The bulk of this column will be about the LSAT and law school. But before I begin, a word of warning: before even considering going to law school, make a pros and cons list for attending law school, as well as a list of schools that you’d want to go to. Don’t go to law school unless you’re positive you want to go to law school. Don’t go to law school unless you get into a good law school with good employment prospects. There are too many horror stories of people graduating with $150,000 in debt and a $16 per hour job — don’t become one of them.
Onto the topic at hand. The first major part of law school admissions is your GPA. Unfortunately, Princeton’s tough grading will work against you here, as you will be competing against students from schools with easier grading. The prestige of the Princeton name will help, but only slightly. The average GPA for admits at Yale Law School is 3.93, and at Harvard it is 3.86; you will be judged against that benchmark.
My advice for dealing with GPA is take easy classes and choose an easy major. According to the report on grade deflation, the departments with the highest percentage of A’s are SLA, COM, GER, and NES.
The second major part of law school admissions is the LSAT. This is the more controllable part, especially if you are reading this as a junior or senior. This does not mean it’s easy, however. I am a tutor for the LSAT, GMAT, and GRE, and the LSAT tests verbal skills more than any other test I have taught. You will need excellent reading comprehension and logical skills to do well on the LSAT, and you will need to prepare extensively.
Start by preparing on your own. Buy the LSAC’s LSAT books, the only books with the official exams, and begin with the more recent tests. Whichever test you take will be difficult, and you will likely be baffled by some of the test. Don’t worry! There are free answer explanations online for the tests. I’d recommend starting by looking at LSAT Hacks for your answer explanations; once you understand the explanations for the questions you got wrong, and once you are able to do them without looking at your notes, take another test. Rinse and repeat. This will be hard work, but it’s the best way to get a good score.
If you get stuck on a section, like Logic Games, start by looking around for free resources. 7Sage, for instance, is a good website that provides free assistance with Logic Games. Tutors are expensive, so they should not be your first choice. Books, like Mike Kim’s LSAT Trainer LSAT Trainer or the Powerscore LSAT Bible, are also good alternatives, if free resources aren’t cutting it.
Be cautious before enrolling in an LSAT class; these are expensive and are designed for the average student. They are good for getting that student a pretty good score, but they cannot get you the score you need to get into a top law school. As I mentioned previously, if you can’t get into a top law school, you should think very hard before attending law school at all.
Your letters of recommendation and your personal statement are factors which also make a difference in your application. These factors are less important than GPA and LSAT scores, but you still shouldn’t neglect them. To save space, however, I won’t talk about them in this column.
Finally, being a URM, or underrepresented minority, also makes a huge difference in your law school application. This is not controllable, but if you are African American, Native American, Puerto Rican, or Mexican American, you will have a significant advantage in law school admissions. For instance, according to myLSN’s data, 0 percent of non-URMs get into Harvard with a 167 LSAT and 3.7 GPA. Fifty percent of URMs do get into Harvard with those stats.
Remember to check off this box if it applies and, if you’re Native American, to include your tribal affiliation number.
To sum up, GPA, LSAT, and the URM box are the three most important factors in law school admission. Of those, the LSAT is the most easily controllable, but you have to be intelligent about how you approach it. Your letters of recommendation and personal statement are of lesser importance, but you still should take care of them.
Trevor Klee ’15 is a Boston GMAT, GRE, and LSAT tutor. He can be reached at www.trevorkleetutor.com.