low GPA(STEM)/decent LSAT/extensive job experience

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thechemist

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low GPA(STEM)/decent LSAT/extensive job experience

Post by thechemist » Wed Sep 09, 2020 12:25 pm

Hi everyone!

So I graduated from a reputed university with a 2.183 GPA in chemistry. Yes, it's horrible. No, there weren't any mitigating circumstances besides not being good at math, being too anxious to ask for help from professors, and being too scared to ask my parents to let me switch to humanities where I always got A's and B's. Basically I entered the school of engineering in 2009 and got dismissed for poor academic standing after my fourth semester. After a year at community college, my university reinstated me. I switched my major from biomedical engineering to chemistry and this was due to a conversation with my parents where we decided that a low chemistry GPA still offered job opportunities but a decent history gpa (my minor where I got all A's) wouldn't offer as much, especially since at the time of graduating I had no intention of continuing my education as I was low on confidence.

Two weeks after I graduated in 2014, I effectively fluked to a good job at a generic pharmaceutical company. As beggars can't be choosers, I made the most of that opportunity and got promoted seven months later. A year and half later, I was promoted again and held a pretty high position by 2016. I won several awards for excellence by 2017 and was promoted to a subject matter expert in 2018. I still wasn't a great scientist and my math is still horrible (thank god for computers), but I had a way with compliance and regulations. I worked closely with both legal and regulatory teams, and have taken the lead on several FDA audits. I moved to a big pharma company in 2019 as a research associate, despite not having a phd. In the last six years, I've extensively traveled (14 countries) and bought a house. I have a solid six figure salary with no loans.

Through networking and the pharmaceutical industry opening up, I started considering law school and I took the LSAT-FLEX in June. I received a 165. I was a bit poor during the exam, and I know I could have done better. I took it again in August and have a better feeling about it. I've been practice testing in the 172-175 region. I have letters of recommendation from both my reporting manager and my director in my big pharma company. I don't particularly need a JD but it does help my career ambitions and what I want to do long term. I'm only really considering it if I could get into a decent law school because it's been pretty nice having a high salary and no loans. I ideally plan on working in the pharmaceutical/consulting industry afterwards as well. I'm looking at schools in the 25-50 range.

What are my chances?

The Lsat Airbender

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Re: low GPA(STEM)/decent LSAT/extensive job experience

Post by The Lsat Airbender » Wed Sep 09, 2020 7:11 pm

Varies wildly depending on your LSAT. If you got that 170s score then you should have a shot at scholarship money from a T1 school, which would be a workable outcome given your pharma background. You're also the kind of applicant for whom a local part-time program might make a lot of sense.

thechemist

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Re: low GPA(STEM)/decent LSAT/extensive job experience

Post by thechemist » Wed Sep 09, 2020 7:51 pm

The Lsat Airbender wrote:
Wed Sep 09, 2020 7:11 pm
Varies wildly depending on your LSAT. If you got that 170s score then you should have a shot at scholarship money from a T1 school, which would be a workable outcome given your pharma background. You're also the kind of applicant for whom a local part-time program might make a lot of sense.
Thank you for replying. Just to clarify, T1 is the top 50 right? I've made the decision to only go to law school if I can get through it with manageable loans, so it's a bit of a relief to know that I could maybe get a scholarship. Without going into too much detail, I do have a way to pay for roughly $90k of the tuition without having to take out a loan. I might potentially sell a condo I own and rent out and use a portion of the money I get out of it towards law school if I get into a good enough program that might be worth it. Still, any money helps.

I was considering part time programs initially because my employers have a good tuition reimbursement program and I could stay at my job as it is, but at the same time, there hasn't been a program that stood out particularly. I guess it's something I need to research.

SCREWME567

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Re: low GPA(STEM)/decent LSAT/extensive job experience

Post by SCREWME567 » Thu Sep 10, 2020 6:21 am

pharma/consulting ambitions sounds like a much stronger case for mba rather than law school
after accounting for opportunity cost (3 yrs vs 2) and much narrower opportunities out of law school, and the fact that your gpa implies very low chance of t14/high t1 placement, business school seems like a clearly better choice (esp since they won't care as much about their gpa - emphasized even more if you can kill the gmat)

thechemist

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Re: low GPA(STEM)/decent LSAT/extensive job experience

Post by thechemist » Thu Sep 10, 2020 9:13 am

SCREWME567 wrote:
Thu Sep 10, 2020 6:21 am
pharma/consulting ambitions sounds like a much stronger case for mba rather than law school
after accounting for opportunity cost (3 yrs vs 2) and much narrower opportunities out of law school, and the fact that your gpa implies very low chance of t14/high t1 placement, business school seems like a clearly better choice (esp since they won't care as much about their gpa - emphasized even more if you can kill the gmat)
I do have a 780 GMAT in hand. The other thing an MBA has over law school is they take into account coursework you did post undergrad.

