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SneakySuspect

Should I be Concerned Attending a School Where my LSAT & GPA are Below Medians?

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Having a hard time putting my thoughts into words here:

I can't help but think that I'll be setting myself up for a greater challenge by attending a school where I'm below the median LSAT/GPA compared to a school where I am at or above those 'markers.' Is there any merit to this thought? 

For example, I'm certainly below the LSAT/GPA medians for Oz. Law school is competitive (grades, OCIs, placements in clinics/journals/moots/RAs) and I'm worried about qualifying for opportunities among peers with a higher LSAT/undergrad GPA. (I understand undergrad GPA & LSAT may not have a direct effect on these opportunities, but I have moderate confidence in undergrad GPA/LSAT as predictors of law school success.) But another part of me thinks the AdCom knows what they're doing and if they think I can handle it, I should believe in myself.

I haven't otherwise had much doubt or insecurities about going to law school. This seems to be the one thing that had me concerned about my abilities.

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1 minute ago, SneakySuspect said:

...another part of me thinks the AdCom knows what they're doing and if they think I can handle it, I should believe in myself.

After you're accepted, you're on even academic ground with everybody else. Your high school grades only mattered for admission to undergraduate programs, just as your undergraduate grades and LSAT will only matter for admission to law programs. 

Yes, the LSAT and your GPA can be good predictors of law school success, but what will matter more is your drive to learn, grow, work hard, and succeed. 

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1 minute ago, dwesc92 said:

After you're accepted, you're on even academic ground with everybody else. Your high school grades only mattered for admission to undergraduate programs, just as your undergraduate grades and LSAT will only matter for admission to law programs. 

Yes, the LSAT and your GPA can be good predictors of law school success, but what will matter more is your drive to learn, grow, work hard, and succeed. 

The high school analogy helps, thanks!

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The LSAT score and undergraduate grades are just a series of snapshots of your potential. It is like the parable of the blind men and an elephant; where a group of blind men each touches a part of an elephant whether a tusk or a leg or a trunk and then describes the elephant. Each has subjective value but even together they are limited.

What matters is you. The single mother working multiple jobs to scrape through university who couldn't afford LSAT prep could easily to outperform those metrics. 

From my experience, it is extraordinarily rare for law school students who work hard not to ultimately be okay.

I would also say that in my law school, there were many students that had quite impressive backgrounds (e.g. doctorates with publications) and as a group they did no better than anyone else. 

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There's no reason to be concerned, I've talked to plenty of students who were surprised to get in with their stats and who are at the top of the class and doing much better than others academically and professionally. LSAT & GPA are, to a certain extent, not the best indicators of who will succeed in law school.

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I'll also add (I'm a 0L so I'm just making an assumption here from my personal case) that I was working full time and studying for the LSAT and scored a 159. I studied on weekends for about a month. People I know studied for 3-4 months as a "full-time job" treating the LSAT as their 9-5 6 days a week and scored 1-3 points higher than me and got into similar schools. 

I don't think their score in this situation is a reflection of them being smart than me and more likely to succeed in law school. I think it just says that they were more prepared and put in the effort required to get a better score, where I didn't, and I will in law school when that's my sole focus. 

My undergraduate GPA is also right around the median, but I know the program that I graduated from is nationally recognized as being very strong, so I think that will serve me well.

I will also be below the median but I'm not worried. 

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1 hour ago, SneakySuspect said:

Having a hard time putting my thoughts into words here:

I can't help but think that I'll be setting myself up for a greater challenge by attending a school where I'm below the median LSAT/GPA compared to a school where I am at or above those 'markers.' Is there any merit to this thought? 

For example, I'm certainly below the LSAT/GPA medians for Oz. Law school is competitive (grades, OCIs, placements in clinics/journals/moots/RAs) and I'm worried about qualifying for opportunities among peers with a higher LSAT/undergrad GPA. (I understand undergrad GPA & LSAT may not have a direct effect on these opportunities, but I have moderate confidence in undergrad GPA/LSAT as predictors of law school success.) But another part of me thinks the AdCom knows what they're doing and if they think I can handle it, I should believe in myself.

