How Low Will They Go?

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Tiago Splitter
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Re: How Low Will They Go?

Postby Tiago Splitter » Sat Aug 10, 2013 2:30 pm

sillymike wrote:One the other hand, I would hope that if a schools lsat median starts dropping, they might be willing to take some lower GPAs to compensate or even try to raise the median. Numbers-wise, if a school's medians are 3.7 and 169, and they want a 3.7/170, isn't a 2.0/170 worth more for the median than a 3.69/169, since they will both drop the GPA median by the same amount (or not at all) but the 169 will (possibly) contribute to the median staying at 169 whereas the 170 could be the data point that secures the 170 median?
I mean, it looks pretty bad to take a 2.0/171 so i doubt many of the schools with a 170 median would actually see it that way, but from a pure math standpoint, isn't this the case? Sorry if I'm totally off, I'm still figuring out this whole median business :)

Is there a point where schools will start to think in terms of pure numbers, or do they care too much about their 25/75ths? I had assumed they don't care a huge amount about those numbers, but what do I know?
nothing. that's what.

The bolded is the sweet spot for splitters. Fewer apps, but schools trying to maintain the LSAT median. Only solution is to lower the GPA floor. Once they lower the LSAT median the GPA floor can stay where it is or even be raised.

Schools don't care that much about 25/75 because USNWR doesn't, but you're right that T-14's aren't taking a 2.0 GPA just because it's attached to a 170.

All that said, the GPA floors have clearly come down in recent cycles so as long as your GPA isn't pure shit you should see a benefit. A few years ago when I started investigating this whole process someone would have been banned for trolling for suggesting that anyone had a chance at NYU with a 3.1 GPA, but now that's very possible. Hopefully for you guys the trend continues.

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Monochromatic Oeuvre
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Re: How Low Will They Go?

Postby Monochromatic Oeuvre » Sat Aug 10, 2013 4:09 pm

Tiago Splitter wrote:The drop in applicants is obviously good for everybody, but a decline in a school's median may not really help out splitters, especially super splitters, very much. If a school's medians were 3.7/170 and then they move down to 3.7/169, suddenly hundreds of applicants with GPAs higher than yours but below median now have a median LSAT. If the LSAT median drops down to 168 things get even worse.

I have no idea if this is how it works in practice but it's something to think about.


There are two things to distinguish here. You're correct in saying the decline itself of a school's LSAT median is not helpful to splitters, for the reasons you listed. If a splitter was already above the LSAT median, then all the decline does is create more candidates above the LSAT median than there would be had it not dropped--splitters find much more value in a declining GPA median. On the other hand, the protection of the LSAT median is tremendously helpful to splitters. For example, Northwestern was presumably fearful of losing its 170 median and therefore began accepting lower and lower GPAs to anyone who had a 170. Suppose you have a 3.0/170 and are looking to apply to Northwestern next year. You would much rather the school keeps its 170 because your status as a median-or-above LSAT is a rarer commodity than it would be if the median were 169. You are a tool the school uses to protect its median, and a 3.6/169 does them no good on that front. If, however, the median drops to 169, then the school now has the incentive to take a 169 with a so-so GPA over you, because you both protect the LSAT median equally well (because it isn't going to increase while applications are down).

N.b. that a strong LSAT is always a rarer commodity than a strong GPA. For any given school, there are many, many more applicants above their GPA median than above their LSAT median. For example, consider Harvard's medians. There are probably several thousand 3.9+ students to choose from, but there are only around a thousand 173+ students. To get its class, Harvard has to admit around 800 students, and assuming higher-number students have a lower yield than lower-number students, it means they have to admit at least 400 students at/above the GPA median and at least 400 students at/above the LSAT median (note that those are not exclusive groups). If next year there will be 2,000 students at/above 3.89 and only 1,000 students above 173, then having an above-median LSAT gives you, ceteris paribus, twice as good a chance of being accepted.

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Monochromatic Oeuvre
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Re: How Low Will They Go?

Postby Monochromatic Oeuvre » Sat Aug 10, 2013 4:59 pm

sillymike wrote:this is a great thread. props to nonexpostfacto for starting it, and for lsatscores2012 for posting that link for the analysis done by kappycaft1!

Not trying to be "that guy", but taking this post and kappycaft1' analysis together leads me to a question.
What kind of margin of error are we talking about here, if we're basing our data on lsn and most schools have 10% total applicants/20% admittances? Especially in the super splitter range, which is what I think the OP was driving at, it only takes one or two data points to completely change things.
Then again, maybe one or two data points won't change anything, because I'm SO not a stats guy.

Mostly, as a super splitter myself, I'm just wondering when people say things like "locked out of Penn", they're really saying "10% to 20% of the data shows you're locked out, but there's a 1/5 chance, or maybe less adjusting for applicant caliber, that they've actually dipped below your GPA this cycle and we just didn't know about it".

I love this thread. I hope it's one of the ones that never dies!


