A Splitter Story (T14, <2.7GPA, >175 LSAT, non-URM)

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JustThisOnce
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A Splitter Story (T14, <2.7GPA, >175 LSAT, non-URM)

Postby JustThisOnce » Tue Sep 13, 2011 5:17 am

Longtime lurker, first-time poster, maybe last-time as I now have to focus entirely too much on law school. Believe for yourself whether or not what I am saying is true (The Internet /= Real Life, I know...), but I offer this as encouragement for all those out there who are on the fence about whether or not it is worth it to try: it is if you want it enough. You are probably some combination of smart (>170 LSAT) and unfortunate (<3.0 GPA) or hard-working (>3.5 GPA) and unfortunate (<165 LSAT). I do not profess to be an expert on such things, but here is a short list of schools and career paths that are probably closed off to you at this point:

    Yale
    Harvard
    Supreme Court Justice
    Tenured Top-Tier Professor

Beyond that, the world is your oyster, so do not despair! Among those I know who are splitters (all non-URM), one graduated at the top of his class at a T30 and is now working comfortably in an in-house position, another graduated from a T14 with a clerkship, and I am attending my top-choice school along with my roommate who is an opposite form of splitter from myself. Together we would have made one really good candidate, but the good news is we still managed to be accepted, and you can too.

At the risk of repeating a lot of what has already been said out there, admissions deans are in the business of admitting students if they can. The key is, you have to give them a reason to let you in. The easiest way to do this is to be exceptional in some way. Because you probably will not be an auto-admit at any school as a splitter, do your best to stand out from the rest of the pack, whether it be with a:

    High statistic (GPA or LSAT above class median)
    Unique work experience (while it is true that most admits have decent softs, only 1% of my entering class did Peace Corps, for example)
    Compelling personal or school-specific statement (a significant factor mentioned by every admissions dean I spoke to)
    Significantly diverse background (not necessarily URM, though it certainly helps)

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of focusing on the positive. In my case, this meant:

    High LSAT (10-15 points higher than my initial practice test after months of studying and teetotaling)
    Strong upward GPA trend (though still <3.5 for the last two years)
    Couple years of work and volunteer experience
    Well-edited (if not necessarily well-crafted) set of statements

Most importantly, I applied early decision to my school. I was accepted to about half of the other schools I applied to (almost all with decent money), even though there were a number of negative factors counting against me:

    Multiple years of withdrawals and failures, in both undergrad and grad school (which I did not complete)
    No single work experience longer than a year
    Canceled LSAT score
    Same-cycle February LSAT score (applied before receiving my score)
    Applications submitted at the deadline (did not apply to several schools due to passed deadlines)
    No in-person visits or interviews (though I did complete several phone interviews)

I mention these things not because the specifics of my application are important, but because any one of these factors are commonly cited as reasons that one should not apply to law school. While I would not recommend law school to everyone, it is possible to be accepted to a good school if you focus on what makes you a strong candidate rather than the other way around. On the other hand, if you go into the process defensively (as I first did), you may find yourself disappointed with the results.

Beyond these basic points of encouragement, I hope that my experience demonstrates that law school admissions for splitters is about more than just numbers. Yes, it is true that I would not have been accepted to a good school without at least one high indicator, but it is also true that my other extremely low indicator did not hold me back. I say indicator rather than determinator because for splitters numbers are just that. Looking at the numbers on law school predictors and charts can be misleading, not only because many applicants are not listed (I was specifically asked not to post my results by one school) but also because there are many other factors at play that cannot be represented by statistics.

Of course, some schools are more splitter-friendly than others. It is true that schools look at numbers as a way of sorting through applications and prioritizing candidates. As a result, I was only immediately accepted to two (top-tier) schools and wait-listed at many others. If this happens to you, consider it a good thing! It means you are still in the running. While waiting is difficult and not for everyone (I was attending my second-choice school before being admitted to my top-choice very late in the summer), the fact that you are still in consideration means that the school thinks there are enough reasons to accept you if given the space. Rather than give up, continue to express your interest in attending (my letters of continued intent consisted of a few e-mailed paragraphs), and do not be afraid to negotiate once you get in. I was never offered less money for asking, and sometimes I was given matching funds (such as here) or slightly more.

