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You’ve probably heard that getting into law school is a numbers game. Sure, essays and recommendations are big helps. And your life story may even set you apart. But most adcoms want to know if you have the brains to keep up, let alone contribute.
Alas, grade points are only part of the equation for applicants. Adcoms know too well that all schools aren’t created equal, especially in an era marked by so-called ‘grade inflation.’ That’s why LSATs have been dubbed, “the great equalizer.” Everyone takes the same test, which allows adcoms to separate their targets from the pack.
So what do you need to score to get into your first choice? What percentage of applicants do they accept? And just how much will tuition be at that school?
Each year, U.S. News and World Report compiles school data on student tuition, LSAT scores, GPAs, and acceptance rates. Why? These numbers show where you should focus your effort. For example, let’s say you notched a 166 on your LSAT. That’s pretty impressive…for most schools. For example, let’s say you apply to the University of Iowa, where the 75th percentile is 164. Here, you stand a strong chance of being accepted (and even earning scholarship money) since your LSAT would rank among the highest in the incoming class. But Yale Law? There, the median score at the 25th percentile is 170, ranking you among the bottom quarter of students. Do you still have a shot? Possibly, but you’re facing a truly uphill battle.
That said, many leading law schools are easing their acceptance rates, according to the most recent U.S. News data. For example, the acceptance rate at Berkeley Law, a top 10 school, rose from 11.6% in 2013 to 17.8% in 2014. Similarly, George Washington University’s rate soared from 29.7% to 41.5% during that same period. Among top 50 schools, acceptance rates also jumped substantially at Fordham University (+6.2%), the University of Minnesota (+7.6%), the University of North Carolina (+16.4%), the University of California-Davis (+16.4%), and the University of Maryland (+17.5%). In Florida, the rates at Florida State University and the University of Florida climbed 8.5% and 17.0%, respectively.
Does that mean it is easier to get into law school than ever before? Not necessarily, as eight of the top 50 schools actually reported lower acceptance rates, including the University of Alabama, the College of William & Mary, Ohio State University, and Tulane University. In other words, schools are still pretty selective. But if the admissions team is on the fence about your application, you have a better shot to ultimately earn an acceptance letter these days. And many top 20 programs have acceptance rates of 30% or higher, including New York University (31.4%), Georgetown University (31.1%), Vanderbilt University (34.0%), Emory University (32.0%), George Washington University (41.5%), and the University of Minnesota (30.8%).
LSAT scores remained relatively stable in 2014, with 25th percentile scores dipping slightly at Northwestern University, Georgetown Law, UCLA, the University of Minnesota, George Washington University, and the University of Indiana. The University of Arizona experienced the largest drop here, with 25th percentile LSATs slipping from 159 to 155 in one year (though its LSAT scores at the 75th percentile rose from 162 to 163). At the 75th percentile, the follow schools also experienced slight decreases over the previous year: Cornell University, the University of Notre Dame, the University of Indiana, Ohio State University, the University of Illinois, the University of Colorado-Boulder, the University of Maryland, and the University of Florida. Ironically, no top 50 law program raised its 25th or 75th percentile LSAT scores by more than one point over the previous year.
GPAs were a different matter entirely. At the 25th percentile, nearly half of the top 50 law schools had lower GPAs, including stalwarts like Yale Law (which slipped from 3.84 to 3.82) and Columbia Law (from 3.58 to 3.54).The largest droppers included Northwestern University (-.08), the University of Texas-Austin (-.09), the University of Wisconsin (-.12), Wake Forest University (-.14), George Mason University (-.10), and Tulane University (-.11). At the same time, some schools reported higher GPAs at the 25th percentile floor, including Georgetown Law (+.06), the University of Minnesota (+.07), George Washington University (+.10), the University of Alabama (+.11), and Ohio State University (+.06).
The same trend appeared at the 75th percentile too, with the grade points dropping at some schools (i.e. Cornell University slipping from 3.77 to 3.73) and rising at others (i.e. Emory University climbing from 3.82 to 3.84). Here, the biggest decreases between 2013 and 2014 originated from the University of Iowa (-.08), University of Arizona (-.07), Washington & Lee University (-.07), George Mason University (-.08), the University of Maryland (-.07), and the University of Utah (-.12). Conversely, the biggest gains in GPA at the 75th percentile were produced by George Washington University (+.05), Brigham Young University (+.07), and the College of William & Mary (+.04).
Regarding tuition, most top 50 schools rose tuition by $1500-$3000, on average, from 2013-2014. A few schools, such as the University of California-Davis, the University of California-Berkeley, UCLA, Arizona State University, University of Wisconsin, and the University of Arizona the either decreased or froze their tuition according to U.S. News. The biggest tuition increase among the top 50 came from University of Utah, which hiked tuition by nearly $4500 over the past year.
To view the tuitions, LSAT scores, GPAs and acceptance rates for the top 100 law schools over the past two years, please continue to the next pages.