Pre-Law & Chicago

<p>So I've come under some fire of late for being critical of U of C's success in professional school placement. An article just came out in the Maroon today, and the editors seem to have the very same complaints today as my pre-law peers did 15 years ago:</p>

<p>Undueprocess</a> - The Chicago Maroon</p>

<p>Now, it's worth noting that I think this article is a little harsh. I actually think Chicago has improved markedly in its law school placement. Kids now are probably more savvy about the process than my co-horts were back in the mid-1990s. Also, the Maroon is known for being a bit quirky, so the editors' views may not be at all representative of the larger student body's opinions.</p>

<p>Nevertheless, this goes back to my point that, while a student body can change quickly, the ethos of a school oftentimes changes more slowly. 15 years ago, some of my friends complained about how they faced "unnecessary challenges" in applying to law school from the U of C. In 2010, it seems as if at least some current Chicago students feel the same way.</p>

<p>A few relevant addendums:</p>

<p>1.) If the U of C just released their exact law school placement stats on-line, just as Penn and Cornell and Yale and Georgetown (and on and on) do, this debate could be put to rest. Just like when I was an undergrad, Chicago is annoyingly closed off about these matters. It is easy to see just how many Rhodes Scholars or Fulbrights hail from Chicago over time, but Chicago never releases its law and med school placement stats.</p>

<p>2.) It's worth emphasizing that by all accounts, Chicago's PhD placement is superb, and it's probably getting much better on the law front. Again, though, I don't understand why Chicago is so guarded with this information. If any current students have glanced at the Chicago law school placement list, please share that information here. I've contacted the office multiple times to see the list, and they've never even responded to my e-mails.</p>

<p>3.) I don't really agree with the ways the editors suggest Chicago could improve its law school placement. I don't think the school is under any obligation to run their own LSAT-prep course. I don't know of any schools that do this, and it seems like the school going above and beyond the call of duty. The article seems to be asking for a bit too much.</p>

<p>I have an awfully hard time believing that faculties at elite law schools are as focused on GPA as folklore has it. I know some of them, and they SAY they're not. The idea that the lack of an "A+" at Chicago is keeping Chicago ABs from getting into Harvard Law School seems ridiculous.</p>

<p>The way Chicago students can really maximize their chances of getting into top law schools is to use Chicago to help them get into top PhD programs, then apply to law school from the PhD program in a couple of years (with, of course, a great LSAT). Prestige graduate work is a great boost for law school admission.</p>

<p>Cue7 - thanks for the posts</p>

<p>JHS - I think as US News rankings have gained more influence and less faculty are involved in the law school admissions process, the importance of GPA has increased.</p>

<p>Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't most admissions decisions made primarily by professional admissions staff? I'm sure faculty still have a lot of input, but it seems as if the professional staff makes most of the decisions. </p>

<p>With this in mind, I don't think a PhD program is really the way to go to maximize law school admissions chances. The same old formula, sky-high GPA and sky-high LSAT, coupled with at least some intriguing experience to talk about in a personal statement, is sufficient. The Chicago education is still valued enough, and there are enough all-stars on the Chicago faculty to write recs, that a PhD or MA experience doesn't really seem necessary.</p>

<p>Well, I know that Yale has always valued graduate experience (PhD preferred, but not required), and that Stanford does, too, and Penn recently undertook a project to attract more people with graduate degrees. The larger law schools have never seemed to care as much -- or maybe it's just that the students with other academic experience get lost in the sauce.</p>

<p>The notion that GPA and LSAT mean everything is belied by the experience of the few recent law applicants whose GPAs and LSATs I know something about. They have very inconsistent results from top schools.</p>

<p>JHS - I've also heard that more recent results for top applicants has been rather inconsistent. I think this may be occurring because law school applications are increasing so markedly of late. I think Cornell had a 50% increase in apps, Penn had another increase this year, etc. </p>

