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College of Arts and Sciences

UGPA and Curriculum

Undergraduate Grade Point Average (UGPA) 

The Undergraduate Grade Point Average (UGPA) is the second of the two most important criteria in law school applications. Because grading varies by institution (more or fewer As for example), LSAC indexes each grade by a formula and gives the result to the law school along with the undergraduate transcript. This allows each law school to judge each candidate’s UGPA relative to other schools in the U.S. and Canada. It is critically important for applicants to demonstrate their intellectual capability, skills, and work ethic through their course grades. As the law school locator demonstrates, law schools use a combination of LSAT score and UGPA to select their entering class. 

The importance of the UGPA does not mean that the prospective law school applicant should choose undergraduate courses and fields of study they believe to be the easiest. Law schools are aware of this practice and view transcripts accordingly. Potential applicants should also keep in mind that the undergraduate curriculum should provide the challenges, information, and stimulation they need to develop into thoughtful professionals. The road to becoming a successful attorney is not an easy one and it should not be. Besides, the mental challenges make the career more fulfilling than others. 

The Pre-Law Curriculum 

Among the many trends in higher education is the increasingly pre-professional orientation of the curriculum. Both students and educators want to be assured that they are working toward the undergraduate’s post-graduate career. Pre-Law students and educators are no different. But, the American Bar Association (ABA), the national association of practicing attorneys, and the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) have consistently resisted the push for a Pre-Law curriculum. Both organizations as well as individuals in law school admissions offices have stated that there is no specific pre-law course of study. Admissions’ results indicate that these statements are not for show. Pre-Law program students have not performed appreciably better than the well-informed non-pre-law program student. 

Similarly, there is no recommended major for potential applicants other than one that demonstrates the applicant’s ability to handle the demands of law school. While there is a preponderance of undergraduate majors in political science, English, history, and law related disciplines in law school, this is largely due to the fact that would-be lawyers tend to be interested in those fields. More and more law students are majors in the sciences, languages, and the arts. The only warning to a student with a major in a discipline that does not emphasize writing is that he or she should minor in a field that does emphasize writing. 

Last but not least, just because there is some form of the word law in the title does not mean that the course is necessary to properly prepare for law school. Opinion is divided on whether law related courses make a better law student. What is more certain is that law related courses do not assure an applicant admission. This controversy aside, some pre-law courses can help a potential applicant decide whether the legal profession is appealing. Given that the LSAT emphasizes logic, future applicants may want to study it in a classroom setting rather than rely on self-study or a prep course. 

Undergraduates seeking to form their course of study should combine their interests, their capabilities, and the need to learn certain skills. The prospective lawyer requires a balanced yet challenging curriculum not just to get into law school, but to excel in his or her chosen profession. This is an exciting time for you. Make the most of your choices.

Preparation for Legal Education

The Pre-Law Committee of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar has outlined a comprehensive "Preparing for Law School" section on their website, which includes information about the skills, values, knowledge and experience that will provide a sound foundation for a legal education.  Proceed to the ABA website »