I haven't otherwise had much doubt or insecurities about going to law school. This seems to be the one thing that had me concerned about my abilities.

I think it depends. Did you work hard and that was the best you could do, or were you unfocused and distracted and have now fixed that and are prepared to put in the work to do better? Was your undergrad in an area that measures different skills than law?

If you worked hard in undergrad and did reasonable prep for the LSAT and still got below 3.5 writing papers, regurgitating readings and applying logic, and a score of 160, yes, I would be concerned about your abilities, but on the other hand, law school is a fresh start and people who did well in undergrad don't necessarily excel in law school, and vice versa.

48 minutes ago, IrishStew said:

I'll also add (I'm a 0L so I'm just making an assumption here from my personal case) that I was working full time and studying for the LSAT and scored a 159. I studied on weekends for about a month. People I know studied for 3-4 months as a "full-time job" treating the LSAT as their 9-5 6 days a week and scored 1-3 points higher than me and got into similar schools. 

I don't think their score in this situation is a reflection of them being smart than me and more likely to succeed in law school. I think it just says that they were more prepared and put in the effort required to get a better score, where I didn't, and I will in law school when that's my sole focus. 

My undergraduate GPA is also right around the median, but I know the program that I graduated from is nationally recognized as being very strong, so I think that will serve me well.

I will also be below the median but I'm not worried. 

There are people in law school who didn't study much or at all for the LSAT and scored in the high 160s or 170s. There are people who studied on weekends for a month (which to me is a fair bit of studying) and did that. There are also people who go to elite universities and get high grades, some while working, raising families etc. Some have both high grades and high LSATs and amazing personal circumstances/ECs. Those people are your competition in law school, not the ones who had to study for four months full time and still only got 160. Don't make excuses for yourself or underestimate the competition. I'm not saying this for you to go in feeling inferior or scared, but most people find 1L very intimidating due to the sheer quality and talent of the people around them. Humble yourself, and then tune out the noise and work hard.

Edited by providence

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3 minutes ago, providence said:

There are people who studied on weekends for a month (which to me is a fair bit of studying) and did that

I wouldn't consider 40 hours of total studying to be a lot or the LSAT, but my main point was that there is much more of a story behind a GPA and an LSAT score and that everyone comes from a different circumstance. For every working parent who studied on a whim for the LSAT there is also a student right out of undergrad who began prepping for the LSAT the summer after their sophomore year and took the test 4 times. These applicants may have the same score, but I don't think that score is a predictive measure to say they'll have equal success in law school.

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9 minutes ago, IrishStew said:

I wouldn't consider 40 hours of total studying to be a lot or the LSAT, but my main point was that there is much more of a story behind a GPA and an LSAT score and that everyone comes from a different circumstance. For every working parent who studied on a whim for the LSAT there is also a student right out of undergrad who began prepping for the LSAT the summer after their sophomore year and took the test 4 times. These applicants may have the same score, but I don't think that score is a predictive measure to say they'll have equal success in law school.

40 hours is a lot for a test that doesn't technically require studying at all.

My point is that you can be a working parent who studied on a whim for the LSAT and score 165 or 170 or 175. More to the point, if you (generally, not YOU) use "being a working parent" or "not being rich" or anything else as an excuse as to why you are not excelling, you set yourself up to.... not excel. Life distractions and problems and less optimal circumstances do not go away just because you got into law school. If you have trouble balancing other areas of life, whether it's parenting or anything else, with doing your absolute best, this will continue in law school.

I am speaking from experience here, since I'm not sure if you know - I finished undergrad and all of law school as a working, single parent, and I did not allow myself to use that as an excuse not to excel. Many of the other parents I went to school with would say things like "I have kids so I just can't study that much and I'm fine just getting Bs or even Cs - if I didn't have kids I'd get As" or "all these people getting As have nothing else to do but study all day and I can't do that." They gave themselves excuses and fulfilled their own predictions.

There will always be the privileged people who had the time and money to study full-time for the LSAT and take it 4 times, yes. But in law school, it's your innate ability to grasp the material that counts. And having the confidence to know that you've always been able to grasp high-level concepts and apply them and this is just more of the same will go a lot further than having 8 hours to sit in the library with both your textbook and facebook open.

