How to be a Successful Splitter

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Samara
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How to be a Successful Splitter

Postby Samara » Mon Aug 08, 2011 11:20 am

How to be a Successful Splitter

A “splitter” is defined generally as someone with a low GPA and a high LSAT score. Numerically, a splitter can be thought of as someone with a GPA below a school’s 25th percentile and LSAT score above that school’s 75th percentile. (Some people use the term “reverse-splitter” to describe an applicant with a high GPA and a low LSAT score. Others use the term “someone who needs to retake the LSAT.”) Though not uncommon, the relative rarity and variety of splitters can make cycle predictions very difficult for such applicants. However, some general conclusions can be drawn and certain strategies employed. This guide will detail some popular strategies to get you into your dream school.

The first step will be identifying down your list of safe, target and reach schools. Cast a wide net; being a splitter means that determining your list of schools will be less straightforward. Like I said before, splitters are unpredictable, but an analysis of rankings data and LSN data reveals that certain schools are friendlier towards splitters than others. At the bottom of this guide is a table of the Tier 1 schools and their friendliness towards splitters. Use this table as a general guide, but don’t be afraid to apply a non-splitter-friendly school if you’re really into it. The worst that can happen is that you’ve bought yourself an $80 rejection letter, but you’ll never know for sure unless you apply.

If you’re here looking for advice on what to do as a splitter, it most likely means you’ve already earned you bachelor’s degree and your GPA is set in stone. If this is not the case, get off TLS and get back to studying! Though your GPA is set, the other aspects of your application are still under your control. The most important aspect is now your LSAT score. If you don’t yet have an LSAT score, create a study plan (TLS has a number of good ones), determine a target score, and get crackin’. Since many people actually score below their practice scores, you will want to set a practice test average goal a couple points above the 75th percentile for your dream school. If it’s close to test day and you’re just not up to your average yet, don’t be afraid to postpone your cycle; waiting is only good for your application in virtually all situations. If you have an LSAT score, but it’s not above the 75th percentile for your dream school, I strongly advise that you consider a retake.

The second-most important thing you can do as a splitter is apply early. Schools are only going to be willing to take so many splitters. If it’s February and your dream school has already taken a few students with your numbers, you’re probably going to be out of luck. LSN is littered with splitters who underperformed their cycle because they applied too late in the game. Generally speaking, an application submitted by Halloween is early, by Thanksgiving is on time, and by Christmas is late. Thus, writing the June administration of the LSAT is ideal as it allows for the ability to retake in October and still submit an early application. If you write the October test and miss your target score by more than a couple points, I strongly advise you to apply next cycle instead of writing the December or February administration. If you’re close, retaking in December or February could get you admitted off a waitlist. Splitters can also benefit from applying early decision. Virginia is notorious for its quick turnaround time on ED applicants and splitter-friendliness. Other schools vary in how much of a boost splitters are given, but if you’re set on a particular dream school, applying ED can only help.

Special note: Maximizing your ED strategy is important. If you find in your research a school that stands above the rest, by all means, save your ED for that school. Conversely, if you are risk-averse and willing to go to a lower-ranked school in exchange for scholarship money, don’t ED anywhere so that you don’t get locked in. For many of you, however, getting into a T14 school is of maximum importance with little difference found between these peer schools. If this is the case, consider following this popular strategy to maximize your T14 chances: As soon as possible, apply ED to Virginia and Early Action (non-binding) to Cornell. If not admitted to Virginia, apply ED to Michigan, Penn or Georgetown. If a non-admission decision reaches you soon enough, repeat this step. Note that Northwestern does not allow you to apply ED if you have applied ED to other schools.

Though less important, boosting your softs can give you a significant edge when applying as a splitter. Work experience is the best way for a splitter to strengthen their application. Many law schools are increasingly looking for applicants with substantive work experience, so getting a couple years under your belt can give you a leg up. Just as Virginia is noted for its ED speediness, Northwestern is well-known for its emphasis on work experience, with nearly all matriculants possessing at least one year of work experience, making it especially friendly to those splitters with solid work experience. At other schools, it won’t be a huge boost, but for many splitters, it’s what pushes them over the edge. Note that while substantive work experience is certainly preferred, work as a wage slave is not entirely discounted so don’t think you’re sunk just because you’ve spent the past five months as a Starbucks barista, especially if you can move into a supervisory position. Other softs, such as internships, volunteering and other activities, are a little easier to acquire so maximize those opportunities. Find something you truly enjoy doing and look for opportunities to take a leadership role and accomplish something you are proud of.

