Professional School Bias

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Moneytrees
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Re: Professional School Bias

Postby Moneytrees » Thu Apr 30, 2015 10:56 am

usn26 wrote:Point is, OP, the more selective and prestigious your institution is, the lower the grade inflation at that institution is, and the more selective/rigorous/grade deflating your particular program is, the more that will work as a plus factor. And the reverse is true.

But this only matters at the margins. Your GPA in relation to a school's median is by far the most important thing. All else is secondary.


Not to be nit picky, but your GPA in relation to a school's median is really not important. In the vast majority of cases, law schools will take a look at your GPA simply to see if it's below or above their current median GPA. If it's above, great. If it's below, you better have a great LSAT score. Things may be slightly different at the very top of the rankings, but still, most schools literally only care about the number they can report to US News.

Moneytrees
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Re: Professional School Bias

Postby Moneytrees » Thu Apr 30, 2015 10:58 am

A. Nony Mouse wrote:
Moneytrees wrote:Some of the philosophy classes I took were extremely tough and I'm not claiming that all humanities departments are created equal. But the point that I think needs to be made is that in the vast majority of cases, a liberal arts major will be easier than a hard science major. This fact doesn't change if you attend an elite school.

I think the point about the difference in grade distribution is much more accurate. There's going to be a wider range of grades in the hard sciences, from high to low. It's hard to get really bad grades in many humanities programs, so in that respect you may have a higher GPA than in (say) engineering, but it's also hard to get top grades.


Nony- are you saying that it's hard to get top grades in humanities classes?

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: Professional School Bias

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Thu Apr 30, 2015 11:01 am

Moneytrees wrote:
A. Nony Mouse wrote:
Moneytrees wrote:Some of the philosophy classes I took were extremely tough and I'm not claiming that all humanities departments are created equal. But the point that I think needs to be made is that in the vast majority of cases, a liberal arts major will be easier than a hard science major. This fact doesn't change if you attend an elite school.

I think the point about the difference in grade distribution is much more accurate. There's going to be a wider range of grades in the hard sciences, from high to low. It's hard to get really bad grades in many humanities programs, so in that respect you may have a higher GPA than in (say) engineering, but it's also hard to get top grades.


Nony- are you saying that it's hard to get top grades in humanities classes?

Yes. I used to teach them. There are a lot of B/B+ grades, some A-s, and not very many straight As.

ETA: The people who get As in humanities classes probably get As in all their humanities classes, are good writers and readers, and don't necessarily see them as that hard. But for many people, they are - maybe not hard in the sense of grasping the basic concepts (which would be my issue in STEM classes), but hard to excel. Though again, it can vary by school/department - some will be better/worse than others.

Moneytrees
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Re: Professional School Bias

Postby Moneytrees » Thu Apr 30, 2015 11:12 am

I don't disagree that they can be hard. Some humanities classes/majors are genuinely tough, I completely agree.

My point is that they are easier relative to hard science majors. If one of your students struggled in a history or political science class, wouldn't you agree that his struggle would have been even more pronounced in an engineering class? Obviously some people have a propensity for a certain topic, and that's fine, but generally I would advice incoming undergraduate students interested in law to stay away from hard science majors.

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: Professional School Bias

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Thu Apr 30, 2015 11:17 am

Moneytrees wrote:I don't disagree that they can be hard. Some humanities classes/majors are genuinely tough, I completely agree.

My point is that they are easier relative to hard science majors. If one of your students struggled in a history or political science class, wouldn't you agree that his struggle would have been even more pronounced in an engineering class? Obviously some people have a propensity for a certain topic, and that's fine, but generally I would advice incoming undergraduate students interested in law to stay away from hard science majors.

Depends on why the person struggled. Some of the people who had the hardest time in history classes and the like were science majors, because the skills required are different.

I wouldn't advise anyone to choose their major based on going to law school, but that's just me.

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AreJay711
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Re: Professional School Bias

Postby AreJay711 » Thu Apr 30, 2015 11:25 am

There are more people who just dominate science / math subjects. At my undergrad, summa for the college of science and mathematics was a 4.0 (the same as the college of education) wile it was only like a 3.8 something for the college of business and economics majors. I think the humanities were lower still. In math / science, you're either right or wrong, but someone like Charles Murray (conservative sociologist/political scientist) wouldn't be getting perfect marks in a liberal-leaning sociology class.

abl
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Re: Professional School Bias

Postby abl » Thu Apr 30, 2015 11:44 am

Moneytrees wrote:I don't disagree that they can be hard. Some humanities classes/majors are genuinely tough, I completely agree.

My point is that they are easier relative to hard science majors. If one of your students struggled in a history or political science class, wouldn't you agree that his struggle would have been even more pronounced in an engineering class? Obviously some people have a propensity for a certain topic, and that's fine, but generally I would advice incoming undergraduate students interested in law to stay away from hard science majors.


