Picture a day in the life of an admissions representative. It’s the easy life, most assume. You can almost picture tweedy intellects spending their days reading applications while sipping tea and swooning to Mozart. Chances are, their weekly gatherings resemble a Mensa meeting too: conscientious, objective and efficient.
Reality check: Adcoms don’t work 9-to-5, let alone drive Teslas. They’re understaffed and underpaid like everyone else. Their inboxes and voicemails are clogged. On their desk, that stack of applications is rising to eye level. When they’re sapped from jam-packed days and never-ending road shows, that’s when they’ll read your application.
WHY THE NUMBERS MATTER
To you, adcoms are the wise elites who’ll decide your future. To them, you’re just another stranger with a daunting collection of transcripts, essays, and letters of recommendation to evaluate. Like anyone, they love compelling underdogs and pertinent examples. Leadership…extracurriculars…volunteerism…passions – they make notes on all of it. Still, adcoms carry two numbers in the backs of their heads. The first is an academic score that proves you can hack the demands. The second is the number of seats budgeted to a class – and whether you possess that special something that can neither be quantified nor matched by other candidates.
Law school admissions is often described as a “numbers game” – where academic scores separate applicants into tiers. That starts with the LSAT. While the GRE is gaining traction, the LSAT still delivers the head-to-head candidate comparison that risk-averse adcoms crave to justify their decisions. Here, scores range from 120-180. Among the seven highest-ranked law programs, the lowest median score hit 170, with the most generous range in the 25th to 75th percentile coming in at 164-171. To put it another way, a 170 would rank in the 97.5% percentile for the Class of 2020, with 164 hitting the 89.6% mark.
Why does the LSAT matter? The reading comprehension section tests a candidate’s ability to analyze an argument’s strengths, flaws, and underlying assumptions. Logical reasoning assesses their capacity for organizing, interpreting, and connecting data. Finally, analytical reasoning tackles how well a candidate can identify, summarize, and simplify key ideas and details. That doesn’t count an unscored sections that dissect how well applicants formulate and defend arguments in written form. In short, the LSAT tests for the skills possessed by top attorneys.
LSATs AND GPAs ARE JUST THE START
Adcoms also heavily factor undergraduate GPAs…but for far different reasons. Those three magic digits aren’t a perfect indicator of intellect. Students take different classes with differing levels of difficulty on uneven playing fields. Extracurricular involvement and work commitments certainly aren’t divided evenly among students. There is always the spectre of grade inflation too. Of course, GPAs reflect something more profound that brainpower: grit. It is the measure of a prospect’s willingness to show up and gut it out. Beyond perseverance, GPAs indicate a student’s engagement, a work ethic and ambition that ultimately translates into success. That piece is invaluable in an environment where students are thrown into the deep end, left to adapt to more work than anyone can possibly handle.
LSATs and GPAs aren’t the only numbers that show law school candidates where they stand against their peers. School acceptance rates spotlight an applicant’s odds of being accepted, with most T14 schools putting the odds at 1-in-5…or less. Cost indicates how affordable annual tuition, room and board, books, and miscellaneous expenses will be – and whether a school provides a commiserate return. Scholarships can offset some costs, but how much is doled out and what percentage of students receive it? Of course, bar passage and job placement rates ultimately signify how well a law school investment pays off at various programs.
Wondering how your target law schools fare in academic scores, cost, and ROI? Click on the links below to see the 2018 performance of 60 law schools in the areas that matter most to applicants.