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"Race" in College Applications FAQ & Discussion 12

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Replies to: "Race" in College Applications FAQ & Discussion 12

  • Data10Data10 Registered User Posts: 2,706 Senior Member
    edited March 10
    To get a fairer assessment of relative ability, i.e. bringing number skills into the equation, and for a larger sample size, I turn to Prof Mark Perry's GRE scores by major for verification:

    http://mjperry.blogspot.com/search?q=GRE+scores

    Just as I would expect based on what I see from the LSAT scores.

    If anyone has a newer version of this data, please post it.
    The official GRE scores as listed by ETS are the first link in a Google search - https://www.ets.org/s/gre/pdf/gre_guide_table4.pdf -- and they are completely different than the very old blog post. For ties, I ordered by the additional sections.

    Highest Total GRE (AW multiplied by 28.33 for common max 170 scaling on each section)
    1. Philosophy -- 434.8
    2. Religious Studies -- 427.0
    3. Political Science -- 427.0
    4. Physics -- 425.7
    5. Humanities -- 425.2
    6. English -- 425.0
    7. Art History -- 423.2
    8. Economics -- 421.6
    9. Foreign Languages -- 420.3
    10. Library Science -- 419.3

    Highest GRE VR (+/1 SD Range)
    1. Philosophy -- 152 to 166
    2. English -- 150 to 164
    3. Humanities -- 149 to 165
    4. Library Sciences -- 150 to 164
    5. Art History -- 150 to 164
    6. Religious Studies -- 150 to 164

    Highest GRE AW (+/1 SD Range)
    1. Philosophy -- 3.5 to 5.1
    2. English -- 3.4 to 5.0
    3. Religious Studies -- 3.4 to 5.0
    4. Political Science -- 3.4 to 5.0
    5. Humanities -- 3.3 to 4.9
    6. Art History -- 3.3 to 4.9

    Highest GRE QR (+/1 SD Range)
    1. Mathematics -- 157 to 169
    2. Materials Engineering - 157 to 169
    3. Physics -- 156 to 168
    4. Finance -- 153 to 169
    5. Economics -- 153 to 167
    6. Engineering Other -- 153 to 167
    The real lesson for looking at LSAT scores is that it demonstrates something that industrial psychology has known for a long time- that it is not necessary to test specific skills with specific tests; a general test of cognition would do. How else can one explain the outstanding performance of STEM in an area that is their "weakness"? Aren't English majors suppose to blow everybody away?
    Note the different scores by section above. The mathematics majors tend to really well on QR, but not as well on the other sections; while the English majors tend to really well on VR and AW, but not as well on QR. A single general test would not capture these specific subject strengths.
  • Data10Data10 Registered User Posts: 2,706 Senior Member
    edited March 10
    Steering back towards the topic of this thread, the URM percentages among bachelors degrees in the 10 highest average total GRE score majors as listed in the previous post are below for the most recent year in the NCES chart -- https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d18/tables/dt18_322.30.asp?current=yes . There are definitely racial statistically significant racial differences by major, but it doesn't follow average total GRE score well. There appears to be more a STEM/Vocational vs Humanities type pattern than GRE score pattern. Asian percentages tend to be highest in STEM/Vocational type majors, particularly CS and Engineering, while Black percentages tend to be highest is less STEM centered majors, as well as more interpersonal majors (law enforcement, social services, ...).

    Racial Percentage in 10 Highest Average GRE Majors
    Philosophy + Religious Studies -- 67% White, 9% Black, 6% Asian
    Physical Sciences -- 65% White, 5% Asian, 9% Asian
    Humanities -- 61% White, 15% Black, 4% Asian
    English -- 69% White, 8% Black, 4% Asian
    Foreign Languages -- 56% White, 5% Black, 6% Asian
    Average of All Majors -- 61% White, 10% Black, 7% Asian


  • theloniusmonktheloniusmonk Registered User Posts: 2,059 Senior Member
    edited March 10
    Interesting, since they replaced the old analytical section (when I took it in the 87-ish I think) with the analytical writing section, the stem students don't do as well. It was not uncommon for many stem students to breeze through the GRE in the good ole days (math/verbal/analytical, 2400 scale). tbh, I think the writing does balance things out. Students would take the test without any prep since we were taking classes, and no I was not one of those students, otherwise I'd be humble bragging about it.

    "There has been a suggestion that URM kids are steered to non-STEM majors and that this is a Bad Thing."

