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bar examAre you applying to law school with a low undergraduate GPA? First, know that you are not alone. Several students apply to (and get into!) law school with a lower-than-they’d-like undergraduate GPA.  In fact, since there are fewer applications to law school now then there were, say, ten years ago, you are even more likely to get accepted at a decent school despite a lower GPA (and perhaps even get a scholarship at some law schools!).

(Note that it is important to be realistic. Some schools where the competition is super-stiff, like Harvard, Yale, etc., are unlikely to accept you without a near-perfect application. However, you still have a shot at very decent law schools, especially if you are applying when law school applications are down, like they are now!)And even if you are applying to law school with a low undergraduate GPA, there are still several things you can do improve your law school application and your prospects of getting accepted to a law school of your choice.

Applying to Law School with a Low Undergraduate GPA – Five Tips to Consider:

1. If you are still in undergrad, then work hard to achieve a high GPA! Get your GPA up as much as possible to offset your low-to-date GPA. Another alternative that some students pursue if possible (and if practicable), is to extend their time in undergrad. If this is a possibility, then get that minor you were thinking about or consider extending your education a little bit longer. (Note: we do not recommend doing this if it will put you much further in debt and if your only goal is to improve your GPA to improve your chances of getting into law school. However, it is an option to consider.)

2. Get a stellar LSAT score. This is so important! The good news is a high LSAT score can truly help offset a low undergraduate GPA.  For better or for worse, most law schools weigh your LSAT score and your undergraduate GPA about equally (and many even give your LSAT score more weight!) when deciding whether to admit you. This means a four-hour test is worth four years in undergrad. That is both terrifying and exciting! Dedicate a lot of time to the LSAT — even more than three months to it — and put yourself in the absolute best position to pass it. Do not skimp on buying resources, enrolling in a class, or hiring a private LSAT tutor. A lot is riding on your LSAT score, especially if you have a low GPA. Make the most of it!

3. Write an addendum that explains your low GPA. We do not recommend this to all students. If you received a low GPA all four years of college because you partied, were immature, and missed a lot of class, then it probably isn’t worth it to say that in an addendum. But if you were ill, or if there was an emergency, death, sickness, or unexpected occurrence in your family, or some other extenuating circumstance,  write an addendum explaining this.

Another thing to look for is if you had a low GPA your first year (or a very specific time period) in college but then really improved thereafter. In this scenario, you may want to explain that you were immature during that time period but then took school seriously the following years.  Keep your addendum short and sweet. Don’t make excuses. Take responsibility but explain the factors contributing to a low GPA to demonstrate that it will not reflect your work ethic in law school.

4. Make sure your application is spotless.  Get solid recommendation letters that attest to your hard work and discipline. Spend a lot of time on your personal statement to make sure it is well-written. Don’t cut any corners. You want an overall sterling application!

5. Apply to a lot of law schools. You may be surprised about where you get in, especially if you are able to achieve a high LSAT score ( you are a “splitter” and some schools may be happy to accept your credentials!).  Don’t only apply to your “hopeful” schools — apply to a wide range of schools and see what happens!

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The JD Advising Scholars Program was instrumental to my early success in law school. I was not only assigned a tutor, but I was also given study aids, invited to exclusive networking events, and paired with a mentor from Skadden (who sponsored my scholarship). By leveraging these resources, I finished my first semester of law school with grades substantially higher than the median in my class. Additionally, the strong connection I had with my mentor, along with my grades, ultimately helped me secure a 1L summer associate position with Skadden in their Los Angeles office! I truly believe that if it wasn’t for the JD Advising Scholars program, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

- R.G., UCLA School of Law