The arguments for and against individual class rankings.

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nymario
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The arguments for and against individual class rankings.

Postby nymario » Thu Jul 28, 2011 8:39 am

I go to a T1 school that applies ranking "cutoffs" at 10%, 15%, 20%, 25%, 33-1/3% and 50%. I understand that this is fairly common, though some schools break it down to 5%, give individual rankings to some or all of the students or don't provide any breakdown (obviously this is typically only done at the higher end).

For those schools that DO choose to give cutoffs only, I was wondering about the rationale.
Possibilities:

1) Employers would then be forced to "lump" a given "band" together, thereby increasing the pool (from say -- "just take top 5%" to "look at the resumes/GPAs of the top 10%").

Response: This seems like a complete fallacy. Some/most students report their GPA. Firms that are given resumes for preselection for most of the top 10% (this really approaches a great majority for the top firms that come to our OCI -- very few BigLaw seeking participants are excluding any V25 firms from their bidlist). Therefore they can essentially sort by GPA and determine the top 5% (and in fact, individual rankings to a reasonable margin of error). Some students don't report their GPA. But which students? Certainly not the top 5%: these are the exact students who want to display the information that they are better than the "top 10%" moniker. Therefore the inference to be drawn from a top 10% who doesn't report their GPA on their resume is that they aren't in the top 5%, and probably at the low end of the top 10%. Additionally, nearly every firm requires a transcript, so they'll be able to calculate the GPA anyway. So why do firms get better information that the actual students do?

This analysis should hold for any "band" of students, even if a resume is not submitted. The top end of the band will want it known that they are in the top of that band, the low end won't want the lowness of their band position known, and the middle will want to disassociate themselves from the bottom of the band. In a world of perfect information (about strategy, not even about others' grades or knowing one's own absolute position within the band) the end result should be than all but the very marginal candidates will report.

Many other threads have discussed this same phenomenon with regards to reporting a GPA when below median. The same analysis always seems to apply -- report it unless it's horrible, because otherwise, they will assume that it is horrible.

2) If the reasoning isn't about employers, perhaps it is about the students? The students would arguably worry more about rank if every individual grade necessarily effected movement up or down the absolute ranking list. The top 10 students should, the argument goes, be worried about their scholarship (i.e. Note), interviews and such. They should be able to take their foot off the gas a little bit and absorb an A- if necessary without it being terrified about a single drop down the ladder.

Response: The counterargument is that students will worry far MORE when they know that arbitrary cutoffs have a tremendous influence on marketability. With regards to the VERY top students, they still ARE very much concerned about their unpublished absolute rank. These are the students who are contending for Federal Clerkships, and for those, the rank within the top 10% matters very much. Our school only releases that information AFTER 2L year to students who are in that range and express interest in the clerking process. They do NOT release it earlier, which obviously hinders students seeking to apply off-plan. I've heard (here) that very few judges hire 2Ls off-plan, most of their off-plan hiring is 3Ls and Alumni. However, that statement has been flatly contradicted by posters on TLS, including current clerks who are much more familiar with the process. (The school also doesn't release recommendations until OSCAR date, though several professors have told me they will provide them to me directly to meet my off-plan application timeline). However, without the specific rank, the judges, UNLIKE OCI firms, will not have a suitable sample of applications to draw inferences from. Is 3.950 top 1%? Yes, but the judge may not know that. And at some schools, 3.85% might make you top 1%. At my school, some years #1 has been at 4.0 and others, in the mid 3.9 range. This matters to a judge who is considering how much cream to skim off the top of otherwise rancid milk.

3) What else? I have been trying to think of more arguments that support a school (who already publishes a top 10% cutoff) refusing to disclose a top 5% breakdown or individual ranks within the top 5 or 10%. I am sure I'm missing something, because if my arguments were so persuasive, the administrators, whom I consider to be reasonable and logical people, would not have chosen to implement a system that so substantially deviates from what I describe.

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kwais
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Re: The arguments for and against individual class rankings.

Postby kwais » Thu Jul 28, 2011 8:54 am

Concise writing is a skill

nymario
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Re: The arguments for and against individual class rankings.

Postby nymario » Thu Jul 28, 2011 9:01 am

kwais wrote:Concise writing is a skill


Agreed. I considered tossing the question out there in a shorter format. However, I wanted to anticipate some of the arguments and get deeper into the questions, so I decided to flesh out the parts that were obvious to me in a way that doesn't leave a lot of room for misinterpretation. I've seen a "concise" OP collaterally attacked for some minor tangential point (such as post length) not relevant to the initial question. That often ends up derailing the thread.

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Emma.
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Re: The arguments for and against individual class rankings.

Postby Emma. » Thu Jul 28, 2011 9:24 am

ITT: Poster thinks he/she might be #1 and whines about not being able to tell people?

nymario
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Re: The arguments for and against individual class rankings.

Postby nymario » Thu Jul 28, 2011 9:31 am

Emma. wrote:ITT: Poster thinks he/she might be #1 and whines about not being able to tell people?


Correct, insofar as the "people" I want to be able to tell are judges who make hiring decisions based on that sort of information.

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Emma.
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Re: The arguments for and against individual class rankings.

Postby Emma. » Thu Jul 28, 2011 9:37 am

nymario wrote:
Emma. wrote:ITT: Poster thinks he/she might be #1 and whines about not being able to tell people?


Correct, insofar as the "people" I want to be able to tell are judges who make hiring decisions based on that sort of information.


Dude, don't worry about it. The chances of a judge hiring you "off-plan" is tiny. The chances of you finding a judge who will hire you off plan and then that judge not hiring you because you can't give them an exact class rank is even smaller.

You clearly have excellent grades, at that point this (probably mythical) judge will be more concerned with your writing sample, recommendations, and interview than whether you are just over or just under the top 1%.

dixiecupdrinking
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Re: The arguments for and against individual class rankings.

Postby dixiecupdrinking » Thu Jul 28, 2011 9:42 am

The reason often given for this is that by not reporting rankings and/or GPAs, schools get a bigger number of their students in the room with job interviewers, where the students can then impress them enough to overcome lower grades. Basically it puts people into contention for jobs they would get screened out of if employers could easily screen them out based on their grades or rank.

It makes more sense at YHS/T6/T10/T14 because at those schools, employers are generally more willing to consider students regardless of their specific class rank or grades. It makes less sense at lower ranked schools, where employers might legitimately just say screw it, and not interview anyone, rather than waste their time on a bunch of people from the 90% of the class they would never consider hiring anyway.

And yes, it does somewhat help people in the middle/bottom of the class at the expense of those at the top who would look more distinguished if their grades or rank were made available.

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Cupidity
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Re: The arguments for and against individual class rankings.

Postby Cupidity » Thu Jul 28, 2011 9:44 am

I think the bands are exceptionally helpful. Lets say the cutoff for 10% is 3.71, and 25% is 3.5, if you have a 3.70, you just let your GPA stand alone and employers will be impressed by the number, if however, you have a 3.51, you get the benefit of saying top 25%.

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ndirish2010
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Re: The arguments for and against individual class rankings.

Postby ndirish2010 » Thu Jul 28, 2011 10:48 am

At ND, we don't rank at all. The only idea we get is who makes Law Review and the Dean's List each semester. I haven't gone through OCI yet, but it seems to me that employers might lean back on the law review cutoffs to determine who at least was probably around top 10%.




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