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.

486 Comments

  1. Hi,
    I am a political science and general biology (pre-med) double major at UCSD. My overall GPA is a 3.1 due to my bio degree, but my political science major GPA is a 3.9. I am also graduating with departmental honors in political science through the senior honors seminar, which I had to write a thesis for. I may also be able to publish my thesis data in a political science journal but that is tbd. My dream school is Georgetown, but would like your opinion on my chances at T-14 schools in general, and how they would view my double major GPA predicament.

  2. NYU CS Student on

    Hey,
    I am an NYU Computer Science major with a 2.9 GPA. My LSAT score is a 172. My GPA is low as a function of several factors: firstly, I worked my first semester of college, which definitely took a toll on my grades. Secondly, my major and school are very competitive. I believe the average computer science major GPA at NYU is a 2.9, so I know my GPA isn’t above the median but it also isn’t below. Thirdly, and this is less of an excuse than an explanation, I do not do well in core classes because I have no interest; this also probably explains my high LSAT score.
    How do you think it looks?

  3. Hi,

    I’m a Mechanical Engineering major with a 2.9 GPA, realistically I am striving to raise it to around 3.1-3.2 before I graduate. My top school is Northeastern University.

    During my first two years of college, I endured relationship abuse and was sexually assaulted twice (one of the instances resulted in a concussion), and watched my school completely botch up my report and throw it away. I took time off school, working in the Disney College Program and a Professional Internship at Walt Disney World. I then returned to school and earned fairly good grades in the most difficult classes in my curriculum. I was asked to return to Disney for another Professional Internship.

    I am confident about my abilities to score well on the LSAT. Northeastern’s range is 152-162. I hope to receive my letters of recommendation from my two leaders at Disney, and from a professor at school who has advocated for my skills in light of my past.

  4. Hello!
    I am graduating from the University of Arizona this fall with a double degree in Political Science and Spanish Sociolinguistics but I will be graduating with a pretty low GPA at 2.8. My first 4 semesters I was a biology major and that didn’t go very well (as it rarely does) but I was stubborn and didn’t switch majors until my GPA was down to a 2.3 at the start of my 3rd year. I switched my major and since then my GPA has improved every semester. I have worked a part time job throughout college and for the past two years I have held 2-3 jobs at a time ranging from: retail, university ambassador, law office assistant, manager at a yogurt shop, and academic outreach recruiter in middle schools throughout Tucson. I have also interned for a Congressman, a congressional campaign, Walt Disney World and the International School of Tucson. I am part of a Latina founded sorority and within that I held various executive board positions. After graduating I have accepted a position as a bilingual education teacher through Teach for America and hope to take that time to also study for the LSAT.

    So, as you can see my resume is loaded with a variety of experience but I’m afraid my low GPA will still hold me back. I will have recommendation letters from the congressman I interned for, two attorneys I’ve worked for, the Head of the IST and the director of the Spanish department at UA to also help my application.

    I have about a year and a half before I begin applying for Law school but I am trying to get some honest advice on whether or not I actually have a chance of being accepted or not. If I do not have a shot I would like to instead focus my time on Grad school options if that is my only option.

    Any advice or blunt honesty would be very much appreciated!

  5. Hi graduated from college in 2013. Since then I have been working in management positions. I only graduated with a 2.75. My school was known for grade deflation (had almost a 50% attrition rate). That GPA actually has me at the exact middle of the graduating class. While in school I was also captain of our lacrosse team.

    I scored a 168 on my LSAT. I am also a LT in the Navy Reserves and a Union Rep for my full time job.

    Do I have any chance of breaking the T-14? Should I retake my LSAT (Have only taken it once)?

    Thank you for the help!

    • Hey Sean. I’m AD Air Force planning on attending law school next year. I suggest, if you haven’t already, to go check out Services 2 School. They’re veterans who actually graduated from Top Tier 14’s. They help you every step of the way with your application for free! I’m using them right now. I’m crossing my fingers for Stanford! Good luck to you!

  6. I have a 2.8 GPA and a 168 LSAT
    I went to a competitive school, my class actually had almost a 50% attrition rate; so there was zero grade inflation. While in college I was the Captain of my lacrosse team as well.
    I am LT in the USNR and I am a union rep
    I graduated in 2013

    My goal school is Georgetown, do I have a shot?

  7. Bakvario Curios on

    I have an undergraduate GPA of 2.66 and an average LSAT prep-test of about a 170-171. My top school is the University of Florida. What do you think my chances my be?

    Thanks for the advice!

  8. Danielle Packer on

    I graduated with an undergraduate of 3.34 and received a graduate certificate with GPA of 3.5. My top school is Duke University.

  9. Wishful thinking on

    I am working professional right now in finance, but I am trying to see what my chances over getting in to a T30 law school is with my significantly low GPA (2.9). I have 3 years of IB operations experience with little extra curricular except for starting my own business (mobile application) which took a full year to accomplish starting from the ground up with little computer science background. I am looking to get into corporate strategy, but in the last few years of working I have seen how beneficial a law background could be in business and life. I have not taken the LSAT yet. I am wondering if there is any chance of me getting in to a competitive law school with the right LSAT score, or if my GPA is too low to bother.