    If you think gender diversity is bad in high tech, racial diversity is even worse. There may be 3-4% urm in tech, and of that, probably 1-2% in actual product groups (pdt mgmt, engr, dev, etc) that can influence what products are built, how products are designed.
  • 1NJParent1NJParent Registered User Posts: 843 Member
    I didn't realize GRE has changed so much either. It's been so long that I have little recollection what the actual tests look like. Perhaps it shouldn't be so surprising since SAT has also changed so much over the years.
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 74,498 Senior Member
    GRE general decades ago was like the SAT (one mostly vocabulary section and one high school level algebra and geometry section), but with an added logic puzzle section ("analytical"). There were also GRE subject tests on college level material in various common majors. Presumably, it is different now.
  • havesomehearthavesomeheart Registered User Posts: 18 Junior Member
    Last post on this subject for me.
    Data10 wrote:
    Similarly it's safe to assume the kid from MIT with a lower GPA would on average have a lower LSAT than the MIT mean. 

    There is an assumption that the hypothetical MIT student with a B average in STEM is way below mean for MIT students applying to law school (in 2011) and the hypothetical NYU student majoring in english with a 3.7-3.8 gpa is way above mean, neither of which I think is warranted.

    I point out again that the article was written in 2011. For academic year 2010, 67 applicants applied to law school from MIT, and 79% were admitted. The average GPA for all accepted MIT applicants to law school was 3.25 /4.0, and the average law school admission test score was 162. (from http://web.mit.edu/annualreports/pres10/2010.01.02.pdf). This suggests, compared to my hypothetical MIT student with a GPA of 3.3 (with a science/math GPA of 3.0), that my hypothetical student is actually at mean or just above for all applicants since the mean GPA of 3.25 was for admitted students not applicants.

    Various resources suggest that english majors have a GPA that is approximately 0.2 higher than the average. If the average NYU GPA in 2011 was 3.50 then it is possible that an AVERAGE english major at NYU may have a GPA of 3.7. My hypothetical NYU student is not much above this average.
    Data10 wrote:
    The MIT post graduate survey suggests less than 10 students per class from MIT apply to law school, so 100 is not a realistic sample size.

    I wrote “a cohort of 100 consecutive” students to emphasize that the conversation is regarding average trends for cohorts since many posters seemed fixated on reductive arguments regarding the lack of details given for one specific case. The number 100 wasn’t meant to suggest that this is the number of MIT students that apply for any one given year, and there is no reason to assume a sample must occur from 1 single year.
    Data10 wrote:
    The part that people have a problem with is being "astonished" that an English major at NYU could have better law school admission success than a B student at MIT. Or assuming that a B student at MIT should be a more capable attorney than an A student at NYU.

    I think no one is astonished that law schools value a high GPA with little regard to major or school difficulty. Whether they should discount major and school difficulty as much as they do is a separate question. My point was that ON AVERAGE a STEM grad from MIT with a 3.3 GPA may be just as capable as an english major with a 3.8 from NYU.

    What does “capable” mean? Lets say academic performance in law school, which is probably correlated with LSAT score (which might be primarily a logic test as one poster has stated). Why do I believe the AVERAGE MIT grad with lower GPA might do as well or better? Simply 2 factors. First, there is clearly higher grade inflation in english compared with science (and I’d bet that there is more grade inflation over all at NYU compared with MIT for similar courses), and second, while NYU is a very good institution and there could be a number of outstanding students with remarkable CVs (the right-hand tail of the bell curve), on AVERAGE, MIT students will have great academic credentials, even for nonSTEM metrics.
    calmom wrote:
    But the point is, I wouldn't hire an engineer to handle my legal affairs

    I wouldn’t hire a history/literature/english major to handle my legal affairs either. But given a choice between two candidates applying to law school and with similar LSATS, I would easily accept a ~0.3-0.4 lower gpa for the engineer, especially if it was from MIT.
    calmom wrote:
    I mean, why on earth would you expect law schools to look in any way favorably at hard-STEM coursework or graduates of tech schools?

    Maybe because those folks know how to think about complex problems in a systematic and logical manner? Quoting the author of the article (https://www.outsidethebeltway.com/why-more-americans-dont-major-in-the-math-and-science/), “In math and science, you’re either right or wrong and there’s very little room for subjectivity. Sure, there’s partial credit for getting the concepts right and making calculation error but the student either fundamentally grasps the concept or not. By contrast, the humanities and social sciences are “softer,” with the ability to score points for a half-assed understanding of the material and with the difference between an A, B, and C answers being a matter of nuance, detail, and construction.”
    calmom wrote:
    Because the process by which laws are made, interpreted and applied is analytically very different and I think far more complex than scientific analysis. In law you can't run a formula and come up with a number to solve problems. In science, the rules don't change depending on state borders -- the laws of physics in Alaska operate the same way as the laws of physics in Alabama.

