Thursday, March 2, 2023

More on gaming the rankings via "median" LSAT and GPA

UPDATED:  A reader sent along the site to which my colleague, below, is referring.

A colleague at a proverbial "top ten" law school writes with some interesting observations a propos yesterday's topic (esp. the issue raised in the "Update"):

Because US News ranks schools based on *median* GPA and LSAT, many schools game admissions to optimize their medians for the purpose of rankings.


A school can try to admit 49% of its class with LSAT scores at or above their target median, even if their grades are atrocious. They can admit another 49% of the class with GPAs at or above their target median, even if their LSAT scores are terrible. Then they admit 2% that are above the median in both — offer them scholarships if necessary. Any student who was just below the median for both GPA and LSAT would be rejected, even if they would be more likely to succeed than most of the students admitted.

I recall looking at admissions statistics from top law schools a few years ago, but I don’t recall the website. It wasn’t official verified data. I think it was a website where applicants reported their own data and outcomes, so I can’t say it was 100% reliable. Every law school had a somewhat L-shaped admissions profile. Students with either an above-median GPA or an above-median LSAT were more likely to be admitted than a student who was balanced but just below in both.


If I recall correctly, Wash U took this strategy to the extreme. It was really striking how much their admissions process was targeted toward medians to optimize US News rankings. There were hardly any reported exceptions to the above strategy, except for self-reported diversity candidates.


I can’t find this data now, but I found a website that reports 25th/50th/75th percentiles, and it looks consistent with this story.


Go here and sort the schools by LSAT median. Wash U is tied for 12th place with a median LSAT of 168, but it has a substantially lower 25th percentile LSAT than other schools with similar medians. Alabama is 24th with a median LSAT of 164, and also a large gap between the median and 25th percentile.


Now sort by median GPA. Wash U is in 10th place with a median GPA of 3.81. Again, its 25th percentile GPA is substantially lower than schools with similar medians. Another school with a huge gap is Alabama. Penn and William & Mary also have big gaps in GPA.


These are not the most up-to-date numbers, so perhaps there is a better source. But I suspect current numbers would show the same pattern.

Rankings | Permalink