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Applying to Law School with a High GPA and Low LSAT Score

  • by James Finch
  • Sep 09, 2019
  • Admissions, LSAT

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Are you applying to law school as a splitter? A reverse-splitter? Super-splitter? Or are you just totally confused right now?

A “splitter” is a just a euphemism for someone with a significantly higher LSAT score than GPA, while a “reverse-splitter” is the opposite, with a higher relative GPA than LSAT score, with the two scores being separated by at least a quartile based on a school’s admissions profile. “Super-splitters” are those applicants whose divergence between the two scores is extremely pronounced, separated by at least two quartiles. For example, if the school you’re applying to has a GPA split of 3.5 as its 25th percentile, 3.75 for its median, and 3.9 for its 75th percentile, with LSAT splits of 162 for its 25th percentile, 166 for its 50th percentile, and 170 for its 75th percentile, someone with a 171 LSAT and 3.6 GPA would be a splitter, while someone with a 3.2 GPA and 175 LSAT would be a super-splitter.

As we talked about splitters a few months ago, we’ll be discussing the reverse-splitters today. The best news about being a reverse-splitter is that it’s a situation that can be remedied. While your GPA is already set (unless you’re taking the LSAT really early in college), the LSAT score is something that can go up, and schools generally only care about your best score. So the best remedy for the reverse-splitter is to go out and get a better LSAT score with the best prep you can get. There are LSAT prep online courses as well that can help you increase your LSAT score.

But what if you’re determined to apply with the score you’ve got? The first step is to target schools that are reverse-splitter friendly. Many schools put a premium on both LSAT and GPA, but some have disparities one way or the other that you can use to your advantage. Do your research and make sure you have a solid shot before wasting valuable time and money applying to a school that will reject you based on numbers alone. Being a reverse-splitter will require some extra work to explain the situation to the admissions department, and it’s always best to give each school an application tailored to that school. Most importantly, make sure your application is as good as it can be (outside of that pesky LSAT). Work with your references to fine-tune their letters of recommendation, get as much experience as possible in legal and leadership positions, and anything else that would fit into the values that your target schools extol.

An addendum explaining why the discrepancy exists is also a must. This is separate from and complementary to a personal statement, but functions as an extension of that personal statement, allowing you to explain away any weaknesses in your application. Highlight your strengths while carefully explaining why the low LSAT score isn’t reflective of your abilities; if possible, do this by tying your personal situation to the school you are applying to. Maybe you’ve always struggled with standardized tests, or English is your second language and that makes it difficult to finish the sections in time. If the schools place an emphasis on diverse experiences, highlight why your unique experiences would enrich the student body; if they seem to value overcoming adversity in their marketing materials, emphasize how much adversity you’ve overcome, including the LSAT.

Lastly, and this applies to all admissions/job interviews/life in general, schmooze. Go to the school and do your best to convince everyone there how awesome you are and what a mistake it would be to reject you based on one lousy test score. This isn’t guaranteed to work — I had one student tell me a top-ranked public school absolutely loved her but couldn’t admit her based on her LSAT score being out of their range — but it can’t hurt. And I’ve also heard plenty of stories of reverse-splitters being admitted to some top schools despite relatively low LSAT scores, but based on other factors (being ex-military, for example, is a huge bonus as an applicant). So leverage every advantage you have, and don’t be defeatist about a low LSAT score.

Still, the ideal situation is to bring your LSAT score in line with or above your GPA. In the long run, nothing correlates better with starting salaries out of law school than LSAT score, and law schools still generally care more about the LSAT than GPA (although exceptions may exist). It’s always better to write an addendum explaining why you were able to improve your score so much between the first and second LSAT sittings than one explaining why your best score is so low. There’s always time to get it up, and it’s absolutely worth making the effort to do so. And if you need any help getting that score up, we can help you figure out where you need the most help.

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