The fact that it "only takes one or two data points to completely change things" is why we don't use a strict definition of an absolute floor. Being below the commonly-discussed "floor" at a school does not mean you are absolutely 100% out, it just means your chances of being accepted are very, very low, probably under 5%, as best we can infer. It should be reiterated that there is no such thing as 100% certain to be accepted or 100% certain to be rejected--it's best to deal in probabilities rather than absolutes.

While LSN does have a demonstrable bias towards higher-number applicants (particularly high LSAT scores) when compared to their overall applicant pool, and LSN contains a bias within itself of people being more likely to report acceptances than rejections, or more likely to update their profiles with acceptances as opposed to rejections, it does at least roughly approximate a sample of the total applicant pool. The sample is sufficiently large such that strong inferences can be drawn from it even if the sample is not a gigantic proportion of the population. That's the power of sampling, if it's truly random--600 people is a tiny subset of the ~130 million who will vote in a presidential election, but a poll of 600 randomly selected voters can nonetheless predict an election to within 3 percentage points with 95% confidence. You can predict a relatively slim margin of error for the applicant pool based on TLS data even if you can't say with 100% certainty that something is the case. I can't prove that something is impossible just because it hasn't been on LSN, but I can say with a high degree certainty that such a thing is very, very unlikely.

sillymike wrote:yeah. I always go back and forth on that point. Everybody says that this is good for splitters, and for sure some people are having mad cycles, but it's true that it might not be as great as it seems.
On the one hand, it does really just allow more people to be at median.
One the other hand, I would hope that if a schools lsat median starts dropping, they might be willing to take some lower GPAs to compensate or even try to raise the median. Numbers-wise, if a school's medians are 3.7 and 169, and they want a 3.7/170, isn't a 2.0/170 worth more for the median than a 3.69/169, since they will both drop the GPA median by the same amount (or not at all) but the 169 will (possibly) contribute to the median staying at 169 whereas the 170 could be the data point that secures the 170 median?
I mean, it looks pretty bad to take a 2.0/171 so i doubt many of the schools with a 170 median would actually see it that way, but from a pure math standpoint, isn't this the case? Sorry if I'm totally off, I'm still figuring out this whole median business :)

Is there a point where schools will start to think in terms of pure numbers, or do they care too much about their 25/75ths? I had assumed they don't care a huge amount about those numbers, but what do I know?
nothing. that's what.


Strategic median-gaming is certainly a thing. A 3.8/169 is essentially out at UVA and Penn despite being barely below both medians. A 3.9/165 and a 3.4/171 both have a better shot at being accepted despite being, in my opinion, much less qualified than the 3.8/169. Again, look at the 2.8/170 students being accepted to NU over the 3.5/169. That's the starkest example of a school that seems to have absolutely no concern for the quality of the applicant and is just attempting to game medians. So yes, the strategic admissions policy is to balance out splitters with reverse splitters to have artificially inflated medians. Medians are the big fish and 25th/75th scores, which have to be reported, matter at least a little. But outside of those, it doesn't matter. You could admit 24.9% of your class with godawful GPAs and another 24.9% with godawful LSATs and no one would know unless the students self-report on LSN.

Sure, some schools care about the overall numerical strength and do not partake in the strategic manipulation. HYS don't manipulate medians, nor do Columbia, NYU, Berkeley or Cornell. At each of those schools, the strength of your numbers is roughly determined by the "sliding scale" each school applies, which means there's no situation in which one group with stronger numbers is systemically disadvantaged compared to other groups with weaker numbers (as is the case when schools manipulate medians). You can tell when a school isn't manipulating medians when they fall roughly halfway between the 25th and 75th percentiles--contrast that with the manipulators, where the medians are much closer to the 75th percentile than the 25th.

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Re: How Low Will They Go?

Postby IrishJew » Tue Oct 08, 2013 3:38 pm

First of all this is an AWESOME thread. Thanks to everyone who's done the real number crunching, very rigorous!

Monochromatic Oeuvre wrote:There are two things to distinguish here. You're correct in saying the decline itself of a school's LSAT median is not helpful to splitters, for the reasons you listed. If a splitter was already above the LSAT median, then all the decline does is create more candidates above the LSAT median than there would be had it not dropped--splitters find much more value in a declining GPA median...

N.b. that a strong LSAT is always a rarer commodity than a strong GPA. For any given school, there are many, many more applicants above their GPA median than above their LSAT median. For example, consider Harvard's medians. There are probably several thousand 3.9+ students to choose from, but there are only around a thousand 173+ students. To get its class, Harvard has to admit around 800 students, and assuming higher-number students have a lower yield than lower-number students, it means they have to admit at least 400 students at/above the GPA median and at least 400 students at/above the LSAT median (note that those are not exclusive groups). If next year there will be 2,000 students at/above 3.89 and only 1,000 students above 173, then having an above-median LSAT gives you, ceteris paribus, twice as good a chance of being accepted.


Monochromatic, your first point brings up something I've seen anecdotally and would love to hear your take on. In my limited experience (and cruising around LSN) there seems to be a level of diminishing return for splitters once they pass the school's 75% mark. Once you boost/protect a school's LSAT stats, in other words, boosting/protecting more won't make up for your GPA to a larger extent.

