The Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) converts applicants' undergraduate records to a standard 4.0 Grade Point Average system, so law schools can compare candidates according to a uniform standard. Applicants often have questions about how their GPAs are calculated by the LSAC, and they may see differences between their undergraduate GPAs as calculated by their colleges, and their LSAC GPAs.
One potential law student wrote to us as follows:
I have a very strong undergraduate GPA (3.90/4.00). I am concerned that my LSAC GPA may differ considerably, however. I have one "Withdrawal" that I received the summer after my freshman year in college. I pay for my education and was working a lot that summer. The class conflicted with work, and I didn't need it for any degree requirement. I dropped it so I could make money. This is my only W and I believe the only factor affecting my LSAC GPA. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
Good news for this student: Withdraw, Withdraw/Pass, Withdraw/Fail, and Incomplete "grades" are not included in the LSAC's GPA calculations, unless the applicant's school considered the grade to be punative.
Most schools don't consider withdrawals to be punative, and every undergraduate school details its grading policies for the LSAC on an annual basis. Note that failing grades, which schools may identify as No Credit/Fail, Not Passing, Incomplete/Fail,Withdraw/Fail, Unsatisfactory, Fail, etc., are converted to zero on the 4.0 scale used by the LSAC and are included in its calculations of applicants' GPAs. Though the explanation in the 2009-2010 LSAC Law School Admission Book is not that clear (in my humble opinion), you can read it here (see pages 34-35). (Also, I don't think this student needs to provide an explanation of one withdrawal, assuming his college does not consider it to be punitive.)
Sometimes applicants are disappointed to learn that grades from a semester or year abroad are excluded from their LSAC GPAs. If you study abroad on a program sponsored by a US institution, your grades will be included in the calculation; if you study abroad for a year or less and the program is not sponsored by a US institution (for example, you're enrolled at Cambridge), your grades are not included in the calculation.
The GPA calculations can be tricky. Do you have other questions or concerns about how LSAC calculates your GPA? Post them here!
Nicole Vikan is a graduate of NYU Law School. She spent her first law school summer at a large law firm, and her second summer in the Homicide Investigation Unit at the Manhattan District Attorney's Office. She returned to the District Attorney's Office after graduation and spent five years as a criminal prosecutor, handling cases such as robbery and assault. Nicole then joined Fordham Law School's Career Planning Center, where she advised students seeking employment in the private and public sectors. She is currently a career counselor at Georgetown Law Center's Office of Public Interest and Community Service. As part of the Anna Ivey team, Nicole works with law school applicants and people exploring legal careers.