If you’re like many law school applicants, thinking about your GPA might cause you some stress. You can go fully monastic studying for the LSAT, refine countless drafts of your essays and written supplements, and even find a new legal internship to add to your résumé—but unless you’re reading this before you’ve entered college, at least a portion of your undergraduate record is etched in stone. 

In response to candidates’ GPA anxiety, law schools tend to tout their holistic approach to admissions. It’s a comforting notion that reassures us that our worth as human beings cannot be reduced to a cold, immovable data point. But though law schools really do consider every part of your application in their admissions decision, your GPA is one of the two most important factors in admissions (alongside your LSAT score).

Why Is Undergraduate GPA So Important in Law School Admissions?

Admissions officers need to gauge whether or not you’ll succeed in law school, and your Undergraduate Grade Point Average (UGPA), combined with your LSAT score, turns out to be a strong predictor of first-year law school grades. 

Additionally, law schools have to disclose the median undergraduate GPAs of their entering class to the American Bar Association. The famous U.S. News & World Report (USNWR) ranking process uses these disclosures to determine a school’s selectivity and, thus, part of its prestige. In 2024, a school’s undergraduate GPA median accounts for 4% of its USNWR ranking—just slightly less than incoming students’ LSAT scores (5%). Law schools’ most recent median numbers for both UGPA and LSAT are listed on this handy site. In general, it’s unlikely that you’ll get into a law school if you’re below both of its medians, although a great personal statement explaining your story can help you punch above your weight.

What’s the Difference between a Normal GPA and an LSAC GPA?

Because undergraduate institutions can have different formulas for calculating your undergraduate GPA, the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) converts your grades to a standard 4.0 system to create a uniform basis for law schools to compare applicants. This “LSAC GPA” is the official number reported that USNWR uses in its rankings. To get an early idea of your LSAC UGPA, check out our LSAC GPA calculator.

LSAC’s formula grants grades a value of one point per full letter (D = 1.0, C = 2.0, B = 3.0, A = 4.0), with a minus subtracting and a plus adding a third of a point. Thus the standard scale ranges from a D- (.67 points) to A+ (4.33 points). Below that, a DE or DF is worth 0.5 points, and an F is worth zero. You can learn about LSAC’s method in more detail here

This calculation includes all college transcripts, including those from college courses you may have taken in high school, but it excludes any college courses taken after graduating from your undergraduate institution (receiving your first bachelor’s degree). Other, less common situations, like class retakes or withdrawals, may be factored into your LSAC GPA as well.

It’s also important to note that LSAC does not weigh grades according to the reputations of the institutions that grant them. Each law school has its own methods for interpreting applicants' LSAC UGPAs.

What is LSAC's Credential Assembly Service?

When you apply to law school, you send each program a copy of your transcript along with LSAC’s Credit Assembly Service (CAS) Report, which contains all essential third-party materials of your application, including your LSAT score, your transcripts, and your letters of recommendation. Also included in the CAS report is your Academic Summary Report, often the first thing admissions officers look at when evaluating your admissibility. This report functions as a cover sheet for your academic credentials and includes all of your undergraduate work. It also displays contextual data on trends in your grades over time, stats about grade inflation at your undergraduate institution, and a comparison of you to other applicants from your undergraduate institution from recent years. Your LSAC GPA shows up on your Academic Summary Report as "Cumulative GPA.” LSAC’s CAS handles all of this for you once you’ve signed up and given them your information.

If your school calculates GPAs differently than LSAC, it’s possible that you may see a discrepancy between your UGPA and your LSAC GPA; in all cases, the LSAC UGPA is the data point that matters.

What If I Went to College outside the United States?

Canadian institutions and US-affiliated foreign schools are treated like US institutions. For all others, you still need to submit all transcripts to LSAC. LSAC won't produce an LSAC GPA from non-Canadian international transcripts, but it will rate them on the following scale: superior, above average, average, below average. Roughly speaking, admissions officers equate “superior” to an A, “above average” to “average” as a B, and “below average” and under to a C and below. It’s important to note that these ratings are not factored into law schools' ABA or USNWR median GPAs. This means that, if you graduated from a foreign institution, your LSAT carries even more weight in determining your admissibility. Still, admissions officers will look at your rating alongside your transcripts to see if they feel you can succeed academically at their law school.

For study abroad, LSAC GPA also includes American and Canadian Schools or foreign institutions that are US-affiliated schools. Depending on your school, your study abroad grades might already be on your normal transcript. In all other cases, your grades will not be included in your LSAC GPA. Currently, you do not need to send LSAC your study abroad transcripts unless you attended a foreign institution for a year or more. That said, you should always check LSAC's most up-to-date requirements with extreme care. When in doubt, send in your transcripts to avoid possible future delays.