Do Underrepresented Minority (URM) Applicants Have a Law School Admissions Advantage?

    Law School Admissions


    blue stairs.jpgLaw school admissions decisions are often thought to be very formulaic, with an applicant’s LSAT and GPA numbers being the only important elements in that formula.

    While it’s really beyond dispute that applicants’ numbers play a huge part (and almost certainly the most important part) in most law school admissions decisions, that’s not to say that they are the only factors that matter. There are indisputably other key factors, including minority status. But how big a role does such a factor play?

    In previous blogs for PowerScore, I have discussed the role played by the timing of an application, and also the impact of applying through a binding early decision process. There are other factors that make a difference though, and some of them are quantifiable factors for which we have user-reported data. These factors include an applicant’s sex, whether a person is a traditional or non-traditional applicant, and whether a person is considered an underrepresented minority (“URM”) by law schools. While I intend to look at the former two factors in future blog posts, today’s post will focus on some statistics relating to how status as a URM may affect law school application outcomes.

    Law schools might theoretically give a “boost” – an increased chance of admission – to URM applicants for a number of reasons, an explanation of which would go far beyond our purposes here. But in general, law schools (correctly, in my opinion) believe that creating an environment of diversity, with students from many and varied backgrounds and experiences, creates a richer academic environment. There is also evidence that the LSAT, while generally creating a level playing field, may somewhat disadvantage certain racial and ethnic minorities. And, obviously, there are questions regarding structural problems with our public education system that might disadvantage certain groups. Regardless of the reasoning for an URM boost, however, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that it exists. What I hope to do here is provide some numerical analysis to support that anecdotal evidence.

    In order to cover questions regarding any advantage URM candidates might have in law school admissions, I propose to cover two things in this post: first, to see if we can quantify what I call the “URM boost” by measuring the effects of URM status on admissions outcomes, controlling for a variety of other quantifiable factors. Next, I will present average LSAT and GPA numbers for both URM and non-URM admits to those schools in the USNWR top 100 for which we have sufficient user-reported data. As a preliminary: this analysis makes use of data reported by law school applicants themselves, and covers the 2009/10 through 2015/16 application cycles. URM status for individual applicants was also self-reported, of course.

    Does the URM boost exist?

    Short answer: yes, at almost every school we cover here! And the boost is higher for higher-tiered schools. Let’s take a look by tier (the number given in the table is the % increase in chances of admission for URM candidates compared to non-URM candidates, controlling for LSAT, GPA, applicant sex, ED application, non-traditional status, and month the application was sent).

    Table 1a

    Tier

    URM Boost

    Top 14

    498%

    Top 25

    126%

    Top 50

    52%

    All Schools

    7%

    As you can see, overall law schools (including here those outside the top 100) give a 7% boost to URM applicants. In other words, a URM applicant who is exactly equal to a non-URM candidate with regards to all other factors we control for is 7% more likely to be admitted to a given law school than her non-URM equivalent. But this number is a whopping 498% in the Top 14, 126% in the Top 25, and 52% in the Top 50 law schools. This indicates that URM applicants have a major advantage during admissions decisions, and that advantage is higher in higher-tier schools.

    Next is a table listing the 74 schools in the Top 100 for which we have sufficient data to draw conclusions, ranked in order of URM boost. Those schools shaded in red are the handful that demonstrate no statistically significant discernible boost for URM applicants.

