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Case Study: Why is Columbia's GPA So (Relatively) Low, and what does this mean for Splitters?

Paul CaintPaul Caint Alum Member
edited December 2017 in General 3521 karma

Hey everyone,

Columbia is currently the #5 law school in the nation. But relative to other schools within its ranks, its 25th/50th/75th percentile GPAs are incredibly low: 3.56/3.70/3.81.

Their LSAT scores are more on par with their ranking: 168/172/174.

To me, this could be the result of two competing explanations:

  1. People who apply to Columbia have worse GPAs than usual for T14 schools.
  2. Columbia doesn't care as much about GPA.

If scenario #1 is true, that is a really good case for GPA splitters - people who have good GPAs but meh LSATs. For example, a 3.90 GPA with a 167 LSAT might just get you into Columbia.

But if scenario #2 is true, then sorry GPA splitters! It doesn't really matter.

I was wondering what y'alls' thoughts were on this topic. I've always been dumbfounded as to how comparatively low Columbia's GPA standards are. Is this because people who apply their don't have as stellar GPAs, or because they just don't care about GPA as much? Or something else?

I'd love to hear your thoughts and theories.

Thanks,

Paul

Comments

  • lsatplaylistlsatplaylist Alum Member
    5244 karma

    Just a guess, but if they consider a lower GPA range, this may help them with goals like recruiting more first-generation college students.

  • PositivePositive Alum Member
    edited December 2017 426 karma

    From what i've heard, it's all about strategy to maintain their ranking or yield protection. Columbia tries to attract high lsat + meh gpa type applicants to maintain their ranking, while Chicago, their peer school in terms of ranking, tries to attract high gpa + meh lsat type apllicants to maintain their ranking.

    That way, both schools are unlikely to get into a bidding competition with each other.

  • acsimonacsimon Alum Member
    1264 karma

    Why would first gens tend to be splitters and not reverse splitters? It seems that there are more URMs that are reverse splitters than there are URM splitters, so I'm curious about the first-gen case. Did you have any evidence, or was it just a hunch?--A.c.S

  • AlexAlex Alum Member
    edited December 2017 23929 karma

    @"Kings Never Die" said:
    From what i've heard, it's all about strategy to maintain their ranking or yield protection. Columbia tries to attract high lsat + meh gpa type applicants to maintain their ranking, while Chicago, their peer school in terms of ranking, tries to attract high gpa + meh lsat type apllicants to maintain their ranking.

    That way, both schools are unlikely to get into a bidding competition with each other.

    Yeah this is what I would suspect: that they try to attract high LSAT scores in lieu of high GPAs. Still, it's really only their 25th%tile that's a low. I don't necessarily think their medians are low, just low compared to their peer schools, which they certainly make up with higher LSAT medians. It's probably a good strategy to attract those who may have GPAs too low for HYS, but have high LSAT scores nonetheless.

  • lsatplaylistlsatplaylist Alum Member
    5244 karma

    @acsimon, A hunch while tired. However, I do think Columbia has a serious commitment to this issue and their location is one of the reasons.

  • AllezAllez21AllezAllez21 Legacy Member Inactive Sage Inactive ⭐
    1917 karma

    As stated above, the number of 172+ scorers, and especially the number of 174+ is quite rare, especially compared to class sizes at the top schools. There simply are not enough people with both high LSATs AND high GPAs. Those who do have both are gobbled up by HYS.

    Those who remain are left for Columbia and Chicago. Columbia chooses to pick the splitters and Chicago chooses to pick the reverse splitters.

  • Paul CaintPaul Caint Alum Member
    3521 karma

    @AllezAllez21 @"Alex Divine" So what strategic implications does this have for splitters of both types?

    Reverse Splitters (High GPA low LSAT) should apply to uChicago
    Normal Splitters (High LSAT low GPA) should apply to Columbia

    ?

  • acsimonacsimon Alum Member
    1264 karma

    @"Paul Caint" Why would there be any strategic implications?--If I were either a splitter or a reverse splitter with respect to these schools I would still apply to both. Were you referring to expectations that either camp should have with applying to those schools or...???