Finally, do not settle. Stick to whatever criteria are meaningful for you, and only apply to those schools which you could realistically see yourself attending. High splitters are most valuable to top schools in terms of medians, so aim reasonably high and you may be surprised at the results. This is not to discourage anyone from attending lower-ranked schools in regions or localities of interest (in my experience, I was much more likely to be accepted at local schools), but even splitters may find themselves yield-protected from schools that do not consider them likely to attend. Attending a top law school does not make you any more attractive, likable, or a better person, but it is possible to do so without having lived life to perfection. Like anything else worth doing, it just requires hard work, dedication, persistance, and a little bit of luck.

Too long; didn't read version: One-time poster rehashes several well-worn TLS themes.

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Yukos
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Re: A Splitter Story (T14, <2.7GPA, >175 LSAT, non-URM)

Postby Yukos » Tue Sep 13, 2011 5:25 am

JustThisOnce wrote:You are probably some combination of smart (>170 LSAT) and unfortunate (<3.0 GPA) or hard-working (>3.5 GPA) and unfortunate (<165 LSAT).


So splitter = smart but lazy and reverse splitter = dumb but hardworking. Alright.

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JustThisOnce
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Re: A Splitter Story (T14, <2.7GPA, >175 LSAT, non-URM)

Postby JustThisOnce » Tue Sep 13, 2011 8:59 am

I don't think that most people take the LSAT to be more than what it is: a measure of how well one can study for a take a timed test. Similarly, GPA is essentially a measure of how much work one puts into getting good grades. This is not to say that smart people don't do poorly on the LSAT or hardworking people don't have poor GPAs, only that this is the way they are most often plainly interpreted.

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Tiago Splitter
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Re: A Splitter Story (T14, <2.7GPA, >175 LSAT, non-URM)

Postby Tiago Splitter » Tue Sep 13, 2011 10:33 am

As someone whose class attendance in college was rare, I can safely say that low GPAs are not usually the result of misfortune.

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chem
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Re: A Splitter Story (T14, <2.7GPA, >175 LSAT, non-URM)

Postby chem » Tue Sep 13, 2011 10:53 am

Yukos wrote:
JustThisOnce wrote:You are probably some combination of smart (>170 LSAT) and unfortunate (<3.0 GPA) or hard-working (>3.5 GPA) and unfortunate (<165 LSAT).


So splitter = smart but lazy and reverse splitter = dumb but hardworking. Alright.



Guy takes the time to write some encouraging advice on his application as a splitter (and as a splitter am very appreciative of) and this is what you latch on too? Geez

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Robespierre
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Re: A Splitter Story (T14, <2.7GPA, >175 LSAT, non-URM)

Postby Robespierre » Tue Sep 13, 2011 11:05 am

Good post, thanks OP. Questions:

1. How did you decide which school to ED?

2. How did you get accepted ED when your apps were submitted so late?

3. What did you submit other than the Personal Statement? Diversity statements? Why X essays? GPA addendum?

4. Did you follow the splitter "conventional wisdom" of applying to a ton of schools, hoping one would bite on the LSAT score?

5. Why do you feel tenured top-tier law professor is closed to you? Get straight A's at your T14 and it can be done, no?

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Ginj
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Re: A Splitter Story (T14, <2.7GPA, >175 LSAT, non-URM)

Postby Ginj » Tue Sep 13, 2011 11:06 am

Robespierre wrote:Good post, thanks OP. Questions:

1. How did you decide which school to ED?

2. How did you get accepted ED when your apps were submitted so late?

3. What did you submit other than the Personal Statement? Diversity statements? Why X essays? GPA addendum?

4. Did you follow the splitter "conventional wisdom" of applying to a ton of schools, hoping one would bite on the LSAT score?

5. Why do you feel tenured top-tier law professor is closed to you? Get straight A's at your T14 and it can be done, no?


This is relevant to my interests.

TheZoid
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Re: A Splitter Story (T14, <2.7GPA, >175 LSAT, non-URM)

Postby TheZoid » Tue Sep 13, 2011 11:30 am

Tiago Splitter wrote:As someone whose class attendance in college was rare, I can safely say that low GPAs are not usually the result of misfortune.


lol, +1

uchi15hopeful
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Re: A Splitter Story (T14, <2.7GPA, >175 LSAT, non-URM)

Postby uchi15hopeful » Tue Sep 13, 2011 11:55 am

OP is at Northwestern?

