Welcome! The goal of this blog is to share my analysis of the free, publicly available user-reported law school applicant data from Law School Numbers. Using the data from Law School Numbers is problematic for a variety of reasons (such as users misreporting their actual information, users creating fake accounts, selection bias, etc.) and if I had access to it, I'd much rather work with the data that schools themselves have on applicants. We have what we have, though. Also, while I do have some facility with the type of statistical analysis I employ in my blog posts, I am far from being a professional statistician. I am doing this solely for the purpose of providing my analysis to interested readers, getting feedback, and generating discussion. What I am not doing is prescribing courses of action for law school applicants, or pretending to actually know what goes on behind closed doors in law school admission committees' meetings. I am, however, interested in looking at the story the numbers seem to portray, and sharing that with people with similar interests. I think I'll be able to provide a lot of interesting, and perhaps even helpful, analysis here, but at the end of the day, it is up to the individual law school applicant to put together applications and application strategies tailored to his or her own hopes and goals.

Monday, May 18, 2015

To ED or Not to ED: 2015 Edition

Law school applicants are, on the whole, a neurotic bunch (I was ridiculous, if memory serves). When you start the application process, there's a lot to think about.  Where do I want to live?  Where do I want to work after I graduate?  What kind of debt am I looking at taking on?  What are the schools I can reasonably expect to get into?  What are some reach schools that are within the realm of possibility? The list really goes on and on.

One of the topics that I've heard most about from applicants is that of binding early decision (binding ED).  Many schools offer this option, and it holds out both the promise of getting a little bit of a boost in your application (many of the schools themselves say they'll give some weight to the fact that an applicant is so willing to commit to that school), but also the threat of having scholarship money reduced (since after admitting you, the school has no incentive to try to lure you with money).  The carrot-and-stick of binding ED creates a dilemma for many applicants, as they try to decide whether it's worth it to throw an ED app a school's way. For starters, you can only apply through binding ED to one school, so if you're dead set on doing it, you have to pick which school to which to apply ED. But applying ED may not be worth it at all; maybe you'd get in without ED, and have a better shot at scholarship money.

I'm here to try, in some small way, to add some food for thought for those pondering this dilemma.  Of the US News and World Report's top 50 law schools (as of 2015), twenty-six offer a binding ED option.  What I hope to show with this post is that only a small handful of those schools actually offer applicants any kind of "boost" by applying this way; the rest give no edge to ED applicants, and a few even seem to punish such applicants with a decreased chance of admission (more on that later).

First, though, it's important to acknowledge that not all binding ED programs are created equally. Some, such as Northwestern, George Washington University, the University of Texas, Emory, and Boston University, offer substantial scholarships - sometimes full scholarships - especially to ED applicants.  The calculation in applying ED to these schools is obviously much different and they are likely harder to get into as an ED applicant.  However, the binding ED options at the majority of schools come with no such benefits and, goes the theory, are likely to stiff you on scholarship money since...well, why not?  If accepted, you have to either attend that school or forego law school for a year.

So, without further ado, the analysis (which I've done on data from the 2009/10 cycle onward, except in the case of schools which did not offer binding ED that far back; in those cases, I've analyzed only the cycles in which binding ED was an option.  School names are hyperlinked to their webpages that cover their binding ED programs).  

The usual caveats apply here.  I am using user-reported data from Law School Numbers, with all the attendant accuracy concerns.  It's worth pointing out that, to the degree my analysis deals with scholarship money, I suspect there is a pretty serious problem with LSN users not reporting their scholarships.  Because of this, I end up counting everyone who didn't report as getting NO scholarship.  The data being what it is, there's no way around it.  That said, it's important to take all this with a grain of salt, but to take what I'll say regarding scholarship money with a HUGE grain of salt.  If you think you can do that, read on.  

