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Surprise! My GPA is What? Important Considerations for how Law Schools Evaluate GPA

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By Katie Schellenger, J.D., Director of Legal Professions Advising

As most of you know, numbers play an important part in the law school admissions process.  Your undergraduate GPA is one major piece of that.  Why is your GPA so important to law school admissions officers?  There are two primary reasons: 1) a good GPA demonstrates both your intellectual ability and your willingness to work hard, and 2) studies have shown a positive correlation between strong undergraduate GPAs and law school performance.

What you might not know – but should – is how your GPA is presented to law school admissions officers.  The Law School Admission Council (LSAC) prepares a report that converts your grades to a standard 4.0 system, which provides law schools with a uniform way to compare applicants.  The report also provides law schools with context in which to understand your GPA. 

What does this mean for you?

1.     The GPA on your report will differ slightly from that on your F&M transcript.  See the weights used by the LSAC to calculate your GPA here

2.     The GPA on your report will account for courses taken at other institutions – even if they are not included on F&M’s transcript.  You must submit transcripts from 1) institutions you attended for summer or evening courses, 2) institutions from which you took college-level courses while in high school – even if they were for high school credit, and 3) if you studied abroad, from domestic institutions that “clearly sponsored” your overseas credit.

3.     The Report will show how your GPA compares with that of other F&M graduates who have registered with the LSAC.  This metric allows admissions officers to better understand what your GPA means and how inflated – or uninflated – an institution’s grades might be.  For example, a 3.6 GPA from an institution with a 3.5 average GPA is not as impressive as a 3.6 from an institution with a 3.1 average GPA.

A strong undergraduate academic performance will greatly benefit you, regardless of whether you apply to law school. If you do apply to law school, however, it is particularly important that you achieve good grades at F&M and while studying abroad or at other institutions.  

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