Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Erin Scale Redux

Anyone remember "The Erin Scale" I created in December?

Probably not, because the only audience for my dorky charts is probably Erin. And she has to smile and nod, because she's married to me.

Anyway, I came up with a "mathematical formula" to help us reconcile all the different factors in choosing a law school that are beyond the school itself. The "formula" (I use the term very loosely, hence the quotation marks) calculates things like average debt, cost of living, distance from our families in Oregon and Texas, etc.

I'm realizing that these factors are becoming more and more important. Really, every school on my list is going to provide an amazing education and opportunities. Otherwise, they wouldn't be ranked in the top 100 in the country. So it's hard to decide based on only the education. Would I rather be a part of Texas' top-notch judicial clerkship program? Or Minnesota's prestigious legal writing program? Or Iowa's research assistant program? Or UC Davis' emphasis on public interest and service? Really, wherever I end up is going to be enjoyable and take me where I want to go (wherever that may be).

In the old "formula," I ranked each school by cost of tuition,* percentage of students who receive half- to full-tuition scholarships,* percentage of students who receive grants,* average debt after graduation, distance to Mosier, OR (my hometown), distance to Tomball, TX (Erin's hometown), cost of living, and annual premiums for school health insurance.**

In the new "formula," I added two categories: average debt to average salary ratio (I know the average starting salary for law school grads is usually skewed for multiple reasons, which was addressed in this blog post and comments) and annual mean temperature. Because, hey, why not live three years somewhere where the weather is nice? And the annual mean temperature will take into account bitter cold winters that are counterbalanced by paradisaical summers.

I also custom-made the new "formula" even more by personalizing the tuition figures. For example, both Baylor and Iowa offered full-tuition scholarships, so I can edit those tuition figures to simply say $0. I wasn't sure how to alter the average debt amounts, because if I only subtracted three years' worth of tuition, sometimes that average debt would become a negative number, which doesn't make sense. Debt of course comes from more than just tuition. So instead, I just ranked the debt of schools (as well as the debt to salary ratio) where I received a scholarship separate from the schools where I don't have a scholarship.

(And for schools where I was waitlisted, I did the opposite: I changed the percentage of students who receive half- to full-tuition scholarships to 0%. I guess it's not a sure thing, but I assume that barely even getting into the school would also mean there aren't any scholarships for me.)

Finally, I added weight to some categories. In categories that weren't as significant, I added to the rankings. For example, I added five to every score in the "distance to Mosier, OR" category, so instead of giving Oregon a score of 1 it got a 6. Still the best in that category among the other schools, but not as high in importance as Iowa or Baylor which got a 1 in cost of tuition.

Oh, and I also added Stanford, Duke and Northwestern, since they weren't on my list back when I made the old "formula."

(If any of this is confusing, and you care enough to ask me to explain more, just let me know.)

Anyway, want to see what we came up with?

1. Baylor (score: 95)
2. North Carolina (score: 111)
3. Texas (score: 115)
4. Minnesota (score: 116)
5. BYU (score: 117)
6. Iowa (score: 121)
7. Ohio State (score: 145)
8. Stanford (score: 147)
9. Utah (score: 149)
10. Arizona State (score: 150)
11. Duke (score: 151)
11. UC Davis (score: 151)
13. Notre Dame (score: 155)
13. Washington (score: 155)
15. Oregon (score: 156)
16. Virginia (score: 167)
17. Northwestern (score: 173)

Interesting? Ridiculous? Just a mess of numbers and words that don't make sense? What do you think?


  1. UNC! UNC! UNC! OR wherever you feel is best. You've got lots of great options.


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