Welcome to another installment of 7Sage's weekly advice column, "Dear AO,” a "Dear Abby"-style column where you can ask any question to former law school admissions officers. Each week, we'll publish our answers to a couple of our favorite questions. Submit questions here.

Dear AO,

What is the third most important thing for law school applications, apart from GPA and LSAT?


bojack horseman

Dear bojack horseman,

First, thank you for your question.

First and foremost, I love the way you worded your question. It is true that the objective parts of a law school JD application are the LSAT (or GRE) and GPA history. However, the importance of each factor, objective or subjective, varies on a case-by-case basis. We call it a holistic review, and it is. Let’s consider some examples.

Say an applicant's highest LSAT score and cumulative GPA are below a law school’s medians. However, that applicant has several years of working in the legal profession as an intern, employee, or research assistant. In addition, their LORs are superior and glowing. Not only that, their well-written personal statement and other documents paint a picture of someone who is very dedicated and sure about why they want to study an area of law. They have also shown how they have overcome those low objective criteria in a straightforward and honest way. All of these together make the argument to admit this applicant. An AO can’t just point to one—or even three—things on the list.

This can be true in the opposite direction as well. Say an applicant has a very strong LSAT and cumulative GPA, yet all of their other pieces are weak—not well written, not a strong showing of dedication to the profession, weaker LORs, etc. This will give an admissions officer or committee pause in admitting someone with objective scores above a law school’s median.

All of this to say, the third most important thing besides the GPA and LSAT is…everything else.

I hope this is helpful!


Dr. Riley


Dear bojack horseman,

Thank you so much for your question!

While the quantitative factors are important to consider, the written materials are the components that can tip the scales in one direction or another. After reading through a candidate’s personal statement, résumé, and other documents, we should have a better understanding of who the candidate is, what some of their goals are, and what has informed their decision to pursue a legal education––if this last piece isn’t said explicitly, often the résumé can demonstrate this piece.

If the materials are devoid of these things and don’t give AOs a strong sense of a person’s candidacy, then it’s really difficult to get to yes, even if the LSAT and GPA are strong. Especially when a candidate is applying to those high-ranked schools, there are more people with strong numbers than the school has room to admit, so those other pieces make a difference. We don’t often have the time or bandwidth to circle back with questions later, so when materials fall short, that influences a decision.

Being a good fit is not just about the numbers––we want to have a sense of how you will engage with and contribute to our law school community to determine in what ways you might hit the ground running if offered a seat and to feel confident that you’re both ready and committed to putting in the work to be successful academically.

Similarly, letters of recommendation can give us strong glimpses of your candidacy in terms of how you’ve previously engaged with and contributed to an academic setting and the professionalism with which you carry yourself in experiential settings. Strong letters can help build confidence in a candidate, while letters that are lacking in substance can be detrimental. The holistic review is necessary––that is, a review of all components in the aggregate––because a decision only on the numbers does not indicate fit, engagement, or potential contribution.

I hope this is helpful!