Low UGPA? You’re not alone.

I received this great question on the old blog and thought it should be a post of its own on my new blog, so here goes:

“I have a question that no one has asked. I may be the only one with the nerve. My UGPA is 2.6 – and yes, I have a learning disability but that is only a tiny reason for my undergrad performance. You can probably guess the larger reasons: fraternity, girls, sports. Now, two years out of college, I am incredibily REMORSEFUL and mad at myself. How can I come back from this lack of maturity? The LSAC told me that they will never consider more classes taken after the degree is granted. My LSAT is 155. I have grown up so much, and if I am given a chance to go to law school, I will be the hardest working student in the school. Can you give me advice? Thank you for this blog. Sincerely, Former Slacker.”

Dear Former Slacker,

This is an incredibly common problem, so don’t beat yourself up about it to much. The important things will be to emphasize your maturity and growth and the level of responsibility you’ve handled since college graduation. An addendum to explain why your grades are not a fair indicator of your future success is also in order. A strong resume, strong letters of recommendation, and perhaps taking a class just to get a good letter of rec from it wouldn’t be the worst idea.

These are all the kinds of issues I help my clients with on a regular basis and you should not feel alone in your circumstances!

Ann

221 thoughts on “Low UGPA? You’re not alone.

  1. Former Slacker on said:

    I hope I am not repeating a FAQ – here it is: if a learning disability diagnosed during undergrad is PARTIALLY responsible for low UGPA, should I disclose it? I have since learned to cope with the disability (reading) and will not be requesting any accomodations from LSAC or law schools. Thank you again for this valuable blog. I hope your birthday was a great day.

    • Dear Former Slacker,
      First, thanks for the birthday wishes.
      Second, if you feel the disability was significant then it might be worth sharing if you can really show that you overcame it and how you overcame it. As an excuse by itself, it’s not persuasive since there are professionals who diagnose these things rather liberally. However, if it can be shared in a way that shoes you worked hard and grew from the experience, then it’s fair game.
      Ann

  2. Hi Ann,

    I have a UGPA of 3.14 and the median GPA admitted to my top choice is 3.4 – should I include an addendum to my application? My last two years average out to a 3.4 but my sophomore year is really low (2.3 one semester) because I was trying to do engineering and I hated it, and also partied too hard. I changed to political science the next year, grew up a little bit, and got my grades back up, which is pretty much shown on my transcript. I don’t mind doing an addendum, but I didn’t want to send it if it was going to be overkill.

    Thank you!

    • If you were studying Engineering that year, it will be fairly obvious to the schools but a one-sentence addendum wouldn’t be out of whack. I’d leave the partying out if it, though. Good luck!

      • I am a disabled student and a week before my first semester I was rushed into emergency surgery and spent my first weeks unable to walk properly – not that I could before, cancer has been affecting me since the age of ten in more ways than one – I had a low gpa (2.5ish) but, by that winter I got even worse. This medical scare made me realized I didn’t want to live the possibly short life I may have unhappy in my career so I changed from chemistry to political science. By the end of my first year I am on academic probation and a gpa at 1.58 – thoroughly disappointed in myself and letting my disabilities getting the better of me. I am now happy and should have a gpa of mid-low 3’s (approximately 3.4) but, my major gpa is much higher (3.8ish). Is there something I can do to get into a relatively good school, with a scholarship other than Lsats scores – after enough research I definitely know that is a key factor. I know it’s always “possible” but, I can’t afford to feed myself half the time so paying in full is not an option. I go to IUB and was looking at their Law school – although its a little low on the ranking than I’d prefer.

        • Anne, If I understand correctly you have a lot of time left in college so do the best you can to (1) improve your health, and (2) your academic performance.

  3. Hi Ann,

    I graduated undergrad 7 years ago and am planning on leaving my current career and going back to law school to fulfill my dream of becoming an attorney. My UGPA was 2.5, but have had 7 consistent years of solid performance in my current profession. I was wondering how much this can offset a low UGPA. Also, how much can where I attended undergrad mitigate a low UGPA if I’m able to achieve a respectable score on the LSAT? Thanks for your time!

