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harvard law school

LAgalLAgal Registered User Posts: 882 Member
edited February 2010 in Law School
how hard is it to get into harvard law school after graduating from harvard college?
Post edited by LAgal on

Replies to: harvard law school

  • SlickerSlicker Registered User Posts: 44 Junior Member
    Some 240 Harvard College alums currently attend the Law School, meaning the admissions rate is around a 80-per-year. The next closest is Yale, with 110 alums at the Law School. There's no sure way to get into Harvard Law, but the closest thing to it is to attend Harvard College.

    Getting into Yale Law is another story. (Sort of.)
  • emsibdnemsibdn Registered User Posts: 814 Member
    I suppose it's a bit easier than non-ivy league colleges. However, I do notice that they take at least one grad from "lesser" colleges. I don't think they take many, maybe 10 from the same school or so.
  • sakkysakky - Posts: 14,759 Senior Member
    It's easier, but still nothing close to a slam-dunk. I believe that something like 20-25% of all Harvard College students who apply to HLS get in, hence most do not. And obviously we're only talking about those Harvard College Students who bother to apply to HLS. Lots of them want to go to HLS, but don't bother applying because their grades weren't good enough.
  • RKATCRKATC Registered User Posts: 226 Junior Member
    Depends. Law school admissions does not look so much as where you went as an undergrad, what you did, etc. It is basically all based on GPA and LSAT scores. Someone who graduates from a decent, public state school with a 4.0 and high LSAT score stands a better chance than someone who graduates from Harvard with a 3.5 and a similar LSAT score. It's all in the numbers.
  • sakkysakky - Posts: 14,759 Senior Member
    It should be said that Harvard College's grades are heavily inflated, so you're pretty much assured of getting a half-decent GPA if you go. I am convinced that this is a big reason why Harvard College is able to get so many alumni into top law schools.

    However, in general, I agree with RKATC - the numbers are king. In other words, those who study easy majors in easy schools get a huge leg up.
  • sakkysakky - Posts: 14,759 Senior Member
    In reference to PsedrishMD's above weblink, whether you think Harvard is engaging in less grade inflation than in the past, well, let's just think about whether the students at MIT would trade their grading scheme at MIT for the one at Harvard, even if the Harvard scheme is not as inflated as before. I think that MIT students not only would MIT students even have to think twice about trading, they probably wouldn't even have to think once. Harvard's grading may or may not be as inflated as it was in the past, but it's still a lot more inflated than that at MIT.
  • Susan777Susan777 Registered User Posts: 75 Junior Member
    The reason Harvard students get into top law schools is not because of grade inflation (which does exist), but rather because they tend to be people who do very well on standardized tests. That's how they got into Harvard in the first place.

    On the other hand, It may not really be an advantage to apply to HLS from Harvard College. For one thing, you're competing against all the other very talented and intelligent Harvard College students, for a limited number of slots. Remember, only about 1 out of every 4 or 5 Harvard College applicants get accepted.

    I would submit that if the same person instead attended a good public university, they would have even better odds of earning admission to HLS. For one thing, they would almost certainly earn the same, requisite 170+ on their LSAT.

    For another thing, grade inflation is fairly universal, and this student would be competing against students who are generally somewhat less competitive. He would therefore probably be more likely to end up with the necessary 3.75+ GPA. (I don't know what the median GPA is at Harvard College, but I'm sure it's well below this.)

