Non-traditional student looking for advice/feedback

General admissions strategy questions, what are my chances, discussion of specific application materials like financial aid and scholarships.
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NCBartender15
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Joined: Mon Dec 28, 2020 10:50 pm

Non-traditional student looking for advice/feedback

Post by NCBartender15 » Tue Dec 29, 2020 12:53 am

Hi everyone

New here, I have been lurking around and finally decided to post. A little backstory on me, I am in my early 30's, when I was 16 I dropped out of high school; 19 joined the military; 23 started going to community college - took roughly 46 units with a whooping 1.64 GPA; 25 gave up on school and started a career; 31 started going back to school with the goal of going to law school. Would love to ADA or AUSA; or Big Law for litigation.

Since coming back I have earned a 3.63, unfortunately, when you add ALL the courses, as LSAC does, I have 2.52.

I was planning on applying next October so I still have some time to bump that GPA into something a bit more respectable. I was thinking of taking on a heavy course load by stacking the next couple of semesters with a few additional simple classes. I could probably get the GPA up to around 3.2-3.4, would anyone recommend this route or will this be plainly be seen by the adcoms as means to superficially boost my GPA? Could the fact that my subpar grades came from over 7 years ago be "discounted" (not in my GPA but in the minds of adcoms)? Could everything else since I restarted schools being A's and some B's be enough to show that I am no longer the student I once was?

Thank you all I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions.

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Stranger
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Re: Non-traditional student looking for advice/feedback

Post by Stranger » Tue Dec 29, 2020 8:12 am

Well, you're going to be a splitter no matter how you cut it, but absolutely get that gpa above a 3.0. As someone else who applied in my mid-30s with a 173/2.52, I can absolutely say a gpa that low will be an albatross that a stellar LSAT can mitigate, but not cover up.

Plenty of law schools will be willing to take you, if you can get a good LSAT score, but you're likely looking at significant debt. For instance, the best straight up acceptance I had was WUSTL, who offered no money. That might have been different with a higher gpa, but I passed on taking on 300K of debt there. I had waitlist spots at UVA, Northwestern, and Vanderbilt, but financially, wasn't in a position to ride those out. I wound up at W&L on a good scholarship. I'm currently a 3L with strong grades and no job lined up (1L was by far my worst year, due to untreated sleep apnea; 1L is also the most important year for lots of job stuff).

If you're serious about your goals, you need to do three things before you go to law school:

1. Max out your gpa. This is critical.
2. Max out your LSAT. You may need more than one take, but aim for 170+. You may need to sit out a cycle.
3. Be prepared to play the waitlist game. Some of the best opportunities for splitters come late in the cycle.

I don't know if you qualify for yellow ribbon funding. But that can change some of the decisions once you're deciding between schools. Good luck.

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Nony
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Re: Non-traditional student looking for advice/feedback

Post by Nony » Tue Dec 29, 2020 9:33 am

Stranger gives excellent advice. Adcomms won’t care if you take some easy classes to up your GPA; the higher GPA is more valuable than any hypothetical hit on rigor. But do the math to make sure you actually can bring the overall GPA up that high.

The fact that your bad grades are old and your recent stint in school has been more successful is better than the other way around, and will help adcomms believe that you’re capable of handling the work. The problem is that your GPA counts for rankings purposes as whatever it ends up being, so your actual ability isn’t really what schools worry about (very much). Your 2.52 or 3.2 or whatever it turns out to be is the number that factors into their medians. You’ll likely be a more desirable candidate than someone with the same GPA who’s a KJD who consistently got those grades throughout college, but your recent improvement won’t let adcomms simply overlook your GPA. Doesn’t mean you can’t have a good outcome with a high LSAT but it will be very hard to predict.

ADA is achievable from a wide range of schools, so if you can do well on the LSAT and get money from a strong regional where you want to live/practice, that’s a reasonable outcome. Biglaw gets much tougher to rely on the lower down the rankings you go. AUSA is rarely a job you get right out of school, so you’d have to start elsewhere anyway (probably ADA or biglaw), and then hiring can be very school-selective, but it varies by office.

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Slytherpuff
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Re: Non-traditional student looking for advice/feedback

Post by Slytherpuff » Tue Dec 29, 2020 9:35 am

Definitely take the time you need to boost your GPA - Stranger is right that you should be doing everything in your power to get your cumulative GPA above a 3.0. You'll be able to include an addendum with your application so you can explain why your community college grades should not be seen as reflective of your abilities, and the upward trend certainly helps. But at the end of the day, law school admissions still tend to be a numbers game. The admissions offices may want to look past your GPA but can't fully do that (and can't do that at all unless you have a stellar LSAT score). You should spend as much time as you can studying for the LSAT, even if it means you have to sit out an additional application cycle.

NCBartender15
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Joined: Mon Dec 28, 2020 10:50 pm

Re: Non-traditional student looking for advice/feedback

Post by NCBartender15 » Tue Dec 29, 2020 11:58 pm

Thank you all for the great feedback! It is very much appreciated.

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