    It will be interesting to see how this cycle's increase in test takers (especially more high scoring ones) affects admissions at all of these schools and especially how it affects both camps. We shall see--A.c.S

  • Seeking PerfectionSeeking Perfection Alum Member
    4423 karma

    @acsimon said:
    @"Paul Caint" Why would there be any strategic implications?--If I were either a splitter or a reverse splitter with respect to these schools I would still apply to both. Were you referring to expectations that either camp should have with applying to those schools or...???

    It will be interesting to see how this cycle's increase in test takers (especially more high scoring ones) affects admissions at all of these schools and especially how it affects both camps. We shall see--A.c.S

    What makes you think there has been an increase in high scoring test takers?

    I understand takers overall. We can see it in the number of LSATs taken and many attribute it to a Trump effect. But I hadn't heard anything about a stronger effect among high scorers(I assumed it would be weaker).

  • BinghamtonDaveBinghamtonDave Alum Member 🍌🍌
    8678 karma

    Just reading through things here, I'm wondering the same thing as @"Seeking Perfection" , has there been an increase in high scores recently?

  • Paul CaintPaul Caint Alum Member
    3521 karma

    @"Seeking Perfection" @BinghamtonDave Checkout this data. Notice especially the 262% increase in test takers who score >175:

    https://7sage.com/discussion/#/discussion/comment/95249

    @acsimon Haha I was thinking particularly for my situation. I was weighing applying to schools early to get an early-application boost versus waiting for a higher LSAT score. My GPA is pretty much higher than every school's median and most school's 75ths. If I hear a school weighs GPA more heavily, I was thinking of just sending an app their way.

    But to be honest, I'll probably just wait.

  • AnthonyScaliaAnthonyScalia Alum Member
    330 karma

    Yeah, I think it's their way of staying high in the rankings through a certain niche of candidates.

    I think it works well for them because the LSAT range is much more exclusive than the GPA range. There are hundreds of thousands of students who have 3.5+ GPAs, but only x000 170+ scorers among college students/people who might apply. Generally speaking, it's "easier" to be a 3.85 student and get a meh lsat score than it is to be a 170 scorer and get a "meh" GPA. The percentile comparison is way off. The 171+ automatically puts you in the top 2%, while a 3.85 is probably 10-15th percentile nationwide.

  • OlamHafuchOlamHafuch Alum Member
    2326 karma

    @"Paul Caint" said:
    @"Seeking Perfection" @BinghamtonDave Checkout this data. Notice especially the 262% increase in test takers who score >175:

    https://7sage.com/discussion/#/discussion/comment/95249

    @acsimon Haha I was thinking particularly for my situation. I was weighing applying to schools early to get an early-application boost versus waiting for a higher LSAT score. My GPA is pretty much higher than every school's median and most school's 75ths. If I hear a school weighs GPA more heavily, I was thinking of just sending an app their way.

    But to be honest, I'll probably just wait.

    The 262% increase is specifically for the score of 176.

  • Seeking PerfectionSeeking Perfection Alum Member
    4423 karma

    @uhinberg said:

    @"Paul Caint" said:
    @"Seeking Perfection" @BinghamtonDave Checkout this data. Notice especially the 262% increase in test takers who score >175:

    https://7sage.com/discussion/#/discussion/comment/95249

    @acsimon Haha I was thinking particularly for my situation. I was weighing applying to schools early to get an early-application boost versus waiting for a higher LSAT score. My GPA is pretty much higher than every school's median and most school's 75ths. If I hear a school weighs GPA more heavily, I was thinking of just sending an app their way.

    But to be honest, I'll probably just wait.

    The 262% increase is specifically for the score of 176.

    Nonetheless, it appears it is an 86.6 percent increase in scores over 175. That is a lot.

    First, we need to figure out if it will hold for the rest of the cycle. It could be that for some reason, this cycle people with high lsat scores are applying disproportionately earlier(or were applying abnomally late last year). I have no reason to suspect either of those things though. If anyone has any theories I would like to hear them since I am concerned.