Schools that do seem to give a boost to ED applicants (the number in parentheses is the % increase in the likelihood of being admitted as an ED applicant once LSAT, GPA, URM status, gender, non-traditional status, and timing of the application are controlled for):

List One: Schools that Have an ED Boost
  1. Northwestern (601% - this is very surprising, given the full scholarship that accompanies admission)
  2. The University of Chicago (525%)
  3. Duke (487%)
  4. George Mason University (277%)
  5. The University of Virginia (220%)
  6. The University of Pennsylvania (200%)
Do you pay a price for this boost, though, on the back end?  For some schools, you do.  Again, remember to take this with a grain of salt, given the lack of reliability of the data.  Parenthetical is the decrease in scholarship money associated with ED applicants at those schools, controlling for the same factors as before.  Schools that are not listed have no effect on scholarship associated with ED application:
  1. The University of Chicago (-$11,102.00)
  2. The University of Virginia (-$5,180.60)
Unsurprisingly, Northwestern ED applicants end up with more scholarship money than would be dictated by their other factors (LSAT, GPA, etc.) alone, due to the full scholarship that accompanies accepted ED applicants.

So, there you have it.  Of the twenty-six programs that offer binding ED options, seven of them actually seem to give applicants a boost for applying ED, but at the U of Chicago and U of Virginia, it seems that there's a chance your scholarship money will be reduced as an ED applicant (compared to identical regular decision applicants).

That, obviously, is not the end of the story.  The following schools offer binding ED options, but ED applicants seem to receive no differential treatment (in terms of admission, at least):

List Two:  Schools that Have no ED Boost
Of these schools which seem to give no differential treatment to ED applicants, two schools do seem to penalize ED applicants with lower scholarships.  Columbia ED applicants seem to get roughly $11,678 less than identical RD applicants, and that number is $10,150 for the University of Michigan. On the other hand, Boston University rewards ED applicants with a full scholarship.

Finally, ED applicants seem to have a lower chance of being admitted to the following schools:

List Three: Schools that have an ED Penalty
  1. Emory ( -81% chance)
  2. George Washington University (-73% chance)
  3. New York University ( -65% chance)
The inclusion of George Washington University on this list makes perfect sense.  Given the full scholarship ED applicants receive, one would expect the ED process to be competitive.  The same can't be said for NYU and Emory, and I'm not sure I completely understand why they would be more likely to reject ED applicants than RD applicants with identical characteristics.  Also, it should be pointed out that both NYU and Emory give less money to ED admits as compared to their RD counterparts; for NYU, it's -$11,279, and for Emory it's -$26,392.50 (although the data set for Emory is necessarily smaller, since it didn't institute its ED program until the 2012/13 application cycle).

So what's the bottom line?  Great question.  Based on this data (and, one last time, you have to remember that it's based on self-reported and incomplete data, especially as regards scholarship money), I would say:

Schools that may be worth an ED application: Applying ED to Chicago or UVA might not be a bad idea, if you're willing to risk the scholarship hit and are absolutely sure that you want to attend (and doubt you'd get in as an RD applicant). An ED to Northwestern seems like an especially good idea if you're either sure you want to attend, or think you're unlikely to get into more attractive options, since you appear to be more likely to get in as an ED applicant (for some reason), and it comes with that full scholarship.  If you're sure you want to go to Duke, George Mason, or the University of Pennsylvania, it does seem like an ED application might give you a better shot, without the downside risk of decreased scholarship money.  And, although they seem to provide no boost in terms of admission, it may also be worth it to apply ED to the University of Texas, which offers a stipend to Texas residents and in-state tuition to non-resident ED admits, and Boston University and George Washington University, which both offer full three-years scholarships to ED admits.

Schools that are probably NOT worth an ED application:  I would absolutely not apply ED to any of Columbia, the University of Michigan, Emory, or NYU, since you don't seem any more likely to be admitted than if you applied RD, but you do seem more likely to get shafted on scholarship money if they do admit you (and in the cases of Emory and NYU, you may be less likely to be admitted anyway).  There also appears to be no upside whatsoever to applying ED to Cornell, Georgetown, UCLA, USC, Washington University, the University of Minnesota, the University of Washington, the University of Georgia, the University of Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio State, the University of Colorado, or the University of Maryland.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

It's been a while!

I was hanging out with my buddy Rob who runs MyLSN the other night, and he mentioned to me that this site is linked to in the Law School Admissions subreddit.  That made me feel both good and bad. Good because at least some people find this site interesting and/or useful.  Bad because I haven't done a thing with it in almost two years.