    I think you have the wrong impression of what scientific analysis comprises. Almost always (except for in very elementary cases) scientific analysis deals with understanding if and how parameters/variables are associated with each other. Many math/physics problems don’t even use numbers, because they are interested in the abstract concept, not the numerical answer for a specific case. Regardless, it’s easy to make analytical models for which outputs and inputs are linearly or non-linearly related, or the relationship could even be described by a lookup table. For example I could have a scientific model, for say a real estate investment strategy for which the cost function could be dependent on idiosyncratic real estate laws that are STATE specific. Want to allow for random variation in one or more inputs over time? … make a stochastic model.

    Unless the process by which [legal] laws are interpreted and applied are entirely random, one can probably make [scientific] analytic models (or even AI machines) of the process, the performance of which could be quite interesting.
  • calmomcalmom Registered User Posts: 20,347 Senior Member
    “In math and science, you’re either right or wrong and there’s very little room for subjectivity. Sure, there’s partial credit for getting the concepts right and making calculation error but the student either fundamentally grasps the concept or not. By contrast, the humanities and social sciences are “softer,” with the ability to score points for a half-assed understanding of the material and with the difference between an A, B, and C answers being a matter of nuance, detail, and construction.”

    That's exactly why math & science is poor preparation for law school -- and why social sciences & humanities provide a better foundation.

    In law, it is NEVER "right or wrong" and there is ALWAY room for subjectivity. In law, understanding "nuance, detail, and construction" is everything. So the people who have been trained in "either right or wrong" are going to have difficulty meeting the expectations of law school class work and exams, trouble with writing the bar exam, and huge difficulty with the practice of law unless something breaks them of that mindset. (As a note, they tend not to make good trial jurors either -- again, in law, binary black-and-white or either-or thinking is a bad thing)

    And students coming from majors like history, poli sci, philosophy, classics are going to hit the ground running. Precisely because they are able to function much better with ambiguity.

    And while I don't agree with the use of the pejorative "half-assed" (acknowledging that it is something you are quoting from elsewhere) --- law students and lawyers do need to be able to function well in settings where there is often incomplete and contradictory information -- so the ability to work with a superficial or marginal understanding of a particular subject area is also an occupational requirement. So "scoring points" for making the better argument is or more compelling inference is exactly what lawyers and jurists do for a living.

    (I think the problem with your assertions is that you clearly do not have a very good understanding of what law school teaches or what lawyers & judges do. That's fine if you don't have a legal background -- I'm sure I'd come off as looking rather silly if I tried to engage in a debate over quantum physics. But your arguments are having the opposite effect of what you intend -- your underlying premise is faulty).
  • Data10Data10 Registered User Posts: 2,706 Senior Member
    edited March 10
    There is an assumption that the hypothetical MIT student with a B average in STEM is way below mean for MIT students applying to law school (in 2011) and the hypothetical NYU student majoring in english with a 3.7-3.8 gpa is way above mean, neither of which I think is warranted.

    I point out again that the article was written in 2011. For academic year 2010, 67 applicants applied to law school from MIT, and 79% were admitted. The average GPA for all accepted MIT applicants to law school was 3.25 /4.0, and the average law school admission test score was 162
    In 2012, the mean fraternity, sorority, and independent living GPA at MIT was ~4.4 (https://thetech.com/2014/02/28/fsilg-v134-n8 ). I'd expect the fraternity... GPA to be slightly lower than the overall MIT average. If law school applicants averaged a lower GPA than fraternity members, then that suggests the rare subgroup of MIT students that apply to law school may have lower average GPAs than typical MIT students. This is consistent with the 162 LSAT score you listed. A comparison of how that 162 fits in with the law school LSAT averages I listed earlier is below. Note that NYU CAS ABA applicants had the same average LSAT as did MIT law school admits.

