Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘GPA’

Elle Woods, Reese Witherspoon‘s character from Legally Blonde, studies ferociously for the LSATs on her exercise bike, as sorority sisters and Bruiser the chihuahua cheer her on. Harvard Law School‘s admissions committee watch her stylish video application, dumbfounded, as she makes her case for admission in a bikini poolside at her home in Southern California.

The stunned admissions officers reason that Ms. Woods “did get a 175 LSAT score” (the magic number), and “a 4.0 GPA.” When one disbeliever questions her “A in Polka Dots,” another notes that they’ve never admitted a Fashion Merchandising major before. Shaking his head and shrugging helplessly, the Admissions Director acquiesces: “Well, Ms. Woods… welcome to Harvard.”

Somehow there is this urban legend that law school admissions is only about the numbers, in contrast to, say, graduate business school. The student forums cynically proclaim that it’s only about your LSAT and GPA, as if nothing else matters. This belief sounded a bit too simplistic to me, so I dug into the class profiles of the top twenty U.S. law schools to see what they look for in JD applicants.

These elite institutions’ acceptance rates range from 6 percent to the low 20’s. Their LSAT and GPA 25th-75th percentiles range roughly from 160-175 and 3.6-3.9, respectively. So an aspiring law school applicant cannot simply hope to compensate for lame scores or grades with some colorful work experience. However, applicants with impressive LSAT and GPA numbers are not so rare that they don’t need to do anything else to qualify for a top law school. With so many baby boomlet applicants competing for admission, elite JD programs can “have it all”: the numbers, diverse backgrounds, and water-walker resumes.

Harvard Law states on its Web site: “Quantitative factors, while informative, do not play a decisive role in our selection process. We have no computational methods for making admission decisions, no mechanical shortcuts, no substitutes for careful assessment and good judgment. All completed applications are reviewed in their entirety with the LSAT as one factor in an overall assessment of academic promise, personal achievement, and potential contribution to the vitality of the student body.” I believe this statement is more than a nod to “holistic admissions,” especially when one considers the incredibly fascinating credentials and “circuitous route” experiences matriculants bring to elite JD programs.

Penn Law’s Web site describes its 2013 Class “Beyond the Numbers”: “They hold PhDs in neuroscience, neurobiology, philosophy, and political science… They include teachers at all levels, including former members of the Peace Corps and Teach for America… patent examiners, CPAs, journalists, entrepreneurs, grant writers, and engineers; commissioned officers in the Army and Marine Corps… a science, tech, and weapons analyst for the CIA… a former professional basketball player… players of every instrument you can imagine from the bugle to the pipe organ; members of improvisational comedy troupes and several DJ’s…” You get the picture: it’s not just about 175.

As I analyzed the entering class statistics for individual institutions, I found an average age of 24 or 25, with age ranges between 20 and mid-40’s, so applicants who are accepted to elite law schools are not typically freshly minted college graduates. In fact, only about a third of matriculants come directly from college, and somewhere between 10 and 20 percent of matriculants hold advanced academic degrees.

It is true that entrants to top MBA programs tend to be slightly older with more “real world” experience. If top law students typically matriculate after two years, top MBA students matriculate after four. Applicants to both types of programs, however, are doing something pretty impressive during those intervening years.

Related reading: How to Get into the Top Law Schools, 4th Ed., by Richard Montauk; The Best Law Schools’ Admissions Secrets: The Essential Guide from Harvard’s Former Admissions Dean by Joyce Curil; The Law School Admissions Game: Play Like an Expert by Ann K. Levine. Related posts: Does Your College GPA Matter?

Share

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

No matter what your friends may tell you, elite employers do care about your college grades. This is especially true for competitive summer internships and the most sought-after entry level positions. So with that reality check, what can you do about a lackluster GPA?

1. Switch gears on your grades ASAP. The sooner you start adding stronger grades to a mediocre average, the better. So if your social life or extra-curricular activities are interfering with academics, revamp your priorities. If you are having genuine difficulty in specific courses, seek out your professor or teaching assistant, or even hire a tutor. Do not wait until you are sinking into the quicksand, unless you want your main business communication phrase to be: “Do you want fries with that?”