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Re: A Splitter Story (T14, <2.7GPA, >175 LSAT, non-URM)

Postby JamMasterJ » Tue Sep 13, 2011 12:15 pm

JustThisOnce wrote:
Too long; didn't read version: One-time poster rehashes several well-worn TLS themes.

lol. Nice post though

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JustThisOnce
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Re: A Splitter Story (T14, <2.7GPA, >175 LSAT, non-URM)

Postby JustThisOnce » Tue Sep 13, 2011 12:23 pm

Robespierre wrote:Good post, thanks OP. Questions:

1. How did you decide which school to ED?

I have to admit I was less than strategic about this. There are quite a few schools that accept early decision applications up to their final deadline, and it just so happened that my top choice school was one of these. Were I to have taken the LSAT earlier, I may have applied earlier to more schools after being wait-listed.

Robespierre wrote:2. How did you get accepted ED when your apps were submitted so late?

Even though I applied early decision, I was wait-listed before being accepted much later. Nevertheless, applying early sends a strong signal to a school that you are serious about attending if admitted, and I think this probably worked to my advantage late in the cycle when the admissions office was looking fill seats with a higher degree of certainty in accepting.

Robespierre wrote:3. What did you submit other than the Personal Statement? Diversity statements? Why X essays? GPA addendum?

Given the obvious deficiencies in my application, I tried to write as much as I could wherever possible. I repackaged a diversity statement from something I had written earlier that touched on my background and personal experiences, which I think can be especially valuable for those who are not URM's. I also customized a generalized "Why X" essay for all the schools that suggested it, though not for the school I am attending. My GPA addendum simply acknowledged some of the struggles I had without going into any detail about the causes behind them and highlighted a few bright spots, such as my more respectable (though still not stellar) major and minor GPA.

Robespierre wrote:4. Did you follow the splitter "conventional wisdom" of applying to a ton of schools, hoping one would bite on the LSAT score?

Before I canceled my December LSAT score, I had a list of about 8-10 schools where I intended to apply. Since I knew I would not get my February LSAT score back before most of the application deadlines, I decided to more than double the number of schools I was applying to on both the low and high end. While it was useful to be able to calibrate my chances at my target schools using the acceptances and rejections I received from these added applications, I would not recommend this tactic to anyone without a significant number of fee waivers. In the end, the schools I most seriously considered were the ones where I had initially intended to apply. Additionally, having a large pool of scholarship offers was less helpful than I anticipated given that many schools have standard formulas for awarding splitters.

Robespierre wrote:5. Why do you feel tenured top-tier law professor is closed to you? Get straight A's at your T14 and it can be done, no?

So far all of my professors have been Harvard educated, but that may just be the luck of the draw. You are right, though, that there is nothing stopping one from making the most of such an opportunity from any top school.

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Re: A Splitter Story (T14, <2.7GPA, >175 LSAT, non-URM)

Postby JustThisOnce » Tue Sep 13, 2011 12:47 pm

uchi15hopeful wrote:OP is at Northwestern?

I am not sure that my work experience would have been particularly impressive at Northwestern, though I certainly would have emphasized it as a factor had I applied. I know that the Midwest has a particularly splitter-friendly reputation, which I also have found to be true. Even so, I think outside the top 3 schools (which I obviously do not attend), it is important to apply to schools where one seriously intends to practice. Of course it is always possible to find jobs elsewhere, and while the Midwest has a lot of great qualities, location was an import factor for me in deciding where to apply.

Although it would be fun to play this game for the remaining schools in the top 14, as there are more than a few where splitters can realistically apply, I probably will not say more about specific places.

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Re: A Splitter Story (T14, <2.7GPA, >175 LSAT, non-URM)

Postby JamMasterJ » Tue Sep 13, 2011 12:52 pm

JustThisOnce wrote:
uchi15hopeful wrote:OP is at Northwestern?

I am not sure that my work experience would have been particularly impressive at Northwestern, though I certainly would have emphasized it as a factor had I applied. I know that the Midwest has a particularly splitter-friendly reputation, which I also have found to be true. Even so, I think outside the top 3 schools (which I obviously do not attend), it is important to apply to schools where one seriously intends to practice. Of course it is always possible to find jobs elsewhere, and while the Midwest has a lot of great qualities, location was an import factor for me in deciding where to apply.

Although it would be fun to play this game for the remaining schools in the top 14, as there are more than a few where splitters can realistically apply, I probably will not say more about specific places.

