Balance a 160s LSAT Score in a Law School Application

Shawn P. O'Connor
February 3, 2014

Welcome to the latest installment of Law Admissions Q-and-A, a monthly feature of Law Admissions Lowdown that provides advice to readers who send in questions and law school admissions profiles.

If you have a question, email me for a chance to be featured next month. This week, I address how to get into top law schools when your LSAT score is in the 160 range.

[Discover four ways to apply to law school with a low GPA.]

Dear Shawn: I am a current recipient of a prestigious scholarship with a well-substantiated disability, which, due to the Law School Admission Council's stringency, was not accommodated (this is the first and only test I have taken without accommodations). I took the LSAT twice, scoring both times in the 160s.

The rest of my application is, I believe, strong, and additionally aided by the adversity story that lies at its heart. In other words, there is reasonably compelling evidence that my LSAT score is confounded by my disability, and therefore has limited predictive power in my case. I have written an addendum stating as much, though I have not yet submitted my applications.

Before I hit send, however, is there anything else I can do to strengthen my application in light of my lower-than-desired LSAT score? -Undeterred by Disability

Dear Undeterred by Disability: Thank you for reaching out. It is unfortunate that you did not receive test accommodations, but you are correct that you can submit a strong application nonetheless.

To give you an idea of the possibilities, a number of Stratus Prep students with LSATs in the 160s have been admitted to Harvard Law and other top 14 schools. In most cases, the most effective strategy was to cast a wide net, applying to 10 or more schools, and write about ideas like personal background vs. academics, work experience and legal experience in their personal statements. They also demonstrated knowledge of and compelling interest in each of the schools to which they were applying.

Additionally, regarding your disability, be sure to cite in your addendum the accommodations received in previous tests you have taken, particularly the SAT or ACT. You should not complain about LSAC’s decision not to provide test accommodations.

Instead, simply state that you do not believe your LSAT score is an accurate representation of your abilities. Keep it as brief as possible. If you do not make a big deal out of it, neither will admissions readers. -Shawn

[Learn to manage a drop in your LSAT score.]

Dear Shawn: I hadn't been particularly concerned about my 3.45 cumulative GPA until I received my LSAT results. I had been shooting to apply in the 2014-2015 cycle to a bunch of schools between number 7 and number 35 in the national rankings, but I know that with my GPA and my current 160 LSAT, I don't have good chances.

I have already graduated so I can’t improve my GPA, but I'm strongly considering retaking the LSAT in June because I had been consistently scoring between 168 and 172 on my practice tests.

I know that to be a strong contender at these types of schools, I will likely have to score at least at the median, or even at the 75th percentile, on my next LSAT. Is there any other advice you have for me to help strengthen my application? Thanks! -To Retake or Not

Dear To Retake or Not: Thanks for your question. Because you were scoring 8-12 points higher on your practice tests, I recommend you try retaking the LSAT in June. You have plenty of time to resume studying or even take a class to ensure that you boost your score.

[Weigh GPA and scores when deciding to retake the LSAT.]

Furthermore, you can implement several of the strategies I mentioned to the reader above: focus on your personal background in your personal statement and tailor optional essays to each school. You may also wish to take a few extra courses, even though you graduated college.

It will not count toward your undergraduate GPA, but if you get A's, it will demonstrate your abilities and that you are committed to improving.

Good luck! -Shawn