Top Ten Mistakes That Law School Applicants Make: #8


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…

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!

Photo Credit: tom.leuzi via Compfight cc

8 thoughts on “Top Ten Mistakes That Law School Applicants Make: #8

  1. Peg, I’m on the waitlist for a school and I plan to visit within the next week. However, the waitlist decision said “Do not submit any new materials.” I’m assuming this means that I should not send a LOCI. Will my campus visit win me brownie points without the LOCI to talk about what I learned from it?

    Thanks so much!

    • Annie, it’s good that you’re following their directions. If they don’t want any more materials, no need to submit a LOCI. But that’s great that you’re visiting the school in the next week. Smart move. Make sure to have a meeting with one of the admissions officers while you’re there and ask any questions that you have about the school or the wait list process. After you leave, they will likely put a post-it in your file or note that you came for a visit. It helps. Yes, I think your visit will win you some brownie points. 🙂

  2. Hi again Peg! I’ve narrowed down the school search to 10 schools. They are in the 1st tier and 2nd tier. I am seeking transfer but I don’t see a lot of info on their numbers for transfers. The ABA website was a good help though. Considering I am what you call a “splitter”, a good GPA but low LSAT, do you think I should go for more schools? Should I concentrate more on safety schools than in solid or stretch schools?

    • Jose, I’m confused by your question. Aren’t you currently finishing up your first year of law school this spring? Because when you apply to transfer to another law school, you are going to send an official transcript from your law school and your LSAT is not considered. They’re focused on your first-year grades, along with your personal statement, resume, 1-2 letters of recommendation, etc. The LSAT is not a factor. In terms of grades, you want to be in the top 20-25% of your class or higher.

      I’m concerned that you’ve chosen so many schools. No, I would not recommend more than 10. 10 is already too many in my opinion. Usually transfer student know which state they want to practice law in and choose accordingly. Are there several states that you want to practice law in and that’s why you’re choosing so many schools?

      • Yes, there are several states where I am considering to practice and that is why there is a broad range of schools. Should I then stick to a maximum of 6-8 schools? I though that the LSAT was a factor but thank you so much for clarifying that!

        • Yes, I think you’ll do better if you choose 6-8 schools max that really appeal to you. I recommend that you tailor your personal statement to each school. You need to make a good case as to why you’re transferring there and why that particular law school and/or city/region is a great match for you.

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