Otherwise, the decline in LSAT scores is quite pronounced, particularly as you proceed down the Top 50 law schools. Among Top 10 programs, New York University (169-173 to 166-171) and the University of Michigan (166-170 to 164-169) suffered the worst slumps, with Georgetown Law Center (165-170 to 162-168) and USC Law (165-168 to 162-166) also faring poorly among top tier programs. In fact, among the 20 highest-ranked law programs, 16 reported lower LSAT scores over the past five years at the top 75th percentile, with another 14 averaging lower scores in the bottom 25th percentile.
High GPAs are also coveted by law schools, as they carry a 10% weight in the U.S. News rankings. However, GPAs don’t consistently follow the LSAT trend lines. Over the past four years, the top three law programs — Yale, Stanford, and Harvard — have experienced slight dips in undergrad GPAs, despite holding their ground in average LSAT scores. By the same token, New York University, whose LSAT scores had dropped 2-3 points each way, witnessed its undergraduate GPA averages climb from 3.54-3.84 to 3.65 to 3.89. In fact, several marquee law programs reported higher GPA averages over the past five years including the University of Pennsylvania (3.55-3.94 to 3.57-3.95), Northwestern (3.38-3.94 to 3.56-3.85), Cornell (3.54-3.77 to 3.60-3.81), Georgetown (3.43 -3.82 to 3.52-3.86), Vanderbilt (3.43-3.85 to 3.56-3.85), and USC (3.51-3.80 to 3.56-3.85).
What do these six schools have in common? All of them had experienced downturns in their average LSATs over the past four years. Overall, average GPAs have remained robust, with 12 of the Top 20 law school showing higher averages at the top 75th percentile over the past four years, along with 9 others boasting higher averages in the bottom 25th percentile.
COUNTERINTUITIVE: NEARLY 70% OF TOP SCHOOLS LOWERED THEIR ACCEPTANCE RATES
LSAT scores and undergraduate GPAs are harbingers of the caliber of classmates populating law schools. However, acceptance rates are more indicative of the overall health and renown of programs, with lower acceptance rates conveying desirability and exclusivity. By that measure, Yale Law remains the go-to destination for the most decorated law school applicants. In the 2015-2016 cycle, Yale Law accepted just 9.5% of its applicants, edging out Stanford Law at 10.7%. Harvard, Penn, Northwestern, and the University of Virginia also staked out some posh territory, with their acceptance rates ranging from 16.6% to 19.9%.
For candidates looking to attend a Top 10 law school, New York University remains the best bet, accepting 29.8% of applicants. Among Top 20 programs, the University of Iowa has emerged as the easiest target with a 45.7% acceptance rate. Overall, the University of Maryland is the nearest you’ll find to a sure thing. Here, 52.4% of applicants earn an acceptance letter, nearly double its 26.6% average four years ago. Better yet, 82.7% of the fall class received grants. That said, those grants amounted to just $8,596 on average. Compare that to the University of Illinois on the generosity scale, where 98.5% of the 2019 Class received grants which came to $30,000 on average.
Despite the Pollyannaish warnings about fewer students and lower LSATs, it is actually more difficult to get into law school today than previous years. Among the 65 highest-ranking law schools, there were 45 whose acceptance rates came in lower in 2015-2016 than 2014-2015. Most notably, the University of Florida cut its acceptance rate from 61.8% to 35.6% in the past year alone. The University of Colorado, Indiana University (Maurer), the University of Richmond, and Wake Forest also sliced their acceptance rates by 10% or more as well. Such drops are less obvious at top programs, but still significant. The acceptance rate at Cornell Law, for example, dropped by 6.5% for the 2019 Class. Several noteworthy schools also produced lower acceptance rates, including Boston University (-8.5%), Vanderbilt (-5.8%), Northwestern (-4.8%), Notre Dame (-4.7%), and the University of Michigan (-4.3%). Regardless of whether schools achieved these feats by being more selective or cutting class sizes, they reflect a growing sense that schools are increasingly taking back the admissions high ground from applicants.
NO SURPRISE: TOP LAW SCHOOLS RAISING TUITION BY $1,500-$2,500 A YEAR
That said, the 2015-2016 cycle was a correction that was a long time coming. Over the past four years, acceptance rates have generally risen. Among Top 20 law schools, 15 had higher acceptance rates in 2016 than 2012. That includes schools like U.C. Berkeley (21.1% vs. 11.6%) and Notre Dame (30.3% vs. 23.7%). The big names weren’t immune either, as Yale Law (+1.2%), Stanford (+1.0%), and Columbia (+1.9%) dug a little deeper to fill their class quotas. Overall, 37 of the 50 highest-ranked law programs boosted acceptance rates over the past five classes, headlined by regional powers like the University of Maryland (+25.8%), the University of Minnesota (+21.3%) , Washington and Lee University (+16.6%), and the University of North Carolina (+15.8%).
Although acceptance rates are starting to settle, tuition continues to rise. At Top 10 programs, tuition rose by $2,000 or more at seven schools, with Yale Law ($1,815) and Stanford Law ($1,962) circling nearby. In fact, 25 of the Top 50 schools boosted tuition by $1,500 or more in the past year.
Based on the past four years, those increases show no signs of abating. Among Top 10 law schools, tuition rose anywhere from $6,382 (Northwestern) to $10,472 (New York University) during that period. The bigger names tended to cluster to the higher side, including Columbia ($9,772), Harvard ($9,758), University of Chicago ($8,814), Stanford ($7,434), and Yale ($6,265). It’s not just the brand name programs that have been able to jack up the tuition, as evidenced in increases by Boston College ($13,450), Baylor University ($11,332), the University of Connecticut ($10,790), the University of Kentucky ($10,702), and the University of Utah ($10,674)
That isn’t to say a few brave law schools haven’t cut tuition to make themselves more appealing. In-state tuition at the University of Iowa was sliced by $4,578 over the past four years. That pales in comparison to the University of Arizona, where in-state tuition was cut by nearly 30% to $30,025. Positive signs all, but applicants should expect to tack $4,500-$6,000 (minimum) onto their tuition budget for the next three years.
To see current and previous year’s data for the Top 50 law schools in tuition, acceptance rates, LSAT scores, and undergraduate GPA ranges, click on the links below.