GULC/ end convo about which school it is.

uchi15hopeful
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Re: A Splitter Story (T14, <2.7GPA, >175 LSAT, non-URM)

Postby uchi15hopeful » Tue Sep 13, 2011 1:03 pm

The LSAT carries so much more weight than GPA. That GPA is probably in the <5th percentile for non-URM's and the LSAT is probably in the >5th percentile for non-URM's. In the reverse, there is no way that a non-URM with a 156 and a 4.0 gets into a top school.

I apologize if I am a being a naysayer, I'm just underscoring the fact that the LSAT reigns supreme.

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Re: A Splitter Story (T14, <2.7GPA, >175 LSAT, non-URM)

Postby JustThisOnce » Tue Sep 13, 2011 1:23 pm

uchi15hopeful wrote:The LSAT carries so much more weight than GPA. That GPA is probably in the <5th percentile for non-URM's and the LSAT is probably in the >5th percentile for non-URM's. In the reverse, there is no way that a non-URM with a 156 and a 4.0 gets into a top school.

I apologize if I am a being a naysayer, I'm just underscoring the fact that the LSAT reigns supreme.

Since you mention reverse-splitters, I should note that the same logic applies: you have to give them a reason to let you in. I know someone with almost those exact same numbers who was accepted a generally higher-ranked school than mine. Though he initially did not get off the wait-list and had to reapply in a subsequent cycle, he eventually was accepted and finished near the top of his class.

The point about not naming specific schools is not so much that some may disregard or disparage them, but that there are many that make an effort to accept dedicated and persistant splitters of both kinds. There is a place, even at the top schools, for those who do not excel at standardized test-taking.

uchi15hopeful
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Re: A Splitter Story (T14, <2.7GPA, >175 LSAT, non-URM)

Postby uchi15hopeful » Tue Sep 13, 2011 1:34 pm

I do appreciate that post, JustThisOnce. It's easy to get caught-up in the internet perception that 99% of your application is your LSAT score and your GPA; it is refreshing to hear your perspective and your anecdotes.

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Re: A Splitter Story (T14, <2.7GPA, >175 LSAT, non-URM)

Postby Samara » Tue Sep 13, 2011 1:40 pm

JustThisOnce wrote:
uchi15hopeful wrote:The LSAT carries so much more weight than GPA. That GPA is probably in the <5th percentile for non-URM's and the LSAT is probably in the >5th percentile for non-URM's. In the reverse, there is no way that a non-URM with a 156 and a 4.0 gets into a top school.

I apologize if I am a being a naysayer, I'm just underscoring the fact that the LSAT reigns supreme.

Since you mention reverse-splitters, I should note that the same logic applies: you have to give them a reason to let you in. I know someone with almost those exact same numbers who was accepted a generally higher-ranked school than mine. Though he initially did not get off the wait-list and had to reapply in a subsequent cycle, he eventually was accepted and finished near the top of his class.

The point about not naming specific schools is not so much that some may disregard or disparage them, but that there are many that make an effort to accept dedicated and persistant splitters of both kinds. There is a place, even at the top schools, for those who do not excel at standardized test-taking.

I generally agree with everything in thread. I do want to point out, however, that your ~156/4.0 friend who got accepted to a higher-ranked school (my guess is Duke) may have benefited from an unusually favorable cycle. I remember looking through LSN and I think it was '06-'07 or '07-'08 cycle where a lot more splitters were accepted across the board. I think that was when applications were booming and schools could better afford to accept splitters without hurting their medians. So, all that to say that's awesome that it worked out for your friend (and I encourage splitters to try for their "dream" schools) but in a cycle like this year's, I doubt he/she would have had quite as successful of a cycle.

Anyway, thanks for your thoughts! Very helpful.

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Re: A Splitter Story (T14, <2.7GPA, >175 LSAT, non-URM)

Postby crumpetsandtea » Tue Sep 13, 2011 2:03 pm

uchi15hopeful wrote:I do appreciate that post, JustThisOnce. It's easy to get caught-up in the internet perception that 99% of your application is your LSAT score and your GPA; it is refreshing to hear your perspective and your anecdotes.

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Re: A Splitter Story (T14, <2.7GPA, >175 LSAT, non-URM)

Postby JustThisOnce » Tue Sep 13, 2011 2:12 pm

uchi15hopeful wrote:I do appreciate that post, JustThisOnce. It's easy to get caught-up in the internet perception that 99% of your application is your LSAT score and your GPA; it is refreshing to hear your perspective and your anecdotes.
Given the admissions information that is readily accessible to candidates (generally just GPA and LSAT quartiles), yours is an understandable perception and one that I shared before applying to law school. I remember having a conversation with a friend last winter about whether it would even be worth applying to the school I am currently attending!

