Is My LSAT Percentile Too Low for My Dream School?

So you just found out your LSAT score, and now you’re hoping that it’s high enough to get into your “dream school.” Well, I suppose the first thing you need to do is figure out what your LSAT percentile is at the school(s) of your dreams.

Personally, I don’t really know what people mean when they say dream school. When I was applying, my dream school was the highest ranked school that I could get in. But hey, I’m probably different than most people.

What are LSAT percentiles?

There are three percentiles you need to be familiar with when looking at a particular law school’s LSAT score range. I’m guessing you already know what they are, but if not, here you go.

The 25th Percentile

If you’ve taken stats, you probably know what this means. If your score falls into a school’s 25th LSAT percentile, that means your score is among the lowest 25% of all the LSAT scores of recently enrolled students. If you want to look at it another way, it means 75% of the people at that law school scored higher than you did on the exam.

It also means you probably won’t be getting into the school based on your LSAT scores alone. Now if you won the Nobel Peace Prize recently…

Does this mean you shouldn’t apply to that school? Absolutely not. Check out our post on deciding how many law schools to apply to for more information on this, but the short answer is that everyone should have a couple reach schools. After all, a full 25% of all law students fall at or below the 25th percentile at their school. Someone is getting accepted with those slightly lower LSAT scores.

The 50th Percentile

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Continuing with our reasoning, if you are in the school’s 50th LSAT percentile, it means that your LSAT score is higher than those of 50% of the recently enrolled students at that school.

Your chances of getting in are markedly higher than if you hit the 25th percentile. It’s more like a toss-up. At this point, you’ve probably at least made it to the “maybe” pile and have earned a closer look at your entire application. That means your letters of recommendation, personal statement, work experience–all the /”soft factors” of admissions–are going to be very important. In other words, don’t cut any corners on your application if your LSAT score puts you around the 50th percentile at your dream school.

In terms of estimating your chances of getting in, count schools like this as realistic possibilities. You probably want to apply to a few schools where your LSAT score falls around the 50th percentile.

The 75th Percentile

The 75th percentile (or above) is the best place you could be, and honestly, if you’re in your dream school’s top 25%, you might even want to consider applying to some higher ranked schools.

With a score in this range, your chances of getting in are really high. An unusually weak GPA or a lazy application will still derail you, but if you present yourself thoughtfully and pull together the full package, you’re in great shape. In other words, if you’re at or above the 75th percentile, you should count this as a safety school and just make sure you don’t miss any deadlines or cut corners on your application.

So Which Law Schools Should I Apply To?

At a minimum, you should apply to at least three law schools (though our article on the topic recommends far more than 3). There are three categories these schools will fall into, and you should apply to at least two of them. The following guidelines are for those trying to minimize the number of applications they submit, whether for financial reasons, geographic limitations, or just time-constraints.

Safety Schools

A safety school is one where your score falls into its 75th LSAT percentile. You could also call it an insurance school. While you don’t need to apply to a safety school, you should seriously consider it. You apply to this school as a fall-back, just in case you don’t get accepted to a higher ranked school or a school that better fits your specific needs and interests.

When you’re considering which safety school to apply to, find the two or three that you like the most, and then rank which one you would rather attend (don’t forget to look at specific program strengths!). Apply to that school.

If you decide to apply to a safety school, only apply to one. There’s really no need to apply to more than one, since your chances of getting accepted are really high.

Good Fit Schools

A “good fit” school is one where your LSAT percentile is between 25 and 75. The reason these schools are “good fits” is because most of the students that get accepted to these schools fall into this score range.

Obviously, the closer you get to the 75th percentile, the higher your chances of getting in will be. The same rule applies when your score gets closer to the 25th percentile.

I suggest applying to at least two of these schools. Apply to one where you are in the 50th to 75th LSAT percentile range, and one where you’re in the 25 to 50th percentile range. Feel free to apply to more than two. Just remember that the more schools you apply to in this range, the tougher a decision you’ll have to make when it comes time to choose one. Though, that’s not a bad position to be in.

Reach Schools 
Finally we have the reach schools. These are the schools where getting accepted would be a real reach. Your score at these schools is in the 25th percentile or lower, and your chances of getting in are pretty low.

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Many times people find that their dream school is in this range. I don’t really buy that, since there’s not a huge drop-off between the 60th ranked law school and the 30th ranked law school. Your goal may be to get into the highest ranked law school possible. But, getting into a little bit higher ranked school won’t make or break your career after law school.

So, that means your reach school should be one that is more than just a few spots higher than your “good fit” schools. You’ll want to be in the 15 to 25 percent range on this one. Any higher than that and you’ll have a snowball’s chance in hell of getting accepted.

But, you should have fun with this. You could still get in. It happens every year.


Just to sum up, you should apply to at least two good fit schools, and one reach school. If you want to sleep better at night, apply to a safety school as well.

You need to make sure, however, that you would be fine going to any of those schools you applied to. The last thing you want to do is get stuck in a school you don’t want to go to. Besides, there are so many law schools out there, you don’t have any reason to apply to a place you don’t see yourself attending happily.

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