    Average LSAT among ABA applicants
    1. Yale -- 167.5
    2. Harvard -- 167.4
    3. Princeton -- 166.1
    ...
    10. Tufts -- 164.5
    ...
    ~25 MIT -- ~162
    ~26. NYU CAS -- 161.8

    If the average NYU GPA in 2011 was 3.50 then it is possible that an AVERAGE english major at NYU may have a GPA of 3.7. My hypothetical NYU student is not much above this average.
    According to the previously posted NYU Latin honors cut-offs, fewer than 10% of current NYU CAS students get a 3.8+ GPA. It's not common today, and it wasn't common in 2011. Maybe English majors are more likely to be among the rare few with a 3.8+ than science majors, but I see no reason to assume it is a near average GPA for English majors.

    Regardless of specific numbers, grade inflation cause grades to increase over time at MIT, NYU, and nearly any other college. If you choose an older year than the 3.x GPA at MIT is not as relatively low at is is today; and the near 4.0 GPA at NYU is rarer at the high end than it is today.. The same principle applies in 2011 as it does in 2019
    What does “capable” mean? Lets say academic performance in law school, which is probably correlated with LSAT score (which might be primarily a logic test as one poster has stated).
    The LSAT score you listed suggests MIT law school admits do not have a significantly higher average LSAT than do NYU CAS admits. As I touched on above, this may relate to MIT law school applicants not being typical MIT students. Only 0.6% of MIT grads in the current post-grad survey mentioned law school applications or intentions. That small of a subgroup is likely to have different average characteristics than the MIT overall averages. The numbers above suggests those different average characteristics of MIT law school admits include lower GPA and scores than average for MIT grads .


    Steering the conversation back to thread topic, the percent MIT grads by race is below. MIT favors URM in admissions (unlike Caltech), so this might suggest a higher rate of MIT among fields associated with lower stats, like MIT law school applicants or lighter STEM majors. Specific numbers from the latest NCES year are below. The majors are ordered in terms of popularity at MIT. This is a different pattern than most selective colleges, perhaps because of the lack of the fewer non-STEM options at MIT. Black students are overrepresented in engineering, while Asian students are overrepresented in CS and underrepresented in engineering. 72% of students at MIT choose engineering or CS, and few students of any race choose non-STEM fields.

    % of Race Choosing Major at MIT
    Engineering - 29% Asian, 57% Black, 46% White
    Computer Science -- 35% Asian, 28% Black, 23% White
    Biology - 7% Asian, 7% Black, 7% White
    Mathematics - 6% Asian, 2% Black, 7% White
    Physical Sciences - 6% Asian, 0% Black, 5% White
    Economics -- 2% Asian, 2% Black, 2% White
    Interdisciplinary Studies- 2% Asian, 0% Black, 2% White
  • privatebankerprivatebanker Registered User Posts: 3,055 Senior Member
    edited March 10
    @Data10

    Quick question. For instance. A quick total of the popular majors at MIT shows your list accounts for say 90 percent of the Caucasian students at MIT. Do you have the list for the remaining 10 percent and all the other profiles too . I find it very interesting. Thank you in advance.
  • Data10Data10 Registered User Posts: 2,706 Senior Member
    edited March 10
    Quick question. For instance. A quick total shows your list accounts for say 90 percent of the Caucasian students at MIT. Do you have the list for the remaining 10 percent and all the other profiles too . I find it very interesting.
    Totals are below, as listed in IPEDS -- https://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/use-the-data . IPEDS also divides down majors further beyond this groupingl... for example subfield of engineering or physics vs chemistry. IPEDS has multiple available racial definitions. I believe I selected a different Asian racial definition this time, so the Asian numbers are slightly different from my previous post.

    % of Race Choosing Major at MIT
    Engineering - 33% Asian, 57% Black, 46% White
    Computer Science -- 40% Asian, 28% Black, 23% White
    Biology - 7.9% Asian, 7.4% Black, 6.9% White
    Mathematics - 6.5% Asian, 1.9% Black, 6.7% White
    Physical Sciences - 5.4% Asian, 0% Black, 6.5% White
    Interdisciplinary Studies -- 1.8% Asian, 0% Black, 2.2% White
    Business Management/Marketing -- 2.2% Asian, 0% Black, 1.7% White
    Social Sciences -- 1.4% Asian, 1.9% Black, 2.4% White
    Architecture -- 1.1% Asian, 0% Black, 1.4% White
    Communication-- 0.4% Asian, 1.9% Black, 0.7% White
    General Humanities -- 0% Asian, 0% Black, 0.7% White
    English Lang/Lit -- 0% Asian, 0% Black, 0.5% White
    Foreign Languages-- 0% Asian, 0% Black, 0.2% White
    Religious Studies -- 0% Asian, 0% Black, 0.2% White
  • 1NJParent1NJParent Registered User Posts: 843 Member
    edited March 10
    In law, it is NEVER "right or wrong" and there is ALWAY room for subjectivity. In law, understanding "nuance, detail, and construction" is everything. So the people who have been trained in "either right or wrong" are going to have difficulty meeting the expectations of law school class work and exams, trouble with writing the bar exam, and huge difficulty with the practice of law unless something breaks them of that mindset. (As a note, they tend not to make good trial jurors either -- again, in law, binary black-and-white or either-or thinking is a bad thing)
    Science is not "black or white" either. Our physical universe is quantum in nature. There's uncertainty in everything. No absoluteness. We can only describe events in probabilistic terms. Anything is possible and nothing is absolutely certain.