    • Hi John,
      Your LSAT will count for a lot, especially if your undergraduate major was difficult and you attended a good school and you’ve been doing sophisticated, professional level work. I’ve worked with a lot of applicants in your situation and you can actually read a few of them as success stories and testimonials on my main website.
      Good luck on the LSAT!
      Ann

  4. I am curious about this topic as well. I graduated from a liberal arts college with a 3.0. I have been a fashion model for the past 7 years and have been scoring in the 160s on LSAT practice exams. Do I have a shot at a decent law school. I am concerned about my non-traditional work experience although I do have executive assistant experience.

    Thanks!

    • J – of course you have a shot! You are who you are – you’re not the first model, actor, or artist to apply to law school. And you have life experience to share. It’s all about how you choose to share it. Good luck on the LSAT!

  5. I have the same story as former slacker. Same GPA. Same LSAT. Only I’ve been out of school for a few years now, have plenty of work experience in the field of education and I’ve been volunteering at a law firm for a little under a year now.

    I still haven’t been accepted anywhere EXCEPT for a masters program in something unrelated to law. What should I do? Do the masters and reapply in two years? Or study during the summer for the Oct 2010 LSAT and see what happens?

    • A. – improving your LSAT score will have a more direct impact on your law school admission results. Doing a master’s program and getting good grades can help overcome concerns about your UGPA. However, it’s purely subjective and if you are spending money to get your masters and it’s not something that you see using in your career then you are running a risk of wasting time and money with graduate school if you’re doing it just to improve your chances of getting into law school.

  6. I have a similar question. My UGPA was 2.5, I’ve been working in law firms since graduating in 2007, I’ve obtained a paralegal certificate in 2009 and have been working as a paralegal since then. My LSAT score was 148 both times I took it. What are my chances? Thanks!

  7. Hello Ann,

    I graduated undergrad with a 3.07 GPA in Political Science. After I graduated, I got an online Master’s degree from the University of Phoenix and graduated with a 3.6 GPA. During that time, I had a baby and got married and held down 2 jobs (one being a Correctional Officer at a maximum security prison)
    I have taken the LSAT 3 times (I am awaiting the results of the 3rd test) and scored 130 and 137. Law school is my passion. Is there any hope for me?

  8. Dear Ann,
    I’ve read your book The Law School Admission Game and have been referring to it often during my application process. Thank you for the advice you’ve already dished out.

    I’m sure my problem isn’t unique, but it’s creating a lot of anxiety as I move forward with applications. My cumulative UGPA is a 2.61 in a Communications major. It’s absolutely not an accurate reflection of my academic abilities and mostly due to youth and lack of prioritization during my early years as an undergrad. I had a 4 year interruption in my undergrad education and upon returning took 19 and 14 credits and earned semester GPAs of 3.86 and 3.93 respectively all while working 2 jobs, supporting myself, and working an unpaid internship. During my break I experienced a lot of personal growth and my new commitment to school is evident in my GPA’s upward trend. I was not born in this country and moved here when I was 6 years old, grew up in a single parent home on welfare, am the first in my family to earn a bachelor’s degree not to mention pursue a J.D. I’ve been employed without interruption since I was 14 years old and have been financially independent since moving away from home at 18. I also worked throughout college as a bartender and have financed 100% of my college education. I am now 28 years old and ready to get out of the restaurant business and put my intelligence to work.
    I just got my LSAT score back and got a 162 which was a little disappointing since I was scoring 165 on practice tests and was hoping to be in the 90th percentile. I know my LSAT score is of paramount importance to make up for my hideous GPA.
    My questions are: How much will schools weigh my GPA against me despite the upward trend? Is my LSAT score good enough to get me into a school like Fordham? Am I wasting my time applying to my dream school NYU? Also, I plan on focusing on my personal growth and perspective on my personal statement but I am worried that my story may come across as mediocre, or worse: arrogant while telling a mediocre story. I’ve had to earn everything I have through hard work and my education and experiences did not come cheap. I learned the hard way that school should have taken priority over work or social life.
    Please help!
    Thank you

    • Hi Daniela,
      I’m so happy the book is so helpful to you! I love that when you came back to school you did so well (assuming it was at a good college). Your diversity also adds to your case, as does working throughout school.
      If 165 was your practice test score, then a 162 on the real thing is probably the right score for you. Your LSAT and GPA does not put you in Fordham range or NYU. You need to be more realistic about schools even with a story that is presented beautifully.