<p>I still don't know, however, whether there is a push for getting applicants with advanced degrees. I agree that law schools are skewing older nowadays, with more applicants having work experience, but I don't know if a PhD or even MA is getting to be more of the norm. I just met up with a bright young Penn Law admit this past week (who just missed the admitted students day at UPenn), and he had wonderful work experience. He mentioned that many of the students he spoke to were older (i.e. not straight out of undergrad), but it didn't seem as if grad experience was the norm.</p>

<p>I do agree that with law admissions becoming more competitive (even as the legal market continues to flounder), ad comms may now be looking for top GPAs and LSATs, coupled with that "something else" (be it service in the peace corps, a PhD, Teach for America, etc.).</p>

<p>One would think that pre-law advisers at UChicago would know this and advise accordingly!</p>

<p>JHS--That is exactly what I heard and that is why I'm going to grad school at Stanford first before applying to law school, since I want to go to a T-10, getting a graduate degree (and a free one in my case) seems like the best way to go.</p>

<p>wahoomb - grad school at Stanford (for free) will pretty much always be a good choice. Just make sure, though, that you also have a great GPA and a GREAT LSAT score. That'll really maximize your shot at getting into a top law school. A grad degree from Stanford and a, say, 162 LSAT is not going to help your cause that much. Good Luck!</p>

<p>Cue7,</p>

<p>How you can read an article that talks about how to make things better for pre-Law students to be a confirmation of your UofC bashing is beyond me.</p>

<p>Please show me where in the article it says that admissions is tougher for UofC students? If you mean this sentence "Although this academic rigor serves us well in many ways, it can be a liability when students apply to law school.", then you're grasping at straws.</p>

<p>JMHO.</p>

<p>Newmassdad:</p>

<p>Here's the title of the article: "Undue process: U of C students face unnecessary challenges in the law school application process"</p>

<p>The very title of the article correlates to what I've been saying on this board: that at times, Chicago students feel that they gain admission to top law/med/etc. schools in spite of - rather than facilitated by - their Chicago education. Arguing that U of C students face "unnecessary challenges" implies that the school's structure does not best facilitate or support a Chicago applicants entry into a top law school. </p>

<p>That's exactly what I've been saying in my previous posts. Now, you're correct, the article never points to how admissions for Chicago students is tougher than the experience for students at Chicago's peer schools. Want to know why that's the case? Because I'm sure the career advising staff did not release the law school placement data to the Maroon. </p>

<p>So what can the Maroon go on to write this editorial? A more vague but well-voiced complaint that the school puts forth unnecessary challenges to applicants intent on going to a top law school. </p>

<p>All I'm saying is that my peers had the very same complaints 15 years ago, and now, Chicago students seem to be voicing the same criticisms. We never doubted the excellence of a Chicago education, just that the rigor, as the article states, can be a "liability" when Chicago students apply to top professional schools.</p>

<p>Also, I'm confused - when the article bluntly states that Chicago's education can put Chicago students at a disadvantage (or, as the article states, "be a liability") in applying to top schools, how is this grasping for straws? The article brings up the same concerns (grading, LSAT preparation) as my friends had during their time at Chicago. </p>

<p>If you want some points of comparison, here are Yale's pre-law stats:</p>

<p><a href="http://www.yale.edu/career/students/gradprof/lawschool/media/lawstats.pdf%5B/url%5D"&gt;http://www.yale.edu/career/students/gradprof/lawschool/media/lawstats.pdf&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/p>

<p>Yale's transparent with the info, and I'd be very surprised if Chicago students saw this list (as the Maroon editors very well may have done) and thought "yeah, Chicago's about on par with Yale for law school placement." Yale places something like 40-45% of its law applicants at top law schools, with a student body that is roughly comparable to Chicago's in terms of intellectual horsepower. It's not unreasonable for a Maroon editor to then go ahead and argue that Chicago's structure may put Chicago students at a disadvantage when compared to school's that are similar in stature, but boasting superb pre-law placement stats.</p>