Other aspects of your application, such as letters of recommendation and personal statements, should be approached generally the same way whether or not you are a splitter. There is one important distinction though. Splitters should play up what makes them unique. Since your GPA doesn’t impress anyone, you need to find that compelling trait that admissions officials can’t pass on and have an application that reflects that. The importance of academic letters of recommendation is probably diminished for most splitters, especially for those with work experience. Consider writing a riskier personal statement, one that goes outside the box and really reveals who you are. Splitters should also consider writing additional essays to supplement their application and give admissions officers more reasons to look past your weak GPA. If you are an under-represented minority or have a compelling background that would add to the diversity of the study body, strongly consider writing a diversity statement. If you can’t think of a good topic though, don’t try to stretch something into a diversity statement. As a splitter, it is especially important that everything in your application under your control is of the highest quality. If you can’t make it top-notch, don’t do it.

So-called “Why X” essays are another avenue towards finding that special advantage. If you are applying ED, definitely write a “Why X” essay, detailing a couple reasons why that school is your dream school. (Note: HYSCCN are exemptions to this rule. They already know why you want to go there, so only write one if you truly have something unique to say.) Be sure to do extensive research on a school before writing a “Why X” essay. You want to write about something that appeals to you and is a strength for that school, such as a particular clinic or program. Some schools, such as Michigan, offer topics for additional essays, so be sure to look for and take advantage of those opportunities.

When it comes time to apply, splitters will want to consider applying to more schools than other applicants. Admission results often vary among peer schools for splitters, so more applications mean more opportunities for a school to take a chance on you. Consequently, splitters will want to put a little more legwork into getting merit-based fee waivers, assuming you don’t qualify for need-based fee waivers. Every fee waiver you acquire is one more opportunity to get into a reach school. After you receive your LSAT score, you may receive some fee waivers automatically. If not, follow the TLS guide to asking for fee waivers at the all the schools you are considering an application to. Luckily, a strong LSAT score is often enough to receive a waiver, so don’t be shy in asking, even at the top schools. Remember to check for “hidden” fee waivers too. To maximize your chances of admission into a top school, be prepared to apply to as many as ten or fifteen schools. How many application fees you want to pay is ultimately up to you, but just remember that more applications means more chances.

Being a splitter is stressful and the outcome often looks bleak, but don’t give up hope. To keep up your spirits and find other nuggets of wisdom, hang around the TLS forums and look at successful applicant profiles on LSN with similar numbers to yours. Most of all, stay optimistic! If you’re willing to do the work to be a successful splitter, admissions officials will see that and you will be rewarded. Good luck!

For the below table:
Schools highlighted in green are splitter-friendly, schools highlighted in yellow are neither friendly nor unfriendly, and the schools highlighted in red are splitter-unfriendly. The ratings are made based on GPA and LSAT percentiles, established preferences for a “holistic” admissions process or certain softs, and other information gleaned from TLS, LSN and other sources. Also, note that state schools have varying rules on admitting in-state students so state school ratings may be less pessimistic for you if you are an in-state resident. GPA floors are based on a rough analysis of LSN and should not be viewed as absolute. However, while schools regularly dip below their GPA floor for highly-qualified applicants, don’t expect them to dip very far below and don’t assume that you are the special snowflake. Note: where no GPA floor is listed, insufficient data exists to determine a GPA floor.

Image

Link to Google Spreadsheet version: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/pub ... utput=html
Last edited by Samara on Fri Aug 19, 2011 9:46 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Samara
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Re: How to be a Successful Splitter

Postby Samara » Mon Aug 08, 2011 11:27 am

Here's something I put together based on all the information I've been able to glean as a splitter. Let me know what you guys think! Suggestions, corrections and all other comments are welcome.

Also, if somebody knows a better way to post the table, let me know.

A note on the data and ratings: This is all of course very ad hoc, so if someone has a better formula I'd be happy to run the data. The data I reported is the data that seems to correlate most strongly with splitter friendly schools. I started by comparing some infamously splitter-friendly schools, such as Northwestern and WUSTL, and went with what made sense. I checked some of the more surprising schools on LSN, but most schools have not been corroborated in any way other than me looking at the data I made.

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bk1
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Re: How to be a Successful Splitter

Postby bk1 » Mon Aug 08, 2011 12:15 pm

Invent a time machine. Retake college.

bhan87
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Re: How to be a Successful Splitter

Postby bhan87 » Mon Aug 08, 2011 12:31 pm

bk1 wrote:Invent a time machine. Retake college.


