COVID-19 and applying to law school Fall 2021
This is a very different time to be applying to law school for fall 2021, or even over the next 3-4 years. Many students have had questions about taking pass-fail or a lower grade/GPA for their spring classes. I know this is disconcerting and I want to share a few thoughts that may help you with these decisions.
- The Law School Admissions Council will flag every single application that has the academic spring 2020 semester on it. This is important because even if you plan to apply over the next 3-4 years, the law school admissions office will notice and be alerted to the fact that spring 2020 is one of your academic semesters.
- Everyone realizes that not all classes translate smoothly to online. Everyone also recognizes that not all situations in which we find ourselves during spring 2020 and COVID-19 are equally conducive to study and making the same grade that we might have under campus conditions. If for some reason a class that you have taken this spring has not gone well and you choose to take it as pass/fail you can always attach an addendum to your law school application. I encourage you to draft the reason now for choosing to do pass/fail or pass/no-credit and tuck that away somewhere for your law school application materials.
- Some students have asked about small differences, such as making an A- instead of an A or making a B+ instead of an A- and wondering if that class should be take COVID-19 for pass/no-credit. You still might consider what are the reasons why you didn't do as well as you might have in that same class under campus conditions and consider submitting an addendum. On the other hand, because you choose to only take one class pass/fail and you've done stellar in all of your other classes, law schools most likely are not going to hold that against you. Additionally law schools are going to look at your entire academic track record before and after COVID-19, considering the GPA that you achieved during non COVID-19 semesters. There is not a perfectly clear answer, but please consider these things and make the best decision you can at this point in time. Furthermore, see point 4 and what University of Michigan Law School Admissions is saying about COVID-19.
- I thought it might be most helpful to you to not only hear from the pre-law advisor perspective but also a law school admissions’ perspective. Granted, one cannot assume that every law school admissions office is going to take the same stance as University of Michigan Law School, but I think that you can feel more secure in making your GPA pass-fail decision after reading how this particular law school admissions office is responding to COVID-19. You can go directly to the link or please see the following text copied from University of Michigan Law School's website.
Finally, I would like to add you are going to be just fine in your law school applications despite COVID-19. I will be available for Zoom meetings this summer should you have further questions about Law School in general; discerning if a career in law is a good direction for you; the application process and timeline; and/or preparing personal statements, addendums, a resume for your law school application.
Assistant Director | PreLaw, Government, Public Policy, Non-profits
THE COVID-19 SPECIAL EDITION (FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN LAW SCHOOL WEBSITE)
We have seen a whole new crop of questions in recent weeks, related to changes in the admissions process caused by COVID-19. We will endeavor to gather them all together in one place for efficient dispatch. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have suggestions for topics to include.
Will I be penalized for having P/F grades in the Winter/Spring 2020 term?
Absolutely not—whether because your school has mandated pass/fail across the board for every class, or because your school has allowed professors to choose the grading for individual classes, or because your school has employed an optional P/F system (at the University of Michigan, undergrad grades for this semester are presumptively P/F, but a student can choose to "unmask" the grade), or because there is some other system out there we don't know about; whether you have a single P/F designation or a semesterful of them. First, we will absolutely be mindful of the stresses—the uncertainty and adversity—you were likely undergoing. Thus, whether you opted for P/F grades or your school made that choice for you, we fully understand that the surrounding circumstances have made P/F an absolutely appropriate outcome.
Bear in mind that there are excellent schools in this country that never use letter grades, and their graduates routinely get admitted to law school!
I was counting on this semester to bring my GPA up, and now I can't.
Whether because you weren't able to produce a semester of stellar grades because everything is now P/F or because you still have letter grades but just weren't able to perform in March and April the way you did in January and February, please remember that grades are but one factor among many, and one semester's grades are but one-eighth of that one factor. They simply are never make or break.
Bottom line, it would be the woefully incompetent admissions person who would let a single semester of grades earned under—oh, we hate to use this word for the 10,000th time, but here we go—unprecedented circumstances be treated as a critical factor in the scope of an entire law school application.
What about the people who have grades, while I will only have P/F to show? How can I possibly compete?
We completely understand this mindset, but please allow us to assure you that this isn't how law school admissions work: We don't take two applicants and compare them head to head. Moreover, again, grades are but one factor in any school's holistic admissions process, and one semester is only one-eighth of that factor. We have yet to see a candidate for whom our decision hinged, for good or for ill, on a single semester of grades. Finally, please remember that the students at [the relatively small number of] schools where there has not been a change of grading are still going through all the strain of these weeks, just like the rest of us. It is unlikely that there will be many people viewing this time as a golden opportunity to increase their GPAs relative to students at other schools.
And now, a special note to those of you who have an optional P/F system, and who are exhausting yourselves and ignoring other demands on your time and energy because you're concerned that opting for a P will speak poorly of you and your motivation: It won't. Truly, it won't. Your goal should be to do your best to stay engaged with the course material to the extent you can, and glean whatever learning you can.
I won't be applying for several more years. Will you actually still remember what it was like right now when all this is long over?
Why yes, actually, we think we will! While many aspects of our daily life are uncertain now, we feel pretty confident that we will remember this period for many, many years to come. But no need to trust to the imperfections of human memory. The Law School Admissions Council will be including, in perpetuity, a note with any Law School Report that has a transcript from this term, reminding reviewers of the circumstances. Further, many (if not most) colleges will have a designation on the transcript itself.
I hear what you're saying about grades not being make-or-break, but my circumstances this semester were truly awful, and I want to be able to provide context for why I made pass-fail elections [or for why my letter grades were not reflective of my abilities]. How can I do that?
If you want to share your circumstances, you are welcome to provide an addendum. (In fact, in general, we routinely invite applicants to explain why their application metrics—LSAT and/or undergraduate GPA—are not reflective of their abilities.) Our advice is to make this about a paragraph, and as dispassionate as possible—trying to attain some emotional distance, and keeping it brief, will let you provide the most clarity. Your goal is to add critical context, but not to make this the centerpiece of your application. Remember, too, that there will be many, many heartbreaking stories from this period; if possible, demonstrate your recognition of that perspective.
For those of you who aren't inclined to share: You certainly shouldn't feel compelled to. Be true to your own instincts.
I had a great job lined up for after graduation, and now I've been laid off.
This is familiar territory for those of us who were reading applications in 2008 and years immediately following: It will be harder for everyone, but particularly recent college grads, to find gainful employment. We will expect to see that, and will account for it in our process. If you're in that situation, your job is to make clear in your application—either on the resume or separately in a brief addendum—what you are doing with your time. Looking for a job, volunteering at a nonprofit, helping out a family member, learning some new skill, perfecting an old one? Help us understand how you're spending your time, and have confidence that we aren't viewing the lack of paid employment as a mark against you.
Will you treat LSAT-Flex scores differently than the "normal" LSAT?
Nope. We have a lot of faith in the Law School Admissions Council's ability to ensure their traditional high levels of security, validity, and reliability. LSAT-Flex will be composed of genuine LSAT questions that have been developed and tested in accordance with LSAC's rigorous standards and processes, and all test takers will be remotely proctored.