How to Improve Your Law School Application GPA
Here are three suggestions for handling low grades carefully because they can ruin a law school application
No pressure, but academic performance is perhaps the most crucial aspect of getting into law school.
Even though straight A students may not be guaranteed to succeed in law school or in life in general, law schools nonetheless view undergraduate grades as a reliable predictor of future academic achievement.
Students that earn good grades are viewed by law schools as having a demonstrated capacity for information analysis, efficient communication, and meeting deadlines.
However, law schools wouldn’t require admissions officers if grades were the only factor. Law schools are aware that, along with standardized test results and other considerations, grades are only one indicator of an applicant’s aptitude.
Some intelligent individuals have poor scores because they took on difficult courses or competing obligations, while others needed time to discover their footing or expertise.
Don’t despair if you feel like your grades don’t reflect your academic potential. To compensate for a weak GPA on your law school application, consider these three tips:
- In an addendum, describe your grades.
- Display your skills somewhere else.
- enroll in more classes.
Explain Your Grades in an Addendum
Applicants often include an addendum to give context for other application materials, like a poor transcript or a complicated answer to a background question.
An addendum should be brief, professional and forthright. If you have a concrete reason for underperformance, like an illness or personal challenge or change in majors, describe it succinctly and explain how the situation resolved or why it will no longer affect your academic performance.
For example, maybe you struggled with a mental health issue and your grades suffered for a semester. You can’t change your past, but you can use a carefully crafted addendum to show that you took hold of the situation, sought help and learned to manage it – showing your maturity and resilience.
You might also explain in an addendum if a class you performed poorly in was unusually difficult. If you took a higher-level course in science or mathematics whose difficulty may not be readily apparent to readers of your transcript, consider providing context about the rigor of the material or average grades in the course.
Consider whether your addendum strengthens your application or just highlights your weaknesses if you find yourself accumulating justifications or pointless explanations. For instance, just because your first-year grades were shamefully low doesn’t mean you need an amendment. The majority of college students take some time to adjust to the workload.
The same goes for admissions authorities, who are fully aware that many former premeds applying to law school may have received low marks in notoriously challenging preparatory courses like organic chemistry.
Show Your Abilities Elsewhere
Grades aren’t the only way to show you can reason, write well and tackle mental challenges. Get recommendation letters from people who can speak to your intellectual abilities. Use your personal statement to showcase your communication skills. Write a resume that specifies how your jobs required high-level performance under pressure.
A strong LSAT score can compensate for a low GPA, so it is well worth the investment of time and effort it takes to do well. Many competitive law schools screen applicants using a weighted index of their grades and LSAT scores, so extra points on the LSAT may effectively boost your GPA.
If you score poorly on the LSAT, you can try to address it in an addendum as well, but that can be trickier to explain than poor grades. After all, applicants have more control over when and how many times they take the LSAT than they do over undergraduate grades.
Take Extra Classes
If you are still an undergraduate, take summer classes or increase your course load to balance out earlier underperformance and to show a strong trend of improvement.
Consider taking a gap year before applying. Then, your transcript report will include all of your senior-year grades, which may raise your cumulative GPA. And it will be easier to focus on coursework without having to complete applications.
If you have already graduated, you can still take classes to show your academic capabilities. If a master’s degree or another graduate program is financially prohibitive, look for graded classes open to the public at a nearby university or community college.
Such classes won’t hold the weight of your undergraduate GPA because graduate classes are less easily compared, and because applicants’ undergraduate grades affect law school rankings. Nevertheless, they strengthen your argument that you can handle classwork.
You cannot alter your transcript unless you have the ability to travel through time or are a skilled computer hacker, in which case law school might not be for you. But with this guidance, you can demonstrate to law school admissions committees that you are more than just the sum of your academic achievements.