A recent study by Kaplan Test Prep found notable differences regarding the importance law school rankings have for prospective law school students in deciding where to apply for graduate school.
Glen Stohr, director of LSAT programs for Kaplan Test Prep, said this year Kaplan surveyed students after taking both their LSAT and Bar exam prep classes and found an interesting contrast between pre-law and graduate students and their views on the importance that ratings should have in deciding where to apply for law school.
Stohr said because it was their first time asking their Bar exam prep students what they think should be the top criteria for perspective students, it was interesting to compare the two surveys to see both pre-law and graduate students’ opinions side by side.
Prospective law students Kaplan surveyed overwhelmingly put an emphasis on school rankings when picking where to apply for law school, whereas graduate students said pre-law students really should focus more on job placement and tuition when considering schools.
Stohr said rankings tend to play a big role because law school programs are unlike a lot of other graduate programs. He said it takes a lot more thought and creativity on the prospective law student’s behalf to see what distinguishes one school from another.
Stohr said the surveys of graduate law students showed there are other factors besides prestige that prospective students should consider.
“You need to do some research on your own for them to be meaningful to you,” Stohr said regarding law school rankings.
Stohr said the four things steps he would recommend to pre-law students to take to make their search and consideration process more valuable in the long run are to come up with a list of “must-haves,” to determine a budget for tuition based on current financial status and what it will be in three years, to talk to current students in whatever school they are interested in and talk to alumni from the school about their success after graduating.
University of Wisconsin Law School Dean Margaret Raymond said prospective law school students place such a large emphasis on school rankings because choosing a law school is complicated, and it is reassuring to think someone else has decided what schools are best.
“I think it is important for students to think about what they are interested in and want to accomplish in law school and investigate whether the schools they are considering will meet their needs,” Raymond said.
Raymond added academic programs, geography, quality of the programs, nature of the environment, opportunities the school provides and cost are a few things prospective law school students should consider because rankings are not some abstract assessment of overall quality.
Ranking metrics do not include measures of cost and because of this, with all else being equal, an expensive school that has more to spend per student will rank higher than a school with a lower ranking, she added.