My son just finished applying to over 13 law schools and heard from all except one. I wanted to share what we learned about the admission process,which should help a lot of people.
1. Unlike undergraduate studies where the SAT is about 50% of the admission process, the LSAT represents about 65-75% of the admission process. I can’t emphasize this enough. It is the king, queen and prince of admission. A super GPA and bad LSATs are NOT going to get you into a top school. A fabulous LSAt and mediocre GPA will way outperform the reverse. You might question the reason for this significant importance of the LSAT. The main reason is the rankings. 25% of rankings take LSAT score, median GPA and percentage of appicants accepted into account. Thus, law schools will do anything to raise these factors.
2. Because the LSAT is so important, I recommend not only taking a course but preparing for it at least 6 months before you actually take the test and preferably a year or more. It is really that important. Be advised that the LSAT, unlike that of other standardized tests, is very hard to finish. It is a very time sensitive exam, almost like an IQ test in some ways. Amazingly, a few points on the LSAt make HUGE differences in admission chances, similar to the ACT. Seriously, there might be a three or four point difference between those in the bottom 25% of admitted applicants and the top 75% of admitted applicants.
3. If your LSAT is below the median shown for the school, your GPA should be substantially above the median.
4. Only the undergraduate GPA counts in admission. Graduate school grades are irrelevant. Yes, grad school grads might count as a decent soft factor,but they honestly don’t filter much into the admission equation regardless of how well you did in grad school.
5. Soft factors such as peer tutoring, college athletics, student body representation and work experience, even with a law firm, internships, and charitable endeavors are pretty much irrelevant. Although the longer you have been working , the less the undergrad GPA may be counted.
6. Some “soft” factors might have a slight effect on admission. Examples might be designations such as CPA, CFA etc. Other decent soft factors are superlative grad school grades, awards from employers ( with proof), written published books etc. Even with these, they only have marginal benefits. Your overall GPA and LSAT should be enough to make you competitive,which means near the median of accepted applicants. They won’t make up for low LSATs. Again the LSAT and GPA are kings and everything else is almost irrelevant. Say that five times. This includes work experience. Now if you were applying to a very top law school, these factors might give a slight edge at best.
7. I do want to say something about the personal statement. A well written, interesting personal statement can be worth a few points ( such as one or two) on the LSAT. Spend some time writing a strongly written statement.
8. Law school admission officers LIE. Make no mistake. If they can decrease their admitted student percentages based on total applications, they will because it factors into the rankings. We went to a law school career fair. We gave the admission officer my son’s stats along with other factors. Every school that noted that my son had a good chance for admission, rejected him. These admission officers lied right to our faces in order to increase their statistics. Yes, you can argue that I didn’t tell them everything, but I really did tell them alot. Also, he had great recommendations and had a strongly written personal statement. Trust me, many of these admission officers’ statements can’t be trusted.
Also, attending a top undergraduate school seems to be irrelevant. The main factors are LSAT and GPA and Personal Statement. Most other things , especially the cache of the school name, doesn’t matter. Please repeat this five times
9. Be aware that the legal market is particularly bad. Many kids from lower tier schools are not getting jobs or not getting decent paying legal jobs. If you don’t attend a top 10 school, you better do VERY well at the school that you are in. Even with a fabulous GPA,if you don’t attend a top school, you will have a hard time finding employment. It certainly is doable ,but you will find it tough. Make every connections that you can while in law school. Network like crazy or you will regret it.
10. many people think that they can transfer to a top school if they do well in law school. It is VERY hard to transfer to a much higher tier school from a lower tier school for several reasons.
First, most top schools will only take kids from lower tier schools who are in the top 1-5%. Moreover, the lower tier schools know that their top performers may want to transfer. Thus, law school grading, especially at schools in the mid to lower tiers, is abysmal. Thus, the grading is horrible and few achieve top grades. It is MUCH, MUCH harder to get top grades from a mid tier law school than that of undergrad. The only good news is that if you do well, law schools do tend to give out decent scholarships to their better performers at both mid tier and lower tier schools. This is obviously very different from undergraduate studies who won’t give out large scholarships regardless of performance
11. Your major is irrelevant. It is only the GPA and LSAT that really matters. Thus, a 3.6 in an easier major is better for admiossion than a 3.5 in a very hard major. Law schools do NOT factor in the hardness of the major or the cache of the school, as strange as that sounds.
Likewise, post college experiences such as grad school, work experience, etc. don’t count much either. It’s mainly about a formula that each law school uses which combines in some way the undergraduate GPA and LSAT. Each law school has a different formula that is usually kept secret. Baylor , however, has noted that they take the LSAT score and add ten times the GPA to achieve their formula. This is probably used by other schools as well.
Although I said this above in post one, it bears repeating. The LSAT is king. I know several people who graduated with a 3.9+ but a poor LSAT and didn’t get admitted into any top school. I know folks with a 3.3 but stellar LSATs that got into top 15 law schools. LSAT is king.
However, don’t think that because you didn’t do well on the LSAT or the reverse that this will be indicative of your law school performance. There are LOTs of outlyers where kids with low LSAT do well in law schools and kids with amazing LSATs don’t. Yes, there is a corelation,but I have found from the people that I know that the corelation isn’t as great as you would think.
In several cases where top GPA kid were rejected because of low LSATs, they all did very well in the law school that they attended, although it was a lower tier school. The LSAt is a strange test to say the least
12.Four options for law school admission.
Most people think that there are primarily three options for law school admission: accept and reject and waitlist. However, there is a fourth option. It goes by many names such as AAMPLE (Alternative ADmissions Model for Legal Education) among other names.
Basically some law schools recognize that the LSAT isn’t always the best way to evaluate applicants. Thus, they have an alternative program. This is an intensive summer program where kids take two law school courses. If they pass each course and get an overall 2.5 GPA or better, they are admitted to the law school
In addition, there is no minimum number of kids that must pass or fail. Traditionally, depending on the school, between 20%-50% of the AAMPLE kids get accepted to the law school.
Moreover, you don’t apply for it. Generally it is offered to applicants who might be a points or two below their standard lower 25% median for LSAT but who have an above average GPA or other compelling factors.
Is it worth it? Well, if you don’t have other good options, it is not a bad option. However, you would need to quit any job that you have in order to take this 6 week intensive program, and it is VERY intensive. It will also allow entry into schools that the student would not qualify for via the LSAT score alone.