  9. Also, I forgot to mention I am considering re-taking the LSAT in December although I don’t know that I could significantly increase my score. Should I just accept the 162 or shoot for the 90th percentile which I know I am capable of?

  10. Sangits Datta on said:

    Hi,
    So I have a 3.0 and a 171 LSAT. The reason my GPA is so low is because I started off as a Biology major and realized my second year that I hated it. I spent my second and third years pretty confused about what I wanted to do, and got really low grades ( 2.4 and 2.7) because school didn’t seem important since I didn’t know what I wanted to do anyways. I changed my major to art history and have decided I want to study International Law so that I can work in Cultural Propery Law. I was wondering if I should write an addendum explaining my lack of interest in school those two years. Also since switching my major my grades have gone up a lot. I got a 3.5 this past year.

  11. I graduated 15 years ago with an engineering degree and a 2.31 GPA, supported myself through school. I’ve held multiple managerial positions, including my current one, Engineering Manager. In addition, I have a Professional Engineer’s license. My package will include two very good LORs, one from an executive at my company and another one from my boss. URM, no need for scholarship though. I took the LSAT twice and scored 149 and 153. I would like to apply to a part time program in the NYC area. How realistic is this?

  12. I wanted to know if law schools must admit former military vets and if so, in what proportion to the class size? Is it just a bonus for diversity reasons to them?

    • Ed, vets make GREAT law students and future lawyers! Law schools love the professionalism, dedication, notion of public service and leadership that members of the military bring. While you also need to have the #s to get in, this definitely helps you get into a reach school.

  13. Stephan on said:

    I graduated in 2003. I had a GPA of 2.7 in school and took a year off. I admit it was because of lack of maturity in school. When conducting practice tests I have always gotten in the 140s. One of the reasons I have considered the Law profession is because of a serious lack of steady work since I graduated school so I doubt my resume will be of help. Do I sound like a lost case or are there things I can do to get into a law school.

    • Stephan, you sound a little lost but you’re not a lost case. I really want you to read The Law School Decision Game. This is a bigger decision than just not being able to find a job right now, especially with the schools you’d be eligible to attend. If you’re not willing to invest $12 in making a good decision, then it’s definitely not the right decision for you.

  14. Hi Ann,

    First off thank you for your website, it has been very helpful. I took the LSAT a few weeks ago, and I am studying to retake it in Feb. I don’t feel I was adequetly prepared and would like a score to reflect my true ability, therefore I decided to retake. I just finished my Bachelors in early November, I have an overall GPA of 2.11 – horrible I know. I have worked full time the entire time I went to school, I have 4 kids ages 11 and under, even though it was very hard to balance, I was determined to finish my degreee. I am a first generation grad, my GPA was mostly affected to two hard semesters I had due to medical problems with my last pregnancy. Going to law school is my ulimate goal and I have saved enough to be able to quit my job to attend school full time, I cannot move out of state so I am limited to schools in Michigan. What score would I need to get to be worth applying and actually having a shot, given my very low GPA, and at what score would you consider taking me on as a client?

    Thank you.

    • Hi Leticia,
      I’m so glad the website is helpful to you. If you haven’t read The Law School Admission Game, I highly recommend doing so because a lot of it will answer your low LSAT/low GPA questions. I think you need to break into the 150s as a minimum to get into MSU or Wayne State. It’s not a cut-off score, but it’s a good goal that would help you, and a level at which I would feel comfortable taking you on as a client.

  15. My first two years of university I had a high GPA (3.65 average), but I took time off due to personal and family issues.

    Two years later I returned to school and successfully transferred into a good university (top 25 school). Unfortunately, long term depression got the better of me and it’s been showing in my grades (my average at my current uni is a 2.6).

    Right now I’m focusing on just graduating and I’m planning to enroll in a year long paralegal certification program since I don’t think my chances at law school are very good due to my GPA. I also think that maybe that time would be a good opportunity for me to take an internship and get a better feel for the field.

