Disclaimer: My post will come off as blunt and possibly overly harsh, but I think you need a slight reality check.
My apologies if this belongs in the "what are my chances?" section.
I am at the end of my undergraduate career at the University of California, Irvine, and I will be finishing with around a 3.2-3.3 and a Bachelors in Business Economics, with a Russian Language minor (Im fluent).
I was one of those "smart kids" who never really studied or did homework, and just relied on test scores to lead them through. I got a 2170 on the SAT never having studied a day for it, and preliminary LSAT practice tests have placed me consistently in the 160s.
This work ethic has more or less come to screw me over. As painful as it is to know that I could have done so much better had I just applied myself a little, I know this is squarely on my shoulders and there is no one to moan to. As a result, the LSAT and a good essay are literally my only chances at getting into a good law school. I've thought for a long time, and I'm ready to apply my potential.
You're really going to draw no sympathy from the adcomms... Reading through this post, you really come off as whiny about something that is COMPLETELY within your control.
I've been considering law school, and the admissions statistics for all of the schools I am considering have been discouraging, to say the least. I would like to stay in California, and if I were to go by GPA alone, the only school in the top 100 I am reliably eligible for is Chapman, which has very poor employment statistics. According to calculators, even with 170+ LSAT scores, my odds of getting into UCLA dont exceed 30%.
I know I'm a smart person, I know I can be a good lawyer, and my mode of thinking makes me suited to doing well in law school. Obviously, one should not assume, but if I were to achieve a 170 or above, what would be my next step in trying to convince a good school to accept me? At our last law school fair, I spoke to several admissions representatives from different schools, some for an extended time. I can tell I made a good impression, but seeing the way their face fell when I told them my GPA was extremely frustrating.
How can you assume you'll be so successful? Do you realize how much work there is in law school? As a UCI alum, I can assure you that unless you were in Bio or Engineering, getting straight A's even on minimal work is completely within the grasp of most students that get accepted.
As frustrating as it must be for academic achievers to perform poorly on standardized tests, its just as discouraging for me to have my past a continual black mark on my future. I cant be the only person that is in this boat. It seems like law schools encourage academically successful students to explain their poor test scores, but the reverse does not seem to always hold.
This black mark is something you earned on your own and is completely fair.
I'm a white male with a good, stable family. My father suffered a relatively serious hiking injury half a year ago that left him unable to work for some time, and coupled with my grandmothers failing health and medical bills, finances have been tight and stress levels have been high. This can explain my lukewarm performance as a senior, but against the stories of legitimate disadvantages that other applicants will probably field, I'm almost afraid saying these things will make it look like I'm whining.
Some people just take longer than others to get their act together. I know that applying with a strong LSAT and a weak GPA will just show me for what I was: smart and lazy. What do I do, and what do I say, to show people that I have moved past that phase of my life? How can I convince a top tier school to invest in the potential I know I have?
Thanks for your time and patience!
There are more than enough smart people in the applicant pool that law schools can more than afford to weed out the lazy ones. Your story certainly can explain lukewarm performance your senior year, but does nothing to justify consistently low grades throughout all 4 years at UCI.
That said, on a more positive note:
1. Your GPA isn't THAT bad. Staying in CA will be tough because CA schools are pretty GPA focused, but there are a number of people with your GPA that have gotten into respectable schools
2. The LSAT is something within your control NOW. So get off your ass and kill it. A 170+ might squeak you into UCLA, or at the very least give you a good shot at Davis or Hastings.
3. Your realization about your work ethic is the first step you must take in remedying the problem. No one is going to hand you a law school admission, you have to go fight for it yourself.