    Therefore, I would submit that a person of equal intelligence and ability from outside Harvard will probably have a better overall chance of being accepted to the law school than someone from Harvard. This would only be increased by the fact that Harvard does desire geographic and academic diversity, and will therefore be looking for truly qualified (170+) grads from the top public schools, where such students are also somewhat more rare.
  • ariesathenaariesathena Registered User Posts: 5,087 Senior Member
    "Grade inflation is fairly universal." LMAO! Right. With only one quarter of my fellow students in my engineering major breaking a 3.2... grade inflation? Right. Most of our tests were scaled to a 2.5 (B-/C+ average). 92% of Harvard undergrads graduate with honours; half of grades given are an A or A-. There is grade inflation in many humanities, but Harvard is one of the worst violators. Their professors refuse to change, as they (rightly) fear that students will not take their courses.
  • ariesathenaariesathena Registered User Posts: 5,087 Senior Member
    Also, HLS has about 240 Harvard alums per class. I will contend that more Harvard undergrads go onto HLS than any other law school - and, for that matter, all other law schools put together.
  • Susan777Susan777 Registered User Posts: 75 Junior Member
    When I say grade inflation is fairly universal, I mean that it occurs at almost every school, and affects most students at those schools. There are of course exceptions, like MIT, the military academies, and some (if not most) engineering/science programs.

    I also don't doubt that Harvard, and the Ivies in general, are probably the worst offenders in this regard. However, you could argue that it is most justified at a school like Harvard, which is almost impossible to get into in the first place. When you're competing against the brightest students in the country, it seems somewhat unfair to give someone a "C" on a standard curve when that paper or exam would get an "A" at most other schools. (The same analysis, of course, is applied to hiring at top law schools.)

    However, even with this grade inflation, half the students at Harvard end up with B's and C's, when they would probably be getting A's at many other schools.

    Finally, HLS has less than 80 Harvard alums per class, not 240. (The 240 is the number for the entire school, and it's actually 238.) The graduating class size at Harvard College is about 1650 people. If 20%/25% of the Harvard grads who apply to HLS get into HLS, then a far greater number of Harvard grads end up attending other law schools. (And this is assuming everyone at Harvard who applies to law school applies to HLS.)

    Now, it is clear that HLS has more students from Harvard College than from any other school. However, this is probably true of most law schools. Most laws schools will have a greater representation from their own undergraduate school than from any other, for obvious reasons. The real question is whether it is actually easier to get into HLS from Harvard than from other programs. Once you control for test scores and inherent ability, I'm just not sure this is the case. Again, Harvard students tend to be among the brightest, hardest-working students in the country, and tend to excel on standardized tests. It is therefore only natural they would tend to have high LSAT's, and seek out the best law schools in the country, particularly Harvard and Yale. Since Yale has a small number of spots, many will end up at Harvard.

    However, given that these students would probably have the same LSAT if they attended other schools, and would usually have a comparable or higher GPA, I'm not sure there's any real advantage to attending Harvard per se. Again, the bottom half of the class at Harvard would probably have a higher GPA at most other schools. And the vast majority of students at HLS, of course, are not from Harvard.
  • sakkysakky - Posts: 14,759 Senior Member
    I would actually argue that grade inflation is actually not fairly universal, and in particular is not all that common to state schools. The fact is, state schools tend to grade harder than the Ivies do. Hence it is unclear whether a person who attended a state school would really get a higher GPA than he would at Harvard. Hence I believe your first premises are flawed.

    I would refer you to the following website, where you can see for yourself:


    Yes, public schools tend to be easier in the sense that the student bodies tend to be of lower average quality than the Ivies. On the other hand, public schools are less afraid to give out bad grades.

    Furthermore, while we are talking strictly of law school admissions specifically, but I would broaden that scope, if slightly. The first prerequisite to getting into law school is graduting from college in the first place. Your chances of getting into law school are effectively zero if you can't even graduate with your bachelor's. And the fact is, if you get into Harvard, then as long as you do the work, you're basically assured of getting your degree. Generally, only those people who really don't want to graduate or who find something better to do (like Bill Gates) won't graduate. Everybody else who puts in a bonafide effort is going to complete thd degree. Maybe you won't get top grades, and maybe you'll have to change majors to something easy, but you're basically guaranteed to graduate. This is a far cry from many if not most of the publics were flunking out is a serious possibility. Look at the graduation rates of each public comparatively to the rates of equivalent private schools (i.e. private schools of equivalent academic quality) and you will notice that graduation rates of those publics tend to be conspicuously lower. And that's not just because the quality of the student bodies at the publics tend to be lower. The fact is, at many publics, you can do all the work, put in a reasonable effort, and still flunk out. Hence, going to Harvard and taking advantage of the virtual-guarantee of graduation keeps you 'in the game' of law school admissions. It obviously doesn't guarantee your admission, but hey, it's better than flunking out of a public school.
  • Susan777Susan777 Registered User Posts: 75 Junior Member
    Hey, Sakky.