Entirely uncalled for. This seems like solid advice that merges all the conventional TLS wisdom on splitters. One suggestion I have is including an approximate "GPA floor" to the schools that have them. These aren't set in stone of course, but below a certain GPA, the likelihood of acceptance quickly approaches zero, regardless of LSAT. There are already a few threads that of discussed this, such as:

viewtopic.php?f=2&t=155954

Off the top of my head though,

YS: ~3.8
H: ~3.7
CCN: ~3.4

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moopness
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Re: How to be a Successful Splitter

Postby moopness » Mon Aug 08, 2011 12:33 pm

thought ccn was 3.5?

bhan87
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Re: How to be a Successful Splitter

Postby bhan87 » Mon Aug 08, 2011 12:36 pm

moopness wrote:thought ccn was 3.5?


Might be, but I remember seeing a number of 3.45s accepted. Don't think I've ever seen a non-URM below 3.4 accepted.

Again, these aren't hard set rules, but approximations about where your chances dip to around 0%

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crumpetsandtea
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Re: How to be a Successful Splitter

Postby crumpetsandtea » Mon Aug 08, 2011 12:38 pm

Great post. :mrgreen: I second the suggestion of including info on GPA floors. A 2.X/17X splitter is going to have to take a VERY diff approach from a 3.0-3.5/17X splitter.

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Samara
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Re: How to be a Successful Splitter

Postby Samara » Mon Aug 08, 2011 12:52 pm

bk1 wrote:Invent a time machine. Retake college.

Eh, I don't think I'd do it. It would be a lot of work to get a GPA that is higher enough than what I have to make a substantive difference. And since I don't engage in prestige whoring, getting the bottom of the T14 is just fine for me.

bhan87 wrote:
Entirely uncalled for. This seems like solid advice that merges all the conventional TLS wisdom on splitters. One suggestion I have is including an approximate "GPA floor" to the schools that have them. These aren't set in stone of course, but below a certain GPA, the likelihood of acceptance quickly approaches zero, regardless of LSAT. There are already a few threads that of discussed this, such as:

viewtopic.php?f=2&t=155954

Off the top of my head though,

YS: ~3.8
H: ~3.7
CCN: ~3.4

Hmmm, maybe just add a line in the narrative section about GPA floors? I feel like defining a GPA floor is just another way to restate the data. When you hear about GPA floors, it's always in the context of splitter-unfriendly schools like Duke or Berkeley. The floors quoted are always just a little bit underneath their 25%, which is understood by saying that a school is splitter-unfriendly. Plus, for every floor there is an exception. I've just never found the concept of a "floor" to be very useful. What do others think? If people think it would be useful, I'll certainly add it.

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SA1928
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Re: How to be a Successful Splitter

Postby SA1928 » Mon Aug 08, 2011 1:14 pm

First off, this is so helpful and the chart is amazing, so thank you so much for putting this all together! One thing that I have had a hard-time finding any really solid advice about is when it is appropriate to write the GPA Addendum. I have seen posts that say if you have a 3.5 GPA you shouldn't write an addendum (even if you do in fact have a valid situation) because the GPA really isn't that low (in real-world standards, I suppose).

I feel like the GPA Addendum could potentially be an important component to a splitter's application, as long as the addendum is actually warranted. Do you think it is wise to write an addendum or simply try to factor a reason for a lower GPA into a diversity statement instead...i.e. having to work full-time in college due to low socioeconomic status...or maybe something along those lines. I guess the more information the better? :?

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crumpetsandtea
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Re: How to be a Successful Splitter

Postby crumpetsandtea » Mon Aug 08, 2011 1:27 pm

Samara wrote:Hmmm, maybe just add a line in the narrative section about GPA floors? I feel like defining a GPA floor is just another way to restate the data. When you hear about GPA floors, it's always in the context of splitter-unfriendly schools like Duke or Berkeley. The floors quoted are always just a little bit underneath their 25%, which is understood by saying that a school is splitter-unfriendly. Plus, for every floor there is an exception. I've just never found the concept of a "floor" to be very useful. What do others think? If people think it would be useful, I'll certainly add it.

I don't know, I've heard that some of the higher splitter-friendly T14s have 3.0 GPA floors (which is really not that high, hence they are splitter friendly). This would be useful for someone who has a 2.X to know, because they'd know that it might be better strategy to ED somewhere else first.

