Welcome to the latest installment of Law Admissions Q&A, a feature that provides law school admissions advice to readers who send in questions and admissions profiles.
If you have a question, email us for a chance to be featured next month.
This week, I will discuss the reliability of online tools and websites students use during their law school search.
I’m gearing up to apply for the upcoming cycle, and in order to conserve time and energy I’m trying to apply only to schools to which I have a realistic chance of being admitted. In doing my research, I’ve encountered some LSAT/GPA calculators as well as user-updated websites, which I hope would help me get a better idea of what scores would get me into certain schools. My question is: Just how accurate and reliable are those tools? –Numbers Game
Dear Numbers Game:
The internet can be a double-edged sword: It provides you with all the information you need to do proper research, but the data may be obscured by irrelevant, inaccurate or misleading information. Therefore, when using certain tools, it’s best to take the results with a grain of salt.
The most common tool used by applicants is one of the many LSAT/GPA calculators, which can be found through a simple Google search. However, there are some inherent dangers in using those as guidance.
First, the data used by the calculators may be obsolete; many calculators stopped updating their database with incoming classes’ information many years ago, leaving the user with an inaccurate idea of the scores typically accepted by a school.
Second, even calculators using more recent data output results based on previous cycles’ scores, which — as we’ve seen in the previous cycle — may oscillate significantly from year to year, making predictions for the next cycle possibly inaccurate.
Finally, calculators are machines, able to evaluate only numbers. Obviously, they are unable to take into account things like your personal statement, diversity statement, work experience and personal history, such as academic probations and arrests. These non-numerical factors are becoming increasingly important for admissions committees when evaluating applicants, so the numbers alone paint a skewed picture.
While even the Law School Admission Council’s website offers an LSAT/GPA calculator, it comes with a disclaimer warning users about its limitations. Additionally, some schools — including some heavy hitters like Harvard University, Yale University and Stanford University, as well as some lower-ranked schools — have opted out of including their names in the results, so even that calculator provides incomplete results.
A newer trend is that of websites collecting applicants’ results — sometimes down to the very fine details including early decision and scholarship offers — and sharing them publicly.
At a first glance, these can be very useful: The data are updated on a daily basis, and information is sortable by factors such as school, GPA and date of application, making for a user-friendly experience.
However, consider the source of the data: applicants — like you — who have a clear agenda in mind, which is getting admitted to a good law school. Not all of them have your best interest at heart.
For example, some may want to eliminate the competition, and report that they have been rejected by a school even though they had high scores, hoping that it would discourage others from applying.
Others — as is human nature — will be more inclined to report their success than admit their failures, or simply forget to keep updating their profile once they’ve accepted an offer, leading to an incomplete picture of their application results.
[Read: Sell Yourself to Reach Law Schools.]
All of this is not to say that these tools are useless. It’s important to apply to schools to which you have at least a realistic shot of being admitted, and the best way to make a high-level determination of that is using numerical data.
However, don’t let numbers alone dictate where you apply. A classmate of mine was admitted to Harvard Law School with an LSAT score of 163 — he was admitted off the wait list, but that part doesn’t appear on his diploma.
Another applicant I worked with was admitted to the New York University School of Law with LSAT scores of 161, 162 and 166. And another friend was denied admission to every top-10 school despite having a 3.7/168 split.
While you may want to work efficiently, given that applications are time- and cost-intensive, you would be wise to consider several other factors and compile a list with 12-15 law schools, including a few reach and safety schools, in order to improve your chances.
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What Law School Applicants Should Know About LSAT/GPA Calculators originally appeared on usnews.com