While we’ve previously offered advice on addressing weaknesses in one’s academic record, today we wanted to explore the other side of the issue: your undergraduate record’s strengths.
1. The undergraduate GPA is, alongside the LSAT score, one of the most important elements of the law school application. Therefore an impressive college GPA is crucial to be competitive at the leading law schools – the average GPA of students in the Class of 2013 at many top schools like Yale, Stanford and Penn was well over 3.8, while students at Columbia, NYU, and Chicago needed GPAs above 3.7.
2. The undergraduate institution attended can have a slight, yet positive impact on a student’s chance of admission. For example, students who went to college at Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Stanford receive a small bump at the law schools at Harvard, Yale, and Stanford. Similarly, undergraduates from Penn are somewhat favored in Penn Law’s admissions process.
3. “Hard majors” (i.e. math, engineering, natural sciences) carry extra weight in the evaluation process, although the GPA must be very strong in order for the hard major to have an impact.
4. Although doing well in graduate school(s) is a nice addition to any profile, it will not make up for a less than average undergraduate GPA.
5. In addition, for applicants who held a part-time job or were involved in a number of extracurricular activities during college, high grades might be taken as a sign of a solid work ethic and strong organizational or time management skills. Finally, because many college students don’t take their studies seriously for some or all of their time at college, consistently strong grades could be taken as a sign of maturity and responsibility at an early age.
As you can see, there are a number of things that the adcom could conclude about an applicant’s general qualities and characteristics simply by looking at his or her transcript. This should encourage you to think about the more abstract ways that your academic record reflects your positive qualities and consider ways that you could convey this information in your application.