    The link you posted confirms that both public and private schools appear to suffer from significant grade inflation. Therefore, it actually supports the general idea that grade inflation is fairly universal. (I don't think any public university professor who's been teaching for several decades would disagree.)

    The link does indicate that private schools have worse grade inflation than public schools, but I've already stipulated this with regard to Harvard.

    The real question is whether the grade inflation at Harvard outweights the stiffer competition level, and I agree the answer to this is unclear. That, in fact, is my entire point -- that we can't categorically say it's easier to get into HLS from Harvard just because Harvard has high grade inflation, and/or because many Harvard kids end up attending HLS.

    Now, I might believe that the moderate competition level + moderate grade inflation at most public schools outweighs the high compeition level + high grade inflation at Harvard. You might believe otherwise. Both views would be reasonable -- it's difficult to determine. I'm just trying to explore a different view on the matter.

    As someone who attended at top public university, I agree with much of what you say. I'm sure in many ways it's easier to coast through Harvard with B's or C's, as opposed to doing the same at a public university. My impression is that you're basically spoon-fed your education at a top private school, while you pretty much have to fight for it at a large public. No one's going to hold your hand.

    And you may therefore well be right that for an average student, going to HLS will greatly increase their chances of getting into a law school. (Even if you got an average 150 on your LSAT, half-decent grades (say a 2.5 - 3.0) along with the prestige of a Harvard diploma would almost certainly get you in somewhere.)

    However, my point was solely focused on the relative chances of an actual Harvard student, if he had instead attended a public university, of getting into HLS. In that case, I would submit that it is highly unlikely that at a student with top high school grades and honors, and a 1500+ SAT score, would tend to flunk out of any liberal arts program. Rather, I would expect them to do very well, and probably get better grades than they would at Harvard, despite lesser grade inflation. (Just my opinion.)

    Therefore, given that I would expect such students to be in the top 10-15% of their class at a public university, the GPA benefit I project could easily exceed any intangible bonus attending Harvard gives. (Whether it actually does or not, of course, is open to question.)

    (Note: The above analysis would obviously not apply to legacy, etc. admits that get in with lower admissions criteria than most Harvard students. Such students are clearly advantaged by their admission to Harvard, and would probably be seriously harmed if they had to study elsewhere.)

    We do know that Harvard takes pride in the academic and geographic diversity of it's students, so it would presumably be happy to select kids with sky-high numbers from various public universities that are not currently (or as) represented in the class.

    The main weakness to this argument, in my opinion, is the assumption that LSAT will remain unchanged regardless of where you attend school. Some may say that a "less rigorous" education at another school will mean lower LSAT scores than if the same person attended Harvard. However, I again agree that the actual education can be just as rigorous at a good public school, if not more so. I therefore believe that LSAT scores would remain fairly constant.

    My argument is essentially just a statement of meritocracy. Given that tens of thousands of highly qualified and talented students are rejected from Harvard each year, it's important for them to realize that they can still meet or exceed the Harvard admits, in pretty much every area. My argument was originally expressed in the context of admission to all top law schools, and I think it's stronger in that context, given that Harvard may in fact have some quirky preferences for its own students. However, we know this preference isn't overwhelming, as most students at HLS are not in fact Harvard graduates. There are in fact many public school grads at HLS, and many Harvard grads at lower-ranked schools. The bottom line is that you if you have the abiilty to peform well on standardized tests, and a very solid work ethic, you have an excellent chance at attending schools like HLS, regardless of where you go to undergrad. You may even have a better chance, in some respects. And I think it's important for students to remember this, especially if they don't go to Harvard. Otherwise, they may end up limiting themselves due to exaggerated myths and stereotypes.
  • sakkysakky - Posts: 14,759 Senior Member
    Susan777, I think our opinions are fairly close to each other. I don't fundamentally disagree with anything you have said.

