Law school admission and elite colleges

Elite law schools do take into account the prestige and rigor of the colleges.

Totally agree on T15 law schools caring about undergrad school, and equally perplexed by the advice and level of conviction of many in CC suggesting they do not. Calls into question, frankly, for me the accuracy of their other advice.


You didn’t provide any evidence of the contrary. If you look at scattergrams for T15 law schools admission, they usually show a strong correlation with GPA + LSAT. However, there is usually little correlation with prestige of undergrad name or perceived rigor of undergrad name. The vast majority of lower stat acceptances are URMs, rather than Ivy+ type colleges. URMs appears to be a key hook. Similarly among high stat rejections, internationals are tremendously overrepresented, but not kids from less selective / lower ranked undergrad who are domestic. International appears to often be a severe penalty. Among borderline stat applicants, again I see little correlation with college name – some Ivy+ appear, as do some less selective publics.

As an example, I looked up self-reported scattergrams for Chicago at University of Chicago Law School - Admissions Graph | Law School Numbers recently. When you exclude URMs, international, and non-traditional, there is a clear correlation with stats and decisions. Acceptances are generally 3.8+ GPA and 170+ LSAT or 3.9+ GPA and 167+ LSAT. Rejections are generally <= 170 LSAT, particularly with lower GPA. Waitlists are typically borderline. These generalizations hold true regardless of undergrad ranking/prestige. A list of outlier lower stat acceptances and higher stat waitlists are below. Again I don’t see much correlation with undergrad name. A similar pattern occurs with other T15 law schools I checked.

Outlier Lower Stat Acceptances
Publc – 3.51, 171
Ivy – 3.54, 174
Large Public – 3.55, 176
Top Public – 3.71, 171
Top LAC – 3.75, 172
UVA – 3.92, 166
Large Public – 3.95, 166
Top Public – 4.03, 165

Outlier Higher Stat Waitlist (no non-waitlist rejections in this region)
Top 10 – 3.98, 178
Top 50 – 4.0, 176
LAC – 3.97, 176
Dalhoise – 4.14, 174
Non-Elite Private – 4.13, 173
Top 20 – 4.04, 175
Small Private – 4.09, 173
Top 15 – 4.01, 174
Ivy – 3.98, 174


Look at the College Transitions feeder data, especially when adjusted for size. Also, I happen to know from my own real life and that of many first degree relationships involved in the decision making process at law schools.

That just lists total graduates enrolled. It does not control for either number of applicants or stats of applicants. If you assume that undergrad colleges that admit students with higher average stats tend to have graduating students with higher stats (including LSAT), then the list seams reasonably close to expectations for a system in which decisions are closely correlated with GPA+LSAT stats.


I disagree. And so do adcoms at the top law schools according to their published books on law school admissions.

Law school deans are aware of US News rankings. A significant part of the US News law school ratings system is the LSAT scores of matriculated students. The highest average LSAT scores are earned by applicants from the most prestigious & most selective undergraduate schools. The best standardized test takers tend to enroll in the most selective colleges & universities.

To argue that the top law schools care about an applicant’s undergraduate school indicates a lack of understanding of elite law school admissions.

In short, elite law school admissions are primarily about one’s LSAT score, one’s undergraduate GPA, and about one’s URM status. Other factors may come into play among applicants with similar numbers, but an applicant’s undergraduate school is not a significant factor in the elite law school admissions process.


The OP asked about whether to spend $300k+ on undergrad when her daughter’s stated goal is to go to law school. If her daughter is smart and driven enough to be able to get into Vassar or Williams, then she will be able to get U of Chicago or Yale Law even if she goes to the local state school for undergrad.

I would recommend that the parents offer to split the savings with her if she goes to a state school. If a LAC is $320k and her state school is $120k, then split the $200k difference 50/50. If she still wants to go to a LAC, then she has some skin in the game because she will have passed up $100k to go to that school.

The second thing I would recommend is that you make her pay for Law School (not clear if that was the plan all along or not). She has to really want a career in law to be successful in law. If she is not willing to sacrifice up front by taking on some debt, then she is not serious about doing it.

@Publisher I respect your opinions, but I am very confident in mine in this case for reasons I can’t reveal. Two notes: 1. adcoms say what they have to say to maximize applications as law schools are as much in the game of acceptance rates and rankings as anyone else and 2. I do not mean to suggest that undergrad school is a decisive factor when there are material differences in performance in undergrad, but in close calls as among private colleges, it is. BTW, T15 schools also make sure they make space for public college grads, URMs and other constituencies they do not want to be seen as systematically excluding. What I take issue with is the blanket proposition that it will not matter what undergrad school you attend; it could in a number of circumstances.

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That is an enormous assumption, which happens to be quite convenient for the sake of your argument. This is not a debate that can be resolved other than by being “in the room where it happens.” Again, I am not suggesting undergrad is necessarily a decisive factor; I am just disagreeing with the blanket statement that it simply is not factor, ever. I understand the good intentions of trying to provide folks with clear conclusions in analysis to support their decisions, but you cannot approach the advice in absolutes or with scientific certainty, as the decision making is not scientific either. I think at this point, however, my views have been made on the record for folks to consider, and we can let folks decide for themselves. I think folks can get nuances quite well and the advice does not need to be so absolute and paternalistic.