But the reason I very specifically want to get a JD is that I want to work as a healthcare compliance counsel and while I have all the other requirements in job postings within big pharma, the one obvious disqualifier is that I don’t have a JD.

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trmckenz

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Re: low GPA(STEM)/decent LSAT/extensive job experience

Post by trmckenz » Thu Sep 10, 2020 12:32 pm

I think your decision is largely going to come down to geography. You haven't mentioned which city / market you live in, or would want to live in. Not that you have to, but it would help focus the discussion. Are there any good schools near you or in your state? Do you have personal reasons to be in a certain place, or are you willing to move to anywhere to max out your grad school brand? Is going full time an option, or do you need a part-time program? How about a JD-MBA?

It's safe to assume your GPA will be below every school's 25% mark. So LSAT + a clear story is your ticket (still, LSAT >>> everything else). I could see a local school taking the "gamble" (b/c of such a low GPA) and giving you a partial scholarship, provided your LSAT is above their 75% mark.

For example, if you were in Dallas, SMU might let you in and give you some scholarship money, probably less than half. In Houston, UH could be affordable and give you a part-time option. Same for GSU in Atlanta, etc.

With a 165+ LSAT score, I think other law schools with higher rankings will let you in as well. It just becomes a function of geography and cost. The real question is, would you actually move to Ithaca for three years at sticker price if you got into Cornell? How about St. Louis to pay full freight at WUSTL? South Bend for Notre Dame with $5k a year?

Pursuing a three-year JD-MBA could be really great for you. There's a strong argument for using your GMAT score, especially given your current career trajectory in pharma. Law schools may be a bit more forgiving if they know you aren't relying heavily on traditional law school hiring for employment and are tied to the business school. They would also probably respond well to learning that you slayed the GMAT, so if you do apply to JD-MBA programs, make sure they see that somewhere in your application (though this might be irrelevant if you go JD only).

I don't know if part-time JD-MBA programs exist, but that seems like a grueling path. From what I know now, I would recommend first (1) going full-time to the best JD (or JD-MBA) program you can get into, followed by (2) minimizing costs with a part-time JD. Again, depends on geography and your stomach for not making money (really though, it's only three years).

thechemist

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Re: low GPA(STEM)/decent LSAT/extensive job experience

Post by thechemist » Thu Sep 10, 2020 1:21 pm

I'm based in the greater New York/New Jersey area and it's where my family + boyfriend's family live. I'm pretty flexible in terms of where I would want to study and work in, but I would generally prefer the northeast or California. New York, DC, Boston, or Philadelphia are the best in terms of not having to pick my life up massively. I really like the idea of Fordham, but I don't know what my chances there are.

My finances are at a state where if I get into a school that offers a good brand that I can't refuse (a terrible way of looking at it I suppose), I can afford it without having to take out massive loans. So, yes, if a T14 offered me acceptance at sticker, I would definitely seriously consider moving to even Ithaca for three years. My whole thing is mostly if I don't have a chance of getting into a top school (provided I can break 170 on the August LSAT and use the GMAT), it doesn't seem worth it to study at a smaller school locally that neither affords a name or opportunities, and I could put the money towards something more worthwhile.

JD-MBA is something I'm considering as well and actually think would be more useful than a JD alone. I'm 28 now and I kinda see this as my last chance to really pursue these goals. I know you can go back to school at any time, and there's no real limit on personal growth, but there comes a time when you become very comfortable with what you have and you lose incentive to really pursue further education. Three years isn't that bad, all things considered.

unknown94

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Re: low GPA(STEM)/decent LSAT/extensive job experience

Post by unknown94 » Thu Sep 10, 2020 3:39 pm

Why would you go to law school? This is a serious undertaking. I'm in pharmaceutical law now, I can't imagine doing all of what you have accomplished in industry, throwing it all out the window to go to law school. You will be judged with a very different scale in the legal industry. What school you went to, and your gpa will mean more than what you've accomplished in the past. It's something I didn't fully understand before going to law school how much the scale of evaluation truly changes after starting and becoming a lawyer. I would advise you to keep being successful in your chosen field, and congrats on the accomplishments!

thechemist

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Re: low GPA(STEM)/decent LSAT/extensive job experience

