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Building Your Law School Application: The Academic Index


This summer, we’ll be taking you through each aspect of building your law school application. Today, we’re continuing this series with LSAC’s calculation of your academic index.

It’s time for another post on the application building process. So far, we’ve discussed acquiring letters of recommendation and crafting your personal statement. If you’re planning on applying in the next few months, you should hopefully have already contacted your recommenders and you should have a sense of the topic for your personal statement. If you’re feeling overwhelmed already, don’t worry–this post is based on work you’ve already completed. Today, we’re going to discuss the academic index.

As described by LSAC, the academic index is a “formula to combine an LSAT score and UGPA [undergraduate grade point average] into a single index number.” Grades are converted to a standard 4.0 system (although it is really a 4.33 system). At first blush, this might seem relatively straightforward–you would apply the formula to your degree-granting institution’s GPA, factoring in your LSAT score, and voila! Your shiny index number would materialize. Unfortunately, it isn’t that simple.

First, if your school did not factor A+’s into your GPA, which according to the LSAC conversion chart are a 4.33, then you’ll get a boost from any A+’s on your transcript. If your institution didn’t give out A+’s, then you’re out of luck, which isn’t the fairest approach.

Second, your UGPA includes the GPA from each undergraduate institution you attended. This is significant if you took classes at a community college. I, for one, had the joy of taking classes from three community colleges while I was in high-school. It was a real pleasure to get transcripts from each of those schools, let me tell you. Including community college grades can be a mixed bag. If you phoned it in and got some uncharacteristic grades, then your UGPA will go down. If, on the other hand, you performed well in community college, then you can get a nice boost from those community college classes.

Finally, the academic index will include original grades for classes that you subsequently took again for a better grade. It will only exclude original grades for a repeated course when the transcript does not show “both the grade and the units for the original attempt.” Thus, if you repeated a course and it is not noted with both the grade and units, the original grade will not show up in your GPA calculation. Otherwise, LSAC will count both the original and the subsequent grade.

Other factors of note are that the academic index does not include grades received after graduation, withdraw and withdraw/pass grades (so long as they were not punitive), and passing grades in P/NP classes.

Once you’ve gotten your UGPA, you can use the various school formulas to get your single number index. According to LSAC, a “list of mathematical formulas . . . is available under ‘Related Information’ on the ‘Transcripts’ page of your account.” LSAC cautions that “not all law schools use index formulas and those that do use them do not necessarily use them in the same way.” Basically, you can get a sense of your application’s strength, but you should not treat the results of the formula as an absolute predictor of your likelihood of admission to any institution. You can get a similarly rough sense of your chances of admission using LSAC’s guide here.

I realize that this is a complicated topic and you’re probably already wading through a lot of information. Predicting likelihood of admission is not a science, but you should use LSAC’s conversion techniques to get a sense of your UGPA in order to understand your chances. Good luck with your applications!