Showing posts with label admissions. Show all posts
Showing posts with label admissions. Show all posts

Harvard Law Accepting GRE Scores: An LSAT-Style Logical Fallacy

Harvard Law Accepting GRE LSAT Logical Fallacy
In the days since Harvard Law announced their decision to start accepting GRE scores, I've wondered if perhaps I was being unfair in my analysis - maybe Harvard does really want more international applicants, engineers, etc. for the sake of diversifying the student body.

And, yes, it's true, the change will lead to a wider and more diverse pool...but I can't shake the nagging feeling that something's fishy going on here.

Because, despite all that:

They haven't adequately made the argument that the GRE is a valid predictor of 1L grades the way the LSAT is!

The study they used to support their claim that the GRE is an equally valid predictor of 1L grades was only based on a sample of current and former HLS students (details here). This is a population likely to do well on a variety of standardized tests and likely to do well in law school - and they didn't study any other group!

To describe it in more formal terms, their argument is strictly correlational within a group of high-achieving, high-aptitude Harvard Law students - there's no control group! As a result, there's no way we can to separate those with only great test scores on each exam from those with only high GPAs and predict each group's 1L grades.

In short, from the information they've released, there's no indication they've made a rigorous attempt to study the GRE's validity as a standardized test independently of their own population.

To me, this suggests they're doing this for more self-interested reasons - rankings, applicant pool size, etc. In fact, I believe HLS hasn't attempted to demonstrate the GRE's predictive validity because they know (or at least suspect) that the GRE isn't an equally valid predictor of 1L grades. My guess is they expect the ABA to allow it anyway because law schools need the applicants. (And, if so, they're probably right about this.)

Why does this all matter? Who cares if the LSAT's a better indicator of 1L grades?

Because while anyone Harvard admits will likely be fine in the end, this change will create a domino effect at other lower-tier schools as they take advantage of the opportunity to expand their class sizes without suffering in the US News rankings.

The LSAT is almost certainly a better indicator of 1L grades - it functions as a barrier to prevent the admission of students likely to flunk out.

Similarly, it's likely a better indicator of students' ability to pass the bar exam - acting as a barrier to prevent the admission of students who might waste 3 years of their lives and over $100,000 in tuition money, yet still not be able to practice law in the end.

Top-tier applicants will likely still opt for the LSAT because they want to show they can ace it, while those who find it more difficult will do their best on the GRE. And many students will likely take both exams just to see which one they have more initial aptitude for. While math-phobia may deter some students from trying the GRE, I can't help wondering whether "Games-phobia" will deter applicants from the LSAT. Only time will tell.

Harvard Law Accepting the GRE: Will Students Stop Taking the LSAT?

Harvard Law GRE Students Taking LSAT
I previously wrote about Harvard Law's frankly-BS (pardon my French) argument for adding the GRE option, but I wanted to briefly answer another pressing question:

(This one's especially for my colleagues in the LSAT biz, and fellow LSAT lovers.)

Will the LSAT's popularity drop significantly over the next few years? Is it time to start brushing up on random-ass vocabulary words and middle-school math?

Let's look at what happened to the number of GMAT exams administered after business schools started accepting the GRE:

* 265,613 GMAT exams administered from July 2008- June 2009.

261,248 GMAT exams administered from July 2015 - June 2016.

The bottom line: Despite the GRE's widespread adoption in that market (starting in 2006), GMAT test administrations are still around the recent baseline average from 2008-2013.

See below graph from this article:

(Note: Top business schools began accepting GRE scores as an alternative to the GMAT in 2006, so this chart reflects the competition between the two exams. And, for those wondering, the GMAT spike in 2011-12, and subsequent drop, was due to students taking it early to avoid an impending change to the test that occurred in the 2012-13 cycle.)

It'll likely take a few years for the full consequences of this change to play out, and if anything, it'll most likely lead to more law school applicants overall (not necessarily a significant decline in LSAT takers). Many people will take both, or at least look at both, and see where they do better percentile-wise...

Ironically, if anything, this will lead students to spend more on test prep, since many will take both the LSAT and the GRE. By "increasing access to legal education," law schools are the only winners here.

Further Reading:

LSAT Blog: Harvard Law Accepting GRE Scores: An LSAT-Style Logical Fallacy

Harvard Law Drops LSAT Requirement, Takes GRE for Law School Admission

Harvard Law LSAT requirement GRE
UPDATE: Harvard Law Accepting the GRE: Will Students Stop Taking the LSAT?


Lots of LSAT news lately:

1. The Khan Academy is coming out with an LSAT prep product next year.

2. Harvard Law will start to accept the GRE as an alternative.

The silver lining on Harvard Law taking the GRE:

I'm not happy about the Harvard/GRE change overall, but I suppose the silver lining for me is the schadenfreude of seeing LSAC (the people who make the LSAT) get some serious competition from the GRE.

