How to Get Into HYS Without a High LSAT Score:
As you probably expect, most students at the top three law schools have LSAT scores somewhere in the stratosphere. But roughly 25% of the entering classes at Harvard, Yale, and Stanford have LSAT scores at or below 170. Every year some students with scores in the 150s and many in the 160s will be admitted. So how do you give yourself the best chance of being admitted from the large pool of applications with lower scores? Every other aspect of your application has to be top notch. The LSAT is supposed to be an indication of how you will perform in your first year of law school. If your score is low, the burden is on you to demonstrate that you are capable of excelling in a rigorous academic environment.
The best way to do this is with a strong undergraduate GPA. Your GPA is arguably a better indication of your academic potential than your LSAT score because it reflects your performance over four years rather than one day. Graduate study is another way to demonstrate your academic excellence. A stellar GPA from a graduate program can boost your academic record and make you stand out from the pile. But for most applicants, your undergraduate GPA is more or less fixed by the time you apply to law school and you may not want to enroll in an MA or MS program just to boost your chances of admission. You are left with your essays and letters of recommendation.
Take advantage of every opportunity to showcase your work/volunteer experience, intellectual depth, and writing skills by writing any optional essays. Make absolutely sure that you have zero errors. You don’t want to give your reader a reason to put your file in the “no” pile.
Academic Letters of Recommendation:
It will be particularly important to have stand-out letters of recommendation from professors who taught you in an academic setting. Choose recommenders who are familiar with your academic work and will speak to your superb analytical and writing skills. A quasi-academic recommender, such as a debate coach, is fine for a supplementary letter but be sure that your core letters are from professors who taught you in class.
Explain Your Low Score Briefly, but Focus on Your Strengths:
If there are extenuating circumstances that affected your LSAT score, use an addendum to concisely explain the issue. Do not use up valuable space in your 250-word essay or personal statement addressing your score. Use that space to build such a compelling application that they would be crazy not to admit you. Remember that Harvard, Yale and Stanford could fill their classes with applicants who scored above 170. They choose not to. Give them a reason to pick you by putting your very best self forward in your application.
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