So for example Yale's numbers are 3.83/3.90/3.96 and 170/173/177. I knew two guys with similar softs who applied. One was a 180 with, like, a 3.6 and one was a 177 with, like, a 3.7. The first guy was rejected and the second guy got in. It's obviously not apples-to-apples, but we attributed it to these diminishing returns. What do you think? Real phenomenon or just bullshit? (EDIT: I realize Yale is a special case. They are somewhat of a black box and they have less incentive to game the numbers, but I've seen similar happen at Penn, Duke, and others)

As for your second point, about the value of a high LSAT vs. a high GPA, I'm trying to figure out how this shakes out in actual practice. Do you have any data on how common or rare splitters are? I was a pretty bad splitter myself and got freaked that nobody on LSN had similar stats and did well in the T-14. In the end I did OK though, and I now suspect there just aren't enough super-splitters in the data pool. Thoughts?
Last edited by IrishJew on Tue Oct 08, 2013 3:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.

IrishJew
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Re: How Low Will They Go?

Postby IrishJew » Tue Oct 08, 2013 3:50 pm

Monochromatic Oeuvre wrote:Strategic median-gaming is certainly a thing. A 3.8/169 is essentially out at UVA and Penn despite being barely below both medians. A 3.9/165 and a 3.4/171 both have a better shot at being accepted despite being, in my opinion, much less qualified than the 3.8/169. Again, look at the 2.8/170 students being accepted to NU over the 3.5/169. That's the starkest example of a school that seems to have absolutely no concern for the quality of the applicant and is just attempting to game medians. So yes, the strategic admissions policy is to balance out splitters with reverse splitters to have artificially inflated medians.... You can tell when a school isn't manipulating medians when they fall roughly halfway between the 25th and 75th percentiles--contrast that with the manipulators, where the medians are much closer to the 75th percentile than the 25th.


Can you give a bit more detail on how that would work? Something that's been bothering me is why taking a splitter doesn't cannibalize your GPA numbers. I mean, let's imagine our splitter has a <25th GPA and a >75th LSAT, why would taking him (and a reverse splitter) be a better strategy than just taking two kids at the median, or a 45/55 and a 55/45?

Or is your point just that the 25/75 splitter has a better chance than the 49/49 er, even though the latter may be more qualified because the latter doesn't help numbers at all and, in fact, hurts them?

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Tiago Splitter
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Re: How Low Will They Go?

Postby Tiago Splitter » Tue Oct 08, 2013 4:37 pm

IrishJew wrote:Can you give a bit more detail on how that would work? Something that's been bothering me is why taking a splitter doesn't cannibalize your GPA numbers. I mean, let's imagine our splitter has a <25th GPA and a >75th LSAT, why would taking him (and a reverse splitter) be a better strategy than just taking two kids at the median, or a 45/55 and a 55/45?

Because when you game your medians the median comes much closer to the 75th percentile than the 25th. So for a school with a 25/50/75 of 3.5/3.85/3.9 and 164/170/171 it'll be a hell of a lot cheaper to take a 3.3/172 and a 3.9/162 than to get two people at both medians. The people at both medians are the ones who get full rides so that the whole exercise doesn't fall apart.

IrishJew
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Re: How Low Will They Go?

Postby IrishJew » Tue Oct 08, 2013 5:52 pm

Tiago Splitter wrote:
IrishJew wrote:Can you give a bit more detail on how that would work? Something that's been bothering me is why taking a splitter doesn't cannibalize your GPA numbers. I mean, let's imagine our splitter has a <25th GPA and a >75th LSAT, why would taking him (and a reverse splitter) be a better strategy than just taking two kids at the median, or a 45/55 and a 55/45?

Because when you game your medians the median comes much closer to the 75th percentile than the 25th. So for a school with a 25/50/75 of 3.5/3.85/3.9 and 164/170/171 it'll be a hell of a lot cheaper to take a 3.3/172 and a 3.9/162 than to get two people at both medians. The people at both medians are the ones who get full rides so that the whole exercise doesn't fall apart.


Ah, interesting, So you're saying that splitters and reverse splitters are still somewhat weaker/less desirable than straight-median kids and the schools can pick us up more cheaply and with less competition? That makes sense strategically, but it doesn't explain why that would boost both medians.

Whom do splitters displace? Let's say Steve Splitter 3.3/180 and Rita Reverse 4.0/155 are applying to law schools and the school has three slots and only three other applicants (hey, these are tough times :) ) .

Do most students have correlated GPAs and LSATs like this:

Alice 3.7/170, Bob 3.6/169, and Carlos 3.8/1.71

and splitters and reverse-splitters just replace the weaker students (Alice and Bob) in a way that lets the higher students (Carlos) become the new median?

From LSN it looks like most applications exhibit some degree of spread like this:

Dan 3.7/170, Ed 3.8/169, and Fae 3.6/1.71

in which case no matter whom the splitters displace the school cannot raise BOTH medians.

So what am I missing?




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