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Re: How to be a Successful Splitter

Postby hoyabro12 » Mon Aug 08, 2011 1:34 pm

Any advice on reverse splitters interested in Michigan? I haven't sat for the LSAT yet, taking the October. But I cold tested at 151 and have been PTing in the 160s while also taking a Kaplan course. I have a 3.85 but expect my LSAT to be below the 75th, maybe even the 50th. I have good softs and undergrad work experience. Also I'm in the 30% of Michigan 1Ls that go straight through. Do I have no chance? I also plan on applying ED and summer start to help my chances.

santaclara12
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Re: How to be a Successful Splitter

Postby santaclara12 » Mon Aug 08, 2011 2:34 pm

can anyone speak to the difference in splitters that go straight from undergrad vs have WE? i plan on going straight from undergrad with a 3.5 / 170

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Samara
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Re: How to be a Successful Splitter

Postby Samara » Mon Aug 08, 2011 2:37 pm

hoyabro12 wrote:Any advice on reverse splitters interested in Michigan? I haven't sat for the LSAT yet, taking the October. But I cold tested at 151 and have been PTing in the 160s while also taking a Kaplan course. I have a 3.85 but expect my LSAT to be below the 75th, maybe even the 50th. I have good softs and undergrad work experience. Also I'm in the 30% of Michigan 1Ls that go straight through. Do I have no chance? I also plan on applying ED and summer start to help my chances.

You totally have a chance! LSN shows a decent number of accepts at your numbers. The most important thing will be studying for the LSAT. I assume you've checked out the LSAT prep forum and guides? If you're already PTing in the 160s, you can definitely get above 170 by October. Good luck!

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Samara
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Re: How to be a Successful Splitter

Postby Samara » Mon Aug 08, 2011 2:39 pm

crumpetsandtea wrote:
Samara wrote:Hmmm, maybe just add a line in the narrative section about GPA floors? I feel like defining a GPA floor is just another way to restate the data. When you hear about GPA floors, it's always in the context of splitter-unfriendly schools like Duke or Berkeley. The floors quoted are always just a little bit underneath their 25%, which is understood by saying that a school is splitter-unfriendly. Plus, for every floor there is an exception. I've just never found the concept of a "floor" to be very useful. What do others think? If people think it would be useful, I'll certainly add it.

I don't know, I've heard that some of the higher splitter-friendly T14s have 3.0 GPA floors (which is really not that high, hence they are splitter friendly). This would be useful for someone who has a 2.X to know, because they'd know that it might be better strategy to ED somewhere else first.

Hmmm...good point. It would be helpful to know just how friendly a school is. I might just add it in the notes section since there isn't enough data to even hazard a guess at a floor for the lower-ranked schools.

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Re: How to be a Successful Splitter

Postby Kurst » Mon Aug 08, 2011 2:56 pm

Samara wrote:If you are applying ED, definitely write a “Why X” essay, detailing a couple reasons why that school is your dream school.

This advice is inconsistent with the TLS article on Why X addendums, which states:

Writing an Effective “Why X” Addendum wrote:if you're applying Early Decision, a Why X addendum is redundant. Applying ED tells them you are certain to go there if accepted, and with that already true, they probably do not care about your reason. In a sense, applying ED is the ultimate Why X essay, with an action that says more than a 500 word addendum ever could. If it's early enough, you're sure it's the school of your dreams, and your numbers aren't good enough to get scholarship money (early decision applicants rarely receive scholarships on admittance because they are bound to that specific school and don’t need extra incentives), you're better off applying ED than trying to write a Why X addendum.

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Re: How to be a Successful Splitter

Postby splitmuch » Mon Aug 08, 2011 3:18 pm

santaclara12 wrote:can anyone speak to the difference in splitters that go straight from undergrad vs have WE? i plan on going straight from undergrad with a 3.5 / 170


The big benefit is putting NW in play. It and Virginia are the best "splitter-friendly school" and it is the best splitter friendly school that won't require an ED. Because they combine merit and financial need in their aid process, applying early to NW with WE also gives a splitter some hope of money at a T14. (Though money at GULC and Cornell isn't out of the question if you apply early.)

For all the other schools it is mostly just a soft and can give someone with at horrendous GPA a chance to distance themselves from college (i.e. show that they aren't at otal slacker) Unless you want Northwestern there isn't much benefit to WE if you have a 3.5

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Samara
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Re: How to be a Successful Splitter

Postby Samara » Mon Aug 08, 2011 3:48 pm

Kurst wrote:
Samara wrote:If you are applying ED, definitely write a “Why X” essay, detailing a couple reasons why that school is your dream school.

