The Cruel Grading System Of Low-Ranked Law Schools
September 23, 2022
When it comes to grading, law schools can be surprisingly cruel. When examining the GPA and LSAT scores of prospective students, low-ranked law schools look more at the former than the latter,
and thus, may give an applicant with a high LSAT score and low GPA virtually no chance at admittance, while an applicant with a lower LSAT score but higher GPA could get in easily. I think this system is flawed.
Why are law schools ranked?
Law schools are ranked on the number of graduates who take a first-time bar exam and pass. They are also ranked by their law school’s CBE percent, which stands for cumulative bar exam passage rate. This percentage is determined by taking the number of graduates who took a first-time bar exam and passed it and dividing it by the total number of grads from that class who took a first-time bar exam.
Lowered ranking can lead to low enrollment rates, difficulties with recruiting faculty, student rankings on service opportunities, regional perceptions about prestige, and even lower pay scales for potential students in fellowships or scholarships.
High-ranking schools should be applauded for the success they have seen but low-ranking schools are unable to compete under these circumstances when they don’t have comparable facilities or resources.
Rankings as a business strategy for law schools
Law schools must adhere to the guidelines set forth by the ABA, which outlines what grades they can award a student, with those grades translating to LSAT and GPA percentiles. The vast majority of law schools follow these guidelines and some reward high grades with scholarships and fellowships that make their tuition rates more affordable.
Many low-ranked law schools take advantage of this system by awarding students a good grade if they do not do well enough on their exams or papers but those are easy for students to spot as someone who is trying too hard to get them into their school. Those high grades will penalize a student’s GPA percentile, which may be unacceptable at another school.
Rankings as an evaluation tool for students
Rankings can be a great tool for students in certain circumstances. They provide a system of ranking schools that helps students when they are deciding which school to attend based on their academic, career, and geographic needs.
The rankings also help reduce the likelihood of getting into one specific school as it would not allow other types of prospective students to apply who have different needs. Rankings give a perspective on what someone can expect from going to a certain law school.
This is more practical than just judging the U.S News & World Report’s metrics and having no other knowledge about what you will be getting yourself into. It gives prospective students time to make informed decisions before making an enormous commitment like attending law school for three years and being part of the nine percent jobless rate for recent grads.
Rankings and employment rates
#50 University of Akron School of Law (Akron, Ohio) Â $151,000 Â 30% Employment Rate Â 13:1 Student-Faculty Ratio
#51 American University Washington College of Law (Washington, D.C.) Â $155,800 Â 20% Employment Rate Â 12:1 Student-Faculty Ratio
#51 Arizona State University James E. Rogers College of Law (Tempe, Ariz.) Â $135,000* Â 45% Employment Rate* Â 10:1 Student-Faculty Ratio*
These three law schools are ranked in the bottom 50 out of all 203 ABA-approved law schools and have some things in common.
Rankings and earnings for top law schools
Harvard – 99.1% Employment Rate
Stanford – 98.2% Employment Rate
Columbia – 97.7% Employment Rate
Yale – 96.5% Employment Rate
How good are the rankings, anyway?
- Rank your law schools in terms of preference – this is an important consideration as ranking your favorite will not help you if it doesn’t admit people like you!
- Apply to 15 schools – this way, there is a good chance that at least one will admit you.
- Eliminate any schools that are out of your price range or don’t offer scholarships – while scholarships can be hard to come by, they are worth applying for because low-ranked law schools often have very generous aid programs.
- Consider going to a slightly higher ranked school and transfer to the desired one later on – there is no need to commit to a decision at age 20 when things might change later on in life!
What you can do
A low law school ranking may not be indicative of the quality of education offered. A law school’s U.S. News and World Report ranking typically reflects its reputation among peers, rather than its actual success rate in landing jobs for graduates or placing students at prestigious government agencies or corporate firms after graduation. If you attend a low-ranked law school, don’t despair; instead:
1) Study hard – You may need to do more coursework to compensate for the lower quality of teaching and instructors you’ll find at these schools, but you can do it!
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