Getting Into Law school With A Low GPA


chatI 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.

The Law School Admissions GameThe Law School Admission Game: Play Like an Expert has more great tips on getting into law school! Check out our interview with author Ann Levine, and CLICK HERE to pick up a copy of her best-selling book.

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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.

What 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:

How Important Is the LSAT?

What Is A Good LSAT For The Top Law Schools?

What Is A Good LSAT Score?

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.

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:

The Law School Admissions Game – By Ann Levine

The Ivey Guide To Law School Admissions – By Anna Ivey

These two books are required reading for anyone applying to law school, but I particularly recommend The Law School Admissions Game, as Ann Levine recently published a second edition of the book. 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.

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  1. I have a 3.98 undergraduate GPA (curse the plus/minus system) in English. I completed more difficult courses to graduate through the honors college. I have worked as and editor for the past 4 years; not sure if this soft factor will do much to boost my application. I recently scored a 161 on the LSAT.

    I am from the Midwest and wanting to attend St. Louis University since I am very debt adverse and feel strongly that I will be able to get large scholarship. I have saved enough from working I should be able to avoid taking any loans while in school at SLU. Obviously, the better school in the Midwest excluding Chicago is Washington University in St. Louis (ranked #18). What do you think my chances are of getting into WUSTL with an LSAT well below the median? I am wondering if it’s worth it to go to the much better Law School with the possibility of paying sticker price. I am not interested in big law and looking to stay in the midwest.

  2. Hello,

    I’m 8 years out of university and have been working for a non-profit since graduation. I graduated from a UC school with a 3.4, but most of that is due to my two years of science classes before I figured out that wasn’t for me. If you were to only take my non science classes, my GPS is more like a 3.85. Do admissions people at the top schools look at stuff like that? I’m planning to take the LSAT in December, and I’m currently testing around 170 (my initial test was 153, so I’m already so thankful for your prep plan!).

  3. hey guys,

    I am currently studying for the lsat with a little over a month left. I am making 162 consistently with just a month of studying. I am hoping to improve my score to upper 160’s lower 170’s. I graduated from a small Arkansas school where I majored in finance with a 3.2 UGPA. I am a first generation college grad, and was independent throughout school. I also played football the entirety I went to school, and worked the spring semesters too. My last semester I worked and played football while finishing classes. My gpa is low because the first 2.5 years I was taking classes for Bio pre-med. After I changed majors, I consistently improved my GPA each semester. By the time I turn in my applications, I will have a little over a year of work experience in the Finance field. I am wanting to get into a top 20 school. Is there any advice you have for me?


    • Honestly, the best advice I can give you right now is to dominate the LSAT. With an LSAT score below median, your goal is to balance that out with an LSAT score above median.

      If you’re already hitting the low 160 range after 1 month of studying, you’ve got a real shot at pushing that score up into the 169+ range, which would certainly give you some strong options.

      The other thing that I want to stress is this: apply to a BROAD range of law schools. Get apps into as many of the top 20 schools as possible (along with a couple of safety schools). With a low gpa/high LSAT, you’re going to want to cast a wide net to ensure that you end up with some solid offers.

      I’d be 100% focused on hitting 169+ on test day & be prepared to send out a dozen+ apps as soon as my score comes back. Do those 2 things and you’ll be in at a top 20 school.

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  5. What are job prospects like for law schools that aren’t in the Top 14? There’s mention in another article of an unranked school pretty much not being worth the cost because the job market is so competitive.
    What about ranked schools that just aren’t at the top? Like random number. The school ranked 50th or 75th? Are those schools worth going to and what are their prospects?
    I would imagine that lawyers in small cities maybe went to those lower ranked/unranked schools? But what about getting a job in a major city in the U.S.? Do those tend to go to those T14 graduates OR are there jobs out there for people from those lower ranked schools?

    I’m in the midst of researching different law schools and the students they accept and trying to get an idea of the types of schools I would get accepted at. I’m trying to figure out if law school is worth it at lower ranked schools, considering the cost. I would assume that those lawyers still get hired somewhere, I’m just wondering if its anywhere worth working?

  6. Hey hey,

    So I go to a very rigorous undergraduate school- they’ve given out around 13 4.0s in the last 15 years.

    However, my undergraduate school is kind of viewed as a feeder school for some of the top law schools and grad programs…

    My GPA is a touch below 3.5, but I plan to raise it a bit before applications start up (I’m a junior).

    Every day, I wish I would have gone to a respected yet easier university as I could have secured a high GPA.

    My practice LSATS are putting me around 170-174 range. If I really study hard over the summer, I plan to boost that score.

    I’m looking to go to Boston U, or a school of similar caliber.

    What do you think my chances are, particularly for BU? Does the rigor of undergraduate program even come into account?

    Also- are there any other ways I can boost my odds? A prestigious internship perhaps??


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