So, since I'm about to finish up my second year of law school and will have at least a little more time on my hands, I decided to start posting stuff here again.  I'm working on cleaning up updated data to start digging in to it.

In the meantime, if anyone has a question about law school admissions that might be at least partially answered by reference to the kind of statistics I have available, let me know!  I'm planning on kind of just updating and adding to the schools I cover, but am always in search of projects that might be helpful to people thinking about applying to school.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Lack of updates

Hey all,

I have started school myself, so time is at a premium.  Consequently, I haven't really done much with this site for a while, but I occasionally get e-mails from people who have found it helpful, so it´s good to know people are checking it out.

If anyone has any specific questions or anything, I´d be happy to do my best to answer them, and when some time frees up for me, maybe do a little more here.  Until then, good luck with your application cycles!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Stop the Presses!

A recent thread on TLS reminded me of something I have been planning to do all along and, honestly, should have just done from the start, and that is do separate analysis for data before and after applications started dropping of precipitously for the 2010-2011 cycle.  The short story is that Anne Levine, the chief consultant at Law School Expert, a law school admissions consulting firm, at some point in the past said that applying early on in the cycle was important, but has recently said that it is not.  Ms. Levine's own blog post on whether or not she "contradicts" herself is here.

The first thing I want to point out is that my analysis supports, just as Ms. Levine states in her first point of her blog post, that applying early ASSUMING your numbers wouldn't be any better if you applied later is the correct answer.  If, however, you suspect you could raise your LSAT by even a point or two by retaking in December, you absolutely should retake and apply later, as the advantage associated with even a couple extra LSAT points almost always outweighs whatever advantage would be gained by applying earlier.  I actually stated this in my own previous blog post about the advantage to applying earlier.

She goes on to further state that
The importance of applying early was definitely diminished in the Fall 2013 cycle, as evidenced by the fact that I had someone with a 3.4 and 163 who applied to a Top 20 law school in June and got in off the waiting list. That never would’ve happened in 2010!
This, of course, is not much proof at all that the importance of applying early was definitely diminished in the Fall 2013 cycle, as it is a single anecdote.  So, of course, I wanted to look into it a little further myself.

From the moment the idea of starting this blog occurred to me, I have been planning on comparing how things looked prior to applications started falling off with how things look since they have started to fall off.  Why I didn't just do this from the outset, I'm not sure.  My major goal with this site is to have it be a useful resource to people currently in the process - or thinking about - applying to law school.  Obviously, if things did change with the decrease in applicants, the more recent data is going to be a lot more relevant.  The recent thread on TLS and Anne Levine's response kind of shook me awake on this one, I guess.

So...first things first.  Below, I am posting the "boosts" associated with each earlier month an application is submitted, just like in my last post, except this time I am posting it for the T14 for the 2003/4 cycles through the 2009/10 cycles on the left, and from the 2010/11 cycle to the 2012/13 cycle on the right, so we can compare.  And what do we find?  That Anne Levine is largely right, at least as concerns the T14:

In all schools except Chicago and Penn, the percent-increase in an applications likelihood of admission for each earlier month applied decreases, and in most cases significantly, in the post-2010 period as compared to the pre-2010 period.  In the cases of Stanford, Columbia, NYU, Duke, and Cornell, it disappears entirely (and, of course, it was never there for Yale anyway).  This lines up quite nicely with what Ms. Levine claims.  The real surprises then, are Penn and Chicago, where the boosts have not only increased, but have increased substantially since applications started falling.  Thoughts?

Over the next few days (when I'm not working at the job that actually pays me), I'm going to break this down further and see how the "boost" has evolved over time, cycle-by-cycle for the T14.  Until then!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

By request, a chart!

A reader asked that I post at least one chart for a school demonstrating an advantage to earlier applications.  This is actually a little trickier than it might seem.  At the person's suggestion, I decided to give this a try with the U of Chicago, since it appears to give the biggest boost in the Top 14 to earlier applicants.

