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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 college 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 Top-14 schools, Berkeley and Stanford, for example, seem to place a premium on high GPA’s based on their medians (you can access the medians by clicking on the names of the schools here). 

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 subpar GPA scores. 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 above you can see that your chances of getting into any major law school increase significantly just with a 5-point increase. Blueprint LSAT students experience score increases of 11-points on average — by enrolling in an online course or signing up for classroom instruction you can transform your LSAT score, making the crucial difference between acceptance and rejection for your top choices.

Because it’s recommended to submit law school applications by November 1st you should sign up for a test date in the summer or before to know where to focus your attention during the application process. Waiting until later to take the test will make the admissions process unnecessarily stressful.

Worried about law schools weighing your lowest LSAT score? In 2006, the American Bar Association changed it’s 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, despite what many people say.

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.”

Knowing that and by using the LSAC’s law school admissions GPA calculator you can get an idea of what to expect. When compiling your list of ideal law schools after receiving your LSAT score you should apply to schools where you have at least a 40% chance of admission unless you enjoy throwing money away.

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 tells 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 admissions 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.

Performing your best on the LSAT isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. Subscribe to our blogs for important LSAT updates using the form at the top of the page, and browse our free resources to begin raising your LSAT score and making your low GPA less of an issue for your law school admissions process.