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Getting Into Top Law Schools With Average GPA & LSAT

by Van Thompson, studioD

Top law schools are highly competitive, and even students with grade point averages close to 4.0 or Law School Admission Test scores in the 170s are sometimes rejected. Your LSAT and GPA are the most significant factors determining whether or not a law school accepts you, and you might not be able to get into a top law school with mediocre scores. There are, however, things you can do to boost your chances of admission.

Retaking the LSAT

Unlike your GPA, you can change your LSAT score with enough work. Retaking the LSAT is an option, and doing so may be a good idea if you didn't study much, were sick or otherwise underperformed on your first try. To increase your likelihood of getting a good score, begin preparing several months in advance. An LSAT preparation class or private tutor can help you determine areas of weakness, and taking regular practice tests can give you an idea of whether your score is improving.

Essay and Recommendations

Your personal statement and recommendation letters are chances for you to stand out, even if your application scores are average. If you've performed exceptionally well in a class or done an impressive independent study, ask your professor to point to this in your recommendation. If you've worked in the legal field as a legal secretary or researcher, get an employer to write you a glowing recommendation. In your personal statement, explain how your experiences make you a stellar candidate. If your mediocre scores are due to extraordinary circumstances such as the death of a parent or a serious illness, mention this but without making excuses.

Extracurricular Activities

The work you do outside of the classroom can make you a more well-rounded and attractive candidate. Get involved in your community by volunteering, tutoring others or even starting a community-based organization. If you've done something that requires lots of work, planning and intelligence, this can help counterbalance mediocre GPA and LSAT scores, so find an extracurricular project at which you can excel and list it on your application and in your personal statement.

Starting Elsewhere

If you don't get in on the first round, your best bet may be to begin at another school and then transfer. It's not common for law students to transfer, so you'll need to be prepared for the possibility that your first choice will never accept you. However, doing exceptionally well at a mid-range law school during your first year, getting involved in "Law Review," doing well in Mock Court and having stellar recommendations from law school professors can increase your chances of being able to transfer to a top-tier law school.

About the Author

Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.

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