How to Compensate for a Less Than Stellar LSAT Score

David, a senior, stood in my office doorway. I looked up to see a giant smile on his face.

“Yes!”  He gave me a thumbs up. “I finally did it — a 165.”  His LSAT score, on his second try, was finally where he wanted it to be to try for some top schools. And, I’m happy to report, he did get into his top choice school.

Later that day Jason stopped by, looking glum. He was not happy with his score. It was also his second try, and he had done his best.“I guess I’m just going to go ahead and apply and hope for the best,” he said. “Is there anything I can do to help the rest of my application stand out?”

There are some steps that Jason can take to help position his application. In fact, at a panel of admissions officers that I recently attended, they all agreed that there are ways to at least partially compensate for a less than stellar LSAT score.

They said if you find yourself in Jason’s position, you should make certain that the rest of your application is picture perfect. For example, you can spend a lot of time on your personal statement to make your application really come to life. One admission officer recently told me that he reads the personal statements first, before he reviews the rest of the application.

You also have control over your letters of recommendation — to some extent. Try to meet with your professors before they write the letters. You may have to jog their memory with papers you have written for their class.

Should you write an addendum? If there is a reason that you need or want to explain to the admissions committee why your score is low, a brief addendum can be added to your application.  It is optional, and should be separate from your personal statement.

If you look at the big picture, there are other factors that can help you. For example, if you are now a senior, shoot for getting stellar grades during your final year to offset your LSAT score. It may mean that you wait another year to apply to law school, but it may be worth it. An upwards trend in your GPA with a strong finish certainly looks good. Good grades in classes that relate to law school in subjects that are analytical in nature or where you can get writing experience can also reflect well. Often admissions officers are more familiar that you might think with the different courses and majors at different colleges and they value courses that will give you analytical and writing skills, which are skills you will need once you are in law school.

Leadership skills developed through college jobs or activities that can show the admissions committee your unique abilities can also help. If you were thinking about working in a legal setting in between college and law school anyway, that might give you more to write about on your application.

In the end, if everything else in your application to law school is stellar, you can only help your chances. Of course, your LSAT score will remain an important factor. You have to remain realistic about it. But you don’t have to give up hope either.

For more advice on having a standout application, check out these great podcasts:

This post was authored by Hillary Mantis, the Pre-Law Advisor at Fordham University and a career consultant. She is the former Director of Career Services at Fordham University School of Law. She is the author of Alternative Careers for Lawyers, and Jobs For Lawyers.  This story was originally published in the Fall 2009 issue of preLaw Magazine.  Click here for the digital edition or visit the preLaw Magazine website for more great content about law school.