Historically, law schools openly acknowledged their policies for adjustment to GPAs across undergraduate institutions. In a chart from Boalt Law, the GPAs submitted from Williams and Vassar applicants were regarded slightly more highly than those from Yale and Brown applicants, for example. Around the same time, UCLA made its position clear: “We think if you didn’t consider the quality of the undergraduate school, it would be a travesty,” said Michael Rappaport, dean of admissions at UCLA’s Law School."

@merc81: The LA Times articles are almost 25 years old.


Some may find the historical context interesting. Others should read past the post.

US News first ranked law schools in 1987. The second US News rankings were for 1990. As the popularity of US News law school rankings increased & law school deans realized the importance & influence of the rankings, law schools learned how to focus on the factors given most weight by the US News rankings. Accordingly, an applicant’s LSAT score and undergraduate GPA became the most important admissions’ factors. Undergraduate school attended plays no part in the US News ratings & rankings system.

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Yeah, but if you have an overabundance of students applying with perfect scores and grades, you can game USNWR AND prefer some colleges over others. The two aren’t mutually exclusive.

This is not a realistic scenario as those perfect kids are off to medical school and there are few perfect LSAT scores during normal (non-pandemic) testing years.

The exceptions for school attended may come into play for applicants with STEM degrees from well respected schools such as MIT, CMU, Harvey Mudd, & Stanford.

Law school admissions officers have much more leeway when dealing with applicants who will fit in the bottom 25% stat-wise &,therefore,not affect directly the law school’s US News ranking.

Fine, near perfect scores. There are more people applying to law schools than spots, and even more to T15. They can pick based on numbers and pedigree.

Saying that colleges who admit kids with higher stats tend to have graduates with higher LSAT+GPA stats used for law school admissions is an “enormous assumption”?

Lets break down the individual components. SAT/ACT score is correlated with LSAT score. It’s not a perfect correlation, but nevertheless is quite noteworthy. Students who do well on one standardized test tend to well on others. Many colleges have noted this effect. I can provide studies, specific numbers, and quotes from the colleges themselves, if you are skeptical.

Perhaps less obvious, average undergraduate GPA of colleges is also correlated with having higher quality students. More selective colleges that admit a larger portion of students doing A quality work tend to give a larger portion of A’s. You can see some examples on . It’s far from a perfect correlation, but in general average GPA of students goes up as selectivity goes up. Private colleges of similar selectivity also tend to have higher average GPA than public colleges.

Using some real examples, in Harvard’s recent senior survey, the median self-reported GPA of Havrard graduates was ~3.87. The median SAT/ACT appears to be approximately 1510/34. I think it is a safe assumption that a large portion of Harvard grads would do well on an admission system that emphasizes LSAT+GPA. The majority of Harvard grads might be above the typical LSAT/GPA admit threshold for UChicago Law mentioned above. In contrast UMass reported a median GPA of 3.13 a few years ago and has a median SAT/ACT of approximately 1290/29. I’d expect extremely few UMass grads to be above the typical LSAT/GPA admit threshold for UChicago Law. So seeing that Harvard has more enrolled students in T15 Law than UMass doesn’t really tell us anything about which undergraduate school the T15 law schools prefer; and certainly doesn’t show us that the T15 law schools aren’t emphasizing LSAT+GPA stats.

The original post you replied did not say it was a not a factor ever. Instead it said

" law school admission is strongly focused on college GPA and LSAT score, not college brand name "

In any case, if you want to show that undergraduate brand name / prestige / ranking / perceived rigor / … can have a small effect , such as changing decision in certain borderline cases; you’ll need a different source than looking at law school enrollment totals by undergraduate name on College Transitions.


Data often does not tell the whole story, or is not collected in a manner that allows a story to be proven or disproven. I think all I can say from where I stand is that GPA and LSAT matter a lot, as you demonstrate, but that undergrad school is not irrelevant in comparable cases, and accordingly is a significant factor in some cases.

UChicago boasts a 83%-93% Top 15 law school acceptance rate for UChicago students. Now show me a public university that comes even remotely close. You could argue UChicago starts with a superior product but still, that rate is phenomenal.


Can you show me a public university whose average stats of incoming students (including freshman + transfer) are even remotely close to UChicago?

Also be aware of the framing of the wording. In theory a public with far lower stats of incoming students could achieve a similar admit rate, so long as advising strongly discouraged students from applying, unless they were likely to be admitted. For example, the kid who scores 150 on LSAT is strongly discouraged from applying to T15 and instead encouraged to apply to law schools where he/she is more likely to be admitted. Drawing conclusions would be far more clear if Chicago published an admit rate by LSAT + GPA type table, rather than this type of vaguely worded sentence

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