The GPA You Need To Get Into a Top Law School
A strong GPA is still one of the biggest assets when it comes to acceptance at a top law school.
Ilana Kowarski, a reporter at US News, recently spoke with experts on the GPA averages that applicants will need when applying to L14 programs – and those law schools that fall outside this group.
“If you have the strongest story and some amazing circumstances in your life, or you get a perfect LSAT score or something like that, that can definitely compensate, but you have your work cut out for you,” Erin Goodnow, co-founder and CEO of the Going Ivy admissions consulting firm, tells US News.
Grades Are Major Factor In Acceptance For Top Law Schools
Goodnow argues that GPA is the number one most important factor for admissions in law school. And GPA is exceptionally important when it comes to selective law schools.
“College is not particularly a time to find yourself anymore,” she tells US News. “It’s a time to prove who you are and prove that you are material for these top schools.”
Check out the average median GPA for 2017 incoming law students, according to US News, below.
Source: US News Data
According to US News data, there is a striking difference between GPAs for incoming students at top-10 law schools compared to GPAs at all other ranked law schools.
In a recent Tipping The Scales report, we found that over the past four years, the top three law programs—Yale, Stanford, and Harvard—had slight dips in undergrad GPAs while still maintaining relatively the same average LSAT score range. One top law school, New York University, saw the opposite. It’s average LSAT scores had dropped two to three points each way, while its average undergraduate GPA rose from 3.54-3.84 to 3.65-3.89.
Overall, the general trend is that average GPAs still remain strong. 12 of the top 20 law school show higher averages at the top 75th percentile over the past four years, with 9 others boasting higher averages in the bottom 25th percentile.
“GPAs are attractive because they provide a hard number that law schools can track and control via who they admit, and because they allow admissions officers to instantly compare GPAs between students, which is not something so easily done for extracurriculars or career achievements,” Dave Killoran, CEO of the PowerScore test prep firm, tells US News. “In short, law schools love a standardized, universal metric when evaluating applicants.”
Applying To Law School With A Low GPA
If you struggled throughout your undergrad years and still want to apply to law school, it will be more difficult, but not impossible.
Experts say polishing other aspects of your application will be crucial if you have a lower undergrad GPA to show.
According to Jon Denning, the vice president at PowerScore, “undergraduate GPA is typically the most fixed application element for students in their senior year (or beyond), so if that number is below the median at a target school it becomes all the more critical that other, less predetermined factors – the LSAT above all – are as impressive as possible,” he tells US News.
Matthew Wilson, a District of Columbia criminal defense attorney, says that law school applicants who have law industry work experience may be able to combat a low undergrad GPA by highlighting their professional accomplishments.
“Many law school applicants are several years removed from the undergraduate education and have spent time working in the ‘real world,'” Wilson tells US News. “A glowing letter of recommendation from an employer, especially from a law firm or legal organization, may be much more important to an admissions officer than undergraduate grades that are several years old.”