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.

View The Law School Admission Game on Amazon

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. Hey Joshua,
    This fall I’m going to be a senior studying chemical engineering with a biomedical focus. I have a 3.3 gpa. I went into college thinking I wanted to be a doctor, so I have a lot of pre-medical extra-curriculars. I have found I am much more passionate about helping people by advocating for them as opposed to a hospital setting. I am thinking of working as a chemical engineer after I graduate for about a year, then applying to law school. I don’t know if this situation qualifies me as a “non-traditional” student, but I wanted to know what you thought my chances were to get into law school, assuming I do very well on the LSAT.

    Thank you in advance.

  2. I think my GPA will come out low due to a death in the family during my first degree where I did not complete the degree and left school. I got most of the grades expunged but they still show up on transcripts and a few of the grades they would not take off. I left for a semester, then came back and tried to enroll in a few classes to see if I could return- I couldn’t, and ultimately those poor grades stuck on my GPA. I calculated it to be a 2.8 from a 3.4. I took a lot of classes after that time period. Including finishing two separate degrees one with 3.4 gpa and a masters with a 3.8- not from good schools but accredited. I was a student athlete my first time through college, so the grades I did get sucked. I entered the military and served for 6 years in Special Operations. I earned that BA through deployments, and life events like divorce. By the time I apply, I will have completed my Masters and most likely get 3.8ish. I have been scoring easily in the 160’s and hope to score in the low 170’s test day. If I don’t get it this time I will soon.

    so 2.8 gpa. 165-170 ish lsat. military special operations- decorated disabled combat vet, I’m an identical twin 😀 does that help? looking to get into GULC and that is it. chances?

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  4. 2.84 and 162 LSAT. Looking at Maurer, Wayne State, Michigan State, Chicago-Kent, Loyola-Chicago, Maryland Carey,

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  10. To make this short and sweet with no excuses, I have a 2.3 gpa. I have not taken my lsat but would like to set a nice goal. I would love to attend University of Alabama law but, I am aware I don’t have great chances. Can you give me a goal for a lsat score or advice on what to expect.

  11. Ho Josh,

    I am writing as I await my last decision to come through for this admissions cycle. My GPA is a 3.2 with a 172 LSAT. So I am definitely a splitter pretty much everywhere. It is probably also important to note that I took the LSAT only once this December, so some of my applications didn’t go out until mid-February due to financial constraints. I began the admissions process with the t14 or bust mindset, but began to question that mindset when I saw the scholarship offers of some lower ranked schools. At present I have a strong 80% tuition offer from a top 20 school, however, the best I did in the t14 was a couple of wait list offers. I am essentiallly writing this to ask your opinion on my scholarship chances at t14 schools if I were to reapply in the Fall. Knowing my chances in the top 6-7 schools will always be extremely low I’m not certain that waiting another year for the chance of a t14 offer is worth it.

    Thanks in advance,

  12. Hi,

    I have a 3.2 GPA and a B.B.A in Computer Information Systems. My current practice test scores are around 160-162 (with the intention of increasing those scores as much as possible). I want to go to University of Texas School of Law. What are my chances? I’m writing a killer personal statement, and plan on writing an addendum.


  13. Junior at Haverford College, small liberal arts school in PA, you might not have heard of it but I hope you have haha. Current GPA is a 3.6 (LSDAS). GPA is weighed down by poor grades my first semester of freshman year and GPA has been climbing since. Hope to graduate somewhere slightly above a 3.65, 3.7 at best given the bad grades from freshman year. Would like to go to a T-14 and it would be great to have a chance of getting a scholarship. Any advice?

  14. Heidi Gonzalez on

    Hi, I am a 3rd year at California State University, Los Angeles. My current GPA is a 3.2. I understand that it is quite low. However, it does not accurately reflect my ability to do well and would like to know what advice I can get to create a strong application. What are my chances of getting into a top school? I am interested in pursuing a joint degree in Public Policy, with a concentration of immigration law.

    P.S. After doing research, Stanford Law School is the school that convinces me the most.
    Any advice would be helpful. Thanks!