    I have a lawyer friend who has clerked for Supreme Court Justice and have also dealt with many lawyers who charge 4-figures-per-hour fees. They're obviously highly intelligent, but they could never become even a mediocre physicist, even if they wanted to. On the other hand, there're physicists that I know who could become some of the best lawyers if they wanted to. Granted, not all physicists are suitable to be lawyers.
  • ChangeTheGameChangeTheGame Registered User Posts: 604 Member
    edited March 10
    1NJParent wrote:
    I have a lawyer friend who has clerked for Supreme Court Justice and have also dealt with many lawyers who charge 4-figures-per-hour fees. They're obviously highly intelligent, but they could never become even a mediocre physicist, even if they wanted to. On the other hand, there're physicists that I know who could become some of the best lawyers if they wanted to. Granted, not all physicists are suitable to be lawyers

    I think the part that is being missed is that if your physicist friends had decided to become lawyers and had become great ones instead of physicists, would that have meant that they could not have been great physicists because they chose to be a lawyers instead? Or are you saying that someone who can become a physicist would not chose to become a lawyer? We have all met people who have the capacity to do many things and some of those people may have chosen to be lawyers instead of physicists. "Softer" majors get beat up on CC, but not everyone can be an STEM major. At the same time, everyone can't be a lawyer either.. I don't understand the whose smarter argument on this one.

    @Data10 That is some great data from MIT. 85% of black students are Engineering or CS majors? Nice. But it is kind of scary to me that there are only 5 major disciplines (Engineering, CS, Biology, Math, and the Physical Sciences) and they look like they make up to 90% of the student body, and I didn't expect that, even at MIT. I don't know why, but I would have thought that the business/finance major might have been a little bigger. The good news is that no one can say that black students are running away from being STEM majors at MIT.
  • 1NJParent1NJParent Registered User Posts: 843 Member
    @ChangeTheGame I was responding to @Calmom 's assertion that scientists wouldn't be good lawyers or jurists. What I have observed is very different. The best scientists have the intellectual capacity to be the best lawyers if they so choose while the converse isn't true. Now, I wouldn't call the legal profession a softer field, however. It's certainly intellectually challenging and rigorous.
  • TanbikoTanbiko Registered User Posts: 304 Member
    edited March 11
    @calmom do you have a link to the research that proves that engineers make bad jurors? I have a jury duty coming this Wednesday and happen to be an engineer and very busy at work currently.
  • calmomcalmom Registered User Posts: 20,347 Senior Member
    @ChangeTheGame
    "Softer" majors get beat up on CC, but not everyone can be a STEM major.

    The point is, not everyone WANTS to be a STEM major -- including many who would be quite capable if they chose.

    I am the daughter of a lawyer and I started college with more of a STEM interest, but I think I gravitated fairly quickly toward social sciences because those classes were more intriguing and stimulating to me and offered a greater level of intellectual freedom early on. A huge draw for me for law was one of empowerment - I perceived law and lawyers as having the ability to make a difference in the world, through the courts -- and I could see how many political leaders were lawyers. So in my eyes, law was the best pathway to becoming important, to being an influencer. That's just the way I looked at things as an 18-year-old - I'm not here to debate whether that was true - but basically that's what I perceived as the best use of my intellect.
    At the same time, everyone can't be a lawyer either.. I don't understand the whose smarter argument on this one.

    Nor does everyone WANT to be a lawyer. I don't understand the "who's smarter" argument either -- I do think that there might be socio-cultural factors at play that influence both our choices and our perceptions.

    To me, the inability of people to see value outside of the STEM world simply represents an overall narrowness of perspective, which I also see essentially the opposite of intellectualism or intellectual achievement. There certainly is an odd level of cognitive dissonance when someone starts a long debate because they can't fathom why a law school would prefer an A student /English major from NYU over a B student from MIT.


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