Question about Graduating Early / GPA

<p>I am a junior at Dartmouth. I have the opportunity to graduate this May (in 3 years) with a B.S in economics. I would have around a 3.79 LDSAS GPA by then. As my dream is to attend Harvard Law School, I originally planned on staying another semester or year to finish another major and hopefully raise my GPA a little bit. </p>

<p>However, the opportunity has come up to finish in May and do a 1 year masters program in economics (same institution) instead. I believe this would be the better opportunity. </p>

<p>My question is: how would HLS view someone in my position? Would they view it favorably as I will apply with both a B.S and M.A after 4 years?</p>

<p>Also, would they consider my grades in the masters program as part of my LSDAS GPA? Surely these grades would have some bearing on admissions?</p>


<p>If you get your degree this May, that will set your LSDAS gpa in stone. Grades in master’s program will NOT count towards you LSDAS gpa. However, if you can arrange to get both degrees simultaneously, they will count, at least if they are included on your undergraduate transcript. </p>

<p>Getting a master’s within 4 years will be a very, very, very, very, very [repeat a dozen more times] slight favorable soft factor for your app. It won’t help you as much as having an undergrad gpa above 3.8.</p>

<p>I’m going to disagree with jonri’s post based strictly on anecdotal info. I have never been in law school admissions, so this is just my opinion. My niece had a BS in Biology and was completing her masters when she applied to law schools. Her lsat was under 170 yet she cleared the wait list at Stanford. Admittedly, Stanford is known for liking hard science majors, but I think her masters was the distinguishing factor that moved her off the wait list. Accordingly, I think you would be better served by the master’s degree than just an unnecessary 4th year of undergrad.</p>

<p>Stanford’s 25th percentile for the LSAT is 167. A sub-170 getting in really isn’t that remarkable.</p>

<p>The Master’s will do absolutley nothing to help you at Harvard. With a 3.79, you would likely need at least 176 LSAT to have a shot at Harvard. Raising your GPA would be much more helpful for admissions.</p>

<p>I don’t understand why this would not factor in admissions. Does not graduating in 4 years with a B.S and M.A in economics an achievement? </p>

<p>Do law schools receive just your LSDAS GPA number and LSAT score and use only that in making admissions decisions for the 1st few rounds/cuts?</p>

<p>A big reason why you might not benefit much from obtaining a Master’s Degree stems from U.S. News and World Report’s law school rankings. These rankings do not take any GPA into account other than what you earned as an undergrad. Since law schools covet a high ranking, they often favor applicants with a high UGPA over those with a Master’s Degree and a lower UGPA. That said, you could certainly make up for a low GPA by studying extra hard for the LSAT; at Harvard, the LSAT is undoubtedly the most important factor in admissions, with undergraduate GPA coming in second.</p>

<p>I don’t claim to be an admissions officer either. I would suggest that the OP talk to the pre-law adviser at Dartmouth, who ought to know what (s)he is doing. But , frankly, I haven’t a clue as to why Anne’s niece’s experience is relevant. </p>

<p>Stanford is Stanford. Harvard is Harvard. It is quite common to get into one and not the other. From what I can figure out, they use different admissions models. Stanford emphasizes gpa. It ranks second among all US law schools in terms of median gpa. While the LSAT is a very important factor there, it is less important than it is at Harvard. Stanford’s median LSAT is SIXTH among US law schools. The median LSAT is 170. That at Harvard is 173. I don’t know when Anne’s niece was accepted, but the most recent stats on the admissions site show a 25th% LSAT of 167. So, if Anne’s niece had a 167 or better, as Mike said the admission isn’t really that startling. Moreover, the niece is female. While I can’t give you a citation to prove it, my impression is that the distribution of LSAT scores among females is somewhat different than that among males. It follows the distribution pattern on the SAT. Women “bunch.” Fewer women have really high scores and fewer women have really low scores. The end result is that IN THE AGGREGATE women at the very top law schools have slightly lower LSATs than their male classmates and slightly higher median GPAs than their male classmates. The niece’s “issue” was the LSAT. The OP’s “issue” is gpa. The niece’s master’s is in science. The OP’s would be in economics–one of the most common pre-law majors. Moreover, Yale and Stanford are known to weigh the soft factors more heavily than Harvard does.</p>