  10. Hi there!
    I have a 3.27 undergrad GPA and haven’t yet taken the LSATs. I am about to complete my masters in Latin American studies where I’m pulling close to a 4.0. The program is also interdisciplinary and I’ve actually taken law classes at the law school, getting A’s. Although I haven’t taken the LSATs I recognize that I need to do very well especially to balance out my rather low GPA. My top school at the moment is Berkeley and I’m worried about the premium they place on GPA especially compared to other schools with similar ranking. According to their admissions page though they also like “well-rounded” students and also seem to emphasize “extra” grad school work more so than other schools. I want to focus on human rights law and I speak four languages, and have interned with very well known human rights organizations. Berkeley also has a great Latin American studies program and might value my masters more than other schools. Basically I’m wondering if I still have a chance with Berkeley if I kill it on the LSATs? Thanks!

  11. Hi! So I currently am double majoring in French and biomedical science at Auburn University, and I have a 3.5 GPA. If I were to do extremely well on the LSAT, would I have any chance of getting in to Columbia? Thanks so much!

  12. Hey, I am a senior at Auburn University. I want to get into law school, but I know that my GPA isnt going to be competitive as most. Right now, it is 2.35, so trying to boost my GPA to a 3.0 is a longshot at best, but I am determined. Should I take some GPA-boosting classes. I am scheduled to graduate next fall and at the latest Spring 2018. What options should I pursue under your guidance

    • The Determined Applicant on

      Hello, I am unable to answer your question but am in a similar situation to you. Will you please comment back if you find out from another source?
      Signed,

      The Determined Applicant

    • I go to Auburn too & I’m in a sort of similar situation- 5 semesters of biomedical science classes haven’t been kind to my GPA, so I’m wondering if a 3.0 can get me into UA or Samford’s law schools with the right LSAT? I haven’t done the real deal LSAT yet, but I took my first cold practice test today out of a book and got a 159. Are we doomed?

  13. Hi I am a student at Mississippi State Unvieirsty and I am finishing up my first semester of sophomore year, this was my hardest semester and my GPA will go from a 3.28 to a 2.7-2.8 . I am an Business Economics with a minor in Computer Science. I want to go a decent law school maybe Georgia State , Emory, Howard etc. I took 18 hours and moved in with 3 of my friends as well as dating drama , a lot of things happend this semester that hindered with my focus and discipline. Any advice on how I can get back on track

  14. Hello! I have a 2.7 GPA but have been averaging 172-175 on practice LSATs. I have been preparing for 6 months now and feel confident for the February LSAT.

    I have some strong soft factors, having 4 family members, including my father, pass away with the last 18 months. I dropped to a part-time student during two semesters following these losses to work so I could afford my education. I’m happy to say I am graduating a semester early!

    My home institution GPA is 3.45, however I took many community college courses and did poorly (due to working and grief) which significantly brought down my calculated GPA for applying. I would love to attend a T-30 program, but I would greatly appreciate your honest opinion of my situtaion.

  15. Hi! I am currently in my 3rd year of undergrad at Boston University. My major is human physiology and I’m pre-med so my GPA is pretty low (a 3.0). Lately I’ve been considering law school and was wondering my chances of admittance. I would like to stay in boston, possibly BU for law school. Will law schools understand that my GPA is low because I was pre-med? Or am I in bad luck? Thank you very much for the help!

  16. Hey i got a 142 on my lsat and i have a 2.7 gpa and im looking to go to touro law, ive been working in a law firm for about 6 years now. What are my chances if i apply before december for the fall 2017?

  17. I’m 29 years old now. I have a BS and an MS in Aerospace Engineering from two top Engineering schools, Penn State and USC. My Undergrad GPA was a 3.49 and my MS, completed while working full time, is even lower at 3.22.

    Still waiting to get back my LSAT scores, but let’s say I get a 170. What would be my realistic chances of getting into a T14? Will the difficulty of my degrees and the 7 years of work experience set me apart as a candidate schools would like to have? Would I need to retake to try to get 175+ to really increase my chances?

    • I was just browsing this forum with no intention of posting but your comment stopped me in my tracks. You have a MS in aerospace engineering, good grief, why aren’t you working in Aerospace? Why Law? If you were to ask me, I’d say your amazingly wasting your time.

  18. Hey, my GPA is pretty dang low. I have some reasoning behind it but beyond establishing a high GPA trend my senior year, there is little that I can do to change it. It is currently a 2.6 and I have yet to take the LSAT. I’d like to attend University of Georgia Law or Georgia State. Any chances?

  19. 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.

  20. 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!).

  21. 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?

    Thanks!

    • 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.

  22. 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?

  23. 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??

    Thanks,

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