This advice is inconsistent with the TLS article on Why X addendums, which states:

Writing an Effective “Why X” Addendum wrote:if you're applying Early Decision, a Why X addendum is redundant. Applying ED tells them you are certain to go there if accepted, and with that already true, they probably do not care about your reason. In a sense, applying ED is the ultimate Why X essay, with an action that says more than a 500 word addendum ever could. If it's early enough, you're sure it's the school of your dreams, and your numbers aren't good enough to get scholarship money (early decision applicants rarely receive scholarships on admittance because they are bound to that specific school and don’t need extra incentives), you're better off applying ED than trying to write a Why X addendum.

Yeah, I know it says that, but I don't agree. Somebody just recently mentioned that they applied to Duke ED I without a Why X statement. They said the adcomm said it was weird that he didn't write one and asked him to submit one. Yes, ED is sort of "the ultimate Why X essay," but detailing good reasons can only be helpful, especially for splitters on the bubble. I would think that is extra true for people who follow the ED maximization plan.

What do other people think?

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minnbills
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Re: How to be a Successful Splitter

Postby minnbills » Wed Aug 10, 2011 11:29 am

First off, nice job!

For the ED question, I think if an ED applicant doesn't take the time to write a "why x" essay for their ED choice, it's probably an indication that the applicant is more interested in the school for its rank/prestige rather than being interested out of a true commitment to the school.

Sandro
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Re: How to be a Successful Splitter

Postby Sandro » Sun Aug 14, 2011 1:15 pm

Georgia admitted anyone with an LSAT above their median of 164, so a 165 got you in this semester. I think last semester they did the same thing with 164s.

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Re: How to be a Successful Splitter

Postby nothingtosee » Sun Aug 14, 2011 1:19 pm

Minnesota has a kind of "167 LSAT Floor." Looking at LSN, it is better to be a 2.5/167 than a 3.5/166

http://minnesota.lawschoolnumbers.com/stats/1011/

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bk1
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Re: How to be a Successful Splitter

Postby bk1 » Sun Aug 14, 2011 1:51 pm

bhan87 wrote:
bk1 wrote:Invent a time machine. Retake college.


Entirely uncalled for.


It was a joke.

Samara wrote:
bk1 wrote:Invent a time machine. Retake college.

Eh, I don't think I'd do it. It would be a lot of work to get a GPA that is higher enough than what I have to make a substantive difference. And since I don't engage in prestige whoring, getting the bottom of the T14 is just fine for me.


Generally agreed. I'm lucky that NU takes sub3.0's otherwise I would need a 3.0plus to open up MVP to have had a shot at the T14. I don't think I could change how I did college but I'm lucky that law schools love the LSAT and that I did well on it.

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Robespierre
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Re: How to be a Successful Splitter

Postby Robespierre » Thu Aug 18, 2011 11:03 pm

Super post and excellent summary. Really appreciate all the hard work.

My only beef is that, as others have said, all the admissions advice in the world isn't going to help you if your GPA is beneath the law school's "floor." And many of them have floors, I'm convinced.

But the floors are generally a deep dark secret so I guess there's only so much you can say about them.

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Re: How to be a Successful Splitter

Postby Bumi » Thu Aug 18, 2011 11:27 pm

Huge splitter here, about to start at NU. Good writeup and thanks for doing it. I wish this existed last year when I was applying.

Regarding some of the questions: I don't think WE did a damn thing for me anywhere except for NU. But thank god it worked there. MV and G will reach down to low GPAs, but they seem to have limits. So far as I can tell, NU is the only T14 that doesn't have a GPA floor at all.

The chart is credited, but Indiana should be marked "splitter friendly". Hell, they should be a special splitter-loving color. With their scholarship programs these days, and if current trends continue, they may be the cheapest T50 option for many splitters.

Good luck, future splitters.

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Samara
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Re: How to be a Successful Splitter

Postby Samara » Fri Aug 19, 2011 12:11 am

Bumi wrote:Huge splitter here, about to start at NU. Good writeup and thanks for doing it. I wish this existed last year when I was applying.

Regarding some of the questions: I don't think WE did a damn thing for me anywhere except for NU. But thank god it worked there. MV and G will reach down to low GPAs, but they seem to have limits. So far as I can tell, NU is the only T14 that doesn't have a GPA floor at all.

The chart is credited, but Indiana should be marked "splitter friendly". Hell, they should be a special splitter-loving color. With their scholarship programs these days, and if current trends continue, they may be the cheapest T50 option for many splitters.

Good luck, future splitters.

I was reluctant to mark IU-B as splitter-friendly because the stats don't match, it's a state school and the scholarship thing is something new that may not continue. What do you think?

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JamMasterJ
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Re: How to be a Successful Splitter

Postby JamMasterJ » Fri Aug 19, 2011 12:37 am

IU-B should be green




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