Edited by providence
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1 minute ago, providence said:

40 hours is a lot for a test that doesn't technically require studying at all.

 

I agree with the rest of your post, even though it's somewhat unrelated to my point, and I think it is an important lesson that you can have a self-fulfilling prophecy going into law school. My point is that there is a story behind your GPA and LSAT and your scores are not necessarily accurate predictive measures of how well you'll do in law school because someone with the same scores may have had easier or more fortunate circumstances that gave them the same scores. 

Yes, sure a working parent can get a 170 without studying. You're just moving the scale. My point is that I am more inclined to believe that a working parent who scores a 170 on a whim will outperform a student who scored 170 after studying for a year and taking the test multiple times. Substitute working parent for whatever group of people you wish - any group that needs to perform at a high level (and does) without the same time available as another group (i.e. varsity athlete, parent, full-time worker, etc). 

I am however going to contest you assertion that 40 hours is a lot of time to study for the LSAT... Take one look at this forum to see the number of people who ask questions like "should I take the test for a 4th time?"...  Look at the number of posts where people are looking for a tutor as well, or looking to buy books. There's an entire sub Reddit dedicated to the LSAT where I've read many posts about students studying for the LSAT for more than a year to get the score they desire.

I think it's extremely common for undergraduate students who don't have any dependents to set aside time significant time to study for the LSAT. This is definitely less common for the same groups I mentioned above because they don't have that kind of time. 

Like you said the test technically doesn't require any studying at all, but I don't personally know anyone that went into that test room without any sort of preparation and scored to the best of their ability... If you took 4 prep tests, reviewed them properly, and drilled down logic games for a few hours here and there those 40 hours add up quick over the course of a month. 

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30 minutes ago, IrishStew said:

I agree with the rest of your post, even though it's somewhat unrelated to my point, and I think it is an important lesson that you can have a self-fulfilling prophecy going into law school. My point is that there is a story behind your GPA and LSAT and your scores are not necessarily accurate predictive measures of how well you'll do in law school because someone with the same scores may have had easier or more fortunate circumstances that gave them the same scores. 

Yes, sure a working parent can get a 170 without studying. You're just moving the scale. My point is that I am more inclined to believe that a working parent who scores a 170 on a whim will outperform a student who scored 170 after studying for a year and taking the test multiple times. Substitute working parent for whatever group of people you wish - any group that needs to perform at a high level (and does) without the same time available as another group (i.e. varsity athlete, parent, full-time worker, etc). 

I am however going to contest you assertion that 40 hours is a lot of time to study for the LSAT... Take one look at this forum to see the number of people who ask questions like "should I take the test for a 4th time?"...  Look at the number of posts where people are looking for a tutor as well, or looking to buy books. There's an entire sub Reddit dedicated to the LSAT where I've read many posts about students studying for the LSAT for more than a year to get the score they desire.

I think it's extremely common for undergraduate students who don't have any dependents to set aside time significant time to study for the LSAT. This is definitely less common for the same groups I mentioned above because they don't have that kind of time. 

Like you said the test technically doesn't require any studying at all, but I don't personally know anyone that went into that test room without any sort of preparation and scored to the best of their ability... If you took 4 prep tests, reviewed them properly, and drilled down logic games for a few hours here and there those 40 hours add up quick over the course of a month. 

Raising my hand to the bolded. There's a few other posters on here who have said the same.

I agree with you that someone who scores a 170 effortlessly is likely to do better than someone who has to study their butt off to get a 170. But I thought we were comparing someone who scored below the median with people who scored above it. And my point was that you can't use not having time to study as an excuse to score below the median when there are people who also did not have time to study who scored above it.

I was shocked to realize all the studying that goes on for the LSAT, honestly. I think there are some people who have enough natural ability that studying can help them, but there are also a lot of people who can study day and night and still not do very well, and we see that here too. 

*to be fair, I did do some preparation - I worked through one practice test. I think most people at least do that but I can believe there are people who don’t do a thing. 

Edited by providence

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1 minute ago, providence said:

And my point was that you can't use not having time to study as an excuse to score below the median when there are people who also did not have time to study who scored above it.