  15. I’ll be as brief as I can. My initial undergrad goal was dental school, so I was a biology major at San Diego State. Organic chemistry derailed me multiple times with multiple F’s, causing a ripple effect if my other grades as well. All said I graduated with a 2.32 GPA. Years later, I became hugely interested in law and politics. I decided I wanted to go to law school but I felt that I needed to become more competitive in the GPA arena. In five terms I got a second degree in political science from the University of Utah with a 3.556 GPA, all while working full-time, raising twins, and with a working wife. My LSAT from October is a 153. I know that the second degree’s GPA isn’t what they use, but does demonstrating a bounce back like that have a significantly positive impact? Frankly, it’s what I am counting on. Also, I’m in the middle of applications with 22 out so far with only two rejections, so I was wondering what my chances are for schools in the top 75 or so range.
    I just discovered this sight today (wish I knew about it sooner); everything I’ve read has been very valuable.

  16. Hi I have a bit of a different situation, my grades have always fluctuated. I went away to college my first semester got all A’s and B+, came home went to community college where i failed out basically the next 2 semesters, turned it around graduated with a 3.2 went to a private university with a major of Criminal Justice, where I succeeded until the last semester when I got “senior-idis” graduated with a 3.0. I took one semester off and went to another private university for social work, received 30 credits, did great again all A and B+ until the last 2 semesters where I received a F in one class and then a C and D ending my GPA of a 2.5 which at this point decided to not continue as it was not what I wanted to do. Hence the grade decline. I know I should have dropped out but I just didn’t. All throughout school I held a full-time job and interned 20 hours per week on top. As well which took mostly in part to my grade declination became an amateur fighter and hold 2 state titles. I took 1 year off and now am applying to Law School. I have not received my LSAT score yet for February’s test but am concerned what to do for applications to explain the grades. I have all outstanding recommendations.

  17. Please someone give me advice.
    GPA- 2.8
    Major – political science
    Studying really hard for the LSAT
    I have a really good personal statement.
    I got distracted because as I was doing my bachelor degree I was also gettin my law degree in Mexico.
    I have little working experience and mostly on political campaigns.
    I have been offered a really high paying job with the family law firm in Mexico but they need a lawyer in Texas also and I am the only one that speaks English and it would pay even more to have my law degree in the us.
    I don’t care to what law school I go but it just needs to be in Texas.
    Is it possible with my GPA and a good LSAT score. Can someone email me an opinion to

  18. Hello! I haven’t yet taken the LSAT but I’ll be studying starting in March or April. Right now I have a 3.4 but I’m hoping to graduate with a 3.6. I have a really big upward trend since my freshman year. I’m currently a junior. What LSAT do I need to get into UNC (I’m a NC resident) or William & Mary? Is a top 20 school attainable? Thank you so much!

  19. I have a 162 LSAT, but a 2.6 GPA. My first choice for law school is American University, which puts me quite a bit above their LSAT median, but below the GPA median. My low GPA is a result of my lack of motivation and effort, as well as just general stupidity during my undergrad years. This was essentially the focus of my personal statement. Should I also write an addendum?

  20. Hi Josh,

    I graduated from UC Berkeley with 3.45 UGPA. I majored in science and graduated with two degrees. I then went on to Stanford for a Masters degree in engineering and and I’m doing quite well (3.85 GPA so far ).

    I have a 175 in LSAT, but I’ll be taking it again this February and June. Hopefully I’ll end up somewhere between 177 and 179 when I apply. Do you think I have a good chance getting into T6 law schools? I’m still trying to decide between JD and PhD.

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  23. 2.2 first UG degree in Business Admin. while working for a prominent college football team for 5 seasons while in school- 30-40 hours a week.
    then, 2 years work experience /14 months in Real Estate Investment then went back to get another UG degree in Political Science/Law Studies concentration.
    4.o institutional GPA but 3.62 when importing a few hours from first degree
    strong recs, pretty sure good personal statement , 157 and 160 on 2 LSATs, mock trial, internship at local firm
    any hope for me at 30-75 ranked schools?

