Law School Discussion

Applying to Law School => Law School Admissions => Topic started by: auto208562 on March 24, 2004, 08:22:08 AM

Title: index numbers explanation
Post by: auto208562 on March 24, 2004, 08:22:08 AM
this is going to be a stupid question, but can someone explain index numbers and where and how I can use them.

i see posts here and there mentioning them, but unfortunately, I have no idea what they are.

thanks.
Title: Re: index numbers explanation
Post by: dta on March 24, 2004, 10:07:34 AM
Every lawschool admission board plugs your UGPA and LSAT score into a formula to come up with what is referred to as your "index". Although each law school uses a different formula and weighs LSAT and UGPA differently they all have *some* formula they use to come up with your index. Further, each has an automatic accept point and an automatic reject point. If you index score is above the automatic accept point you are pretty much guaranteed entrance (unless you're a felon with 16 convictions or something like that). If your index score is below the automatic reject point you will be automatically rejected and your application won't really even be looked at. If your index score is above the auto-reject point and below the auto-accept point, then they go ahead and look at the rest of your application.

The formula every ABA approved school uses in coming up with your index score is public knowledge (a list of them is on www.lsac.org), but the school's auto-reject and auto-accept points are not publicly released. However, by looking at the 25% - 75% acceptance averages in terms of GPA and LSAT for a given school, one can come up with a pretty good aproximation of what those cutoff points are.

For example, the index formula used by UT is:

(GPA * 12.5) + LSAT

The 25% - 75% acceptance range for GPA at UT is 3.4 - 3.8, and the 25% - 75% acceptance range for LSAT score is 160 - 165. Thus:

Automatic Decline Point ~ (3.4 * 12.5) + 160 = 202.5
Automatic Accept  Point ~ (3.8 * 12.5) + 165 = 212.5

Notice I used an approximation sign '~', not an equal sign in the above estimation of auto decline/accept points. That's just a rough way to guestimate at the cutoff points. But it does give you a general idea of your chances at a given school.
Title: Re: index numbers explanation
Post by: xrayspec on March 24, 2004, 10:32:55 AM
While your explanation is valid, the assumption that the 25/75 numbers are near the autoreject/autoadmit thresholds is demonstrably not true. The 25 threshold means a full 25% of the class had numbers below that level. Those people obviously were not auto-rejected; despite their weaker numbers they had other qualities that made them worthwhile.

More importantly, nobody really knows how the index numbers are used (or not used) at a given school so their utility as a predictive tool is nil. The only way to find out what your chances are at a given school is to apply!
Title: Re: index numbers explanation
Post by: dta on March 24, 2004, 10:49:23 AM
c'mon xray. their predictive value is not nil. That's a bit over the top. Also, I never said that this was a sure fire way to discover the school's auto accept/reject points. I'm just saying, if you want to make *some* kind of guess as to what the auto accept/reject points are then the method outlined is a reasonable "guess". The calculated auto-reject is a little hard and the calculated auto-accept is a little soft, but it's a good guess. Take it for what it's worth.

Also, we're all encouraged to make sure to apply to some "safety" schools. How exactly is one to decide a good "safety" school? Just choose a school with a bad reputation? That doesn't seem right. I think that by using the above mentioned calculations in an attempt to find one's 'safety' and 'stretch' schools is reasonable.

Yes, we don't know exactly how each school uses these formulas. But we do know each school uses them - the LSAC themselves publish each formula for each school. Further, each school has a self interest in downplaying the extent to which they rely on these formulas. And finally, it seams reasonable to me that at each school if they see a particularly bad GPA and LSAT that school is gonna react "sheesh - no way!". And the level at which this reaction of disgust is going to occur is different at each school. I don't think it unreasonable to assume that law school admission boards have attempted to codify this reaction in a more scientific way than "do these scores give you a 'yuck' reaction?".