<p>As a final note, while the Maroon editors voice the complaints my peers had years ago, I haven't heard similar complaints from the law school hopefuls I've met at places such as Yale, Harvard, etc. A reason for this very well could be, if the students ever thought of making these complaints, a quick glance at the openly available placement stats would show that, in fact, there doesn't seem to be any sort of problem in law school placement at these other schools. </p>

<p>As an aside, the daily princetonian released an article on its law placement in comparison to yale, with some detailed statistics:</p>

<p>U</a>. trails Yale in law school acceptance rates - The Daily Princetonian</p>

<p>While Princeton may fall off Yale's high pace, look at some of those numbers that are publicly available: Yale's applicants to law school had, on average, a 3.58 GPA and a 165 LSAT, and Princeton's applicants had a 3.45 GPA and a 164 LSAT. Also, Princeton has just recently begun to voice this complaint because, well, the school has tried to curb grade deflation. Even then, Princeton's law school record seems to be pretty sterling. </p>

<p>These stats aren't available at Chicago, but I'd be very surprised if Chicago students thought we were sending 40+ students a year to Harvard Law, or 20+ students a year to Yale law. </p>

<p>To bring this back around, I've never, EVER heard Yale or Brown or Harvard students say they faced "undue challenges" applying to law school because of their respective undergrads, whereas now, it seems, at least some Chicago students across a broad span of years find that the Chicago rigor can be a "liability."</p>

<p>Finally, to drive my point home: This isn't to say Chicago doesn't place VERY WELL, or that the school has a great placement rate for law school. What I mean, rather, is that roughly similar complaints seem to be voiced in a cyclical fashion, even as Chicago's undergrad body seems to be changing so markedly. This goes back to my point that, while a student body can change quickly, the ethos of a school (here, to prepare undergrads to get PhDs) changes much more slowly.</p>

<p>I'm a recent graduate who strongly disagrees with this article. I think the University's rigor is a huge asset in law school applications. The article would like an "LSAT prep" course. I would argue that the Core is essentially that. Except for the logic games, the LSAT consists mostly of close reading and finding errors/interpreting in logical arguments. That's pretty much what you do in Core HUM/SOC/CIV classes, as well as most humanities and social sciences classes outside the Core. The comparison between the MCAT and the LSAT is faulty. The LSAT is not a content-based test. If you haven't learned to think critically and read closely in four years at UChicago, I'm not sure what an LSAT-prep class is going to change about that. The logic games do require specific preparation, but a $35 book can do that.</p>

<p>With respect to grades, the LSAC grade report lists the grade distribution across the university, divided into .2 increments. Thus, an admissions officer knows that a 3.8 at UChicago puts a person in the top 8%, whereas at some other schools, it does not (a panel of admissions reps from T10 schools basically said that there are some schools from which they can't be certain that a high GPA is really remarkable. From UChicago, they know what they are getting). The grade report also lists the LSAT distribution at schools, and from when I applied to law school 2 years ago, the numbers listed meant that quite a few UChicago students were getting very, very strong LSAT scores. If anything, the grade situation at UChicago helps applicants to top schools, because the admissions officers can be fairly certain that a good GPA is a substantial accomplishment.</p>

<p>Why won't the University release it's stats? I'm guessing they aren't amazing. But not because lots of applicants are failing to get in to law school, but rather that fewer of the top students at UChicago are applying to Law School. With more students seeking other graduate degrees (i.e. PhD.'s), there are fewer top students applying to law school from UChicago. With fewer top students applying, the number getting admitted to Top law schools will be low. You have to be an outstanding student at any college to get into a Top 10 law school. Except for schools that feed into themselves quite heavily (i.e. Harvard --> Harvard Law), no university gets a large number of students in to any one law school (except its own). Most Top 10 law schools, except Harvard, matriculate fewer than 200 students per year.</p>