    However, I would extrapolate on the following point, that, again, it's practically impossible to flunk out of Harvard College, whereas at public schools, flunking out is a perennial danger. Nor can the chances of flunking out be attributed solely to academic ability. The fact is, a lot of 17-18 year olds may be extremely talented academically, but are also not completely mature. Let's face it - college is a psychologially traumatic experience. For many if not most students, this is the first time they will live away from home. This is the first time where they will basically have to take care of themselves without the intervention of mom & dad.

    And the fact is, lots of people who otherwise have the academic ability to do very well will end up doing quite poorly anyway. At every school, you will have some students who will tend to withdraw, either because they're bored, or because they don't like the environment, or because they're homesick or whatever. In college, you don't really have to go to class if you don't want to. Nobody is going to take your attendance, and nobody is going to otherwise require you to attend. If you want to stay in your dorm and watch TV and play video games all day, every day, and never study, you are free to do that.

    What Harvard and many of the other private schools can offer that public schools can't or won't offer are the safety mechanisms necessary to help students get through the rougher psychological moments. Let's face it - it's far far easier to fall through the cracks if you are attending a public school where quite honestly, nobody really cares if you flunk out. Happened to several people I know who went to a public school and through various acts of immaturity, managed to flunk out. Public schools will absolutely not hesitate to stick your permanent academic record with a whole bunch of bad grades and they will not flinch in throwing you out for poor academic performance. You're having problems in adjusting to college life at a public school? Too bad, that's your problem. If the work isn't getting done, then nobody will care about why, they will just give you an 'F'. Now you might say that that's really the fault of those students for being immature, but the point is that I know very well that if they had attended one of the elite privates, they would have been given second and third and fourth chances that they never got at their public school. At the end of the day, these guys would have been far far better served had they went to a private school. Maybe they wouldn't have done well there, but at least they'd have their degrees now, which is a lot more than I can say about the situation as it is today. Not only were they expelled at the public school they were at, but few other schools want to take them because few colleges want to admit a transfer student who flunked out of his previous college - not when there are other available transfer candidates with pristine academic records. So basically, these guys will have great difficulty in ever getting any college degree from any school.

    Going to Harvard College obviously doesn't guarantee your admission to Harvard Law School or any other law school for that matter. But it at least largely prevents you from suffering that sad fate I just talked about. It's obviously worlds better to graduate from Harvard with a completely mediocre GPA that prevents you from going to law school than it is to be thrown out of a public school.
  • CC ArticlesCC Articles - Posts: 32,240 Senior Member
    it seems much is being made of the percentages of harvard students that go to HLS. if 80 harvard grads per year attend HLS, we can assume that maybe 85-90 got accepted per year. that number is 20-25% of those harvard grads that apply to HLS. now, using 80 as the number of acceptees (to deliberately underestimate) and 25% as the percentage accepted, that puts the number of applications per year from harvard to HLS at 320. in a class of 1650, that is almost 20% of the graduating class applying for HLS (19.39% to be exact). meanwhile, the 80 attending is 4.8% of the entire graduating class. both of these are pretty big numbers.

    try to run the numbers at any other school - including the other ivies (except maybe yale) - theyre not even close. whether its due to grade inflation, school favoritism, or the phases of the moon, these numbers dont lie- there is clearly a preference for harvard grads at HLS- just as theres one for yale grads at YLS, cornell grads at CLS, etc etc.
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