Overcoming a Low GPA for Top-25 Law Schools

Overall, the demand for law school has gone down as fewer students decide to choose this field. On the other hand, demand for top-25 law schools is still quite high. Many students understand that the job prospects of those who choose a top school are considerably better than those who go to a lower ranked school. That is why many students have decided to aim high.


Unfortunately, many students do not have the GPA that is in the upper 90% of the admit class. The excuses run the gamut for why good students have a low GPA. Some chosen engineering or other difficult majors. Others had life issues they had to deal with. Some schools are tougher than others. Unfortunately, a 2.75 GPA is a 2.75 GPA.

It’s Important to Understand the LSAC/LSDAS GPA Calculation

The GPA should be similar to what’s currently on the transcript. However, a No Pass grade counts as an F. If you pass a Pass/No Pass class, that class won’t count into the GPA. If you are struggling in a course, it may be best to take it on a P/NP basis as long as it still counts for graduation with the P/NP grading.

Remedial classes do not count towards the GPA.

The difficulty of the major does not matter. A 2.75 GPA (B- average) in engineering is the same as a 2.75 GPA in an easy major. It is up to individual law schools to figure out that the academic rigor of science/engineering majors is a lot higher than for some humanities/social science majors.

Once the baccalaureate degree has been conferred, LSAC will not count further courses into the GPA. A lot of people decide to go to law school long after the BA degree has been awarded. Taking extra undergrad classes won’t help with the GPA. Getting a master’s degree won’t help the GPA since graduate classes do not count. Graduate classes also have GPA inflation since a 3.00 GPA is very close to academic probation.

Punitive withdraw grades count as an F. For example, if the university counts a WF or WU grade as failing or no pass, LSAC will count it as an F. If there is no penalty for a W grade, LSAC won’t count it.

What to Do if I Have a Low GPA?

As a college senior, the GPA won’t move much just prior to graduation since a lot of credits have already been completed. Taking a bunch of courses during senior year and getting As won’t help as much as studying hard for the LSAT.

As a college graduate, the GPA is set in stone. Grades after the BA degree is conferred don’t count. Don’t bother taking extra courses as a postbac. Don’t bother with a second BA degree if law school is your true goal.

With law school, you can get in with any major. The courses that help with law school can be completed within the context of any major.  So there aren’t many courses in which you can demonstrate your ability to excel in law school. However, a low undergraduate GPA indicates you may not have the ability to survive.

So you have to prove that the bad GPA is not indicative of your current academic abilities. Some ways to prove this:

  • Score very high on the LSAT. A poor GPA takes four years. A great LSAT score can be earned within four hours. A great LSAT score may convince some tier 1 and tier 2 law schools that the applicant has the academic ability to succeed.
  • Get super recommendations from faculty in recent courses in which you’ve performed well. The faculty recommendations need to be compelling.
  • Explain why low grades occurred, and why they are not indicative of your current ability. Don’t be afraid to talk about family or personal illnesses, relationship issues, financial problems, etc. that may have contributed to low grades. Make sure the causes of the low grades have been resolved.
  • Have a very compelling reason to go to law school and become a lawyer. Describe what you will do once you graduate. Be as specific as possible. Vague goals are not as believable.

Applying for Lower Tier School

Another strategy is to apply for tier 2, tier 3, and tier 4 law schools. Keep in mind that career prospects may be very limited by going for a lower tier school. It is possible that some students from tier 3 and tier 4 schools may end up unemployed, especially if they did not gain any experience during school breaks. If the economy is hot upon graduation, tier 3 and tier 4 students may be in luck. If the economy is poor, even a few tier 1 students may be unemployed upon graduation.  Students with low GPAs may want to apply for schools in all tiers to make sure that they’re admitted somewhere while retaining the chance to get into a tier 1 school. This will cost more time and money. But it’s an option for those who want to become a lawyer.

If You Are in High School or a College Freshman

If you are reading this while as a high school student or college freshman, it is important to know that overcoming a low GPA is very hard. You can’t make it up by taking extra courses or getting a MA or Ph.D. A high LSAT score may help, but it’s likely that a low GPA will result in rejection from tier 1 law schools. It is super important to get a high GPA. That is why it’s best to study hard. If you’re struggling in your courses, it may be best to withdraw prior to the last date to withdraw rather than try to push through. Cs, Ds, and Fs are really going to hurt. This is not a problem that is easily fixed after graduation. Don’t be afraid to drop courses or withdraw. You only get one chance at college.