<p>Bottom line: I honestly don’t see why anyone would think that Anne’s niece’s experience getting into Stanford off the waiting list with a lowish (by Stanford stardards) LSAT is relevant to someone else getting into a different law school with a lowish (by Harvard standards) GPA. The fact that the niece got into Stanford with a LSAT below 170 and a master’s in science is not even anecdotal evidence for the argument that someone else will be more apt to get into Harvard with a master’s degree in economics than (s)he will if (s)he can raise his/her gpa above the 25th percentile. </p>

<p>For the Class of 2013 at Harvard Law School, the 25th percentile for gpa is 3.78. The OP is predicting an undergrad gpa of 3.79. There is a good chance that the current 3.78 will increase in the next two cycles, in which case, the OP’s gpa will fall either right at or below the 25th percentile. </p>

<p>Can I say that this will keep him/her out of Harvard? Of course not. I’m guessing. In this case, I think after reflection that it’s particularly important for the OP to talk to the pre-law advisor and ask to see the grids, which will show the range of gpa’s/LSATs of Dartmouth students admitted to Harvard Law. If HLS routinely dips somewhat lower into the class at Dartmouth gpa-wise , then maybe my advice is wrong. </p>

<p>But I also think there’s a good chance that the OP can arrange things at Dartmouth so that (s)he gets both degrees simultaneously. If (s)he can, then I think that’s probably the best path to take. </p>

<p>If not, then --while I agree with you that for every other purpose in the world it makes more sense to get a master’s–I suspect that when your gpa is right on the cusp of the 25th percentile for the current class, it’s more important to get your gpa safely above that unless the 25th % ile gpa accepted from Dartmouth and/or the median gpa of students accepted from Dartmouth is markedly different than those for the class as a whole. </p>

<p>We do know for a fact that the LSDAS gpa is frozen once that first bachelor’s degree is received. We also know that of the 3 top law schools, Harvard places the most emphasis on pure numbers. So for this particular candidate, I think boosting the gpa is more important than getting the master’s. </p>

<p>If the OP’s gpa were higher, I’d give different advice. I might give different advice if the OP had already taken the LSAT and had a sky high score. But with an unknown LSAT and a gpa just barely clearing the 25th percentile, I’d focus on boosting the gpa. </p>

<p>Again, I admit this is pure speculation on my part. But I hope that makes my reasoning clear.</p>

<p>Jonri is correct inasmuch as he advises you to check with your pre-law advisor at Dartmouth. All you can get from those of us on this forum who are not currently in law school admissions is our opinion. I would still think that having a masters in econ vs. a run of the mill B.S. in econ would help your app stand out. (Certainly, when it comes to OCI, a master’s will help your cause assuming you have the grades, too.) Bumping your gpa a couple of hundredths won’t mean anything anyway unless you nail your lsat. Until you’ve booked your lsat score, this is all just long-winded speculation. Good luck!</p>

<p>One more quick comment to the OP. Let’s pull the lens back for a bit. Is your goal strictly to go to HLS or is it to have a successful career, perhaps in Big Law making partner? At the risk of another anecdote, I know of a recent HLS grad who is currently working at Blue Cross Blue Shield. Going to a top law school is no longer the guarantee it once was for a great job in light of the economy and the current glut of lawyers. You have to do well wherever you go. As a former partner in Big Law who did a lot of interviewing, a master’s in econ would help your resume stand out. (Of course, you have to have the grades, too.) Moreover, if you get into the practice of law and decide it is not for you (fairly common at about the 3 year mark), I would think you could more readily get into a PhD program at that point. There are lots of JD/PhDs around for that reason. In any event, good luck with whatever you decide.</p>

<p>what is OCI?</p>

<p>“On campus interviews.”</p>