Rankings: Bragging Rights? (Part 4 of 5)

Why do graduate schools both brag about their ranking and complain about the rankings?

The rankings reverse roles. The schools are being graded, and they don’t like it any more than you do – unless of course you earn that A or that award. Then you want to broadcast the news. The reaction is as true for schools as it is for students.

In addition, responding to the ranking questionnaires takes hours and hours of time. It is administratively burdensome.

Finally, students frequently misuse and abuse the rankings. They use them as absolute and accurate measures of educational quality. They aren’t. They lazily use them as substitutes for research into program distinctions, strengths, and weaknesses. Maybe the rankings, especially those that have a survey component, are proxies for reputation and brand, but reputation is not the same as quality and fit. Know the difference.

For a thoughtful response from a business school dean to the rankings, please see “Gauging success with imperfect but important rankings,” an interview with Gene Anderson, Associate Dean for Degree Programs at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.

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How Should You Use Rankings? (Part 3 of 5)

How should you use the rankings? For initial research and data mining. And maybe a little reputation checking if you are lucky enough to receive multiple acceptances.

First for that initial research: Let’s say you are looking into the schools you will apply to. You recognize that your academic qualifications are an important element in that decision so you want to know average test scores and GPA for the different schools.  That data is conveniently found in US News rankings . For MBA’s, you can also find it at BusinessWeek and the Financial Times.

US News’ rankings also allows you to rank or select programs by a limited set of criteria. For example, you can filter medical schools, business schools, and law schools by specialty, tuition, or class size.

MBA’s have more options.  If you are concerned about return on investment, then the new BW ROI rankings are enlightening as well as The Financial Timesand Forbes. If you want to know what students thought of their MBA experience, turn to BW and The Economist/Which MBA. Perhaps you seek a ranking of European programs because you intend to study in Europe; The Financial Times provides a ranking of European schools.

Again, none of these rankings is a substitute for research, but they can be a launch pad.

In a nutshell, use the data in these databanks to help you rank programs according to your values, preferences, and criteria while taking into account your qualifications, goals, and personal preferences.

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Law School Application Reader’s Thoughts

Do you ever wonder what goes through the minds of those lucky souls who evaluate the piles of law school application folders — virtual or physical — and decide your fate? Are they wowed by your prose? Impressed by your attention to detail? Bowled over by your brilliance.

Doesn’t look like it. At the Legal Writing Prof Blog, Sue Liemer, Associate Professor of Law and Director of Lawyering Skills at the Southern Illinois University School of Law, reflects on several years of reviewing law school applications. 

A few take-aways:

  • Ask your recommenders if they are willing to write a supportive letter of recommendation for you. If the answer is “no” or even hesitant, move on.
  • Follow the application instructions.
  • Have good basic writing skills before you start the application process so your LSAT writing sample doesn’t earn you a rejection.
  • Have someone else proof your application, including any explanations of academic probation or legal infractions.

Some of you may find these lessons unnecessary or obvious. Good for you. Based on Dr. Liemer’s musings, they are not obvious and bear repeating.

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Despite Recession, Law School Application Volume Remains Static

Although college grads and disgruntled workers often turn to higher degree programs during difficult economic times, as of late February the total number of law school applicants rose by less than 1%, according to an article at The National Law Journal. However due to ongoing deadlines, a surge in applications could occur later in the year. An 11.5% increase in the number of people who took the LSAT in February indicates that there may be a late wave of applications.

Many law school admissions deans say that the full effect of the dismal economy will not be evident until the 2010 admissions season. DePaul University College of Law Dean Glen Weissenberger says, “It’s going to take some time for people to realize how bad the economy is.” Weissenberger notes that while applicant numbers remain virtually unchanged, the quality of applicants did change. DePaul’s evening program saw an increase in high-quality applicants, indicating the applicants’ reluctance to leave their jobs.

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Happy New Year and Help!

As we say good-bye to 2008 and welcome 2009, I want to thank you all for your loyal following of this blog, your participation in Accepted.com events, and of course, your patronage.  Accepted  has enjoyed its best year ever. Thanks to all of you.

Looking ahead to 2009, we plan to make this web site and our services even better. We will roll out changes on the site throughout 2009.

We are currently wrestling with a question:  Whether or not to continue publishing recent posts from this blog on the Accepted.com home page.  What do you think?

We would really appreciate your taking a minute to answer a quick, 3-question survey and help us design this site in a way that suits you — or at least a majority of you. Thank you very much for your time.

Best wishes for a Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous New Year!

16% Increase in Those Retaking LSAT

The largely anticipated jump in those retaking the LSAT is a result of the ABA’s recognition of the highest test score, as opposed to the average scores of those who take the test more than once. In contrast, the number of prospective law students taking the LSAT for the first time fell by 2%.

Some law school professors opposed the change, questioning the logic in inflating scores and increasing profits for testing agencies. William Henderson, associate professor of law at Indiana University School of Law – Bloomington called the rule a “zero sum game” that will simply increase overall LSAT scores, thereby resulting in no real change at all. Furthermore, Henderson said that “A higher LSAT score is not as good a predictor as the average.”

Sam Stonefield, associate dean for external affairs and a professor of law at Western New England College School of Law also criticized the new rule, claiming that it will hurt minorities and lower income students who are less likely to spend the time and money necessary to retake the exam.

However, Allen Easley, both dean of the University of La Verne College of Law and chairman of the ABA’s questionnaire committee explained that the move resulted from pressure felt by law school deans to report high LSAT scores for ranking purposes. Many were concerned that that competitors manipulated average LSAT scores. “If we let everybody report the high score, everybody is on the same level playing field and we eliminate that concern.”

Tight Job Market Brings Increase in Grad School Applicant Numbers


The AACRAO Transcript reports that in addition to MBA programs, law and other graduate programs are experiencing increased interest, as is often the case during an economic downturn. Although the number of law school applicants for this year saw little change, there was a 15% increase in the number of people who took the LSAT in June 2008, compared to June 2007. Similarly, the number of people who took the GRE increased by 13%.