LSAC has been slow to computerize the LSAT and, as a result, still only offers it 4 times a year!

So, if something goes wrong with one test administration, students have to wait several months.

This has hurt an ENORMOUS percentage of students over the years.

Additionally the policies on test postponement/withdrawal/cancellation (and associated fees) have been harsh - students who can't really afford all the fees still have to shell out money to the LSAC monopoly as they postpone in their test dates, prepare for retakes, etc.

So, mayyyybeeee LSAC will loosen up a bit and become more consumer-friendly as a result. Could they increase the speed of computerizing the LSAT, be more flexible on test changes, etc.? We'll see.

Harvard's (flawed) argument for accepting GRE scores for law school admission:

LSAC is the bureaucracy we all love to hate, but their massive army of nerds does manage to consistently produce a great test year after year.

I'm very surprised to hear the claim that the GRE is an equally valid predictor of 1L grades as the LSAT - I think the LSAT is a much better test overall, and especially so for law school admission purposes.

Maybe I'm biased - after all, I do love the LSAT and am kinda obsessed with it - but no other test comes even close to the LSAT's sophistication.

AND, if one does, I'd begrudgingly admit it's the GMAT with its Critical Reasoning and Data Sufficiency questions.

I've often thought the GRE is a lazy test: re-using SAT-style content for all different grad school programs? Srsly?

Most of it has little relevance to legal reasoning. Could the GRE really apply THAT well to what's needed for such a large variety of graduate-level programs?

*** We're now living in a world where someone can get a JD/MBA from Harvard Law without taking either the LSAT or the GMAT - two of the best graduate school admission tests out there! ***

For Harvard, I think this is mainly an effort to get more high-achieving students, given the decline in 170+ applicants. It may spread across T14, then ripple down to the others. The biggest negative consequences would be for the students at the lower end of the spectrum who won't be able to pass the bar.

Harvard talked about "increasing access to legal education." I think this is code for "let's keep low-end law schools in business by allowing 'access' to customers who shouldn't be going at all."

So...."access to legal education" = "access to law school debt"

At the same time, higher-end schools will have more access to smart students in the arms race for a leg up the rankings, and potentially allow them to increase their class sizes, bar passage rates, and tuition $$$ as well.

More reasons why the "access to legal education" argument doesn't work:

There's more free LSAT content out there than ever before - the rate at which it's added has increased significantly over the past few years as companies offer free content to attract students to their paid offerings. Khan Academy for LSAT will be yet another addition, but it would've had a much bigger impact if it came out 5-10 years ago.

It's always nice to have another option, but it's much less "necessary" than ever before. Free LSAT prep is widely available. An Internet-savvy student could fully prepare without spending a dime.

What will the future bring?

I'll be curious to see what happens with the GRE and law school admissions over the next few years, but I don't think anyone applying this cycle (or anyone working in the LSAT industry) has to worry too much about it for now.

It's easy to imagine the worst case scenario (massive drop in LSAT test-takers), but let's wait and see if other top schools actually start allowing the option as well.

Bottom line:

Could it simply be that even top law schools just don't care that much about which test they accept (assuming some minimal standard of quality)?

Do they just want the testing process to be as smooth as possible for consumers (errr...students) in order to increase:

* size of applicant pool
* selectivity
* yield
* US News rankings
* class size / tuition $$$

Sadly, I think "yes."

Law School Application Process Video

LSAT Blog Introduction Law School Application Process VideoThe below 10-minute video titled "Introduction to Law School and the LSAT" gives some solid general advice on the law school application process.

Waiving Your Right to Review Letters of Recommendation

LSAT Blog Waiving Right Review Letters Recommendation
The below excerpt on waiving your right to review law school recommendation letters (and letters of recommendation in a nutshell) is from A Guide to Law School Recommendations.

Quick Law School Recommendation Letter Tips

LSAT Blog Quick Law School Recommendation Letter Tips
The below quick tips on law school recommendation letters are from A Guide to Law School Recommendations.

Targeted Law School Recommendation Letters

LSAT Blog Targeted Law School Recommendation Letters
The below post on targeted law school recommendation letters is an excerpt from A Guide to Law School Recommendations.

Law School Personal Statement Outside Help

LSAT Blog Law School Personal Statement Outside Help
The below excerpt on getting outside help for your law school personal statements is from A Guide to Optional Essays and Addenda.

Law School Letter of Continued Interest | Sample

LSAT Blog Law School Letter Continued Interest Sample
If you get waitlisted by a law school, it's a good idea to send a Letter of Continued Interest (LOCI) in order to increase your chances of acceptance.

LOCIs demonstrate to law schools that you are serious about attending their school if accepted which will help increase their yield (a factor on which they're ranked in the always-important-to-them USNWR rankings.

