General Transfer Question

A forum for those current students who are or may be transferring from one school to another. Post any questions, advice, or other transfer related comments here.
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Transfer Admissions:

Black Box- Can have some surprising admits/rejects relative to #s.
Entirely #s-High enough grades -> in, don't hit low cutoff -> out.
Other- No surprise admits, but some numbers flex, + softs matter.
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General Transfer Question

Postby Lawquacious » Fri May 27, 2011 11:27 pm

Before anyone links Arrow's thread or gives other rudimentary advice or comments, please consider that I have thoroughly researched this topic (and already applied to one school as a transfer student). I currently have a question that I would be interested in feedback on:

On the one hand, I have heard people say that applying as a transfer student can be a bit of a black box, and that it can be worth putting in an app even under questionable circumstances re: numbers. This view of the transfer process is supported (anectdotally) by one of my professors, who has written rec letters for students who have transferred to Harvard, Michigan, Texas, and was fairly adamant that in her experience high grades were not always the end all of who got accepted, even to some of the best schools (though she did acknowledge that for Harvard very high grades were prob necessary).

On the other hand, I have heard it said that transfer admissions is even more numbers based than 1st year admissions. These people indicate that the PS matters less for transfer admissions than for 1st year admissions, because it is all about your grades x comparative class rank x comparative school rank v. the other applicants in the pool. This view would seem to be supported by schools like Cornell, that basically say don't bother applying unless you are top 10% of your 1st year class, because virtually nobody gets accepted without meeting that cutoff (except perhaps from peer schools). This is also fairly consistent with the approach of estimating grades needed from the various tiers of schools to get into certain top schools (i.e. top 10% for HYS from lower T14, top 1-3% for HYS from lower T1 etc).

I would think (intuitively) that transfer admissions puts less emphasis on pure numbers than 0L admissions, because transfer students' LSAT/GPA (both undergrad and law school GPA) don't get used for US News ranking purposes (and hence bring down the rank if they aren't as high as possible). But it does seem like many schools are fairly clear that you need to be a certain percentage of the class to have a shot at transfer (and that is certainly TLS wisdom): that it is really pretty black and white. I have come to think transfer admissions is even more competitve than regular admissions (because I think getting top 10% is in many cases harder, or at least much less predictable, than being able to improve the LSAT score). Also, with a much smaller number of seats open for transfer students, I imagine the competition can actually get fairly ridiculous in terms of qualifications and abilities of transfer applicants (though of course there are far fewer students who apply to transfer to a school than apply as 0Ls, so this probably at least levels the competition field v. 0L admissions toughness). This could help explain why after certain numbers cutoffs there is really no chance-- the schools need a way to limit the applicant pool for a very limited number of seats, even though they could accept whoever they want in terms of not having their rank compromised. But obviously they also will tend to want the highest numbers, because those students are, by definition, the strongest law student applicants. Yet I would think that because the ranking of the school won't be affected, there could be some truly surprising black box results that arise from a compelling PS or compelling reason for wanting to be at a particular school.

Any feedback or antecdotes with this? Is transfer admissions entirely cut and dry in terms of number cutoffs?

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Re: General Transfer Question

Postby johndhi » Sat May 28, 2011 12:27 pm

One thing my professor pointed out is that the transfer process is not governed by faculty review and the same layers of procedure that the admissions process is. He said this means schools have to trust in their deans of admissions to make these decisions on their own. He thought this created a risk of foul play. Transferring is a strange process that sort of breeds competition/ill will between the schools and is, partially for this reason, somewhat disguised. From a practical point of view, my gut feeling is the schools decide mostly on numbers because that's easiest. Maybe the fact that a smaller number of people are reviewing leaves more room for human emotion to sway a reviewer.

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Re: General Transfer Question

Postby Artemis » Sat Jun 04, 2011 12:55 am

That's a very interesting question. I'll get back to you once I see how my own transfer process goes. Some people have gotten into schools with top 40% when others with higher grades (top 20%) did not. While some admissions counselors say they just want you to be top half of the class (no doubt to encourage more applications to get $$$), others say that you have to be in the top 10% to even be considered. I would guess it depends on the school, how many other people are applying your year, the quality of their applications, how many transfers they can/want to accept, etc.
There isn't really as much hard data out there on transfer admissions, though it's becoming more popular.
But I think it's probably worth it to apply anyway and see what happens. Best of luck!

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Re: General Transfer Question

Postby keg411 » Sat Jun 04, 2011 9:08 am

I'm pretty sure it's mostly numbers based. I think the occasional surprises are based more on geographical need than traditional softs. If you're borderline it may be worth it to send out applications, but don't be shocked if you don't get in.

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Re: General Transfer Question

Postby Mox » Sat Jun 04, 2011 11:30 am

It's mostly a numbers game. Even more so than when you're applying as a 1L. Schools want to make sure you're capable of holding your own at their school and grades show them that.

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