Getting Off Law School Waitlists

What To Know About College Grade Inflation

College grades have grown over the years. With competition for law school increasing, more and more colleges are inflating grades to help students get into graduate school.
But how does college grade inflation impact law school applicants?
Anna Ivey, of Anna Ivey Consulting, recently discussed what college grade inflation means for applicants and how law school admissions views inflated GPAs.
More colleges are inflating students’ grades nowadays. According to The Atlantic, 42% of college grades were top marks in 2015, compared to just 31% in 1988.
“Colleges are finding all kinds of ways to help students bump those GPAs up, and in part that phenomenon is driven by student demand to look better in graduate school applications,” Ivey writes. “A’s are the most common grade given at 4-year colleges in the US. And while the Ivies and some other private colleges are the most egregious offenders, GPAs are creeping up at state colleges too.”
For law schools, inflated GPAs have changed how they evaluate an applicant’s candidacy.
“Those grading practices force admissions officers to pay more attention to things like recommendations (mostly positive, bland, and also hard to distinguish) and standardized test scores (the bane of many applicants’ existence),” Ivey writes. “So it’s not some kind of ‘win’ for applicants that GPAs have become inflated currency, and in particular it obscures the performance of the strongest students and dilutes the value of their top grades.”
In turn, Ivey says, admissions officers will look for other indicators of success.
“Did you graduate magna cum laude?” Ivey writes. “If so, what does that mean at your college? Does that put you in the top 20% of your graduating class, or does it mean you’re just in the top half of your class.”
These are all questions admissions officers will ask when looking at an application with an inflated GPA. Admissions will also look to see how you compare amongst the competition.
“In the law school context, admissions officers will also carefully scrutinize your Academic Summary Report, which compares your GPA to the GPAs of other students who have applied to law school from your college in the last several years,” Ivey writes. “Your 3.7 might put you in the top 25% of your peers, or it might put you in the top 50%. The ASR will tell them, and you can see a copy of your ASR once LSAC has processed your transcripts.”
As an applicant, it’s critical to give context around your application—especially when it comes to low GPA.
“For example, if you were putting yourself through college by working 40 hours a week as a manager at a fast foot restaurant, or you’ve been stocking shelves during the night shift while carrying a full class load, that’s important context for them to have,” Ivey writes. “That makes you very much NOT run-of-the-mill as a college student.”
At the end of the day, GPA is just one factor in law school admissions. The more context you add to your application, the better.
“Educate yourself about what your grades mean in the context of your college, and give admissions officers as much context as possible if your GPA actually means something,” Ivey writes. “And don’t forget that admissions officers want to see evidence that you have challenged yourself academically.”
Sources: Anna Ivey Consulting, The Atlantic