    If it does hold, there are going to be a lot more high LSAT scores floating around and schools will be able to raise their medians/75ths. They will likely be able to make a choice. Pick up the now more abundant same LSAT scores they used to take with higher GPAs or mantain GPA and get higher LSATs.

    For me it is completely fine if they try to raise their LSAT medians(they can't get to my score). However, it will hurt me at some schools if they raise their GPA medians/75ths/25ths. It sounds like it is sort of the opposite for @Paul Caint". The reality is going to be that some schools will do each and it will be harder to negotiate for merit aid unless you can get into both types of schools.

  • lsatplaylistlsatplaylist Alum Member
    5244 karma

    Also, reportedly, there was a drop in applicant numbers in previous years.

  • Paul CaintPaul Caint Alum Member
    edited December 2017 3521 karma

    @"Seeking Perfection" @uhinberg @lsatplaylist

    I think we should also recognize though that these large percent increases are all relative increases. For example, the number of individuals scoring 176 is already small, so a 262% increase could just translate to a handful more people getting it.

    It's still cause for concern, but I think we should temper our worries with the understanding that the absolute number of applicants with those scores may not be that high.

  • goingfor99thgoingfor99th Member
    3072 karma

    Law applications are just now on the upswing. We're at the bottom of the wave, if I'm not mistaken.

    From what I've heard, schools are hungry for top applicants.

  • Sammie215Sammie215 Legacy Member
    202 karma

    I think someone may have already said this, but Colombia is a really popular choice among people who went to undergrad schools that are considered 'good schools' but accordingly have pretty low levels of grade inflation. So, for example, I went to Williams College, which is a top liberal arts school, and the GPA average is like a 3.3 I think. I can think of at least three or four friends from Williams who chose Colombia for law school. I think Colombia is more willing than other places to take a 'gamble' on applicants like this who have lower GPA's, especially if they have high LSAT scores. Personally I think it's really smart, because I know I could've gotten a higher GPA at a less challenging undergrad, but it wouldn't make me more prepared for law school. Props to them, I wish more schools had that attitude!

  • acsimonacsimon Alum Member
    1264 karma

    @"Seeking Perfection" , yes, I had the same response to the quoted percentage: not quite that high, but still significant.

    As for reasons, there can only be speculation about multiple causes. I've found it curious because the increase in scorers of a certain range should--all other things being equal--follow lock step with the increase in the overall population of test takers given that the percentiles to which scores are indexed are stable from year to year. At the same time, all other things are never equal hence the fodder for speculation. I wonder how many individuals are holdouts from other cycles...

    In any case, I'm ambivalent about it. I'm not so selfless as to not be slightly dejected that the amount of scorers 175-180 has increased this cycle (which reduces my rarity!). At the same time, though, since I'm generally against standardized testing, I have the admittedly (very) naive hope that the increase of high scorers will lead admissions committees to focus not so much on the scores as the individualized characteristics of applicants ("softs", I guess) and thus tailor their classes to be more distinctive from one another (perhaps representing their mission and conception of what sort of law school they wish to be). That would make applicants choices more diverse, and (perhaps) less purely prestige based.

    I tend towards cynicism about most everything, but still I have romantic hopes about stuff like this. Can't seem to shake em...Shrug--A.c.S

  • Paul CaintPaul Caint Alum Member
    3521 karma

    @acsimon I was thinking that too - perhaps "soft" factors will count more.

    But at the same time, I think law schools will just gobble up as many of these high LSATers as they can, without a real eye towards softs.

  • goingfor99thgoingfor99th Member
    edited December 2017 3072 karma

    @"Paul Caint" said:
    @acsimon I was thinking that too - perhaps "soft" factors will count more.

    But at the same time, I think law schools will just gobble up as many of these high LSATers as they can, without a real eye towards softs.

    I read somewhere that schools will focus more on the candidate and less on the numbers this cycle. Harvard taking GRE scores could be seen as a step in that direction. Still, high LSAT is always in demand.

    HYS turn their eyes towards soft factors more than any other schools, naturally. The catch is, you need to have great numbers for your softs to matter much at all.

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