This post continues our 10-part series of posts on the Top Ten Mistakes That Law School Applicants Make.
The #8 Top Ten Mistake That Law School Applicants Make every year is…
THEY DON’T APPLY TO A DIVERSE SET OF SCHOOLS.
Diversification can help you with so many things: with picking a more successful investment portfolio, with achieving a higher bowling score by bowling with a diverse set of balls (different weights and styles for picking up different pins)*, and with having more success in law school admissions.
When I say “diverse” for law school applications, I mean diversity in terms of the school’s entering class GPA and LSAT. Here’s the breakdown that I recommend.
- 10% SAFETY SCHOOLS: your LSAT/GPA are at, or a little higher, than the schools’ 75th percentile
- 50% SOLID SCHOOLS: your LSAT/GPA are at, or very near, the schools’ median
- 40% STRETCH SCHOOLS: your LSAT/GPA are at the schools’ 25th percentile
Unless you’re extremely limited by location, I recommend that most people apply to 6-8 schools. So, for example, if you were to apply to eight schools, you’d choose one safety school, four solid schools, and three stretch schools.
What does 25th percentile, median, and 75th percentile mean?
The 25th percentile means that 25% of the students that entered that year had a GPA or LSAT that was at that point or lower.
The median is the GPA or LSAT score that’s right smack dab in the middle. It does not mean the mean or average GPA or LSAT score, just what’s in the middle.
The 75th percentile means that 25% of the students that entered that year had a GPA or LSAT that was at that point or higher.
What if I have a high GPA and low LSAT? Or a high LSAT and low GPA?
You’re what we call a “splitter.” Don’t worry. It’s more common than you think. If you’re in this situation, I recommend choosing schools based on your LSAT score. It’s not an exact science and it’s hard to know how each school will assess your numbers (some may value the GPA more than the LSAT and vice versa); thus, I recommend applying to 10-15 schools instead of 6-8. Also, choose two safety schools, rather than just one.
How do I find these stats?
To see a school’s stats for GPA and LSAT, go to each school’s website and/or visit the ABA Standard 509 Reports site. I use this site all the time. Pick the school you want, the year (select the most recent), and then click on “Generate Report.” You can then view or save a handy PDF report that lists the school’s 25th percentile, median, and 75th percentile for GPA and LSAT, as well as other helpful data for that entering class.
Law school admissions is partially objective and partially subjective. You don’t know all the people on each admissions committee and you don’t know who is going to react more favorably to your application. Don’t shut yourself out of having more viable choices by only applying to one or two schools or only applying to your very top schools.
Diversify your list and you’ll thank yourself later when you’re admitted to a good mix of schools, hopefully some with scholarships as well.
* My parents are big bowlers so I know more about the kinds of balls you’d use to hit a strike or pick up a spare than the average prelaw adviser.