<p>Anecdotally, I know of no one who wanted to go to law school and did not get in to a very impressive list of schools. Just from personal acquaintances on campus over four years, I know admitted students or current students from UChicago now in law school at Yale (2), Harvard (3), Stanford (3), Columbia (1), NYU (1), Penn (1) and UChicago (10ish). All but one were admitted straight from undergrad. So that's 20+ students admitted to Top 10 schools from among my personal acquaintances on campus.</p>

<p>And nobody is sending 40+ students to Harvard and Yale law schools except Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. But nobody is sending 20+ students a year to UChicago Law except UChicago. And nobody is sending huge numbers of students to Stanford Law School except Stanford and sometimes UC Berkeley. Even at the Top 10 level, law school can be quite regional (note from the linked stats that only ONE Yale undergraduate matriculated at UChicago Law, even though it's a Top 7 law school).</p>

<p>So while there are some who complain about the pre-law services, my experience was great and I know many students who had very successful law school application cycles. The pre-law office can't get you in to law school. Your GPA, LSAT, and other factors get to you into law school. (The personal statement becomes pretty important at schools where there are far fewer spots than GPA/LSAT-qualified applicants; and I found the pre-law advisor's feedback on my personal statement to be quite helpful) I also know many, many top students from UChicago who chose paths other than law (for example only a very small handful of Student Marshals in my year applied to law school, and that group constitutes roughly the top 5% of the class; a couple applied to medical schools, but the majority went to academic graduate school).</p>

<p>Maroon 8 - this is a great, informative post. I'll respond more with later, but thanks for taking the time to provide the perspective of a current student.</p>

<p>
[quote]
Most Top 10 law schools, except Harvard, matriculate fewer than 200 students per year.

[/quote]
</p>

<p>Well, that's dead wrong, and somewhat impeaches Maroon8's credibility for me. As far as I know, only Yale and Stanford generally matriculate fewer than 200 students, and Penn and Chicago somewhat more than 200. Georgetown is 500+, the same size as Harvard, and NYU is about 450. Michigan and Columbia are in the 350 range. I'm not sure about Boalt and UVa, but I think they are in the same range, too. That's pretty much the 11 schools in MY top 10, and most are on the large side.</p>

<p>No one would even remotely suggest that student-marshall types at Chicago have trouble getting into the best law schools if they apply. That's not the appropriate test. The issue -- if there is one -- is what happens to non-tippy-top students. It's clear that at Harvard or Yale, it's not just a couple of standout students who get admitted to Harvard Law School, it's also a whole bunch of merely good students.</p>

<p>JHS - you beat me to it. Maroon8, I wanted to thank you again for providing a current perspective, but there are some holes in your analysis. </p>

<p>To reiterate what JHS said, there are still quite a few BIG top law schools. Harvard, Columbia, NYU, Georgetown all are in the 450-550 range in terms of class size. Indeed, out of the top 15 or so schools, only 4 (Chicago, Cornell, Yale, and Stanford) are around 200 students. </p>

<p>On another note, my big problem with your analysis is that you essentially assert that, if TOP chicago students applied to law school, we'd have strong placement. The top students at any top college do just fine. I'm more curious about what happens to the merely good students. As the Yale data indicates, an "average" yale applicant is still going to a top 10 law school (if not a top 5-6 law school). If you do a quick search for Princeton's stats or another similar school, you quickly begin to see that, at many of Chicago's peer schools, going to a top 10 law school is THE NORM. Nearly the MAJORITY of applicants in a given year are going to a great law school at Yale or Princeton or Harvard. </p>

<p>It's now been well documented that Chicago does great feeding its own law school, but outside of that, there seems to be some suspect placement statistics. </p>

<p>If you go here: [url=<a href="http://members.lsac.org/Public/MainPage.aspx?ReturnUrl=%2fPrivate%2fMainPage2.aspx%5DLSACNet.org%5B/url"&gt;http://members.lsac.org/Public/MainPage.aspx?ReturnUrl=%2fPrivate%2fMainPage2.aspx]LSACNet.org[/url&lt;/a&gt;]&lt;/p>