     Table 1b

    Rank

    School

    URM Boost

     

    Rank

    School

    URM Boost

    57

    Case Western

    36457%

     

    30

    William & Mary

    624%

    72

    Loyola (Chicago)

    25292%

     

    78

    American

    603%

    6

    NYU

    18728%

     

    8

    UVA

    587%

    4

    Chicago

    18172%

     

    33

    U Georgia

    585%

    13

    Cornell

    13369%

     

    18

    WUSTL

    565%

    2

    Harvard

    10360%

     

    65

    Loyola Marymount

    557%

    11

    Duke

    8336%

     

    25

    Arizona State

    528%

    4

    Columbia

    6707%

     

    7

    U Penn

    512%

    3

    Stanford

    6069%

     

    8

    Michigan

    490%

    16

    Vanderbilt

    5440%

     

    25

    Indiana - Bloomington

    435%

    19

    USC

    4672%

     

    38

    UNC

    371%

    50

    Temple

    4172%

     

    45

    Southern Methodist

    363%

    14

    Georgetown

    3623%

     

    74

    Cardozo

    359%

    40

    Wake Forest

    2845%

     

    33

    U Washington

    352%

    82

    Northeastern

    2829%

     

    72

    Denver

    344%

    40

    U of Colorado - Boulder

    1888%

     

    48

    U of Maryland

    335%

    86

    Penn State

    1795%

     

    30

    UC Davis

    321%

    86

    Chicago-Kent

    1731%

     

    86

    Syracuse

    294%

    65

    U of Connecticut

    1703%

     

    50

    Hastings

    262%

    33

    U Wisconsin - Madison

    1655%

     

    60

    U of Miami

    255%

    25

    GW

    1573%

     

    57

    Georgia State

    250%

    45

    U of Utah

    1572%

     

    22

    Minnesota

    235%

    15

    U Texas

    1564%

     

    97

    Brooklyn

    230%

    40

    Washington & Lee

    1497%

     

    50

    Houston

    163%

    37

    Fordham

    1402%

     

    22

    Notre Dame

    158%

    20

    Boston U

    1363%

     

    22

    Emory

    147%

    40

    U of Illinois

    1239%

     

    20

    Iowa

    NSS

    8

    UC Berkeley

    1117%

     

    45

    George Mason

    NSS

    12

    Northwestern

    1032%

     

    48

    U of Florida

    NSS

    78

    U of Pittsburgh

    1000%

     

    50

    FSU

    NSS

    28

    Boston College

    850%

     

    50

    Tulane

    NSS

    1

    Yale

    823%

     

    55

    Baylor

    NSS

    30

    Ohio State

    794%

     

    55

    Richmond

    NSS

    92

    Lewis & Clark

    698%

     

    60

    U of Kentucky

    NSS

    40

    U of Arizona

    668%

     

    65

    Pepperdine

    NSS

    17

    UCLA

    663%

     

    74

    U of San Diego

    NSS

    28

    U Alabama

    642%

     

    100

    Michigan State

    NSS

    Some of you might be asking “Wait, now…[Table 1a] shows that for Top 50 schools as a whole, there is a 52% URM boost, but [Table 1b] makes it look like that should be much larger!” It’s a good question, and is explained by the fact that (1) some schools have no URM boost at all and (2) the data is being sliced differently in each table. In [Table 1b] each school is having its applicants analyzed in a vacuum without regards to other schools, and in [Table 1a] those applicants are being analyzed as one big group for the tier (in other words, for T14, Yale, Harvard, and Cornell students are all lumped in together).

    You have probably noticed that many of the numbers in [Table 1b] are pretty astronomical. Case Western gives URM applicants a 365-times better shot at admission? I think the takeaway here is that there are some URM admits whose numerical profiles (along with sex, nontraditional status, etc.) simply would not have a shot if not for their URM status (and other significant, non-measurable factors, such as strength of personal statement, recommendations, resume, etc., which this type of analysis simply can’t account for). I wouldn’t read too much into any individual numbers in [Table 1b], but simply think of it more of a guidepost that lets you know which schools give relatively larger/smaller URM boosts.

    In order to bring the analysis a little closer to a more easily-digested reality, I present a few tables that show the average LSAT and GPA scores for admitted URM students vs. admitted non-URM students for the schools in question here. The schools are listed in order of the difference between the average non-URM admit’s LSAT and that of the average URM admit. Please note that nothing else is controlled for here, and these are just the raw numbers.

