The 4-1-1 on Your G-P-A

January 3, 2008

Dear Asha,

I took one year off after undergrad and I'm currently in grad school. Will my grades in grad school be weighted the same (or less or greater) than my undergraduate grades?


Dear J.J.,

Apologies for the three-week hiatus from the blog: we've been busy in the Admissions Office processing your applications and reading them very carefully, so there was a good reason (though I have to admit I snuck in a few hours to catch The Biggest Loser finale last month -- will a woman ever win that show?)...

So grad school. Generally speaking, your undergraduate grades will carry the most weight in your application. Your graduate grades will be taken into account, but if anything they will be given as much or less weight than your undergrad grades. This is for several reasons. First, we need a common basis upon which to evaluate applicants and, since most of our applicants do not have advanced degrees but all have a college degree, the undergraduate GPA is the best point of comparison. Second, the undergraduate GPA usually represents coursework over a span of four years, and usually across several disciplines, while a Masters is only for one or two years and in a very specific subject area (which is sometimes not very closely related to law). Finally, I rely a lot on the LSDAS report to give me data, and the data they give me -- for example, the breakdown of individual grades by units, the percentile rank of your GPA compared to applicants from your own undergraduate institution for the last three years, and the percentage distribution of GPAs at your institution -- is based on your undergradate grades (yes, we do look at all of that information!).

Honestly speaking, then, a stellar graduate transcript may not necessarily obviate the relevance of your undergrad GPA. However, doing well in grad schools does tell us that you are capable of doing well in graduate level work, which is important in assessing your academic potential. And you should not hesitate to provide a reference from a professor in grad school if there was a class in which you excelled or if you got to know a professor extremely well -- my comments above refer only to GPAs, not to the weight given to recommendations from grad school.

Happy New Year to you and all of our 203 readers!


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