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

Photo by Gustave Deghilage under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license

The world of law school admission is a pretty weird place. According to many sources, your LSAT score is more important than your undergrad GPA. Make sense, right? After all, it isn’t like there’s another way of evaluating your academic ability like, say, a grade point average that takes into account your test scores and performance in classes over a four-year period…

Although the focus on the LSAT is probably a little annoying for the 4.0 GPA’s of the world, it is a blessing for law school applicants who…may have been a little more focused on who they knew rather than what they knew.

If you’re in that camp, and you have a high LSAT score but a low GPA, this post is for you. From here on out, I’ll be making a lot of references to “splitters”—that is a shorthand term for people with wide splits between their LSAT score and GPA. The “traditional splitter” has a high LSAT score and a low GPA; the “reverse splitter” has a low LSAT score and a high GPA.

How Important Is Undergrad GPA for Law School?

Ready for some shocking news? Your LSAT score is the most important variable in the law school admissions process. Okay, maybe that isn’t revelatory news, but prepare for part two: your undergraduate GPA is almost as important as your LSAT score, and some schools really prioritize GPA based on the current law school rankings

As I already mentioned, the LSAT is often the focal point of law school admissions. Now, that is a generalization—for some schools, GPA matters more than LSAT, or at least equally as much. If you’re looking at the T14 law schools, for example, seem to place a premium on high GPAs based on their medians. 

If you maintained a squeaky-clean academic record throughout your college career this isn’t a problem — in fact, the annoyance is undoubtedly that you have to prove your worth again with the LSAT. However, many bright students have a lower GPAs. This can happen for a variety of reasons: maybe you experienced medical or financial hardship in college, or maybe you spent more time “networking” (partying).

In any case, here’s how to get into law school with a low GPA!

Blow Your LSAT Score Out of the Water

The two quantitative elements of your application are your LSAT score and your GPA: the higher your LSAT score the more likely you are to get into any particular law school. It’s basic math!

Using the LSAC’s admissions calculator tool can help you see how your chances of getting into any major law school increase significantly just with a 5-point increase. Blueprint LSAT students experience score increases of 15 points on average — if that’s not enough motivation to increase your score, we’re not sure what is!

The key to a good LSAT score is undoubtedly having enough time to prepare for it without feeling rushed. Since it’s recommended to submit law school applications by November, you should sign up for a test date in the summer or earlier. Waiting until later to take the test will make the admissions process unnecessarily stressful because you’re worrying about LSAT prep and your law school application.

Worried about law schools weighing your lowest LSAT score? In 2006, the American Bar Association changed its requirements from schools reporting their students’ average LSAT scores to schools reporting only their students’ highest LSAT scores. Meaning schools will only take your highest LSAT score into consideration, which is good news if you’re considering retaking the LSAT.

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Do Your Research

It’s important to be realistic when choosing what law schools to apply to, but this doesn’t mean you have to aim low. Instead, use the LSAC’s UGPA/LSAT Search to determine the percentage chance you have to get into any particular institution based on your GPA and a theoretical LSAT score. It’s possible to find law schools with low GPA requirements using this tool, but do additional research on each school’s website to see what their admissions process and priorities are, as well.

For instance, U.S. News & World Report found that, “the average median GPA among the 10 law schools with the lowest GPAs is below a 3.0 on a 4.0 scale, where a 4.0 corresponds to a straight-A average and a 3.0 corresponds to a straight-B average. That means some law schools welcome B-minus college students.”

Can I Explain My Low GPA for Law School?

Yes you can! First, ask yourself, “Do I have a good reason for my low undergraduate GPA?” If the answer is, “No, I just partied too hard,” make your peace and move on. However, if your circumstances in college led to a less-than-ideal academic performance you should include a short (one-page) addendum with your application materials that tell your side of the story to provide context for admissions officials.

Legitimate barriers include:

  • Medical issues
  • Financial strain
  • Death or illness of a family member
  • Other serious circumstances that would affect your performance

Craft a Stellar Law School Application

Many students who score well on the LSAT have gone on to study at top law schools with a mediocre GPA. Increase your chances of admission by submitting a great LSAT score and rounding out your application with stellar materials. Here are the best ways to make your law school application stand out:

  • Nail your law school admissions interview. Request an interview and make a lasting impression. Research the school, craft compelling answers to common questions, and formulate tough questions of your own. Read our 5 tips for an exceptional law school interview.
  • Submit a great résumé. Boiling down your entire life history and work experience onto one page is a daunting task, but those who excel in this arena catch the admissions panel’s attention early in the process. Learn how to write a great law school résumé.
  • Acquire well-written letters of recommendation. This process is nerve-wracking, as you can’t read over your recommendation letters before you send them off — your fate doesn’t seem in your own hands. However, follow our tips to get better letters of recommendation to increase your chances of someone else putting your best foot forward.
  • Send a riveting personal statement. Many law school hopefuls skimp on the personal statement, sticking to cliched stories and refusing to make their voice unique. Read how to write your best possible personal statement to stand out in a crowded field or check out a sample personal statement.

Performing your best on the LSAT isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. Get started for free to begin raising your LSAT score and making your low GPA less of an issue for your law school admissions process.