Bad First Semester Law School

<p>Here goes... I was a pre-med at Cornell and hated it. I didn't enjoy the material or the professors and ended up with a pretty terrible GPA(2.5, mostly from a C- in Chem). I decided that Biology wasn't for me and switched my major to Econ. The second semester I worked my butt off and got a 3.85. I had always liked the law but due to the negative public opinion of lawyers never pursued it until college when I decided I really don't care what others think. I really want to get a JD or an MBA/JD now, but I am worried that due to my poor performance my first semester I won't be able to get into a good law school. I currently have a mediocre 3.2 but thankfully am only one year in. Is there any way law schools will see my upward growth, and would applying after graduation help my chances? Also do law schools cut cornell students some slack because grading is more harsh than peer institutions?</p>

<li><p>Grading is not harsher at Cornell than at peer institutions.</p></li>
<li><p>Law school admissions is far less GPA-centric than med school admissions, which bodes well for you. Your LSAT score and to a lesser extent your GPA will determine the law school you get into.</p></li>

<p>A close family member of mine (to whom I will unimaginatively refer as “CFM”) graduated with a 3.2 GPA from a prestigious Ivy-League school (to which I will unimaginatively but accurately refer as “Princeton”). This low GPA was due to a tough start (and some laziness) and a very demanding major, in addition to Princeton’s overt policy of grade deflation, which has come into play in recent years at that school, and which policy is a source of much frustration among many of its undergraduates.</p>

<p>CFM applied to law schools, and was unhappy, although unsurprised, to learn that the admissions committees did not “cut any slack” for the low GPA, even though the degree was from Princeton, and even given the difficulty of the major (math/science). The grade trend was strongly upward (even included one A-plus, which is quite The Thing at Princeton); the extracurriculars were good; there were two years of relevant and interesting work and research experience; and the recommendations were outstanding. This was all good, all fine. But law schools live and die by the all-important numbers (LSAT and GPA scores) that are used in determining the all-important law-school rankings. The law-school admissions committees (“adcoms”) will like to see your upward trend in grades, and they will appreciate your degree from Cornell. However, the law schools admissions process is ruled by the NUMBERS that they must, perforce, REPORT to the RANKINGS GODS (primarily USNWR). The adcoms do not have the luxury of separately reporting GPAs for “Ivy League applicants” and “applicants from Brand X Mediocre State School.” (In this respect, law school admissions is quite, quite different from undergrad admissions, which would view a 3.2 from, say, Andover, very differently than a 3.2 from an unknown, rural school in “Outer Mudslump, Population 536, average per capita income: $14,210 and 3 hogs, iffen th’ weather’s good.”)</p>

<p>In the case of CFM, a 99th-percentile LSAT, in combination with other factors cited above, saved the day, and CFM was admitted (yet, via waitlist) to a top-six law school… But it was touch-and-go until late May. (By the way, law schools, also in contrast to undergrad schools, care very little about your personal statement–unless it indicates that you are a URM.)</p>

<p>Get the GPA up, and keep it up. Do not look upon the LSAT as a “formality.” Keep your nose clean (no disciplinary infractions; you will have to disclose these). And good luck!</p>

<p>See forums at for very useful (and sobering!) information.</p>

<p>As hinted above, your chances at a top law school will be tenuous. However, an upward trend in GPA and an excellent LSAT score will probably at least get you in contention, and you could still have an excellent chance at a good law school. If law school is your goal, you should focus your class selection on ones where you can easily get A’s (normally I hate giving out ends justify the means type advice). Hopefully your freshman year wasn’t a heavy load, so that your low GPA doesn’t represent a lot of credits and thus your freshman year would be less than 25% of your cumulative GPA.</p>

<p>My older brother, who also went to Cornell, was pre-med and graduated with a biology major and a <3.0 GPA. He decided during his junior year that he didn’t want to go to med school, and ultimately decided to apply to law school. He did really well on his LSAT and got into several top 30 law schools, and even a top 20 school. Many law schools are numbers-based and a very high LSAT can offset a low GPA at several good law schools.</p>

<p>You have three more years left to raise your GPA…if you know you want to go to law school, take a gap year after you graduate so you’re applying with all 4 years of grades. </p>

<p>Try to pull a 3.6+ and you should be good to go.</p>