I wish someone would tell students when they first get to college how important it is to get a a good GPA if they are considering law school as a future option. Alas, they do not. So how important is GPA? Very. GPA taken alone probably accounts for about a third of whether you get into a specific school. However, for any number of reasons- laziness, difficulty of the program, illness, and so on, many people graduate with a low GPA. This post is for the people with lower GPAs who are determined to get into a good law school.
What Is Considered A Low GPA?
This depends on where you are applying to school. If you are seeking admission to a T14 school (the fourteen schools that have historically placed in the top fourteen in the influential USNWR rankings) anything below a 3.5 is generally going to place you below the 25th percentile for that school, meaning that about 75% percent of the students attending that school will have a better GPA than you. Generally, your GPA is considered low for a specific school if you are below the 25th percentile GPA of students entering that school.
The Importance Of Crushing The LSAT For Low GPAers – Making Yourself A Wildcard
Except for the very top schools, mainly just Yale and Stanford, the general rule of law school admissions is that you can predict where you will get in with a high degree of accuracy just by looking at two numbers: your GPA and your LSAT. For most schools, your chances of admission are close to 90% if you are over the median numbers for both LSAT and GPA. Check out the student profile page for schools you are interested in to see what median, 25th, and 75th percentile numbers incoming students have at a school.
If you have a lower GPA you may be below the 25th percentile numbers at the schools you wish to get into. What’s to be done? Here is the rule-of-thumb: if you are below the 25th percentile GPA at a school, you want to have an LSAT at or above the 75th percentile to have a strong chance of admission. Having this combination makes you what’s called in law school admissions a splitter. It’s not the worst place to be: schools want students who boost their numbers or at least help keep them where they are. If you can’t provide in one area (GPA), at least help out in the other (LSAT). For a longer discussion of this, including an explanation on why law schools care so much about numbers, check out these posts:
Returning to the subject at hand, the point is that with that high LSAT you all of a sudden become someone that the school might need to admit to get the student profile they desire. Your chances of admission are perhaps not as great as someone whose numbers are both above the medians, but they are nonetheless fairly high. From looking at self-reported data of law schools students applying with a GPA below the 25th but an LSAT above the 75th, it appears that your chances of success run pretty close to 75% or better. Again, the exception is the very top schools such as Yale and Stanford, where any given applicants chances of success are not very high because competition is so strong. Look at the What Is A Good LSAT For The Top Law Schools? post for more details on this.
Because a school would obviously prefer to get someone with a high GPA as well, you are a bit of a wildcard, but that’s fine! It’s good to be a wild-card. If they do decide they need you, you are actually in a pretty good position to draw scholarship money. Depending on the school’s needs, you may be better off than someone who is simply hovering right around the median numbers. This is because the school is going to have a lot of applicants to choose from who have about median numbers, however, they have trouble attracting students with higher LSATs, who often go to better ranked schools if they have a high GPA as well.
If you have a low GPA, you really need to put your absolute all in to the LSAT. Devote 3 months to studying intensely for it. If you can’t do that one thing, then I promise you that you are better off doing something else besides law school. Follow this LSAT prep schedule. Prep with the best LSAT books. Here are our current prep book recommendations, which give you everything you need to do your best on this test:[widgetkit id=2448]
Now that you know a bit about how to study for the LSAT, it’s time to learn the other rule of being a good wildcard: low GPA/high LSAT splitters need to apply to a wider number of schools to have success.
The Importance Of Playing The Odds- Apply To A lot of Schools
Any fisherman or pick-up artist knows that you have to make a lot of casts before you get a bite. The same thing goes for applying to law schools with a low GPA. Whether you are a splitter or whether you are just throwing out Hail Marys to schools where you don’t have very competitive numbers, you will always benefit from casting the widest possible net with your law school search. It’s just good common sense.
Consider applying to 25 or even 30 or more schools and you might get a nice surprise. Schools do not auto-reject students just because they don’t have the best numbers. If they really like you, you may get in despite being below the normal range for the school, which brings us to our next point…
The Importance Of Being Perfect- Making Your Application Air Tight
Though it’s not recommended, students with great numbers can often get away with being lazy on their applications. This is never true when you have a GPA below the range of your target school. As a low GPAer you should make sure that your resume is flawless and that your personal statement glows with subtle perfection. The best way to do this is to ensure you get advice from the best sources. The following books are generally regarded as the two best resources out there to help with your law school application:
These two books are required reading for anyone applying to law school, but I particularly recommend The Law School Admissions Game, as Ann Levine just published a second edition of the book recently. The additional info takes account of recent trends in law school admission that might affect your strategy. We had the good fortune to interview Ann about her book recently so check that out too.
Putting a lot of effort into an application will help you shine by comparison with stronger applicants who might be lazy on their applications. Particularly focus on coming across as likable in your personal statement and you will boost your chances of getting into reach schools.
Need advice on your specific situation? Tell us your GPA and where you want to go and we are happy to assess your chances for you. Don’t worry, comments are completely anonymous. Feel free to use an assumed name! Best of luck and stay in touch.