This just adds more noise to the equation and further shows that every score has more to it, so you can't read scores as black and white success predictors

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1 minute ago, IrishStew said:

This just adds more noise to the equation and further shows that every score has more to it, so you can't read scores as black and white success predictors

I'm not sure what you're talking about. I don't think I or anyone else said that an LSAT score is a black and white success predictor. There is nothing written anywhere that says if you get over 175 you will get As and if you get below 155 you will get Cs. Of course not.

I was responding to the idea that a person can get a lower score in the 150s because the reason they got in the 150s was that they only studied 40 hours because they were working, and the 150s score doesn't truly represent their abilities. My point is that only studying 40 hours and working do not preclude a higher LSAT score, so if you want to compare apples to apples, a person who studied 40 hours, worked and scored 168 would have better abilities than you, and there will be people like that in your class as much as there will be people who studied 300 hours, didn't work and barely cracked 160. Number of hours studying is also not a black and white predictor of LSAT score.

HOWEVER, you are right that getting in the 150s doesn't mean you can't be a top student at law school and it probably has happened. If something was going on personally at the time of the LSAT that is fully resolved by law school or something of that nature, sure. Sometimes people just unexpectedly take to the material in law school. I don't disagree. 

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2 hours ago, providence said:

I'm not sure what you're talking about. I don't think I or anyone else said that an LSAT score is a black and white success predictor.

The thread is literally titled: "Should I be Concerned Attending a School Where my LSAT & GPA are Below Medians?" 

OP is asking if his/her LSAT/GPA matter for law school success. I said no, because there is a lot of noise in the data points of your LSAT/GPA score that are not accounted for. One of those externalities is limited studying, and an example given was that two people with the same score will not necessarily have the same success. 

I think you're making this much more complicated than it is. 

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1 hour ago, IrishStew said:

The thread is literally titled: "Should I be Concerned Attending a School Where my LSAT & GPA are Below Medians?" 

OP is asking if his/her LSAT/GPA matter for law school success. I said no, because there is a lot of noise in the data points of your LSAT/GPA score that are not accounted for. One of those externalities is limited studying, and an example given was that two people with the same score will not necessarily have the same success. 

I think you're making this much more complicated than it is. 

At least one school has been tracking this analytically and does believe there is some predictive value in GPA and LSAT so v :) v

Edited by Rashabon
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This conversation got derailed in several different directions. Here is the only answer you really need.

What you are asking, basically, is whether or not you're better at an objectively "easier" school, where you hope to look better in contrast to the students around you. Applicants often ask the opposite question also, based in the view that it's better to be average from a school like U of T and try to coast on the school's reputation, rather than trying to be above average at a less impressive school. Both of these questions miss the basic and obvious point that however good a student you turn out to be, you are going to be exactly that good (not better, and not worse) wherever you end up. And both of these questions are based on trying to create the illusion that you are better than you really are, and hoping to trick future employers on that basis.

We could have an elaborate conversation here about how employers view U of T vs. (random example) Ottawa, or how they view the Windsor Dual program vs. Lakehead. But it hasn't escaped anyone's notice that different law schools admit different cohorts of students and create different levels of competition as a result. I won't pretend all employers get it "right" or even that there is a "right" answer. Is a student in the top quartile of the class at Western the equivalent to a student who's just moderately above average at Osgoode? Who the hell knows? Employers try to figure it out. So do applicants, sometimes. But here's the catch.

In order to use game theory appropriately, you need to be operating under better information than the people around you. In order to game out whether it's better to go to a "harder" school and appear more average, or to an "easier" school and do better against the class, you have to know more than employers do about what's really going on. Because they are trying to figure it out too. Which is the better candidate? And how completely divorced-from-reality-arrogant do you have to be, as a know-nothing applicant to law school, to imagine that you are going to operate on better information than the law firms that interview candidates every year in order to make that decision? Remember, you are not a better or a worse student no matter what you do. You're just trying to fool them into thinking you're better than you are. How the hell do you propose to do that, when you know nothing and they know quite a lot about the legal market?