    I haven’t taken the LSATs yet, but my first practice test with no prior studying was 159, so I’m fairly confident that with studying I can at least get it to mid 160s if not higher.

    What would be my best course of action at this point if I still want to go to law school?

    • Hi Grace,
      I think the best course of action is to show that the depression is behind you. You don’t need the paralegal certification. But showing a record of success would be good, whether it’s that program or professionally or a graduate program. You have real potential on the LSAT and that will absolutely be your saving grace here.

  16. Dear Ann,

    Just wanted to say that I am so happy that you have this blog on this subject. I am currently finishing undergrad with a degree in Criminal Justice but I had to take time off in between due to two pregnancies and financial reasons. I was discouraged for a moment when I thought of attending law school because I do have a low GPA (2.2) currently semester hasn’t ended as of yet. Until I read this blog, I figured my law school aspirations would be nothing but a dream. So I thank you for this. I am going to purchase your books to prepare myself for what is ahead of me. I am a single mother of two so I figure if I can triumph over that, then I can triumph over anything.

    Thank you again for this great blog! It truly made my evening.

    Kay.

  17. Kristen on said:

    Dear Ann,

    My question is similar to the rest. I’m a senior in college and am about to start applying to law schools, however my GPA is very low. I have a 2.5 but am currently scoring a 160 on practice LSATs. With the combination of my LSAT score and GPA do I have a chance at getting accepted into law school? If so, what types of schools should I apply to? Should I apply to schools with low median GPAs and LSATs to accommodate my GPA or should I apply to schools with a higher median GPA because my LSAT score is higher?

    Thank you so much for your help,

    Kristen

  18. Nick S. on said:

    Hi Ann,

    I received your book through Nathan fox and it helped me tremendously during my law school application process. I have a 2.75 gpa and 151 LSAT. I have a 4.0 the last 3 semesters including both semesters after transferring from junior college to state college. I had to work full time to help my mom pay bills after high school and started off unable to work and go to school so my grades suffered. I am middle eastern and i come from a low SES single parent home. My mom is a hairdresser. We never have had much money but since I have been reenrolled in school I have done well. I got 3 really great letters of rec from my teachers and have tons of community service, internship experience at a law firm, and volunteer work. I applied to 30 schools across the country, most realistically based upon my LSAT. Does the fact that I had a work conflict and had to help my mother help amend my poor start? Thanks

    • Ann Levine on said:

      Nick, I’m so glad the book was helpful (I always love collecting 5-star reviews on Amazon if you’re so inclined!).
      I love your upward trend in college, and the fact that you had family responsibilities is a factor the law schools will truly appreciate.
      I wish you all the best!

  19. Adeyemi Murphy-Higgs on said:

    Hello Ann:

    I am a 32-year old, African-American female educator. I have been toying with the idea of going to Law School for over ten years. I have finally decided to take the plunge and apply for 2014, largely due to your two books. My undergraduate gpa was 2.61 – Anthropology. I also have a graduate degree in education with a 3.61 gpa. I am currently enrolled in a commercial lsat prep course and I am registered for the February 2013 administration. I scored a 150 on practice test and I hope to increase my score with the commercial test prep course. I live in the NYC metro area (westchester county) and I would like to stay in the area. Do I have a chance of getting into the law schools in the area (CUNY Law, New York Law, Pace, Touro)?

    • Ann Levine on said:

      Hi Adeyemi,
      I’m so happy my books helped and were influential in your decision! That means so much! (I’m always happy to accept 5-star reviews on Amazon by the way!).
      I think you have great potential to improve your LSAT score between now and February (you might even be able to take December and apply sooner, if you wanted). Assuming your LSAT performance only improves from here, the schools you mentioned are the right target schools for you.

  20. Hi Ann, I graduated with with a CGPA 2.69 and I wrote the October 6,2012 LSAT. I’m still awaiting the result but i score a range 148 – 160 in the practice test. I have 2 years working experience, a years as a customer care representative in a telecomunication company and a year in a media house. My question is do i have a chance of being admitted into any law school? also, should i send an addendum as to why i have a low GPA even though partying and not being matured enough then is the reason for my low GPA?

