, with social justice and elections, could have spurred interest in law.”

The University’s Booth School of Business, which was one of only two top 25 business schools in 2019 not to see a decrease in applications, also saw a significant increase in applications the next year, going from 4,289 in 2019 to 4,909 in 2020.