    School

    Non-URM LSAT

    URM LSAT

    LSAT
    Differential

     

    School

    Non-URM LSAT

    URM LSAT

    LSAT
    Differential

    Columbia

    173.9

    166.2

    7.7

     

    Houston

    164.4

    160.4

    4.0

    Washington & Lee

    165.7

    158.7

    7.0

     

    U of Maryland

    163.4

    159.4

    4.0

    Harvard

    174.3

    167.5

    6.8

     

    Syracuse

    157.5

    153.5

    3.9

    Chicago

    172.7

    166.3

    6.4

     

    Temple

    163.6

    159.7

    3.9

    Case Western

    162.1

    155.8

    6.3

     

    Indiana - Bloomington

    165.4

    161.5

    3.9

    NYU

    173.1

    167.0

    6.2

     

    U Washington

    166.9

    163.0

    3.8

    Northeastern

    163.9

    157.8

    6.1

     

    Ohio State

    164.3

    160.5

    3.8

    WUSTL

    168.5

    162.6

    5.9

     

    U Wisconsin - Madison

    164.6

    160.8

    3.8

    UC Berkeley

    171.6

    165.9

    5.7

     

    Penn State

    161.7

    158.0

    3.8

    Northwestern

    171.5

    165.8

    5.7

     

    Cardozo

    164.5

    160.8

    3.8

    Duke

    172.0

    166.4

    5.6

     

    Hastings

    164.7

    161.0

    3.7

    Michigan

    171.0

    165.4

    5.6

     

    Boston U

    167.1

    163.4

    3.7

    U of Illinois

    166.5

    160.9

    5.6

     

    U of Connecticut

    162.8

    159.1

    3.7

    U Penn

    171.6

    166.1

    5.5

     

    Boston College

    166.7

    163.1

    3.6

    Loyola (Chicago)

    162.2

    156.8

    5.4

     

    Wake Forest

    164.5

    160.9

    3.6

    American

    161.8

    156.5

    5.3

     

    Brooklyn

    162.8

    159.3

    3.6

    Georgetown

    171.2

    165.9

    5.3

     

    UC Davis

    165.6

    162.2

    3.4

    Vanderbilt

    169.8

    164.6

    5.2

     

    Iowa

    164.4

    161.0

    3.4

    U Alabama

    166.3

    161.1

    5.1

     

    Baylor

    163.6

    160.3

    3.3

    UNC

    164.9

    159.8

    5.1

     

    Fordham

    167.3

    164.0

    3.2

    Stanford

    173.7

    168.7

    5.1

     

    George Mason

    163.7

    160.7

    3.1

    Cornell

    170.2

    165.2

    5.0

     

    U of Arizona

    163.4

    160.5

    2.9

    Yale

    175.0

    170.0

    5.0

     

    U of Kentucky

    160.7

    157.8

    2.9

    U Georgia

    166.4

    161.5

    4.9

     

    Minnesota

    167.6

    164.7

    2.9

    Lewis & Clark

    163.8

    159.1

    4.6

     

    U of Florida

    163.3

    160.6

    2.7

    William & Mary

    166.8

    162.2

    4.6

     

    Richmond

    162.4

    159.7

    2.7

    U of Pittsburgh

    161.9

    157.4

    4.5

     

    U of Colorado - Boulder

    165.6

    162.9

    2.7

    U Texas

    170.0

    165.5

    4.5

     

    Loyola Marymount

    163.5

    160.9

    2.5

    Chicago-Kent

    162.0

    157.6

    4.4

     

    Arizona State

    164.0

    161.5

    2.5

    UCLA

    170.0

    165.6

    4.3

     

    Tulane

    163.0

    160.6

    2.5

    Southern Methodist

    164.5

    160.2

    4.3

     

    U of Utah

    163.1

    160.7

    2.4

    Michigan State

    159.0

    154.7

    4.3

     

    Denver

    160.9

    158.8

    2.1

    GW

    167.7

    163.4

    4.3

     

    FSU

    162.5

    160.5

    2.0

    UVA

    170.8

    166.6

    4.3

     

