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09/04/2019

Could I Get Into An Ivy League Law School?

QUESTION
Could I Get Into An Ivy League Law School?
I’m a sophomore at the University of Texas at Austin and have a 4.0 GPA I want to know if I have a chance of getting into Columbia Law or the like if I maintain a 3.8 GPA or higher and get a 170 or higher on my LSAT. Is there anything else they consider? Are grades enough to get into an Ivy Leauge law school? I know I can make the grades, but in a highly competitive admissions process, I know more is considered.

ANSWER
Hey Aaron,

If you’re aiming for Columbia Law (or the like), then you’re going to have to get more than a 170 on your LSAT. Here are the GPA and LSAT ranges that the top four law schools like to see:

Yale – 3.81-3.96 GPA, 171-176 LSAT
Harvard – 3.78-3.96 GPA, 171-176 LSAT
Stanford – 3.74-3.94 GPA, 167-173 LSAT
Columbia – 3.61-3.82 GPA, 170-175 LSAT

As you can see, the only school where a 170 is well within the range they accept is Stanford. For the other three, a 170 is either or below the lower end of the spectrum. Aim for a 173+ to really maximize your chances.

Your GPA is excellent. Do your utmost to keep that 4.0. If not, a 3.8 is good (but not great). When you start looking at school of the caliber of Columbia and such, the higher your numbers, the better positioned you are. A 4.0/173 is much, MUCH better than a 3.8/170.

You’re right in assuming that schools at this level look at more than just scores and numbers. Essentially, all of the other elements of your application will also be looked at. They are:

► Your personal statement. This is the creative essay you will write and include with your application. Many students write about why they want to attend law school; while this is definitely a worthwhile topic, it is not necessarily what you must write about. The personal statement is the one part of the application that you have complete control over, which is why it is also one the most important after your numerical indicators. It shows law schools your writing abilities, judgment in selecting a topic, and ability to engage an audience. The University of Chicago Law School has some great tips on what they look for and what to watch out for an avoid in a personal statement: http://www.law.uchicago.edu/node/1451

► Your letters of recommendation: I would say that these are second in importance to the personal statement, although they are certainly not unimportant by any means. The LORs allow law schools to hear others talk about your academic, personal, and extracurricular achievements and abilities. AdComs can tell a lot from your letters, what is written in them, and who wrote them for you. If it is obvious that you chose someone that doesn’t know you at all, simply for the sake of having someone with an impressive title write your letter, then that speaks very poorly of you. If you chose someone who knows you extensively and wrote a glowingly positive letter filled with personal anecdotes, then that speaks highly of your choice. If you (God forbid) chose someone who writes a negative letter, then it calls into question your judgment. As you can see, it is not just about what’s in the letter, but also what can be surmised from it that matters. A good letter should be lengthy, overwhelmingly positive, and filled with stories that only someone you have worked with closely would be able to write.

► Your résumé: This will tell law schools a number of things – What you were/are involved in, what you chose to showcase, how far you’ve risen within the leadership of any groups you are in, what you’ve done for employment, etc. It essentially tells the story of your life outside of the classroom. This is why it is important–it lets them have a glimpse into an area of your life that may not be addressed elsewhere (unless you choose to discuss a previous job or activity in your personal statement).

► Your transcript: Although your GPA will be the primary element that will be gleaned from your transcript, a number of other things can be surmised as well: Your major (and the relative difficulty of it), your grade trends (did they go up consistently? Did they start high and continue to stay elevated? Did they go down as you went through school?), and your course selection (is your transcript filled with elementary and introductory classes? Did you choose high-level courses?).

Although it is doubtful that any of these elements will hold as much weight as your GPA/LSAT combo, in the event that there are other qualified candidates with your same credentials (or in the event that you are a “splitter”–i.e., someone with a high LSAT but low GPA, or vice-versa), then these “softs” will play a much bigger role, and may even end up playing the determining role in your admissions decision.

There are a few others that could come into play (addenda, any additional essays), but the four above are the main ones.

I hope this was helpful! Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.