Welcome to the latest installment of Law Admissions Q&A, a feature that provides law school admissions advice to readers who send in inquiries. If you have a question about law school admissions, email us for a chance to be featured in a future post.
I am planning to apply for law school after completing a dual degree at my college, a Bachelor of Science in engineering and a Bachelor of Arts in political science. Will law schools see a transcript breaking down the GPA for each degree? Am I allowed to use the higher GPA of the two when filling out law school applications, and/or should I provide an explanation statement for this? — DD
Without a doubt, grades are one of the most important factors in law school admissions. Applicants can compare their grade point average against the median GPA for a given law school to gauge their chances of admission. However, the idea that law schools mechanically sort applicants by their GPA is a myth.
Law schools are interested in the grades on an applicant’s transcript because undergraduate grades are a dependable indicator of academic performance in law school. While GPAs are one way to evaluate and compare grades, they do not tell the whole story.
Beyond the GPA, admissions officers might look at other trends and data points revealed by an applicant’s academic record. Did the applicant take a challenging course load? Did the applicant’s grades improve over time? Were there certain subjects in which the applicant performed well or poorly, and are those classes relevant to law school? How do the applicant’s grades align with other application materials, like recommendation letters?
How Law School Admissions Officers Review Grades
Each law school applicant’s file includes a report compiled by the Law School Admission Council, or LSAC, through the council’s Credential Assembly Service. This report includes all grades from every undergraduate and graduate institution an applicant has reported attending.
The LSAC report includes several GPAs: a GPA for each institution, a GPA for each year and a cumulative GPA for all undergraduate work.
So, if you have received multiple undergraduate degrees within one institution, law schools will see your overall undergraduate GPA that includes all those programs. They will not see separate GPAs for your bachelor of arts and your bachelor of science from the same institution.
If you receive multiple degrees from separate institutions — like an associate degree, a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree — LSAC will calculate separate GPAs for each institution as well as a cumulative undergraduate GPA.
For more complicated situations, like international grades, withdrawals or repeated courses, LSAC has posted guidance online about what will appear on those transcript reports and how GPAs are calculated.
Law School Admissions Officers Are Transcript Experts
A law school admissions officer reading your transcript has likely reviewed thousands of transcripts before. Even if applicants with multiple undergraduate degrees are rare, admissions offices encounter situations like this every year.
Thus, there is no point in trying to game the system by calculating GPA your own way. Likewise, there is no point in obsessing about whether your GPA reflects your overall performance.
Did you get better grades in political science classes than in engineering classes? Admissions officers will see this and may surmise that you are better at making policy arguments than designing circuitry. Did your completion of two degrees require taking an unusually high course load? Admissions officers will see this, as well.
Ultimately, every law school admits some applicants with GPAs below their median. In such cases, law schools make a judgment call that such applicants are capable of higher academic performance than their GPA alone might suggest.
If I were an admissions officer, I would conclude that an applicant who managed to complete bachelor’s degrees in political science and engineering seems like someone with the potential to excel in law school. While I would want to know the applicant’s GPA, this would just be one data point among many, not the final word.
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How Law Schools Evaluate a Transcript With Multiple Degrees originally appeared on usnews.com