Here's a sample law school application Letter of Continued Interest to get you started:

To Whom It May Concern / Dear _____ Admissions: 
I would like to reiterate my unwavering desire to attend _________. There is no law school I would rather attend. 
My professional and personal backgrounds would bring diversity to the community. My experience in _____ demonstrates my ability to excel in an intense, highly competitive environment. At the same time, I ___________. 
(Here, I would add a sentence or two with some kind of update on anything new you've been doing since you submitted your application. Can be work or community service-related.) 
I would be honored to be offered the privilege to join the ______ Class of 2018. 
Thank you very much for your consideration. 

(Just don't use word-for-word, or they'll know you copied it from LSAT Blog!)

Why (and How) to Send Letters of Continued Interest to Law Schools (from this guest post):

Many law schools claim that they don’t want or need to hear why you wish to attend their law school. Do yourself a favor, and ignore these claims. Law schools - and particularly admissions offices - care a great deal about enrollment rates. If half of everyone they accept goes to a different law school, that reflects terribly on the admissions office, and the entire law school. They want to know that if they accept you, you will come.

Many individuals placed on the waitlist at top law schools will get into other top law schools. The admissions office knows this. If you are waitlisted at Columbia, there is a decent chance that you will be accepted at NYU, Chicago, etc. If you are one of the lucky few taken off of the waitlist, admissions officers want to know that you won’t just end up at one of these other schools.

How do you accomplish that? Simply, straightforwardly, and in a letter of continued interest. Send the letter shortly after you have been waitlisted. Let the admissions office know that you continue to be very interested in their school.

Explain why you are interested in their school. What makes them unique? Why can’t you get the same things from another law school? The more specific and detailed you are, the more likely that admissions officers will believe you.

In addition, be straightforward. If you are waitlisted at your top choice, tell them that they are your top choice. Don’t just say that you are “very interested.” If they are your top choice, you should make it very clear that you will be attending their school if you are accepted.

The letter of continued interest may be sent separately from your supplemental essays or materials. However, I would recommend that you send them together. At the bottom of your letter, you can mention that you’ve included additional materials that may be of help in assessing your application.

Law School App Optional Explanation Statements

LSAT Blog Law School App Optional Explanation Statements
The below excerpt on targeted optional explanation statements on your law school application is from A Guide to Optional Essays and Addenda.

Number of LSAT Test-Takers Increased in February 2015

The Law School Admission Council just released the number of February 2015 LSAT-takers, and it's quite a surprise.

After over four years of (virtually) steady decline* in the number of LSAT test-takers, the number has increased significantly. Specifically, it increased by 4.4% year-over-year - from 19,499 to 20,358.

Many prospective law school applicants have been dissuaded over the past few years by news about changing prospects in the legal market. Three years ago, the number of LSAT test-takers actually hit a 10-year-low.

Now, suddenly, things appear to be moving in the opposite direction - at least to some extent.


Should Law Schools Drop The LSAT Requirement?

LSAT Blog Should Law Schools Drop LSAT Requirement
I was just interviewed on Huffington Post Live (alternate link) about some recent changes in law school admissions, along with Elie Mystal of Above the Law and Kyle McEntee of Law School Transparency.

Law School Addenda Quick Tips

LSAT Blog Law School Addenda Quick Tips
The below excerpt with quick tips on law school optional essays and addenda is from A Guide to Optional Essays and Addenda.

Law School App Explanation Statements

LSAT Blog Law School App Explanation Statements
The below excerpt on "explanation" statements, a type of optional law school application essay, is from A Guide to Optional Essays and Addenda.

Law School Application: Disclose?

LSAT Blog Law School Application Disclose
The below excerpt on disclosing on your law school application is from A Guide to Optional Essays and Addenda.

Law School Recommendation Letter Tips

LSAT Blog Law School Recommendation Letter Tips
The below excerpt about law school recommendation letters is from A Guide to Law School Recommendations.

Law School Admission Essay Topics to Avoid

LSAT Blog Law School Admission Essay Topics to Avoid
Last week, I published an excerpt on law school personal statement topics to avoid from The Art of the Law School Personal Statement by Michelle Fabio.

This week, we're continuing the series with more law school admission essay topics to avoid.


5. Poetry or Other Creative Writing

As touched on in the 12 Commandments, your personal statement is not the place to write haiku or the draft of a screenplay. You want your essay to be memorable but not in the “Can you believe she actually sent this in?” kind of way.

And to expand a little more on the inclusion of humor, never, under any circumstances, should you write the equivalent of a stand-up monologue. Law schools are looking for intelligent, mature, hard-working individuals, so your personal statement should highlight those characteristics—not make your case to replace Conan O’Brien.