So the answer is, don't even try. Don't try to game your way through this. If there even is a "right" choice, your odds of making the right decision are no better than a coin toss. Do whatever you want to do based on whatever other criteria make sense to you. And do as well in law school as you can, obviously. Because that's all you can control.

Edited by Diplock
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15 hours ago, Diplock said:

however good a student you turn out to be, you are going to be exactly that good (not better, and not worse) wherever you end up.

I'm with you on this. ^

If I'm correct, though, law students are assessed relative to their peers for competitive opportunities such as moots, RAs, journal editorships, etc. So I'm concerned I will get fewer opportunities at school X than school Y, given that I am below the median GPA/LSAT at school X and am at, or above, the medians at school Y. But I am open to the possibility that there is no merit in this line of thinking. Perhaps there isn't any logic in thinking "If I'm below the median LSAT/GPA, I'm less likely to qualify for experiential opportunities."

But yikes(!) to this: 

15 hours ago, Diplock said:

trying to create the illusion that you are better than you really are, and hoping to trick future employers on that basis.

I'm not looking to go to an "easy" school. (If I were, I'd accept the offer from school with the lowest GPA/LSAT among the offers I receive, which I've already turned down). Nor am I looking to trick future employers. I am torn between two schools, and I am concerned I'll have less access to opportunities at one than the other because I am below the medians. I'm looking to access these opportunities to develop skills and gain insights. I would think this would reflect that I want to qualify for employment, not trick my way in. 

My goal is to gain experience. I want to qualify for moots and other experiential learning opportunities. To qualify, it's typically not the case that one needs to meet a threshold, and everyone who does, gets picked. Instead, it's typically the case there are limited spots and you need to be a competitive applicant. And when I say competitive, my focus isn't even on being the best or better than x% of my peers. I'm only concerned with myself: will I be competitive enough that I get selected for the moot/RA position (etc). 

I'm concerned that if I'm below the medians for school X, my odds of being selected for a moot, or RA position (etc) are slimmer than at school Y where I'm at or above the medians. But if I'm in the top 50% of students at school X and in the top 20% of students at school Y, but in either of these positions, I'm being chosen for competitive opportunities, then I'm happy. It's not about being the best or being better, it's about accessing opportunities.

Holding the ratio of opportunities to students constant (ie controlling for number of opportunities and number of students), does being below the school's medians mean the odds are that I'll have a harder time qualifying for experiential opportunities?

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Getting picked for a moot isn’t based on grades, but how good you are on your feet and how well you speak. The best litigators aren’t always the best academics.

In my experience, some profs did look at grades for RA jobs, but they also considered engagement in class, interest/experience with the subject matter etc. They like the students who regularly attend class and office hours, e-mail them with questions, etc.

PS: I didn’t think you’re trying to trick employers into thinking you’re better than you are, but that you’re anxious about doing as well as you can. 

Edited by providence
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I'm not trying to use the word "trick" in a negative light. I'm trying to draw attention to the fallacy of logic at the heart of an exercise where students worry about how they best "look" to employers, and somehow avoid the obvious realization that agonizing over how something looks is implicitly the opposite of addressing how something is.

I skipped past concerns about opportunities in law school. Frankly, there are more than enough to go around - at least that's been my experience. You really are over-thinking things to a ridiculous degree if this is a primarily consideration in your decision-making. Law school is three years of your life. After that, you are entering into a legal profession where you can't wall yourself off from competition with anyone. And it's absurd to try.

I'm paraphrasing something I said elsewhere (and where I probably said it better) but in this profession feeling innately superior or innately inferior to any other colleague is a gross mistake. You'll find yourself out in the legal marketplace where some junior lawyer you've never heard of knows something that you don't know, and the feeling you have nothing to learn from them will only make you worse. You'll also have situations where you find yourself litigating opposite someone who went to a "better" school than you did, and who has 30 years more experience. And if you can't stand your ground against that other lawyer, you don't belong in the courtroom.

You can't be worried about how well you'll compete against any cohort of law students. It only gets much, much more real from this point forward.

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On 4/18/2019 at 1:58 PM, providence said:

if I didn't have kids I'd get As" or "all these people getting As have nothing else to do but study all day and I can't do that."

Well, isn't it true to some extent? 

Edited by krnprykt

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