  24. Could never find this article again to say thank you. Always wanted to go to law school but graduated with a 2.6 and then two years later had a baby so i didnt think it was in the cards for me. It was always in the back of my head so I started googling law school with a low GPA and found this post from you and realized there was hope! immediately started studying for the LSAT. took it once last year and got a 167. Got into every school I applied to with scholarship including schools as high as top 20s. I was in shock ! now im enrolled at the school I always wanted to go to and KILLIN IT! I cant believe I almost gave up on it because of a bad GPA but thank you for this post because it made me follow through and Ive never been happier. I love everything about law school even the hard work that comes with it! on track for the top grades in all my classes!

    • Melissa, thanks for your info I’m in the same situation as you at first I thought of going back to school and work on my GPA but know I’m focus on taking the LSAT and passing it with a high score. What would you recomend for me doing in order to score high on my LSAT? And thanks ounce again.

  25. Hi there,

    I am submitting in the next couple of days (I wanted to get a jump on it but am applying right around thanksgiving) and I just wanted to know your thoughts on my odds. I am applying to 14 different schools all across the rankings and I’m worried I don’t have enough schools that are feasible, I’m not really an ideal splitter/wildcard. U of MN or Michigan would be awesome but I think that ship has sailed.

    2.96 GPA at top 15 private liberal arts college (subtle but consistent upward trend and recent ADHD diagnosis)
    168 on June LSAT
    Multiracial Woman
    2 years full time work experience

  26. Hi lawschooli Team,

    Please find below my high-level credentials:

    NUMBERS: 3.35 GPA, Econ and Poly Sci at Michigan, 166 LSAT
    -2 years work experience as Business Analyst at Fortune 500 company
    -3.7 GPA in Junior and Senior year
    -Treasurer of fraternity
    -Multiple internships
    -2 rec letters, waiting on one more
    -Submitting apps by Dec 1

    What are the odds of a T14 school or Texas/Vandy/UCLA?


  27. Hi Guys,

    I’m not sure if you’re still providing evaluations, but was wondering if you’d have any insight for me. I finished college 10 years ago with a 3.23 GPA from a fairly tough school (William & Mary). Since then, I’ve worked at an immigration law firm as a paralegal, in international admissions at a public university, and as an immigration specialist at a non-profit (as you might have guessed, I love immigration law). I also completed a Master’s degree with a 3.98 GPA (although I understand grad GPA isn’t calculated for law school admissions) and am fairly active in professional organizations. I just took the LSAT for the first time in October 2015 and scored 169 (my most recent practice tests were ranging 168-172). I have a good job now with good salary, so am not desperate to start law school any time soon (and am not even 100% committed to the idea yet), but based on my last 10 years of experience, I believe law (immigration law, public interest, or civil rights) would be something I’d enjoy and be good at. I have absolutely NO interest in “big law” or being a litigator, but am thinking something like in-house counsel would be right for me. I would be perfectly satisfied with a Top50 or even Top100 law school, and am more concerned about cost and getting a good financial aid package. I am a single working mother, so money is my biggest concern about going back to school full-time.

    So my question is more concerning scholarships than admissions themselves. With my credentials, how big a difference do you think it would make to retake the LSAT and raise my score into the low 170s? I am not planning to apply to law schools for at least a year or two (if ever), so I have plenty of time to study and retake at my leisure. Also, would it be a waste to settle for a Top100 school? Should I am higher? What do you think?

  28. Hi,

    I was just wondering if the undergrad school matters when considering GPA? And if major matters to. I’m a sophomore with a 2.4 for my freshman year. I had a really tough first semester. I go a school that is on par with IVYs, and am majoring in econ stats. Of course, I plan to bring up my GPA and I have no idea how my LSAT scores will turn out… but if I did REALLY well on the LSAT (not perfect but definitely above average), then would I still have a chance to get into some of the more competitive law schools? I’m a member of my school’s student government and meet with administrators across many fields to improve the community, vote and effectively change school policies and regulations, have an on-campus job, etc. etc. I also am part of a group that is responsible for allocating 70K to student organizations and take part in meeting with organizations, going over budgets, and making those final decisions. If I do get a really high LSAT and improve my GPA (though getting above a 3.0 isn’t likely) will all of what I mentioned make it possible to get into a competitive law school?
    Also, does ethnicity/race/etc. matter?

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