The guy just asked for an explanation of index scores. I thought that my above description would be more helpful than "do not seek ye index formulas. they are evil and will lead ye astray.".
Title: Re: index numbers explanation
Post by: ajlynnette on March 24, 2004, 10:52:55 AM
now that was actually helpful! i never knew how in the world they did that. thanks for posting that dt!

aj
Title: Re: index numbers explanation
Post by: auto208562 on March 24, 2004, 11:37:41 AM
this is kind of depressing i think in my case.  i sure hope that my major, work experience, and "other" stuff help me get into a 4th tier. 

thanks for all the info though. it was a very good explanation.
Title: Re: index numbers explanation
Post by: dta on March 24, 2004, 01:53:19 PM
Even if one believes the law schools religiously use these index formulas in precisely the manner described (i don't think so, but that's worst case scenario) your other factors (work experience, etc.) still have value. If, with your index score, you can get into the "hold for further consideration" bucket, then they will look at the rest of your application and say "hey, this guy's got great work experience!".
Title: Re: index numbers explanation
Post by: xrayspec on March 24, 2004, 01:54:27 PM
c'mon xray. their predictive value is not nil. That's a bit over the top. Also, I never said that this was a sure fire way to discover the school's auto accept/reject points. I'm just saying, if you want to make *some* kind of guess as to what the auto accept/reject points are then the method outlined is a reasonable "guess". The calculated auto-reject is a little hard and the calculated auto-accept is a little soft, but it's a good guess. Take it for what it's worth.

If it's reasonable, then let's use reason: according to your "guess", 25% of every entering class should've been auto-rejected. This did not happen. Therefore it is not a reasonable guess.
Title: Re: index numbers explanation
Post by: dta on March 24, 2004, 02:13:12 PM
xray - the reason I picked the 25% number as the low bar is simply because that's the only readily available number expressing the lowest range accepted by the school. I have looked around and can find this 25%-75% range given for just about every school w/ regard to GPA and LSAT. But, I am unable to find similiar information regarding the absolute lowest GPA and LSAT accepted by a given school. For example, I don't know how to find out what the absolute lowest GPA and LSAT scores were for UT.

In addition, I would imagine that the auto accept/reject points are used firmly by schools, but not in an absolute concrete fashion. For example, if a convicted mass murderer exceeds the auto-accept point they might still reject him. Similiarly, if someone applies with an index below the auto-reject but in cursorily looking at the applicant's resume they see "speak 15 different languages; climbed mount everest; played chess with the dali lama" they might decide to give the applicant further consideration. Thus, using the absolute lowest index score ever admitted into the school would also not be an accurate way to assess the auto-reject point either.

I think what I have described is as reasonable a way as any to assess one's chances of getting into a school without having intimate knowledge of the admission procedures at the school. I don't think your suggestion of "you never know your chances of getting into a school unless you apply there" is good criterion for making such an important decision as where to apply. People have a finite amount of money and a finite amount of time. With these limited resources, people must choose 'safety' schools to apply to and 'stretch' schools a bit above liklihood for the applicant but still within possibility.

What is the method you would suggest for determining what one's 'safety' and 'stretch' schools are?
Title: Re: index numbers explanation
Post by: wolfman1977 on March 24, 2004, 05:48:19 PM
Just my $.02-  I think dta's method is pretty solid.  That is the same method used at deloggio.com, for what that's worth.  That being said, there are of course exceptions, like dta said.  I think there are 2 things worth mentioning.  First, I don't think it's corect to say that 25% of the class got in with numbers below the COMBINED %25 marks.  Many people whose GPA is below a school's 25% GPA are admitted because their LSAT is above the 75%, and vice versa.  People whose GPA and LSAT are both below the 25% mark and get admitted are often URM's.  Second, this method won't work very well for state schools.  Getting into UT and UNC out-of-state, for example, is pretty darn difficult.  I would have been an auto-admit at UT if I were a Texas resident, but as an out of stater I was an easy rejection.  I know UVA uses a two-tiered index system; the formula is the same for everyone but out of staters have to have a higher number in order to mrit serious consideration.
BTW dta, you can see what the lowest GPA and LSAT was for admitted students for most schools by going to LSAC' site, clicking on the ABA guide to law schools, choosing a school name, and then clicking on Law School Data (or something to that effect).  A page will come up if you have Adobe Acrobat and you can see am admissions grid; how many people with a 3.75+ and an LSAT between 160-164 got admitted, etc.
Title: Re: index numbers explanation
Post by: xrayspec on March 24, 2004, 06:20:03 PM
I think what I have described is as reasonable a way as any to assess one's chances of getting into a school without having intimate knowledge of the admission procedures at the school. I don't think your suggestion of "you never know your chances of getting into a school unless you apply there" is good criterion for making such an important decision as where to apply. People have a finite amount of money and a finite amount of time. With these limited resources, people must choose 'safety' schools to apply to and 'stretch' schools a bit above liklihood for the applicant but still within possibility.

