4 Ways to Overcome a Low GPA in Law School Applications

Shawn P. O'Connor

For those of you applying to law school with a low undergraduate GPA, there are measures you may take to offset this potential obstacle.

A low GPA -- or at least, low compared with the average GPA of admitted students at a particular institution -- is one of the concerns I hear about most from prospective law school students because of the competitive nature of the admissions process. I have even answered specific questions in some of my Q-and-A segments.

If you have graduated from college, there is nothing you can do to improve your undergraduate GPA. However, there are four steps that anyone can take to supplement a low GPA and combat this potential weakness in your application.

[Find out how law schools weigh undergraduate GPA.]

1. Take extra classes: You can still take extra courses to learn and demonstrate your drive to succeed even after you've earned an undergraduate degree. Investigate classes that interest you and build the critical reasoning skills necessary for law school courses, such as English, political science or economics.

While grades awarded for postcollege course work will not affect your undergraduate GPA, your initiative will reveal that your GPA is not indicative of your current academic capability. This is particularly true for those who have been out of college for many years.

2. Conquer the LSAT: Another way to offset a low GPA is to knock your LSAT score out of the park. Two of the first aspects of applications that law school admissions committees evaluate are GPA and LSAT score.

Even if your GPA is low compared to students a school generally admits, a high LSAT score may convince the committee to closely examine the rest of your application.

In addition, many institutions award merit-based financial aid to students with exceptional LSAT scores.

[Learn how to get your best possible LSAT score.]

3. Find the right recommenders: You will likely be deciding among several potential recommenders, but if your GPA is low there are two types of recommenders in particular who will help you demonstrate that your cumulative grades do not tell your full story.

Select a professor who witnessed your best work and can speak confidently to it. You almost certainly performed better in some classes than others, whether due to your interest in the subject matter or style of the professor, so you should seek the instructor of one of those classes to speak to your academic accomplishments.

A professional recommendation will also add to your application, because he or she can attest to your ability to complete projects successfully. Many individuals are more hands-on learners than classroom learners.

If this is the case for you, demonstrating your career accomplishments through your recommendations will be very important for an effective law school application.

[Understand how to craft an application to a top law school.]

4. Include an addendum: Finally, if your undergraduate GPA was affected by circumstances outside your control, you may wish to explain the situation through an addendum.

Was there a reason you struggled in school that the admissions committee should know about? Perhaps you had a family emergency that brought down an otherwise solid GPA, or you were seriously ill for a large portion of your undergraduate career. These should be serious explanations, not excuses.

While you cannot alter your undergraduate GPA if you are out of college, you can certainly exhibit your current accomplishments to affirm that there is more to your candidacy than grades. I have worked with many law school applicants with low GPAs who followed these steps and got into their first choice school.

Are you applying to law school with a low GPA? Let me know in the comments, email me or contact me via Twitter.