“I know that major has no influence in the decision process, but once read an article where most law schools look highly at engineers even with a GPA below 3.5. I currently have a 3.4 GPA in mechanical engineering and am confident I will score exceptionally high on the LSAT come December. I have robust credentials but my Law School of interest in the University of California Berkeley. Anyway, with a GPA of 3.4 (which means I will graduate with cum laude), and assume I score exceptionally high on the LSAT, what would be the probability of my acceptance to this school? Thanks!” — Engineering Major
To begin, it is helpful to note the ABA Berkeley LSAT/GPA Data:
I’m not sure whether Engineering majors are assessed more “leniently” per se, but most law schools, including Berkeley, do take many factors into consideration when evaluating an applicant’s undergraduate GPA. Rather than viewing your GPA in isolation, law schools are likely to consider your application as a whole, including the relative difficulty of your school, your major, and your coursework.
The Berkely Law School website states the following:
“the median GPA and LSAT score of admitted applicants have ranged from 3.70-3.80 and 167-170, respectively. The ranges are broad. There are no numerical cut-offs, nor are there any guarantees. We read applications very carefully and in their entirety.”
“Our review process is holistic and seeks to identify applicants who are bright and centered, and who will make a contribution to the caliber of classroom dialogue. If hypothetical weights were assigned to the three factors considered — academic record, LSAT score, and personal statement and recommendations — each would be about one-third.”
Furthermore, Berkeley Law School reports the following factors that will be considered when evaluating undergraduate GPAs:
“[i]n evaluating your undergraduate GPA, the following factors may be considered: The age of the grades, exceptionally high grades, the difficulty of coursework, time commitments while attending college, grading patterns at the school attended, and grade trends or discrepancies.”
Accordingly, a low GPA (relative to Berkeley’s median) certainly does not preclude your acceptance to the Law School.
One-third of your “hypothetical[ly]weight[ed]” factors, your GPA, is less than ideal. Therefore, in order to earn a coveted offer of admission to Berkeley law school, you should a) ensure than the remaining two-thirds of your application is above-average, and b) explain the extenuating circumstances surrounding your GPA.
First, an “exceptionally high” LSAT score is probably going to have the greatest positive impact on your application, and may significantly reduce the negative impact that your less-than-ideal GPA might otherwise have. Happily, engineers, on average, tend to perform better than other majors on the LSAT. Nevertheless, you need to be especially diligent in your LSAT prep efforts. 170 is the 75th%ile LSAT score at Berkeley. Aim for the 172-175+ range. A 175 LSAT score would probably, in and of itself, be enough to cause the admissions committee to overlook your GPA.
Second, make sure that your personal statement and recommendations are stellar.
Third, consider writing an addendum explaining your GPA. Be honest and forthright while outlining the factors that Berkeley takes into consideration when evaluating undergraduate GPAs: “ the difficulty of coursework, time commitments while attending college, grading patterns at the school attended.” Point out the difficulty of the coursework that you elected to undertake as an undergraduate. Note the grading pattern (e.g., lower average GPA for engineering majors) at the school you attended. If possible, substantiate your claims with documentation from the school (e.g., a university publication listing average graduate GPAs by major).
In addition, make sure that you submit your application as early as possible. Have your Berkeley app ready to go on September 1st, the day they start accepting applications.
Finally, with a lower GPA/higher LSAT, you should probably apply to more schools than you might otherwise apply to if your GPA were higher. Apply to a few safety schools. Apply to Berkeley and similarly situated schools. If your LSAT is high enough, apply to Stanford and other reaches as well.