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Law School Admissions Index
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Most law schools begin evaluating your application by determining your "index". This number (which varies from school to school) is made up of your undergraduate grade point average (GPA) and LSAT score, with the latter almost always given more weight.
What do schools do with the index?
While the process differs from school to school, it is generally the case that your index will put you into one of three categories:
(Probably) AcceptedIf your index is very, very strong compared to the schools' median or target number, you're in (unless you're a convicted felon or wrote your personal statement in crayon). Very few people fall into this category.
(Probably) RejectedIf your index is very weak compared to the schools' median or target number, you are probably not going to make it. When the admissions officer reads your application (yes, at most schools every application is read) they will be looking for something so outstanding or unique about you that they are willing to take a chance. Factors that can help here include ethnic or regional diversity or very impressive work or life experience. That said, not many people in this category will receive that coveted acceptance.
MaybeThe majority of applicants fall into this category, which is comprised of people whose index number is right around the median or target number. Why do most people fall into this category? Because people generally apply to schools that they think they have at least a shot of getting into based on their grades and LSAT scores; Yale doesn't see very many applicants who got a 140 on the LSAT.
What will determine the fate of those whose applications hang in the balance? First, law schools will look at the competitiveness of your undergraduate program. A person with a 3.3 in an easy major from a school known for grade inflation will face an uphill battle, whereas someone with the same GPA in a difficult major from a school that is stingy with A's is in much better shape. Second, admissions officers will look at the rest of the information in your application—personal statements, letters of recommendation, etc.—for any outstanding qualities.
Do grad school grades count towards my index?
Your grades in graduate school will not be included in the calculation of your GPA (the LSDAS reports only the UGPA, the Undergraduate Grade Point Average), but will be taken into account separately by an admissions committee if you make them available. Reporting grad school grades could be to your advantage, particularly if they are better than your college grades. Admissions committees are likely to take this as a sign that you've improved as you've matured.