How law schools look at your academic record

May 16, 2022

Laptop screen with higher education website with words, "Send your application now!"Your academic record is an important part of your law school application. Law schools can look at this record in ways undergraduates don't expect. This article lifts the curtain so you know what goes on behind the scenes. 

GPA

Law schools will recalculate your GPA according to their own policies. This practice helps law schools better see transcripts from different schools under the same lens. Here are some important ways they may recalculate your GPA: 

  • NP grades: No Pass grades will be calculated as 0 on a 4 point scale, which means they'll be treated as F grades. Pass grades are not recalculated and will not be put into your law school admissions GPA.

  • Repeats: While UC Berkeley allows some grade replacement for letter graded repeats (see our Repeating Courses page for more information), law schools don't allow grades to be removed from your GPA in this way. The Law School Admissions Council (LSAC)  will calculate those first attempt grades into your total GPA even if UC Berkeley has removed them. 

  • All college work. You will be required to send in your transcripts for every college you have attended, even if you just took one or two classes there. This work will be included in your admissions GPA. 

In your application, you can also provide an addendum to explain any extenuating circumstances that resulted in a failing grade. 

Transcript patterns

Law schools realize that there are factors that can make it easier to maintain a strong GPA. To make sure this is equitable between applicants, your transcripts will also be reviewed for the following: 

  • P grades: Law schools typically suggest taking no more than two optionally graded courses for P/NP during your undergraduate experience, and suggest avoiding doing so in your junior or senior year. P/NP-only courses are fine to take as long as you are not taking them for the majority of your schedule. There still may be times where you want to choose P/NP outside of these guidelines. Meet with an L&S Pre-Professional Grad Programs adviser to discuss the best option for you.

  • Course loads: Law schools anticipate applicants will take course loads around 15-16 units by the time they're in their junior or senior year (we still recommend incoming transfer students take a 13-14 unit course load in their first semester to adjust academically). That said, there are solid reasons lower course loads are completely fine. A few examples are students with DSP accommodations, who work long hours, or who have demanding family obligations. It also may be wise to take a 13-14 unit course load if you’re concerned a higher one may negatively impact your GPA. We recommend talking through your course loads with an expert if you have any questions. 

GPA in perspective

While GPA is important in law school admissions, it is not the only factor that will be reviewed. It's often helpful to have an open conversation with a knowledgeable resource about your application as a whole. We have some helpful resources for this listed below and on our Discover Grad School Prep page. 

Trends in your grades can also be impactful. Sometimes, it takes students a little time to adjust to UC Berkeley or to find the right major. If you've encountered challenges in the past, the best thing you can do is access resources and make decisions about your academics that set you up for success for your current or future courses. Check out our Connect through Academic Support page for resources and ideas.

More support

For more information on law school, check out L&S Pre-Professional Graduate Programs advising or meet with a Career Center counselor. 

Back to Discover Opportunities and Connect on Campus

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