2. Change your major. You may have originally selected a major that was simply too difficult for your skill set. It happens—it is part of the college experience to take risks, try challenging courses, and test your metal. But some majors wipe out some pretty smart people, especially engineering and science. In some universities, a Darwinian washout philosophy is the modus operandi. Maybe you need to dial back the level of difficulty of your major to find a more comfortable match with your aptitude and interests. If it takes five years to graduate, but you do it with a better GPA in a more fitting major, it’s worth it.

3. Take your major’s difficult courses during a favorable time at your own college or another school. Perhaps you do not have to take a killer course when it is most competitive (in a washout semester or with the highest achievers who determine the bell curve). Taking the course in the summer may facilitate more personal attention from the instructor. Or you may be able to get a tough requirement out of the way at a local accredited school, where the grade will not factor into your GPA.

4. If your major GPA is better than your total GPA, report only your major GPA on your resume. After all, your performance in your major is the highest priority for prospective employers in your field. If you have changed from a tough major to a more reasonable one, your new GPA should be more impressive.

If asked in an interview, you should honestly report your total GPA. Most likely, your attempt to challenge yourself with rigorous courses in your former major will impress the prospective employer, as well as your realistic decision to switch majors.

5. Describe academic distinctions beyond the GPA on your resume. Were you on the Dean’s List for most semesters, even though one big “incident” tarnished your GPA? By all means report the Dean’s List distinction. Are you in your major’s Honor Society? Have you ever been granted any merit scholarships? All forms of academic recognition show your smarts and hard work.

6. Describe leadership activities related to your major on your resume. Have you been involved in professional clubs? If not, join something and seek a leadership position. I know it sounds like high school, but it is still essential. It will offer learning about your field outside the classroom, and provide networking opportunities with professors, students, alumni, and external organizations.

7. Describe research and assistantship activities related to your major on your resume. Approach a professor to volunteer your assistance (research administration or analysis, research subject, tutoring). This will give you valuable experience in your field, become a great conversation piece in interviews, and build your credibility with a professor who may be willing to give you a recommendation for a job or graduate school.

8. Talk about your skill set on your resume, not just black and white accomplishments. Okay, so you got a B in econometrics. But the fact that you survived econometrics shows that you are an analytical problem-solver. Wouldn’t an employer want someone like that? Look through your experiences over the years, and you will find common themes about your strengths. Don’t just assume an employer can figure them out. Spell out your strengths and their transferability for that occupation and organization.

9. Be willing to put your GPA in perspective in the interview. It is your job to sell yourself and overcome obstacles to your candidacy. If your freshman year grades weren’t stellar, but you found your feet and improved your performance, own up to your mistakes without whining and show how you turned it around. Redemption is a universal theme, and everybody loves a comeback kid. Just be honest, don’t make excuses, and demonstrate how mature, goal-oriented and  hard-working you are TODAY.

10. Don’t be too proud to use “warm contacts.” If someone who knows you well is willing to pass your resume along to another professional in a field of interest to you, be thankful for the opportunity. Even if you have a GPA blip, someone who can personally attest to your character may be able to put that in perspective with a prospective employer with whom he or she has credibility. Once the door is opened, however, it is obviously up to you.

Related posts: Does Your College GPA Matter? Your College’s Career Center, So You Didn’t Get That Summer Internship… What To Do?, What Is Informational Interviewing? and College Internship and Entry-Leve Resumes.

Share

Read Full Post »

It depends… on what you ultimately decide to do, either in college or after college. During undergraduate, you may choose to transfer to a more prestigious school, or apply for a cool study abroad program that requires a good GPA. After college, you may aspire to an elite graduate or professional program, or a top tier company entry level position. If whatever goal you end up choosing does not require decent grades, then you’ll be ok if you slack off. But if you slack off, and later decide on a higher aspiration, then you’re screwed. Let’s look at the possible goals after college that could require a strong  GPA.

