Law school admissions experts say it’s important for J.D. hopefuls to realize that highly ranked law schools prefer to admit applicants with stellar college grades. So applicants to elite schools who lack an impressive college transcript need to compensate for that academic weakness in order to get accepted, experts warn.

Erin Goodnow, co-founder and CEO of the Going Ivy admissions consulting firm based in Arizona, says that selective law schools typically have many more applicants than spots available, and these schools are determined to enroll only the most promising aspiring attorneys. Prestigious J.D. programs use undergraduate GPAs as a tool to identify the J.D. applicants who are the "cream of the crop," she says.

Although top law schools will occasionally admit students who lack high GPAs if they have other qualities that compensate for that deficit such as an outstanding admissions essay or LSAT score, this is rare, Goodnow says. These institutions usually err on the side of admitting applicants with high GPAs, she notes, and she urges J.D. applicants with low GPAs to be realistic about their admissions chances at exclusive J.D. programs.

Goodnow says the extraordinary selectivity of top law schools puts significant academic pressure on college students who hope to become lawyers. She advises college students who dream of attending a top law school to earn grades as high as possible, because grades are a major factor in the law school admissions process.

"College is not particularly a time to find yourself anymore," she says. "It’s a time to prove who you are and prove that you are material for these top schools."

Goodnow argues that GPA is the No. 1 most important factor in law school admissions, but some other law school admissions experts suggest that standardized test scores are the most important factor and that GPA is the second-most important factor. However, regardless of whether they believe GPAs or test scores are more influential in the J.D. admissions process, experts emphasize that these two statistics matter.

GPA figures that 193 ranked law schools submitted to U.S. News in an annual survey clarify what GPAs were typical among entering law school […]

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