The reader seemed to suggest that I plot the % of applicants who were accepted by month that the application was submitted (at least that was how I understood the request).  This is a little problematic, though, because the applicant pools for each month are likely not equal.  Some people have theorized that applicants with stronger numbers don't have stronger numbers randomly, and might be the types of people who also are going to get their applications submitted earlier, and in this case we'd just expect earlier applicants to have more success because they are better overall applicants regardless of when they submitted their applications, and so higher acceptance rates for earlier applicants wouldn't tell us much.

To be honest, this isn't a super easy problem to work around, but I gave it a shot.  What I have done is taken the LSAT:GPA ratio suggested for Chicago by Law School Predictor, which is 3.04 to 1 (I'd much rather use an actual published index to do this, but Chicago does not provide one), and developed an "index" score for each applicant based on that other words, it's just a figure that indicates the numbers-strength of the applicant.  I then determined the average index number for all applicants, and calculated the percentage of applicants above the average who were accepted, by month of application submission.  This way, we at least partially control for difference in the strength of the applicant pools for each month, and instead of looking at just the percentages of applicants who were accepted, we're looking at the percentages of "strong" candidates who were accepted.

So, that pretty much does it for explanation.  Below is the chart:

As you can see, there is a definite downward trend in the percentage of "strong" applicants who were accepted as you go deeper into the cycle, and the drop off from November to December is especially steep.  In terms of the number of applicants, there is an upward trend from September to November (in which applications peak), and then a steady decline, with a very sharp drop in February.

Although the graphic above does not account for how far accepted applicants were from the mean, I think it definitely visually demonstrates an advantage to applying earlier (although it doesn't control for anything other than LSAT or GPA, the regression analysis on which I based my original "early application" boost post does).

So, there you have it, in pictures.  Well, a picture.  If anyone is interested in seeing how other schools look, let me know.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Applying Earlier at the T14: Does it Matter, and How Much?

Yesterday I posted regarding the binding Early Decision applications to the Top 14 law schools, to see if there seems to be any truth to the notion that applying ED to a school can give an applicant a boost in his or her chances of acceptance.  Today, we'll look at the effect (if any) that applying earlier in the cycle has on those chances.

First, a little explanation.  In organizing the data, I broke applications down by the month in which they were submitted.  The results you will find in the tables below correspond to the increase in one's chances of acceptance correspond to each earlier month the application is submitted, which is different from each month earlier.  In other words, there is an X% increase in your chances of acceptance if you apply in September rather than October, or October rather than November, etc.  This creates a little bit of a problem, because technically, a September 30th application is coded as a September app, and an October 1st application is coded as an October app.  It would probably be foolish to think that any of the % increases you see in the charts would apply to an application sent out one day earlier, as the case would be in the aforementioned example.  Still, the charts are instructive for giving a general idea of how schools treat earlier applications.  I will break the data down into four charts: the entire applicant pool, the non-splitters, the splitters, and the reverse-splitters.  The percentages in each chart correspond to the increased likelihood of admission for an applicant submitting in one earlier month.

Entire applicant pool:

As you can see, every school except Yale demonstrates at least some boost for applicants submitting earlier.  So, when Yale tells you it really doesn't matter if you apply in September or February, it appears that they mean it.  Even the lowest school on the list, NYU, provides almost a 20% increase in an applicants chances of admissions for submitting in September as opposed to October, October as opposed to November, etc.


Not a whole lot different from the first chart, with the exception that for some reason I have decided to call UVA "Virginia" in this chart.  I was simply too lazy to go back and fix it.


Here things get a little interesting.  Almost all the boosts increase (at least where they still exist), and the Penn, Duke, and Harvard boosts increase substantially.  Other schools, however, completely drop off the list, indicating no statistically significant advantage to splitters applying earlier at these schools.


And, as usual, reverse-splitters kind of get shafted.  With the exception of Penn, which gives an enormous boost to splitters applying earlier than their later-applying counterparts, there isn't a single reverse-splitter earlier application boost to be found.  NYU came very close to statistical significance on this one, but didn't quite make it, and rules is rules.

So, there you have it.  If you ever needed some hard evidence to tell you to get it in gear and get that application out, there it is.  This comes with some obvious caveats, though!  For one thing, don't send in a subpar application, thinking that it's more important to get it in early.  Because I can't measure things like letters of recommendation, resumes, or essays, I definitely don't recommend sending in rushed or poorly thought out examples of any of these simply in order to turn the application in earlier.  So, let me rephrase what I said before: get it in gear and get that super-polished application out.