1. Law School. According to US News & World Report, the 25th-75th percentile GPA scores for all students for the lowest of the top ten law schools is 3.5-3.9. If your GPA is on the low side, that puts more pressure on your LSAT score.

2. Graduate Business School. According to US News & World Report, the average GPA score for the lowest of the top ten graduate B-schools is 3.5. If your GPA is low, that puts more pressure on your GMAT score.

3. Medical School. According to US News & World Report, the  average GPA score for the lowest of the top ten medical schools (primary care)  is 3.7. If you are a serious pre-medicine student, you are probably not reading this post anyway!

4. Graduate Programs. According to About.com, most master’s programs require minimum GPAs of 3.0 or 3.3, and most doctoral programs require GPAs of 3.3 or 3.5. If you are applying for a doctoral degree in a competitive field, seeking a fellowship, and aspiring to attend a top ten graduate school, expect requirements to be higher. Graduate programs would like to see that you were in an undergraduate honors program with a research thesis, and qualifying for that opportunity requires a 3.5 or higher GPA. If you are considering graduate work in your field, you should be doing a thesis anyway, just to get your “feet wet” in the world of research.

5. Entry Level Jobs. 3.0 is the bare minimum. Top tier companies in fiercely competitive fields, such as investment banking, management consulting, and Big Four audit firms, will use GPA to weed out less qualified candidates. Additional opinions about GPA and entry level jobs: “Those Low Grades in College May Haunt Your Job Search” NY Times, “Low GPA in Top Engineering School: What To Do?” College Confidential, “Should I List My College GPA on My Resume?” Quintessential Careers. You may never want to go to graduate school or work at an elite company. Then again, you might. Your best bet is protecting your GPA at all costs: it follows you forever.

Relevant reading: How To Become a Straight-A Student: The Unconventional Strategies Real Students Use to Score High While Studying Less by Cal Newport, The Best Law Schools’ Admissions Secrets: The Essential Guide from Harvard’s Former Admissions Dean by Charles H. Whitebread, The Best Business Schools’ Admissions Secrets: A Former Harvard Business School Admissions Board Member Reveals the Secrets for Getting In by Chioma Isiadinso.

Related posts: Best Websites for Careers in Finance, Take the GMAT While You’re Still Smart, Getting a Job with a Lackluster GPA.

Share

Read Full Post »

You’re a junior in college, beginning to sweat about getting a job after graduation, listening to all the horrifying urban legends about recent grads from elite colleges who are still unemployed. But there’s not much you can do yet about your future, except nailing a good GPA, posting your profile on LinkedIn, and checking in with your college’s career services office about summer internships.

Ok, so here’s a thought: take the GMAT (or the LSAT, or the GRE–or even all three, what Grad.spot calls the “unholy trinity of graduate school testing) while you’re “still smart.” Within the first three years out of college, you will probably want to apply to graduate school. Especially if the job you are able to get out of college is not what you want to be doing the rest of your life.

But once you get out in the young professional world, it will not be so easy to prepare for grad school. You’ll be getting up early, commuting, working long hours, perhaps with travel. At the end of the day, the last thing you’ll feel like doing is attending a prep class, doing a course online, or even practicing from a book.

Your test-taking chops will not be as sharp after a few years in the professional world. It’s hard to imagine now, because you take exams all the time. But remember doing a varsity sport in high school? In-season you were in great shape. Off-season, if you didn’t work out at the gym or go out for a daily run, you got rusty. If you didn’t continue to play the sport in college, you wouldn’t even think of walking in cold to a competition.

Testing is that way too. The farther you move away from an academic environment, the more rusty you become. So take the tests now. And if your’re not sure what kind of grad school you may be interested down the road, you might want to…take them all.

Related posts: Your College’s Career Center, Can I Get an MBA if I Wasn’t a Business Major in College? Preparing for Business School: GRE or GMAT?, Time to Apply to B-School?, So You Didn’t Get That Summer Internship…What To Do?

Share

Read Full Post »