<p>You can then roll your mouse over the "Data" heading, and click on "Top 240 ABA Feeder Schools." As you can see, about 220-250 Chicago students apply to law school every year. Now, yes, maybe as a pool, stronger students at Yale are committed to law school than at Chicago, but nevertheless, if you have roughly comparable student bodies to start, even if "weaker' Chicago students commit to law school, you'd think you'd see a rough correlation in law school placement between Yale and Chicago. </p>

<p>Yale's "average" law applicants still do extremely well, whereas I'd think Chicago's "average" applicants struggle a good deal more. </p>

<p>To break this down further, lets say out of the 240 or so students applying to law school every year from Chicago, about 180 decide to go. To stay in proportion to the numbers Yale produces, Chicago would need to send about 6-7 students to EACH of the top 14 or so schools (i.e. about 50% of the students go on to a top 14-15 law school). </p>

<p>I just don't think Chicago has these numbers. For someone currently in the college, PLEASE, set up a quick appt with the pre-law advisor, and just run down the list of matriculants. Does Chicago roughly send about 6-7 students a year to each of the top law schools? I'd doubt it. </p>

<p>My reasoning for this is that Yale, etc. still facilitate superb opportunities for the "average" applicants. The "average" law applicant from Chicago would struggle more - partly because of the "undue challenges" the Maroon described in the op-ed. As Maroon8 suggests, Chicago's placement record probably isn't "that great," but a reason for this to me would be, while the "average" Chicago pre-law hopeful probably isn't terribly behind his/her counterpart at Yale, the Yale student benefits from a more grade-inflated environment (i.e. an AVG. 3.58 GPA), and is savvier about the process. </p>

<p>Again, if someone could quickly see the placement stats in the pre-law advisors office, this would settle the debate very quickly. If Chicago's sending ~20 kids to Chicago law, but then only 2-3 kids to each of the other top schools (which I strongly believe is still the case), well, that's simply not good enough. Keep in mind, Yale isn't just heavily feeding Yale and Harvard Law - yale undergrad is still sending insane numbers to other top law schools (11 to Michigan, 11 to Penn, 20 to Columbia, 12 to Stanford, 11 to Georgetown, etc. etc.). There is actually quite a healthy range in just how many top law schools wind up getting Yale undergrads.</p>

<p>I have followed these posts about law school admissions with interest, and have an "07 graduate of the College who is in law school at Harvard. Can you clarify for me, Cue7, whether you are discussing admissions directly from undergrad, or admissions overall? Those who apply directly from undergrad, without significant work experience will have very different applications (even with substantial internship experience during college) from those who work after college, or attend grad school. To what extent does that factor, separate from GPA and LSAT score, impact the admissions process. Are LSAC average GPAs for students from the College applying to law school in any year calculated relative to the years the student attended the College, or is the number calculated by LSAC for a particular year relative to the current (or immediately preceding year). I do think that is relevant information. Things change over time, and if you have a significant number of students applying to law school in any given year who actually graduated 2-7 years prior, the numbers may not tell the entire story.</p>

<p>runnersmom,</p>

<p>Cue7 seems comfortable working without concrete data. He makes statements like "whereas I'd think Chicago's "average" applicants struggle a good deal more...Chicago's placement record probably isn't "that great," " without a shred of data to back the statements up, unless you consider anecdotal reports of disappointment among one's peers to be data. </p>

<p>So if you don't see numbers, please don't be disappointed. </p>

<p>Cue7,</p>

<p>Your analysis would be much more useful if you had the slightest shred of data. But you don't. That is why your analysis is UofC bashing.</p>

<p>Newmassdad, I think that you're being a bit harsh here. </p>

<p>I'd like to thank Cue7 for his input. It always helps to hear from recent grads of the College and Cue7 has been an incredibly important resource for many of the students on CC.</p>

