The world of law school admission is a pretty weird place. According to many sources, your LSAT score is more important than your 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 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 those students 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.
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). But for the majority of law schools, you can make up for a lot of deficiencies in the grade department by blowing your LSAT out of the water. Figuring out what schools value more will require you to do some research—for a helpful tool to calculate get a rough estimate of your chance chances, you can enter your GPA and LSAT score here (I would recommend this site, which is an empirical analysis of students actual acceptance statistics, but it is not an official LSAC tool).
One question that comes up a lot in this discussion is whether students should try to explain their poor GPA or LSAT performance. The answer is on that you’ll get used to hearing a lot if you go to law school—it depends. If your reason for not having the best GPA is that you enjoyed your time in school too much or that you never went to class, then I probably wouldn’t try to address it. If you have a legitimate reason, or if you show a clear upward trend in performance, then you could consider including an addendum that tells your side of the story. A legitimate reason like that could even provide the basis for a personal statement (assuming it is interesting, engaging, and ties your other application materials together).
I’ve been fairly attuned to the law school admission process for several years now. I can say with complete certainty that both traditional and reverse splitters are able to achieve very good outcomes. If you’re unhappy with your performance on the LSAT or you didn’t quite put the pedal to the metal in undergrad, hope is by no means lost. Do your homework and figure out your best options for success in the admissions game.