It can be confusing how grade replacement works in light of law school applications. This Q&A guide 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, and it WILL impact law school applications (more about that below.)
An example to illustrate:
Taylor took Math 220 at UIUC in Fall 2015 and earned a D+. Taylor decides to re-take the course, gets departmental approval for grade replacement, and re-takes Math 220 in Spring 2016. Taylor earns a C in the course this time.
In Taylor’s UIUC GPA, only the C from the Spring 2016 Math 220 will be calculated. However, both grades will appear on the transcript.
Q: How does this impact a law school application?
A: Both Math 220 grades will be factored into 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 Taylor’s transcript AND both grades will be factored into Taylor’s law school application GPA.
Takeaway: Law school applicants cannot “hide” or remove the original grade from law school admissions, or from their GPA for law school applications.
An example to illustrate: When Taylor applies to law school, the 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 Taylor 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 master the material in that course in order to do well in subsequent courses; or (2) you need credit for that specific course to graduate. Talk to the academic advisor in your major to explore if there are other reasons why you should consider retaking.
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 only see slight improvement when retaking.