Also, one of the most common questions I hear comes from applicants who are trying to decide whether to apply as early as possible, or re-take the LSAT.  Although there a boost to applying earlier for most students at most schools (and sometimes substantially so), any "lost" early application boost is more than compensated for by an LSAT point or two, so as long as you think you can increase by a few points, retaking is often the right answer to this question.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

To ED or not to ED to the Top 14?

Application season is almost upon us, and many anxiety-ridden applicants will be considering whether or not to apply via binding Early Decision application to their dream schools.  There is conventional wisdom out there that says that applying via binding Early Decision signals to a school that you are very committed to attending that school, and therefore boosts your chances of acceptance, which makes this option very attractive for those applicants who are dead set on attending a certain school, or would very much like to attend a school but are unsure that their numbers are high enough to get in.  Another piece of conventional wisdom says that, by being accepted as an ED applicant, a school essentially has you cornered and therefore has little reason to offer you financial incentives (i.e. scholarship funds) to entice you to attend.  Because the data I have on scholarship awards is very sketchy in its current state, I can't really address this second point, but it is certainly worth noting and makes all kinds of common sense.

The first point, though, I think can be examined by using the same regression analysis I have used thus far.  I will focus only on my second model, in which I only consider applicants who were either accepted or rejected by schools (in other words, waitlisted candidates whose fates are unknown are left out of the analysis).  I will deal only with the Top 14 schools in this post, because most of them offer a binding ED application option, and because outside the T14, there isn't a whole lot of binding ED to be found.

With all that said, let's take a look at the numbers.  In the first chart, I'm positing the results considering the ENTIRE pool of applicants who were either accepted or rejected at these schools. As always, these are the results after controlling for LSAT score, undergraduate GPA, URM status, timing of the application, nontraditional status, and gender.  Our variable of interest here is simply the increases in the likelihood of acceptance for an applicant who applies ED as opposed to RD.

Notes here:
- The first number is the number of observations the regression is based on, and the second is how many times more likely ED candidates are than identical RD candidates to be accepted (in other words, Michigan ED candidates are 1.166 times more likely to be admitted than identical RD candidates, and Duke ED candidates are 4.222 times more likely to be admitted than identical RD candidates).
- Georgetown actually seems to disadvantage ED applicants, as they are 31% less likely to be admitted than identical RD applicants.  I have no idea why this might be.  We see this same results at George Washington, but because all ED accepted applicants to GW are given substantial scholarships, the result there makes perfect sense.  For Georgetown, not so much.  I'm definitely interested in what hypotheses you all might have about this.
- I have an asterisk beside Northwestern because of Northwestern's recently instituted policy of giving full rides to accepted ED applicants.  These regression are based on data going all the way back to the 2003/2004 cycle.  One would expect Northwestern's number to be similar to GW's (which isn't listed here), but actually in the first year that Northwestern implemented the program, their ED boost was enormous. 
- N/A is for schools that don't offer binding ED, and NSS means "not statistically significant" and indicates that a school had no boost associated with ED applications in my analysis.
- The University of Virginia has the biggest ED boost, which is no surprise, and confirms the conventional wisdom that is "ED UVA!"

Next, we'll look at the ED boost associated with non-splitter applicants (applicants who I don't classify as splitters nor reverse-splitters):

Notes here:
- This time around, it seems like Michigan disadvantages non-splitter EDing applicants.  Thoughts?
- Northwestern drops off the list.

Next up, the splitters:

- The boosts are generally much bigger for splitters, where they actually exist.  
- Duke drops off the list here.
- Oh my god, Georgetown.

Finally, the reverse-splitters:

Only one story here, but it's a big one: UVA gives a massive boost to reverse-splitters who ED.  The sample size is reasonably small at 58, but given the relatively small number of variables we are controlling for, the results are valid.  

So, there you have it - the boosts associated with ED at the Top 14 across applicant categories.  In a (near) future post, I will rank schools by the boosts they give for earlier applications, which seems to be, in general, a bigger deal.