Wednesday, March 1, 2023

These are *not* the "choosiest" law schools, these are the ones most busy gaming rankings

This is, alas, fairly gullible "reporting":

No. 1 for the highest median undergraduate grade point average is the University of Alabama School of Law, which accepted students with a 2022 median undergrad GPA of 3.95. Yale Law’s undergrad GPA was 3.94, putting it in a tie with the University of Virginia School of Law and the Washington University School of Law in St. Louis. In fifth place is the Texas A&M University School of Law.

The top five in terms of median LSAT are Yale Law (175), followed by Harvard Law School (174). Tying for third place are the University of Chicago Law School, Columbia Law School and Stanford Law School (173).

Most law schools figured out long ago that in the formula, you get more benefit from a high median GPA than a high median LSAT:  that's because the scores are normalized, and with the LSAT there's only about 20 places in play (175 to 155, say), while with GPA it's a much wider spread (sixty places or more), so that if you're near the top, you do better in the formula.  That's why, e.g., places like Alabama, Wash U, and Texas A&M can be in the "top five" for median GPA but nowhere near the top for five median LSAT:   they made a choice to sacrifice LSAT in order to inflate GPA.  That's a good strategy for rising in rankings.  It doesn't make them "choosy," it makes them strategic.  And, of course, omitted from the picture is what majors these GPAs are in:  a 3.95 GPA in chemistry or economics or philosophy is quite a bit different than a 3.95 GPA in communications or education.  If it's more of the latter than the former, than once again it's not "choosiness" but strategy. 

UPDATE:  A colleague at Wash U points out that I am mistaken about Wash U, which has a very high median LSAT as well (although not "top five").  Since the combination of a high median LSAT and a high median GPA tracks past rankings (plus location--which helps the coasts, not the midwest), and Wash U's combination is a real outlier in this regard, the question is how are they doing it?  There are three (not mutually exclusive) possibilities I can think of:  (1) they are paying a fortune to get these students; (2) they are admitting a very small 1L class, and increasing the number of transfer students to make up lost revenue (their credentails do now account in land); (3) they are disregarding the demandingness of the curricular program when it comes to GPA.

ADDENDUM:  These data suggest #1 is a key factor.

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