As the national economic slowdown continues, preliminary statistics indicate that more graduating seniors this year may opt to pursue graduate degrees instead of entering the tight labor market.

As a result, graduate and professional schools nationwide are anticipating a surge in applications.

Ed Haggerty, media relations specialist for the national Law School Admission Council, said he expects a national rise in the number of law school applications this year.

A major source of this speculation is the greater number of students who have taken the Law School Admissions Test this year. For the LSATs administered in June and October, the number of test takers rose 18.6 percent and 23.5 percent respectively.

Haggerty said this increase in test takers will almost certainly guarantee a significant nationwide jump in the number of law school applicants, making the admissions process more competitive.

James Thomas, the dean of Yale Law School admissions, said there has been an increase in interest this year. The Law School has received nearly twice the amount of inquiries and applications it received last year at this time, Thomas said.

While Thomas said he does not expect the total number of applications to double, he said he believes the law school will receive more than 4,000 applications this year. Last year, the law school received approximately 3,500 applications.

Although there may be more applicants this year, Thomas said the class size will remain constant at 180. As a result, last year’s 8 percent admit rate will likely be driven down even further this year.

Thomas said the uncertainty of a slow economy may prompt students to consider law.

“I think [law degrees] are regarded as a safe haven,” he said. “No matter what happens, there’s always a need for lawyers.”

James Stevens, director of admissions for the School of Management, said preliminary data indicates that there will be a sharp increase in the number of SOM applications this year, which ultimately should decrease last year’s 20 percent admit rate.

The number of application requests has increased by nearly 50 percent from this time last year, Stevens said. He also said there have been more prospective students expressing interest in the SOM at national business school fairs.

Stevens said the current economic slump probably plays a large part in people’s decisions to pursue a Masters of Business Administration.

“Current career prospects may not be as strong as in recent years,” Stevens said. “So people who have been putting off business school are probably realizing it’s a good time to take a step back and really invest in their education.”

Most business schools do not accept students directly after college because a few years of work experience is strongly suggested.

Graduate School Dean Susan Hockfield said because there has been no analysis of preliminary data yet it is impossible to predict how competitive graduate school admissions will be this year.

While career prospects may appear dimmer than in past years, Director of Undergraduate Career Services Philip Jones said Yale undergraduates will not be dramatically affected.

“Yale students do very, very well in competing for jobs because they’re from Yale,” Jones said.

Stanley Lo ’02, who is applying for jobs in consulting, science journalism and education, said he could feel the impact of the economic slowdown, especially in consulting.

“In my interviews, a lot of [consulting] recruiters mentioned that they weren’t hiring that many people,” Lo said.

Jones also said financial opportunities were not as readily available as last year. He said the number of firms coming to recruit on campus has declined 20 percent, and seniors are receiving fewer interviews for positions at consulting and investment banking firms.

But Jones said the tight labor market has not elicited too much concern from undergraduates.

“People are just covering their bases more,” Jones said. “There’s uncertainty, so everyone has plans A and B.”