I certainly got lucky -- and I will readily admit that -- but there are many others who get lucky too, especially those who make an effort at putting their best foot forward. This is not to deny that there are perfectly-qualified applicants who do not get into their top-choice schools or that it helps to have at least one strong indicator to keep in the running. However, even in this admittedly unfair process, I believe that those who are cynical in their outlook when applying are doing themselves a disservice.

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Re: A Splitter Story (T14, <2.7GPA, >175 LSAT, non-URM)

Postby JustThisOnce » Tue Sep 13, 2011 2:27 pm

Samara wrote:I generally agree with everything in thread. I do want to point out, however, that your ~156/4.0 friend who got accepted to a higher-ranked school (my guess is Duke) may have benefited from an unusually favorable cycle. I remember looking through LSN and I think it was '06-'07 or '07-'08 cycle where a lot more splitters were accepted across the board. I think that was when applications were booming and schools could better afford to accept splitters without hurting their medians. So, all that to say that's awesome that it worked out for your friend (and I encourage splitters to try for their "dream" schools) but in a cycle like this year's, I doubt he/she would have had quite as successful of a cycle.

Anyway, thanks for your thoughts! Very helpful.

That is a fair point, and I certainly would not want to give anyone false hope that they will get the school of their dreams through sheer willpower alone. There are a lot of admissions factors outside of one's control, and favorable results are never guaranteed. In fact I know several happy, successful, and financially solvent lawyers who did not attend their top-choice schools, but I don't think any of them regretted trying.

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Re: A Splitter Story (T14, <2.7GPA, >175 LSAT, non-URM)

Postby Samara » Tue Sep 13, 2011 2:32 pm

JustThisOnce wrote:
Samara wrote:I generally agree with everything in thread. I do want to point out, however, that your ~156/4.0 friend who got accepted to a higher-ranked school (my guess is Duke) may have benefited from an unusually favorable cycle. I remember looking through LSN and I think it was '06-'07 or '07-'08 cycle where a lot more splitters were accepted across the board. I think that was when applications were booming and schools could better afford to accept splitters without hurting their medians. So, all that to say that's awesome that it worked out for your friend (and I encourage splitters to try for their "dream" schools) but in a cycle like this year's, I doubt he/she would have had quite as successful of a cycle.

Anyway, thanks for your thoughts! Very helpful.

That is a fair point, and I certainly would not want to give anyone false hope that they will get the school of their dreams through sheer willpower alone. There are a lot of admissions factors outside of one's control, and favorable results are never guaranteed. In fact I know several happy, successful, and financially solvent lawyers who did not attend their top-choice schools, but I don't think any of them regretted trying.

Oh, absolutely. The only thing it costs to try is a little time and a (comparatively) little money.

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Re: A Splitter Story (T14, <2.7GPA, >175 LSAT, non-URM)

Postby Camper1987 » Tue Sep 13, 2011 5:26 pm

Just this once, can I please send you a PM? I think you can help me...

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JustThisOnce
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Re: A Splitter Story (T14, <2.7GPA, >175 LSAT, non-URM)

Postby JustThisOnce » Tue Sep 13, 2011 6:10 pm

Camper1987 wrote:Just this once, can I please send you a PM? I think you can help me...

Sure, drop me a line if you'd like.

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Re: A Splitter Story (T14, <2.7GPA, >175 LSAT, non-URM)

Postby TLS45 » Wed Sep 14, 2011 12:07 am

Can you please tell me working for circuit judge would be helpful? ( I did work for federal judge for six month). I have your same situation.

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Re: A Splitter Story (T14, <2.7GPA, >175 LSAT, non-URM)

Postby Yukos » Wed Sep 14, 2011 2:22 am

JustThisOnce wrote:
uchi15hopeful wrote:I do appreciate that post, JustThisOnce. It's easy to get caught-up in the internet perception that 99% of your application is your LSAT score and your GPA; it is refreshing to hear your perspective and your anecdotes.
Given the admissions information that is readily accessible to candidates (generally just GPA and LSAT quartiles), yours is an understandable perception and one that I shared before applying to law school.


Good point.




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