Having also taught at the college level (and I have graduate degrees in both the hard sciences and the humanities), I'd say that the answer to this is generally no: different skill sets are required to succeed in humanities and hard science classes. Many folks are, of course, good at both, and many folks struggle in both. But I saw similar proportions of brilliant hard science majors who couldn't write a paper if their life depended on it (and got below-median grades as a consequence) as I did brilliant humanities students who couldn't complete a lab if their life depended on it (and got below-median grades). The biggest difference is that a sub-par student in a humanities class is likely to end up with a B- or C+ whereas a sub-par student in the sciences may well get an F.

Another factor in all of this is that hard science majors are much more likely to end up in humanities courses than vice versa. I think this combined with confirmation bias contributes to the perception that humanities courses are easier (that, and the fact that it IS easier to get a B in a humanities course than it is a hard science course due to grade clustering). There are many more hard science students (in absolute numbers) getting A-s in humanities courses than vice versa--but mostly if not entirely because of who take which classes.

I also think students, in particular, have a somewhat misled attitude about succeeding in the humanities. Just about everyone thinks they can write a paper. Not everyone thinks they can do a lab or problem set. But the truth is that writing an excellent paper is just as hard, if not harder, than acing a lab or a problem set. (And doing a passable job on a lab or problem set is much easier than many humanities majors believe.) Also, anyone who is literate can attempt to write a paper--whereas most college-level math/science work requires a fair amount of advanced foundational knowledge. This does mean that it is easier to do the bare minimum of writing a paper than it is to do a problem set (which is why humanities grades tend to be much more closely clustered). (This also means that undergrads looking at each others' work will generally be much more intimidated by the science/math assignments--which may look like latin to someone without a background in science/math--than the English assignments--which will generally be comprehensible to every student who reads at even a high school level. This doesn't mean that the science assignments are harder, though, or even that they actually require more foundational knowledge--just that they appear to.)

Finally, I just want to briefly weigh in that I think some of this "science is hard / humanities is easy" chorus that often gets thrown around is subtly a product (to at least some small extent) of deeply ingrained biases related to gender. Men are socialized to pursue science and math and women are socialized to pursue the humanities. The majority of science/math professors and students in higher ed remain male while the majority of humanities professors and students remain female. How convenient, then, is it that our male-dominated culture so often repeats the myth that humanities are easier than sciences?

Edited for typos.
Last edited by abl on Thu Apr 30, 2015 12:56 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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usn26
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Re: Professional School Bias

Postby usn26 » Thu Apr 30, 2015 12:11 pm

Moneytrees wrote:
usn26 wrote:Point is, OP, the more selective and prestigious your institution is, the lower the grade inflation at that institution is, and the more selective/rigorous/grade deflating your particular program is, the more that will work as a plus factor. And the reverse is true.

But this only matters at the margins. Your GPA in relation to a school's median is by far the most important thing. All else is secondary.


Not to be nit picky, but your GPA in relation to a school's median is really not important. In the vast majority of cases, law schools will take a look at your GPA simply to see if it's below or above their current median GPA. If it's above, great. If it's below, you better have a great LSAT score. Things may be slightly different at the very top of the rankings, but still, most schools literally only care about the number they can report to US News.


That's exactly what I meant.

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: Professional School Bias

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Thu Apr 30, 2015 12:44 pm

Completely agree with everything in abl's last post.

Moneytrees
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Re: Professional School Bias

Postby Moneytrees » Thu Apr 30, 2015 1:22 pm

Those are some good points Abl and I usually take that stance. I don't specifically disagree with the things you said, but would like to add that there are specific humanities majors that are objectively easy compared to science. For instance, communications is not only an easy major, but it also generally has less stringent requirements for graduation, allowing you to have more discretion when picking your classes. This type of GPA padding is hard to do in engineering since your schedule is usually more rigid.

I don't think you can remotely compare the difficulty of a major like comm. to engineering or neuroscience. Some majors are materially harder than others.

abl
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Re: Professional School Bias

Postby abl » Thu Apr 30, 2015 1:37 pm

Moneytrees wrote:Those are some good points Abl and I usually take that stance. I don't specifically disagree with the things you said, but would like to add that there are specific humanities majors that are objectively easy compared to science. For instance, communications is not only an easy major, but it also generally has less stringent requirements for graduation, allowing you to have more discretion when picking your classes. This type of GPA padding is hard to do in engineering since your schedule is usually more rigid.

I don't think you can remotely compare the difficulty of a major like comm. to engineering or neuroscience. Some majors are materially harder than others.


Sure. Although the most rigorous schools (like Williams, Swarthmore, etc) don't offer pishy majors like communications.




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