<p>Personally, I actually think that Cue7 has gone as far as possible with the data at hand. He's given us the relative admit numbers for Yale and Chicago and provided a reasonable explanation for the disparate numbers. Is his explanation/model absolutely correct? Probably not, but he does attempt to explain why two schools with roughly similar student bodies end up having significantly different results vis a vis law school applicants.</p>

<p>Actually, Cue7 hasn't given us the relative admit rates for Chicago. He has speculated that they are low because the data isn't available. I know it must be higher than the 2-3 per year to Top 3 schools, because I personally know that many myself, and I'm relatively certain I don't know every Chicago grad who was admitted to a Top 3 law school.</p>

<p>I don’t want to get into a nickpicky debate or a personal back-and-forth, but I want to set the record straight on the size of Top 14 law schools, since someone called the credibility of my earlier post into question based on that.</p>

<p>According to the Yale placement document attached to this thread, the Top 10 Law Schools (using US News rankings, for the purposes of this situation, with ties) have the following class sizes:
Yale (189); Stanford (170); Harvard (556); Columbia (384); NYU (448); UC Berkeley (Boalt) (240); University of Chicago (184); University of Pennsylvania (250); University of Michigan (361); Duke (205); Northwestern (242); Virginia (370)</p>

<p>So there are 4 of the Top 10 at around 200 or lower (Cue7 omitted Duke at 205). The average class size at a Top 10 Law School is 299.92 students. That’s closer to 200 than the 450-550 range mentioned by Cue7. And 8 of the 12 are smaller than 300 students per class. So for me to say “most of the Top 10” admit fewer than 200 was an exaggeration, but not by that much. Saying that the majority admit fewer than 300 would be correct in every objective sense of the statement. Citing 450-550 as a common class size is far more misleading – only one Top 10 school falls in that range. Adding in Georgetown (585) and Cornell (198) moves the average up to 312, but also adds another sub-200 student school. I don’t mind having the exaggeration called out, but please don’t use even more inaccurate information to make the exaggeration seem much greater than it actually was. </p>

<p>On a more substantive matter with respect to this thread, there are only a limited set of students at any school who have a chance for admission to Top 10 law schools, based on GPA and LSAT scores (or the reasoning aptitude to get an outstanding LSAT score). Does the comparative grade inflation of some schools help? Maybe a little, but it also puts more pressure on other parts of an application. Still, in my experience Chicago grads with solid records and a excellent LSAT scores don’t have trouble with law school admissions. I don't know the GPAs of my acquaintances, since it's pretty rare to share that info at Chicago, but their general success rate suggests that Chicago grads who have adequate stats have no trouble gaining admissions. Of the 20+ personal acquaintances I know who were admitted to Top 7 schools straight from undergrad, only one other one was a Student Marshal, and a some weren’t even Phi Beta Kappa (~Top 10%). So we are talking about sub-3.8 GPAs. I know this is very anecdotal, but its the most substantive data about Chicago's law school placement rate anyone has offered on this thread.</p>

<p>And the constant calls for raw numbers wouldn’t necessarily settle anything. If fewer outstanding Chicago grads apply to law school, then fewer students will be admitted. There is a lot more nuance to how well a college builds the path to law school than the simple quantity of graduates it sends to given law schools. </p>

<p>I've offered a plausible explanation for why the raw numbers could be lower -- fewer Chicago grads apply to law school. I don't know if that explains the entirety of the lower total placement (if Chicago's placement even is all that low), but I'm sure it accounts for some of it. Chicago is very well-known for producing an inordinately large number of graduates who go into academia, as well as being decidedly non pre-professional. It's not that you can't take a route into a professional school. It's that fewer students choose to do so (in fact, many students choose Chicago precisely because the focus is on education and intellectual challenge rather than finding a job/profession). And there are certainly plenty of Chicago graduates moving on to very good law schools in any case.</p>