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The Splitter Struggle: What to Do If Your LSAT Score Is Great, But Your GPA Is Meh

  • by Gerry Hirschfeld
  • Oct 05, 2022
  • Admissions, Blueprint Products and Promotions, General LSAT Advice, gpa, high lsat score, LSAT, splitter

Picture this: A bright, promising student works tirelessly on mastering the ins and outs of a challenging-albeit-important-exam to reach their goal of becoming a lawyer. After months of hard work, our hero is ready for the big law school admission test. Their strategies are dialed. Their focus is razor sharp. They are ready! Several weeks later, the scores come out. The student anxiously looks up their test score … and … HUZZAH! It’s fantastic! The hard work paid off! Celebrations abound! But, alas, the celebrations cannot last forever because this student’s undergraduate GPA is … not so great. Our student is a “splitter.”

Sound familiar? Perhaps it sounds a lot like … you? So, how do you get into law school with low GPA?

What is a “splitter”?

“Splitter” is a term for  law school applicants who have a wide gap between their LSAT score and their undergraduate GPA. Typically, if your LSAT score is at or above a given law school’s top 75 percentile but your GPA is at or below that law school’s bottom 25th percentile, you are a splitter. However, this is law school dependent, meaning that you might be a splitter at one law school but not another.

For instance, if a student has a 168 LSAT score and a 3.3 GPA, then they would be considered a splitter if they applied to a law school that has a 162 average LSAT score range and a 3.65 average GPA. However, if that same student applied to a law school with a 158 average LSAT and a 3.3 average GPA that student would not be a splitter.

What is a “reverse splitter?”

On the other hand, the term “reverse splitter” refers to someone who has a comparatively high GPA relative to their LSAT score. Generally, it is advisable that this person attempt to retake the LSAT if they feel that their test score is not representative of their LSAT potential.

What should a splitter do when applying to law schools?

Applying to law schools as a splitter can be challenging because it is often difficult to determine which schools are “safety,” “target,” or “reach” schools. Accordingly, if you are a splitter, plan to do a bit more research to determine your law school list. It is not uncommon for splitters to cast a slightly wider net and apply to a few extra safety and a few extra reach schools.

When selecting your pool of potential law schools, group your schools into three categories, based on your LSAT/GPA split:

1. Presumptive admit (safety schools)

Try to apply to several schools where your GPA is above the 25th percentile and your LSAT is above the 75th percentile. These will be your safety (presumptive admit) schools.

2. Competitive (target schools)

Additionally, try to apply to several schools where your GPA is at or slightly above the 25th percentile and your LSAT is at or slightly above the 75th percentile. These will be your target (competitive) schools.

3. Reach schools

Finally, for reach schools, consider applying to law schools where your LSAT puts you in a competitive spot even though your GPA is below what that law school might be aiming for.

Generally speaking, if you are at the 75th LSAT percentile at a given law school then you can be at the 25th percentile for GPA. If your GPA dips below the 25th percentile you will want to be above the 75th percentile for LSAT by the same or a greater margin.

Can I explain how my grades are not representative of my law school potential?

Absolutely! But not in your personal statement. Instead, you’ll want to write an addendum explaining why your low grades are not representative of your academic potential. This explanation should be kept short and sweet, and you’ll want to cover two very important points:

  1. Explain why your low grades are not as stellar as they could have been. Effective explanations include things such as overcoming an illness, coping with family issues, and experiencing mental or physical hardship.

However, “I just didn’t try that hard when I was 18” will not be a particularly persuasive justification. Therefore, there must be a real, explainable justification for an addendum to be impactful.

  1. Explain why the issue is no longer a concern. Describe how you overcame the issue, and why it will not be deleterious to your law school performance. If you can show an upward trend in grades then this explanation will be even more persuasive.

All in all, an effective addendum will not eliminate the impact of your grades on your law school  admissions odds. However, it may convince a law school to place less of an emphasis on your grades and more of an emphasis on your LSAT score and other application factors.

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