5 Reasons to Strive for a 170+ LSAT Score
- Jun 01, 2022
- 170 LSAT, Admissions, General LSAT Advice, high lsat score, Law School, Law School Admissions, Law School Advice, Legal Life, LSAT
- Reviewed by: Matt Riley
Applying and getting accepted to law school is a numbers game. There are a lot of different numbers that figure into the law school equation and the decisions you’ll make in the application process: your undergraduate GPA, your LSAT score, where your score falls on the median for your prospective schools, the tuition costs vs. financial aid package that will determine if you can even afford your dream law school, and the potential starting salary figure waiting at the end of your law school journey.
Of all these numbers, the one that carries the most weight and ultimately determines all the others, is your LSAT score. What is a good LSAT score? Getting an average LSAT score of 170 (or higher) puts you in some rare air—the 98th percentile of all test takers. A score in that range can set an upward trajectory for your law school experience and future legal career.
Let’s look at five ways a 170 LSAT score can make a difference in your journey to and through law school and toward post-graduate job opportunities.
1.Greater Chance of Admission to Top Law Schools
At this point in your academic career, you know the impact one test score has on college admissions (assuming you’ve lived through the SAT). The higher your score, the more schools you have the potential to be admitted to, particularly top schools. So, how do you prepare for law school admission?
Law school admission works in much the same way, only more so. LSAT score and undergraduate GPA are the two most important factors in law school admissions. (Hey, we said it was a numbers game). The higher those numbers, the more admissions doors that will open to you.
An LSAT score of 170 pretty much guarantees you’re getting into law school. You’ve outscored 98% of all other LSAT test takers, so you’re automatically elevated as a desirable applicant. With this score, you’re not just “getting in” to “any” law school; you have the potential to be admitted to a top-tier law school. A 170 LSAT score places you, the test taker in the median score range at some of the top 14 law schools in the country.
The Top 14 (or T-14) are the Best Law Schools as ranked by U.S. News & World Report. This list includes schools like Harvard Law School, Stanford Law School, the University of Chicago Law School, Columbia Law School, and NYU School of Law, just to name a few. These schools have some of the leading law reviews, professors, and libraries (yes, libraries!) in the country, as well as top career placement (more on this later).
In ranking the T-14, U.S. News in particular looks at the undergraduate GPA and LSAT scores of incoming law students. Therefore, admissions committees have a very strong incentive to admit students who will help to maintain or even boost their numbers. Being at or above the median LSAT score of a school’s incoming class (the median being the LSAT score that falls in the middle of an incoming class’s score range) is a major plus for your admissions chances. A score of 170 puts you well above the median at most law schools and is competitive with the median of many schools in the T-14. So, be sure to check for LSAT prep services that can help you achieve this score or higher.
2. Balances a Lower GPA
After your LSAT score, your undergrad GPA is the second most important number admissions committees scrutinize. A ratio of 60% LSAT / 40% GPA is the estimated weight they carry in the admissions decision. Clearly, LSAT or the law school admission test has the greater value, and it’s the number you have the greatest control over.
By spring of your junior year (when most undergrads start the law school application process), the course of your GPA is pretty well set, a senior year Hail Mary notwithstanding. Putting all your energy into your LSAT prep to target a 170+ can balance out a lower GPA in your law school application.
Keith Barry, Blueprint Prep LSAT Tutor and Law School Admissions Consultant, explains it this way from his own personal experience: “Compared to your GPA, which is very hard to dramatically change, the LSAT is in your hands. I dedicated two years of intense study to reach a 180. I was driven by the knowledge that getting that one score would radically change my future prospects.”
3. Strengthens Application Weaknesses
While the numbers carry the most weight, there are other elements that comprise a law school application, including your work or internship experience, the strength of your personal statement, and your letters of recommendation. You want to position yourself as a well-rounded, standout candidate, but perhaps you don’t have any relevant work experience, or writing is not your strength. If there are weak spots in your application, the value of a 170+ LSAT score can overshadow them.
Why does this one test score carry more weight than any professional experience, four-years of academic work, or what any letter of recommendation says about you? From the perspective of the Law School Admissions Council (that’s LSAC, to you), it’s the best indicator of how well you can handle the rigors of law school and its reasoning-based curriculum. Because it’s a test designed unlike anything undergrads have encountered before, it demonstrates your ability for exceptional reasoning, not rote memorization. While you could argue one test score can’t definitively demonstrate this, it is the perspective admissions committees take as they’re reviewing and considering applicants. Your LSAT score will make or break your law school application.
4. Increases Scholarship and Financial Aid Opportunities
Just as that high LSAT score increases your likelihood of being admitted to a top law school, that score also has the potential of increasing your financial aid package—by a lot. Applying to schools where your LSAT score is at or higher than the school’s average score makes you a desirable applicant, and many schools are willing to pay to get you by handing out hefty scholarships. In fact, full-tuition law school scholarships are typically reserved for applicants with the highLSAT scores, according to U.S. News & World Report.
Much of the merit-based aid schools offer goes to applicants who can raise the score bar for the incoming class. So having an LSAT scoring of 170+ has the potential to greatly reduce the cost of your law school tuition and keep you out of debt. And with the average cost of law school hovering at around $153,804, the last thing you want to worry about is how you’ll pay it back.
When considered with your financial need and background, such as URM (underrepresented minority) status, a 170+ score could put you in line for other forms of financial aid, particularly from T-14 schools. For example, Stanford Law and Yale Law have expanded their need-based scholarships, waving tuition costs for low-income students.
Beyond tuition, there are other financial considerations for law school. Summer internships and summer legal jobs are an important part of the law school experience, but the majority are not paid. This means summer funding from your school is essential, and the T-14 schools provide the largest amounts of summer funding.
T-14 schools also have greater fellowship funding and more generous loan forgiveness programs, both of which are important for recent grads pursuing public interest law careers over “Big Law” careers and the big salaries that come with them.
5. Increases Earnings Potential and Rate of Employment
Speaking of Big Law and big salaries, a 170+ has the potential to get you both. Now, does this mean a 170+ LSAT score automatically equates to higher earnings? In an indirect way, yes. Employment and starting salary upon graduation do trend upward with LSAT score and school.
Let’s connect the score-to-salary dots. We’ve underscored how a 170 can catapult you into the echelon of T-14 law schools. The T-14 schools have long-standing relationships with the Big Law firms, with the majority of their associates coming from those schools. A first-year associate at a Big Law firm has a starting salary of $215,000, give or take a few thousand based on hiring trends and the economy. See the correlation?
A 170+ LSAT score increases your odds of being admitted to a T-14 school, placing you into the pipeline of on-campus interviews and early interview programs that feed directly into the major private sector law firms with the highest starting salaries in the country—and you only go up from there.
Even if Big Law isn’t your career goal, attending a T-14 school greatly enhances your overall job prospects and salary potential. Graduates of the University of Chicago and the University of Pennsylvania, two law schools ranked within the top six of the T-14 and with LSAT median scores of 170, can expect a median private salary of $190,000 and a higher rate of immediate employment—over 90% for UPenn graduates and nearly 95% for the University of Chicago.
Striving for a LSAT 170+ score is worth the time, money, and effort. It’s the one number that can determine the path of your law school journey and the trajectory of your career—and possibly the course of your entire life.
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