Post by thechemist » Thu Sep 10, 2020 8:04 pm

unknown94 wrote:
Thu Sep 10, 2020 3:39 pm
Why would you go to law school? This is a serious undertaking. I'm in pharmaceutical law now, I can't imagine doing all of what you have accomplished in industry, throwing it all out the window to go to law school. You will be judged with a very different scale in the legal industry. What school you went to, and your gpa will mean more than what you've accomplished in the past. It's something I didn't fully understand before going to law school how much the scale of evaluation truly changes after starting and becoming a lawyer. I would advise you to keep being successful in your chosen field, and congrats on the accomplishments!
The most important question, isn't it? I think it's because I can see the ceiling of where my BS can take me, and I want to get ahead of it while I'm still young. I was able to grow as quickly as I can because I maximized all my resources and networked like crazy, and some pretty awesome companies took a chance on me and I repaid them for it. That doesn't mean that at some point, I won't be phased out of any more growth. The $40-50k difference in salary between a Compliance and Ethics lead and a Compliance Counsel at a brand name pharma seems worth the investment in law school. I know money isn't everything, and I'm already making a comfortable salary, but I'm in a position in my life where pursuing this seems sensible both financially and personally.

I've taken lots of graduate courses over the years, taking full advantage of my company's tuition reimbursement and have consistently done well. Sure, it's not law school, but I did manage 2-3 graduate level courses while juggling 60 hour work weeks. I might not be successful in law school, and my undergraduate GPA obviously suggests that I might not be, but it's worth a risk in my opinion and I'm not the same anxious mess that I was at 17 who didn't have the heart to tell my parents that I hated my engineering classes. I suppose my question is really whether I can get in somewhere in the Top 25 or Top 50 with my numbers (or if I'm really unreasonable T14 but lol let's not be silly). I might not go to said top 50 or top 25 school when the time to make the decision actually comes, but a thousand or so thrown at applications won't really hurt me right now. If I'm not going to get in anywhere, I might as well drop this all together and use my lockdown time towards something else as I can't change my GPA and that's the limiting factor.

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trmckenz

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Re: low GPA(STEM)/decent LSAT/extensive job experience

Post by trmckenz » Thu Sep 10, 2020 9:13 pm

FWIW, my friend is a ChemEng in pharma. He is a couple of years older than you, and obviously does different things (vaccine manufacturing). But recently his trusted mentors told him that he needs to get his MBA to move up. Otherwise, he will be stuck in a niche role with a ceiling in pay and opportunities. He didn't have a killer GPA either (~3.0), yet at 30, he recently enrolled in a great MBA program (part-time).

So I think you're rightly anticipating timing. The need for graduate education is not specific to your field or industry; it will benefit you if you ever choose to do something else. And 28-30 is a great time in your life to start grad school. As long as you're going in with your eyes open (which you clearly are), I say go for it.

Costs aside, I like the JD-MBA application strategy for you. It makes you cast a wide net, uses your hard-earned scores, and plays up your work experience. Plus your MBA options might be even better than your law school options.

Maybe I'm optimistic, but I wouldn't rule out any law school where your LSAT is above median (even better if you're above the 75% mark). Fordham and other schools in that T25-50 range should be in the picture with a 165+. Cautiously, I want you to aim higher than that because you will have options, and some of them will be really solid brands.

thechemist

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Re: low GPA(STEM)/decent LSAT/extensive job experience

Post by thechemist » Fri Sep 11, 2020 12:53 pm

trmckenz wrote:
Thu Sep 10, 2020 9:13 pm
FWIW, my friend is a ChemEng in pharma. He is a couple of years older than you, and obviously does different things (vaccine manufacturing). But recently his trusted mentors told him that he needs to get his MBA to move up. Otherwise, he will be stuck in a niche role with a ceiling in pay and opportunities. He didn't have a killer GPA either (~3.0), yet at 30, he recently enrolled in a great MBA program (part-time).

So I think you're rightly anticipating timing. The need for graduate education is not specific to your field or industry; it will benefit you if you ever choose to do something else. And 28-30 is a great time in your life to start grad school. As long as you're going in with your eyes open (which you clearly are), I say go for it.
I've noticed this a lot in Big Pharma as a whole. They really box you in on very niche roles that have no real career growth AND aren't easily transferrable between companies of the same calibre. It's especially true for scientists that don't have another qualification. Even PhDs don't really cut it. You might get paid more, but a lot of people feel trapped at their companies doing the same thing they've done for 30+ years. Unless you're really passionate about the sciences and a specific drug/vaccine/research aspect, it's best to get ahead before you end up in that position.

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