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The View from the Top

The easiest way to see why you can't get into school X is to look at the number of seats for mainstream applicants at that school or better schools (as reported in the Official Guide, 2001 ed.), and the number of mainstream applicants with certain index numbers.  Here are the caveats:

  • I've calculated the number of seats as total in the first year class minus 1/3 the total number of blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans.  This number may be a tad high, as there are often more minorities in the first year class (because of either rising minority admission rates or higher than average minority attrition).
  • I've adjusted the state schools marked with an asterisk(*) to show the number of nonresident mainstream seats.  This is based on private interview data collected several years ago, which may have changed.
  • I've calculated the number of mainstream applicants from data published by Law Services, showing the number of applicants with various gpa and LSAT combinations, for 2001.  I've then adjusted this number by the reasonably expected increase for 2003, which is 20% more than the 2001 applicant volumes.   Then in 2009, I checked to make sure the data was still valid, and it's almost identical, so I'm leaving it up.

If you find your index number, using the formula Index = LSAT + (gpa x 10), you can see where you are on the chart.

Of course, that's a very vague approximation.  It doesn't allow for quality of school, activities, recs, essays, and differing emphases on gpa and LSAT in admissions formulas.  But it gives you a rough idea of why you can't get into school X -- there are that many people who have more impressive numbers than you!

Index # People   School People Index #
220 1   Yale 150 216
219 6   Harvard 617 213
218 18   Stanford 759 212
217 45   Chicago 925 212
216 75   Columbia 1226 211
215 112   NYU 1571 210
214 175   Virginia* 1731 210
213 243   Berkeley* 1851 210
212 322   Penn 2064 210
211 435   Northwestern 2240 209
210 594   Duke 2433 209
209 793   Michigan* 2613 209
208 1073   Cornell 2778 209
207 1388   Georgetown 3282 208
206 1727  
205 2090
204 2470
203 2890
202 3334
201 3804
200 4372

Okay, numbers seem to put everyone off, so let's try this:

  • Suppose you have a 3.8 and a 170. Your index number is 208.
  • About 1000 people have an index number of 208. But about 2800 people have an index number higher than 208. So 3800 people have an index number of 208 or better.
  • The number of people enrolled at the top 14 law schools is 3300. So a 208 might get you into a "top ten" law school, but it might not.

 

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