Grade Replacement and Law School: A Refresher

We’ve had several questions about grade replacement this week and expect to receive more after grades post. This refresher on grade replacement on law school will help students make the decision of whether to re-take a class!

It’s a little confusing how grade replacement works in light of law school applications. This Q&A refresher will help to clarify how grade replacement impacts law school applicants. It is critical that pre-law students understand how grade replacement will be viewed by a law school admissions team.

Students: Discuss your particular situation carefully with your academic advisor before making any decisions about re-taking a course!

Q. What is the campus Grade Replacement Policy?

A. You can find the Grade Replacement Policy in the Student Code, §3-309.

Students who meet the qualifications set forth in the Policy may now re-take up to 10 hours of UIUC courses and replace a grade of “C–” or below with the grade received the second time the course was taken. The original grade will no longer be factored in to the UIUC GPA. However, the original grade will still appear on your transcript (more about that below.)

An example to illustrate:

Let’s say Mike took Math 220 at UIUC in Fall 2013 and he earned a D+. He decides to re-take the course, gets approval for grade replacement from his department, and re-takes Math 220 in Spring 2014. He earns a C in the course this time.

In Mike’s UIUC GPA, only the C from the Spring 2012 Math 220 will be calculated. However, both grades will appear on his transcript.

Q: How does this impact a law school application?

A: Both Math 220 grades will by considered in the GPA when applying to law schools.

When students apply to law school, the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) re-calculates the GPA and submits this calculation to law schools. (You can find more information about how the LSAC re-calculates a GPA here: http://www.lsac.org/aboutlsac/policies/transcript-summarization). Basically, applicants will have two GPAs: A UIUC GPA and an LSAC GPA.

This means that law schools will receive both your UIUC GPA and your re-calculated LSAC GPA. Our office has confirmed with the LSAC that they will continue to factor both the original and the second grade for a repeated course into your LSAC GPA, even if you qualified for Grade Replacement, and even if your UIUC GPA does not include the original grade.

In short: Both Math 220 grades will appear on Mike’s transcript AND both grades will be factored into Mike’s law school application GPA.

Thus, applicants will not be able to “hide” the original grade from law school admissions. Law schools may use one or both of the GPAs to assess a candidate’s academic qualifications.

An example to illustrate: When Mike applies to law school, his LSAC GPA will factor in both the original D+ AND the C for both of the Math 220 courses. This GPA will be included in the reports sent to each law school to which Mike applies. The law school will also receive an official UIUC transcript with UIUC GPA.

Q: Should pre-law students ever consider grade replacement?

A: Maybe. Don’t do grade replacement just to improve your GPA for law school application purposes. If your goal is to improve your GPA, you’d be better off taking a class that suits your strengths that is at least the same number of credits as the class you want to replace. You’d have a better chance of doing well and balancing out that low grade.

However, there may be other reasons to go for grade replacement. Two examples: (1) You need to understand the material in that course in order to do well in subsequent courses; or (2) you need credit for that specific course to graduate.

Questions to consider before making a decision about re-taking a course:

• Do you need the course? Is it required or necessary to master the material for a required sequence?

• Realistically, how much better will you perform in the course a second time?

• Since you cannot “hide” the low grade from law school admissions, might you be better off taking a different course that interests you and suits your strengths?

If you decide to retake the course, carefully and realistically assess what you can do differently this time. What really caused your performance to suffer? What resources can you use this time to improve your grade? Do not assume that exposure to the material a second time will automatically improve your grade–many students get the same grade or worse when retaking.

If you have questions, please discuss your specific situation with your major advisor or with a pre-law advisor to help you make this decision.

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