    • Ann Levine on said:

      Kunle,
      Your LSAT range is huge. If you score in the 140s on the test, I’d say you have to retake the test before applying to law school. However, if you score in the mid to high 150s, there’s absolutely a law school out there for you. Let me know how you do on the LSAT and if I can be of any help.

  21. Elizabeth on said:

    Hi Ann,

    Thanks so much for taking the time with this blog post–it’s very helpful!

    I, too, am a splitter (GPA-3.2, LSAT-169). I have a marked upward grade trend (2.5 my first two years, 3.5+ last two years) that can be attributed to some (not so serious) health issues resolved after my sophomore year. Do I need to provide any sort of supporting documents if relying on a medical explanation in the addendum?

    Additionally, I applied to law school two years ago, decided I needed to take some time off, and withdrew my applications BEFORE receiving all decisions (though after some had come in). I am applying to many of the same schools. Should I include an addendum regarding my previous application?

    • Ann Levine on said:

      Hi Elizabeth. You don’t need supporting documents, but you should explain what happened and assure the reader it is unlikely to repeat itself in law school.
      No reason to explain why you are re-applying.

  22. Hey Ann,
    Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, and your works have been very helpful throughout the application process. My story is slightly non-traditional in comparison to other law school applicants. I went to a competitive liberal arts undergraduate college and majored in Biology and minored in History. Given my background, I am interested in Environmental Law. However, taking a majority of science classes partially deflated my overall UGPA.
    My overall UGPA was a 3.2, however the breakdown is quite skewed. I received a 2.6 GPA in my first 62 credit hours (4 semesters). However, over the final 80 credit hours (final 4 semesters), my GPA significantly increased to a 3.68. I am currently in graduate school pursuing a Master’s in Renewable Natural Resources and my GPA will finish at 4.0 (although I have heard this isn’t considered).
    Do you have any advice concerning how to present these increase in grade trends, and do law schools generally take this into account. I understand that GPA is factored into law school rankings, so I am a little worried that they won’t see the student that I believe I’ve evolved into.
    Once again I greatly appreciate your insight, and I apologize for such a long winded question.
    Thanks,
    Andrew

    • Ann Levine on said:

      Hi Andrew, glad to be helpful.
      This is a really common problem, actually. Your Masters GPA will be considered subjectively, but does not carry a lot of weight. It helps you show, however, that your early grades weren’t the best indicator of how you will perform in law school.
      You should have an explanation in your application to point this out – absolutely.

  23. Hi Ann,

    Just finished the “Law School Admissions Game” and I learned a lot of valuable information — thank you!

    I am having trouble deciding how high I should reach for my reach schools.

    I am a 25 year old female and half Native American. I am enrolled in my tribe. I graduated with a BA in Human Development, GPA 2.5. But my LSAT is a 162!

    I live in the Bay Area and would ideally like to stay here but I am anticipating better scholarship offers from out of state schools. I currently work full time at a laboratory. I have been here for almost 6 years and received several promotions.

    I got an email from Columbia encouraging me to apply based on my LSAT score alone. Prior to this I was not even considering top 20 schools let alone top 10!?

    What are your thoughts?

    Sincerely,
    Jordyn

    • Ann Levine on said:

      Hi Jordyn,
      Schools are all about marketing, especially when they anticipate applications to be down overall.. . you can’t read too much into the invitations to apply.

  24. Hi Ann,

    I am currently a Bioengineering Major that was originally on the Pre-Medicine track at my school. I am also currently a Junior. After a lot of research and a lot of thinking I’ve decided to pursue a Major in Criminal Justice with a minor in psychology, in which all my credits go towards my Electives for graduation. I need 45 more credits to graduate 35 of which involve taking Criminal Justice classes. I currently have a UGPA of 2.66 but thats due to the engineering and upper level Sciences that I’ve taken. If I pursue the Criminal Justice Major, and end up getting a good LSAT score as well as raising my GPA, will law schools look at me negatively due to the low GPA during the time I was an Engineering/PreMed Major?

    Thanks,
    Kyle

    • Ann Levine on said:

      Hi Kyle,
      Criminal justice isn’t my favorite major, but it you can get a 4.0 in it and show the upward trend in your grades then I’m all for it. If you get mediocre grades in Criminal Justice then it’s not a good situation, especially if your LSAT score is also low or mediocre. If you can motivate yourself to do exceptionally well in the rest of your classes, then law schools will notice that and take it into account.

