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law | opinions & advice | applying to law school
Beyond LSAT Scores and Grades
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Are You More than Your LSAT Score?
Aside from LSAT scores and GPAs, what do law schools care about in deciding who's in and who's out? This is the eternal question. On the one hand, we should disabuse you hidebound cynics of the notion that they care about nothing else. On the other hand, those who harbor fantasies that a stunning application can overcome truly substandard scores and grades should realize that such hopes are unrealistic.
It appears that, within limits, most law-school admissions committees attempt to balance their emphasis on cold, hard numbers with a good-faith effort to understand the minds of the thousands of applicants they assess. It may well be true that the law-school admissions process relies too heavily on such impersonal criteria as the LSAT, but thoughtful consideration is given by admissions committees to what sort of human beings they admit.
Non-quantitative factors are particularly important at law schools that do not suffer from a lack of numerically qualified applicants. A "top ten" law school that receives ten or fifteen applications for every spot in its first-year class has no choice but to "look beyond the numbers," as admissions folks are fond of saying. Such a school will almost surely have to turn away hundreds of applicants with near-perfect LSAT scores and college grades, and those applicants who make the initial cut will be subjected to real scrutiny.
Less Competitive Schools
On the other end of the scale, those schools whose students are not generally among the numerical elite are just as concerned, in their own way, with "human criteria" as are those schools with an excess of high-scoring applicants. Given the vast annual surplus of applicants to law schools, all law schools are in a position to be selective. The fact is that many very capable people have relatively unimpressive GPAs and LSAT scores. The importance of the application is greatly magnified for these people, who must demonstrate their probable success in law school in other ways.