Do Graduate Degrees Help?

Join in the wild mass guessing about the odds of your numbers getting you into a particular school.
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philonomos
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Do Graduate Degrees Help?

Post by philonomos » Mon Oct 22, 2018 7:13 pm

Hi everyone,

Can anyone point me to a discussion about the effect graduate degrees have on law school admissions? I can't seem to find anything too substantive (This could be totally my fault btw; I'm somewhat new at this). Or, alternatively, does anyone have any evidence (anecdotal or otherwise) about this? I'd be interested to know about the effect, if any, of graduate degrees--including info about MA or PhD or something else, in what subject, and from where--had on admissions.

I guess there are general inferences to be made, e.g. about diligence and work ethic, by adcomms. But I'd like to know if there are more substantive discussions about this.

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Nony
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Re: Do Graduate Degrees Help?

Post by Nony » Mon Oct 22, 2018 8:05 pm

I don't know that I can point you to a specific discussion, but based on my own experience and reading about it anecdotally, grad degrees can be a nice soft to have but don't really push the needle very far. (One source for this can be lawschoolnumbers.com, but you can't search by advanced degree, so it's more looking at individual users to see if someone posts about having an advanced degree.) If an adcomm is deciding between two otherwise equal candidates, good performance in a graduate program may be the tiebreaker. But generally having an advanced degree isn't going to get you into a school where you already didn't have a shot, although they may make admission where you do have a shot a little more likely.

Grad degrees (particularly PhDs) in (certain) STEM fields are highly sought after by certain kinds of intellectual property law firms, so those degrees can help you get a job after you graduate, and may help in admissions to the extent an adcomm wants to fill the class with people with good employment prospects that will help their numbers.

The more stellar your performance in the grad program is, and the more elite the program is, the more likely it will help you. But most people in that position tend to be pretty high achievers already, to end up in that position, so there's a little bit of correlation rather than causation going on.

Personally, I think that grad degrees can help if you make them part of a coherent, compelling narrative that's woven throughout your application. For the vast majority of schools, a higher LSAT will trump.

What you want to avoid is making it look like you're applying to law school either because you hate your grad degree/program, or don't know what to do other than go get more degrees (these can be true - especially the former - you just don't want that to be the narrative adcomms take away from your application).

philonomos
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Joined: Wed Feb 28, 2018 10:36 am

Re: Do Graduate Degrees Help?

Post by philonomos » Mon Oct 22, 2018 9:49 pm

Thanks for the thoughtful and quick reply. From what I've seen, I agree with your summary of anecdotal evidence. And I especially agree with your point about weaving into a coherent narrative.

I do wish there was a more expedient way to search LSN for grad degree info.

I am especially interested in law schools/programs in law schools where having a grad degree is a plus. My assumption is that some higher ranked programs like being able to tout they have X students with grad degrees (but, like you said, who knows if thats because of the grad degrees or just an incidental factor to otherwise strong applications).

Also, some programs, like NYU Furman, seem to require some sort of additional degree anyway. But I'd be interested to know what the stats were for people who got that specific scholarship or ones like it. Was their GPA/LSAT average for acceptance at the school and their grad degree made them an ideal fit for the program? Or was their GPA/LSAT phenomenal and their grad degree was merely a necessary but not sufficient condition for the program?

This just seems like a relatively under-explored topic to me on these forums and I'd like to know what the community thinks about it/what advice they can offer.

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Nony
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Re: Do Graduate Degrees Help?

Post by Nony » Mon Oct 22, 2018 10:48 pm

I think there's info about the Furman floating around here (and the previous site that shall not be named). My impression is that you're on the right track, that some of the named scholarships are where schools can reward interesting pasts/compelling narratives in a way that a previous degree can be helpful - I've seen people talk about how getting the named scholarship is more about the content of the application and not simply having the highest numbers (assuming you have high enough numbers for admission). But I'm afraid I was never competitive for any of those schools, so I can't speak to which scholarships specifically, though there may be more info in the individual school application threads - qualifications for named scholarships come up a lot. My hunch is that anything you have to apply for separately from just the law school application, like you have to write a separate essay for the scholarship, is going to focus more on the whole person/narrative, not just numbers. But it's safest overall to assume that numbers reign supreme.

I don't think it's helpful to try to focus on schools that consider a grad degree a plus, because I don't think there's any realistic way to determine that; a grad degree will be a plus for some candidates/under some circumstances and not others (it often depends on how you fit with the rest of the applicants, which you can't know/control). I also I think all schools like to say "we have 28 MAs and 4 PhDs in our incoming class!" (mine did this and it was a lower T1). That said, I do think that ironically something like an advanced degree can be more attractive to the very top schools, where they don't have to chase median LSAT/GPA scores quite as hard (don't get me wrong, they still do, but they get enough of the top candidates that they can get a little creative with their class makeup). For instance, Elizabeth Wurtzel went to Yale with an LSAT In the 160s. I don't know what her GPA was, but that's a low LSAT for Yale even if she had a 4.0. Frankly I don't think a PhD (even less so an MA) is really the same kind of interesting/rare soft as being a best-selling author, but I suppose it depends a little on what you've done with it (a PhD with major research awards is probably more comparably attractive than someone who got a relatively generic MA, for instance). Even there though, I don't think you can say that the degree per se is a plus for those schools - it's again what you've done with/in the course of getting the degree.

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