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The University of Georgia has edged out Emory University for the law school with the state’s most rigorous admission requirements. UGA Law’s Class of 2004 has a median undergraduate grade point average of 3.65 and a median 162 LSAT score. Emory’s median GPA is 3.5 and its median LSAT is 161. UGA cites better recruiting and bargain tuition, as well as a rise in quality of all students at the university, thanks to the HOPE scholarship. “You can really make a difference if you work at it,” says Professor Charles R.T. O’Kelley, chairman of UGA Law’s admissions committee. Still, UGA falls short of Ivy League standards, where median LSAT scores are typically in the high 160s. In the Southeast, Duke University still rules. The median LSAT for the Class of 2003 was 166. LSAT figures for the Class of 2004 are not yet available, according to a spokesman for the law school. And no one is claiming that UGA’s national reputation has eclipsed that of Emory. Graduates of Emory Law regularly head to the law firms on the West Coast and in the Northeast. According to U.S. News and World Report‘s 2002 ranking of the top law schools, 52 percent of Emory Law’s class of 1999 was employed outside the state while only 25 percent of the same class at Georgia Law left the state. The schools tied for 27th place on the U.S. News survey. Emory Assistant Dean Lynell A. Cadray says it’s unlikely that many students will attend Emory as a second choice to Georgia. “Our [applicant] pools don’t overlap that much,” she says. Financial reasons usually dictate a student’s decision to attend Georgia Law over Emory, she says. Georgia’s other two law schools remain closely aligned in admissions criteria. At Mercer University School of Law, the entering class has a median GPA of 3.32 and a 153 LSAT. At Georgia State University College of Law, the entering class has a median GPA of 3.27 with a 156 LSAT, according to officials at both universities. Georgia Dean David E. Shipley says more scholarship money has played a big part in his school’s ability to attract better students. Since 1998, Shipley says the school has increased its scholarship funds by about half. In 2001 alone, the school made an extra $100,000 available in scholarship funds. A total of $679,782 in scholarship money went to the Class of 2004, according to the law school. More than half of the law students receive from $500 in financial aid to a full ride. Then there’s the bottom line. In-state tuition at Georgia Law is $5,042 annually, compared to $26,318 for any student at Emory. Out-of-state Georgia students pay $17,858, but only a quarter of each law class is comprised of out-of-state residents. HOPE scholarships have played a role in the UGA law school’s success, O’Kelley says. Although law students do not receive assistance from the scholarship fund, he says HOPE has boosted the academic quality of UGA’s undergraduate pre-law students. Finally, the school simply is working harder at recruiting, O’Kelley says. He notes that during his three years as head of the admissions committee, the school has re-examined its admissions process and applied more time and money to recruiting. For example, he says, the law school identifies the best candidates early in the admissions process, then offers a rolling application process, which means a candidate can apply — and possibly be accepted — between Sept. 1 and March 1 for the following academic year. Recruiting also has become more personalized, says UGA Law School Director of Admissions Giles W. Kennedy. “It’s not like we just have an open house with 100 people there and put on a dog and pony show,” he says. One-on-one recruiting efforts for top candidates help improve the applicant pool, adds O’Kelley. For example, he says faculty members and law students call accepted applicants and talk to them about the school. Prospective law students consider a law school’s general reputation as well as opportunities for landing a job after graduation, O’Kelley says. After admissions officers, students and faculty try to sell applicants on Georgia Law’s reputation, says O’Kelley, “then we put out what a great bargain it is.” Most law schools are benefiting from a larger applicant pool and growth in undergraduate GPAs, according to Barry A. Currier, the deputy consultant on legal education at the American Bar Association. Currier says enrollments are rising at law schools across the country. A dip in the economy usually results in added applications to graduate school, he notes. With that, the quality of applicants is rising nationally, Currier says, as more people take the LSAT.

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