  25. Hi Ann,

    I am currently enrolled in Widener University, senior year pursuing a political science degree. I have a bad gpa right now, about a 2.7, but have mainly B’s in my poli sci courses, a B in constitutional law, and basically A’s and B’s and one C in all law related classes. I only have one semester left to pull it up, which I know is not much, but my gpa suffered the first semester of my freshman year as I was young and immature, but brought it up my spring semester because I began to mature more, but it continued to suffer my sophomore and junior year as I began working 20-30+ hours a week, sophomore year I was also enrolled in ROTC, but cannot join the Army due to a peanut allergy. I just got my grades this semester (now only working about 12-16 hours a week) and got 3 B’s and 2 C’s (one was in a class that had no tutors as it was its first semester at Widener, and another was senior research, with which my group was plagued with lots of problems, such as one of our members has Crohn’s disease, and the other was extremely busy with his own schedule all the time, so our schedules were very badly matched)I did not choose my group either. I know the majority of my poli sci courses are Bs, but I am unsure if this will be enough to fix my current situation, as I would like to go to Widener University School of Law. It is close by, and it is associated with where I currently attend school. I am unsure of how I would do on the LSAT, but I think I could score somewhere in the 150-165 range or higher, but I will not know until I take it. Also, I feel I could get some decent letters of recommendation from poli sci professors and criminal justice professors. What are my chances of getting into law school and fulfilling my dream?

    • Ann Levine on said:

      Wesley, keep working on your grades and create a serious plan for LSAT prep – your goal law school is not unreasonable if you can get a score in the mid-150s. Good luck!

  26. Alexandria on said:

    Hello Ann,
    I am currently enrolled at the University of Utah I am a senior pursuing a bachelor’s of science in psychology and political science. I have a g.p.a of 2.56 because my first two years of school I majored in biomedical engineering, then realized it wasn’t for me. I grew up on the American Indian reservation where high school education wasn’t the finest. We did not have a chemistry or biology class because there was not a science teacher available. So I pretty much went into the biomedical engineering major with no prior experience in the field. I finally realized that it was not the major I wanted to pursue. This required me to do some searching and resulted in not really having a passion with the classes I was taking. I then started taking classes in psychology which I loved and have maintained a good academic standing within the field. I began to think about law school so I started taking classes for political science and have a 3.4 gpa within the major. The next two semesters I plan to continue to work hard to increase my gpa. After I graduate I plan to work for a year or two to support my son and possibly save for law school. I am also planning on using the time to study for the LSAT. I am wondering if I have a shot at applying for law school considering my low gpa? Also, what advice can you give me to increase the likelihood of getting accepted into law school?
    Thanks

    • Ann Levine on said:

      Hi Alexandria,
      I think law schools will definitely take your background into consideration when it is presented to them. Of course you have a shot!

  27. Caroline on said:

    Hi Ann,

    I, too, am a splitter, which is making it very difficult for me to decide what tier(s) of law schools to be looking at. Here’s my situation: I graduated from Mount Holyoke College this past May with a major in astronomy and a double minor in physics and French. My GPA was 2.7, and it took me an extra year to graduate because I took time off to battle the depression that, at least in part, contributed to my low GPA. HOWEVER, in taking LSAT practice tests with minimal studying, I’ve been scoring 160-172. With a discrepancy like that, what kind of tier am I looking at?

    P.S. I’m looking at IP/patent law, and am currently working part-time in sales.

  28. Cherish on said:

    Hi Ann,

    I have read your book and I’m currently apply to law schools, but I’m a bit nervous. I’ve supported myself through school the entire way. I’m a vet that went to school on and off during deployments and I’m currently a police corporal with a local jurisdiction. I took the LSAT back in Oct and scored a 143 by GPA is 2.7, and I have no idea what to write about for my personal statement. I have LORs coming from my former military supervisors and my current chief of police. I’m applying to local schools with part-time programs because I’m 29 with lots of finanical responsbility. What should I make my personal statement about and what do you think are my chances for being accepted?