    Pepperdine

    163.4

    161.6

    1.8

    USC

    169.1

    164.8

    4.2

     

    Georgia State

    161.7

    160.0

    1.7

    Notre Dame

    166.9

    162.7

    4.2

     

    U of San Diego

    162.8

    161.2

    1.6

    Emory

    167.5

    163.3

    4.1

     

    U of Miami

    160.9

    159.4

    1.6

    School

    Non-URM LSAT

    URM LSAT

    LSAT
    Differential

    Columbia

    173.9

    166.2

    7.7

    Harvard

    174.3

    167.5

    6.8

    Chicago

    172.7

    166.3

    6.4

    NYU

    173.1

    167.0

    6.2

    UC Berkeley

    171.6

    165.9

    5.7

    Northwestern

    171.5

    165.8

    5.7

    Duke

    172.0

    166.4

    5.6

    Michigan

    171.0

    165.4

    5.6

    U Penn

    171.6

    166.1

    5.5

    Georgetown

    171.2

    165.9

    5.3

    Stanford

    173.7

    168.7

    5.1

    Cornell

    170.2

    165.2

    5.0

    Yale

    175.0

    170.0

    5.0

    UVA

    170.8

    166.6

    4.3

    As you can see, Columbia has the highest LSAT differential (by quite a bit, actually), with Columbia’s differential being nearly 5 times higher than the University of Miami’s, which is bringing up the rear. And, of course, there is a wide range in between.

    And when just comparing the Top 14 schools in the 2nd chart (which many people often want to do), the range is much smaller, but still considerable (7.7 for Columbia at the top, and 4.3 for UVA at the bottom). Still, note that UVA’s differential, although the lowest for the T14, is still well within the top half for the 74 schools in Table 4, further underscoring the idea that the URM boost is worth more at top schools.

    In the following tables, we repeat the same exercise for GPA:

    School

    Non-URM GPA

    URM GPA

    GPA
    Differential

     

    School

    Non-URM GPA

    URM GPA

    GPA
    Differential

    U of Kentucky

    3.43

    3.20

    0.23

     

    U Wisconsin - Madison

    3.48

    3.38

    0.10

    Indiana - Bloomington

    3.52

    3.30

    0.22

     

    U of Arizona

    3.52

    3.42

    0.10

    U of Connecticut

    3.46

    3.26

    0.21

     

    Yale

    3.92

    3.82

    0.10

    Chicago-Kent

    3.34

    3.14

    0.19

     

    Michigan State

    3.48

    3.39

    0.09

    Temple

    3.48

    3.29

    0.19

     

    UC Berkeley

    3.84

    3.75

    0.09

    U of Illinois

    3.53

    3.34

    0.19

     

    Northwestern

    3.68

    3.59

    0.09

    Iowa

    3.59

    3.40

    0.19

     

    U of Colorado - Boulder

    3.54

    3.45

    0.09

    Lewis & Clark

    3.43

    3.25

    0.18

     

    Boston U

    3.67

    3.58

    0.09

    American

    3.45

    3.28

    0.17

     

    Wake Forest

    3.50

    3.42

    0.09

    Loyola (Chicago)

    3.38

    3.21

    0.17

     

    U of Maryland

    3.47

    3.39

    0.08

    Brooklyn

    3.43

    3.27

    0.15

     

    Michigan

    3.74

    3.66

    0.08

    Cardozo

    3.51

    3.36

    0.15

     

    Duke

    3.79

    3.71

    0.08

    Boston College

    3.62

    3.48

    0.15

     

    Pepperdine

    3.55

    3.47

    0.08

    U of Pittsburgh

    3.44

    3.29

    0.15

     

    Syracuse

    3.36

    3.28

    0.07

    William & Mary

    3.64

    3.50

    0.14

     

    U Washington

    3.65

    3.58

    0.07

    Case Western

    3.41

    3.27

    0.14

     