6. Awards and Achievements

The brainstorming questions touched on this topic, and one outstanding award or achievement could make for a great personal statement topic, but a resume rundown of your awards and achievements can come across as pompous and arrogant. Believe me, I’ve seen this type of personal statement, and it’s not pretty.

Your resume is the appropriate place to list your awards and achievements, especially if there was nowhere else on the application to include them.

7. Trite Reasons for Wanting to Be a Lawyer

Trite is sometimes in the eye of the beholder, but when it comes to “why you want to go to law school,” here are general answers you should avoid:

                      My parents (or whoever) told me I’m good at arguing.
                      I loved my elementary/high school moot or mock trial court program.
                      It’s been my lifelong dream.
                      My [fill in the relative(s)] is/are lawyers.
                      I didn’t know what else to do with my English major.

You may be chuckling to yourself, thinking who would ever try to form a personal statement around any of these ideas? Trust me. I have seen a variation of each of one of these over the years, and it’s never been good.

So should you never write about why you want to become a lawyer? Never say never, because this could actually be a wonderful personal statement topic so long as you have a compelling story to tell and tell it, well, compellingly.

Generally, though, the “why I want to be a lawyer” topic is overdone and hard to pull off in an interesting, engaging way. This is especially true if you’re planning a "save the world" theme (it's difficult for it to come off as sincere and credible—sorry!). But if you've had a particularly formative, recent experience that has stirred your passions for practicing law, sure, it can work. Just be careful.

8. Random Childhood Memories

Your personal statement should focus on people and/or events that have shaped who you are, so don’t try to form a personal statement about the one time you volunteered at the hospital telethon working the phones.

Volunteering, of course, can make for an excellent personal topic, but only if you focus on a meaningful experience that made a significant impact on you.

Now that we’ve been through what would make for good and bad topics, it’s time to get this statement put together.

Law School Personal Statement Topics to Avoid

Law School Personal Statement Topics to Avoid
Below is an excerpt from The Art of the Law School Personal Statement by Michelle Fabio.


Before narrowing down that final topic for your personal statement, look at these below that you’re better off avoiding entirely or at least being extremely careful when writing about.

1. Low LSAT Score

Your LSAT score is in your file; if it’s low, never draw more attention to it in a personal statement. A low LSAT score because of a unique extenuating circumstance may be an appropriate topic for an addendum (more on that in Chapter Ten), but it’s difficult to imagine a situation in which it would be a good personal statement topic.

Remember, your personal statement is your chance to sell yourself, so write an outstanding essay highlighting why you’d be such a wonderful addition to the entering class. Leave the LSAT score out of it.

2. Low College Grades

Along the same lines as the low LSAT score discussion, your grades are listed on your transcript, which adcomms will receive, so don’t put a neon flashing light on your C- in Thermodynamics.

Again, if you feel there is a strong reason to attempt to explain low grades, think about doing so in an addendum (again, more fully discussed in Chapter Ten).

3. Politics

One of the questions in the brainstorming exercises asks you to consider your special interests, and for many of you, one of those is likely politics. Your experience in politics is a potentially good personal statement topic, but be careful on how you frame it.

Even if you think you’re pretty sure about an adcomm’s political leanings, it’s best to stay away from overly partisan personal statements. Your essay shouldn’t become a position paper on controversial issues such as the death penalty, abortion, war, etc. Aside from not talking about you enough (remember we want the personal statement to be personal), such an essay could risk offending an adcomm with your fiery writing on a topic close to your heart.

On the other hand, if you have worked for a politician or in depth on a particular issue and that experience has shaped your desire to attend law school, that could very well make for a great personal statement topic. Overall, though, remember to keep the focus on you and not on the politician or issue.

4. Philosophy

Along the same lines as avoiding politics, don’t use your personal statement to talk about your thoughts on jurisprudence, the role of society in the justice system, etc.

Adcomms don't want philosophical discussions, they want personal statements. Even if you think a philosophical essay represents you well, it is unlikely that you’ve expressed much about yourself personally, which should always be your goal.

A special note on this one: I’ve read many statements over the years that, although not fully philosophical, start out with a generalized proclamation about how the applicant feels about a certain aspect of society or another bland, general philosophical opening sentence.



See Law School Admission Essay Topics to Avoid for even more advice.

Choosing the Right Law School Location

LSAT Blog Choosing the Right Law School Location
The below excerpt on choosing the right law school location is from Jenny L. Maxey's Barrister on a Budget: Investing in Law School…without Breaking the Bank Second Edition.

Law School Application Process FAQ

LSAT Blog Law School Application Process FAQ
The LSAT Blog post contains links to many lists answering several law school application process FAQ.

Elisabeth Steele Hutchison, Director of Admissions at the William S. Richardson School of Law, compiled a TON of useful information to help you this admission cycle. Bookmark this page so you'll be able to easily access everything in the future.