What is the method you would suggest for determining what one's 'safety' and 'stretch' schools are?

The 25/75 numbers and overall admit rates are a good place to start, that's empirical data.

Past that every school puts the applications through a different black box and you don't know what's in the box. The index number is in that box. You can't 'reverse engineer' the box from the 25/75 numbers. You don't know what the inputs are.


Title: Re: index numbers explanation
Post by: dta on March 24, 2004, 07:26:26 PM
xray, you make a good point. There are some who believe law school admissions boards fastidiously apply the index calculation like myopic bean counters. Others actually believe the admissions boards review every single application thoroughly and "get to know" each of the applicants as best they can. One is a far fetched fantasy and the other is an irrational nightmare.

Admission boards have a LOT of applications to go through, especially in this down economy and with baby boomers seeking career changes. For reasons of mere practicality they must rely on some kind of mechanism to cull the wheat from the chaff in an efficient albeit impersonal manner. But they aren't going to rely soley on this mechanical culling procedure.

These schools have limited budgets and simply can't afford to wade through the tidal wave of applications with a personal fine toothed comb. Clearly, they are going to use *some* efficiency boosting procedure. And since we do in fact know that each school uses *some* indexing formula in *some* capacity and we actually know what this formula is for each school, we can assume that this index calculation is in some way involved in this culling process. And when it comes down to it, if an applicant doesn't have *some* basic minimum index score that must be passed it is difficult to see why the index would have ever been calculated in the first place b/c w/o the application of some minimum standard there is no efficiency boost to the process.

Anyway, I think your points are valid and that's a good reason for people not to get TOO hung up on their index and erroneously think that their work experience (etc.) is of no value.
Title: Re: index numbers explanation
Post by: hookem law on March 24, 2004, 09:39:40 PM
If your numbers are both near or below the 25% line of a school, you are not getting in.  Unless you are a URM or have exceptional life experiences like living in 5 different countries, being blind, speaking 5 languages, starting a non-proft, etc.  The reason 25% of a class gets into school X with below a 3.4 gpa is because those students probably scored in that school's 90% on their LSAT, pulling up their index number.  Or they benefitted from Affirmative Action in some way.

Likewise, someone with below a school's 25% LSAT probably had above that school's 90% gpa.  It is sort of a sliding scale, wieghted towards the LSAT at most schools.  If your numbers are both over a school's 75%, you are in, except at some of the Ivies or if you wrote your PS in crayon.  Even in either of those cases, you still probably get in.

If your numbers are somewhere between being an auto-decline and being an auto-admit, they will look at your LOR, PS, resume, etc, and admit you if they feel that those components of your packet are strong enough.  Like it or not, numbers drive this process.  This is not med school admissions, numbers are exceedingly important, for better worse, in LS admissions.
Title: Re: index numbers explanation
Post by: dta on March 24, 2004, 09:46:51 PM
Lead an extraordinary life and you can have ordinary numbers. Lead an ordinary life and your numbers better be extraordinary.

Maybe it's not too late to get a mohawk, join a rock band, and become a ballerina before sending in my application!!!   :)