    Georgetown

    3.71

    3.64

    0.07

    Arizona State

    3.55

    3.41

    0.14

     

    Notre Dame

    3.63

    3.57

    0.06

    Penn State

    3.45

    3.31

    0.14

     

    Richmond

    3.40

    3.33

    0.06

    U of Utah

    3.50

    3.37

    0.13

     

    WUSTL

    3.54

    3.48

    0.06

    U of San Diego

    3.47

    3.35

    0.13

     

    Fordham

    3.61

    3.55

    0.06

    Hastings

    3.55

    3.43

    0.13

     

    George Mason

    3.50

    3.44

    0.06

    NYU

    3.79

    3.66

    0.13

     

    Baylor

    3.48

    3.42

    0.06

    Harvard

    3.89

    3.76

    0.12

     

    Northeastern

    3.48

    3.42

    0.06

    Minnesota

    3.53

    3.41

    0.12

     

    UC Davis

    3.61

    3.55

    0.06

    Ohio State

    3.61

    3.49

    0.12

     

    Denver

    3.37

    3.31

    0.06

    Washington & Lee

    3.52

    3.40

    0.12

     

    UVA

    3.74

    3.68

    0.06

    Loyola Marymount

    3.52

    3.41

    0.12

     

    UNC

    3.56

    3.51

    0.05

    Columbia

    3.79

    3.68

    0.12

     

    GW

    3.61

    3.56

    0.05

    U Alabama

    3.53

    3.41

    0.12

     

    U of Miami

    3.45

    3.40

    0.05

    U Texas

    3.71

    3.60

    0.11

     

    Tulane

    3.45

    3.45

    0.00

    Stanford

    3.91

    3.80

    0.11

     

    UCLA

    3.73

    3.74

    -0.01

    Vanderbilt

    3.70

    3.59

    0.11

     

    FSU

    3.47

    3.50

    -0.03

    Chicago

    3.85

    3.74

    0.11

     

    Emory

    3.58

    3.62

    -0.04

    Cornell

    3.75

    3.64

    0.11

     

    Southern Methodist

    3.45

    3.51

    -0.06

    U Penn

    3.82

    3.71

    0.11

     

    U Georgia

    3.49

    3.56

    -0.07

    USC

    3.74

    3.64

    0.10

     

    Houston

    3.44

    3.53

    -0.10

    Georgia State

    3.47

    3.36

    0.10

     

    U of Florida

    3.55

    3.66

    -0.11

    School

    Non-URM GPA

    URM GPA

    GPA
    Differential

    NYU

    3.79

    3.66

    0.13

    Harvard

    3.89

    3.76

    0.12

    Columbia

    3.79

    3.68

    0.12

    Stanford

    3.91

    3.80

    0.11

    Chicago

    3.85

    3.74

    0.11

    Cornell

    3.75

    3.64

    0.11

    U Penn

    3.82

    3.71

    0.11

    Yale

    3.92

    3.82

    0.10

    UC Berkeley

    3.84

    3.75

    0.09

    Northwestern

    3.68

    3.59

    0.09

    Michigan

    3.74

    3.66

    0.08

    Duke

    3.79

    3.71

    0.08

    Georgetown

    3.71

    3.64

    0.07

    UVA

    3.74

    3.68

    0.06

    Here again, we see a broad range of differentials, this time for the GPA. In fact, you can see that for 7 schools, admitted URMs actually had a higher average GPA than admitted non-URM applicants (although, admittedly, some of that may have to do with smaller sample sizes for URM applicants that may not be entirely representative). Still, this gives you a general idea of where the schools stand in terms of the difference in the GPAs of URM and non-URM admitted students.

    While there are tons of things that might be said (or debated) about the numbers from this blog, one thing for sure is that when it comes time for law school applications: students who can apply as underrepresented minorities do seem to have an advantage, and for those students, each additional LSAT point (or tenth of a point of GPA) can go an extra-long way into getting into the schools of their dreams.

    If you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to post them below!

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