Ask a Law Student: Master’s GPAs and personal statements

This is a new series I will be starting where you can ask me all your law school questions, and I will post them anonymously along with my response. Please feel free to send me your questions here, slide into my DMs on Twitter, or tweet with the hashtag #AskaLawStudent. Tell me what you would like your pseudonym to be, or I will assign one to you.

As of posting, I will not be a law student for another two months, so I can only answer questions about the admissions process. However, come fall, I should be able to start answering questions about 1L year and law school in general.

I will be the first to admit that I’m not an expert. I’m not a professional admissions consultant or LSAT tutor. However, I have learned a lot about the law school admissions process over the past year from reading various articles, looking at hard data, listening to podcasts and participating in forums. Hopefully I can shed some light on some aspects of the process for those of you who are going through it now.

 

Will the higher GPA I got obtaining my Master’s degree help my admissions process when my undergraduate GPA was in the lower 3’s? I’ve heard it helps, but not sure how.

Thanks,

Better Grad than Undergrad

As you begin your law school applications, you have probably heard a lot about rankings. Specifically, the US News and World Report law school rankings. Law schools care A LOT about these rankings and always want to be ranked as highly as possible.

The USNWR rankings are almost entirely decided by the LSAT scores and undergraduate GPAs of each school’s students. The higher the numbers, the higher the ranking. That is why your LSAT scores and GPA are the most heavily weighed components of your application.

As graduate GPAs are not factored into a school’s ranking, it has very little effect on your application. However, it will signal to the law school that you have become a better student since your undergraduate days, which could sway the admissions committee slightly. If you feel that your graduate grades are more representative of your ability to succeed in law school than your undergraduate grades, than you can attach a supplemental essay (usually referred to as an “addendum”) to your applications explaining your reasoning. However, don’t expect your graduate GPA to count for much.

 

What are topics you should stay away from when writing your personal statement? As in, are there overly discussed topics admissions is tired of seeing? If so – how do I make myself stand out without overdoing it?

-JRC

Most personal statements basically boil down to “Why I want to go to law school,” so it is natural to fear becoming a cliche. I think the best way to stand out is to let your voice shine through, and make it authentically you. You probably have a good reason for going to law school, so tell them the truth! Weave your reasons into a clear, coherent narrative that is representative of your personality. A flat, dispassionate essay will not be very compelling, so don’t be afraid to add some emotion. You want to prove to the admissions committee that you are confident in your decision to go to law school and your ability to succeed there. The fact that you love watching Law & Order or that you “wanted to be a lawyer since you were a kid,” are not very convincing reasons.

Some people talk about role models, or a legal situation that a friend or family member was in, as part of their reason for going to law school. Those can be great topics, but it is a personal statement, so make sure that you are always the focal point. You don’t want the admissions committee to walk away from your essay knowing a lot about your cousin’s drug conviction, and very little about you.

Leave out any overly flowery language. If you need crazy adjectives to make your essay sound smart, you probably need to work on your writing. Admissions committees will see right through that. Stay away from any weird philosophical discussions or legal arguments. This is not the place to prove to the admissions committee that you are very smart – your LSAT score and GPA took care of that part. You may think that submitting a unusually out-of-the-box personal statement will make you stand out, but it will likely reflect poorly on you. Law schools want to know that you can succeed within the constraints provided to you. Prove that to them.  

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