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How Will Pass/Fail Grading Impact My Law School Application?

Published April 7, 2020

Students usually opt into Pass/Fail (P/F) grading—also referred to as Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory—when they struggle with a difficult subject matter and want to protect their GPA. It could also be that they opt to pursue a subject of interest outside their major. Given current circumstances surrounding the global pandemic, many institutions have amended their grading policies for the spring 2020 term, offering students more flexibility surrounding P/F grading.

So, how do you know if it’s right for you? Will opting into P/F grading impact your law school application?

There is certainly good reason for undergraduate students to choose P/F grading for some or all of their spring 2020 courses. If you are struggling to decide which courses to take for a letter grade and concerned about how your decision will impact your law school application, consider the following advice.

It’s worth taking any writing-intensive courses or courses involving critical reading, research or debate for a letter grade. This is assuming you are in a position to focus on school rather than managing additional stressors as a result of the pandemic.


From day one, law students use and apply their critical thinking and writing skills, and focus on long-term memory recall and application of knowledge. Earning a letter grade—opposed to a P or “Pass” in courses testing the skills and knowledge discussed above—will give the Admissions Committee a better sense of your readiness for the rigors of law school.

It’s understood not all students are currently in a position to do their best work. If you opt into P/F grading for spring 2020, consider the following: a grade of Pass (or P) will not be translated into a standard letter grade by the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) and will have no impact on your cumulative undergraduate GPA when applying to law school. Earning a grade of Fail (or F) will, however, count negatively toward your GPA.

Learn more about UB School of Law


Keep in Mind

The Law School Admission Council (LSAC) will convert your GPA to a standard 4.0 system in order to provide law schools with a uniform basis for comparing applicants.

Per the Law School Admission Council (LSAC):

“Any grade notation that signifies failure (such as No Credit, No Credit/Fail, Not Passing, Incomplete, Incomplete/Fail, Withdraw/Fail, Unsatisfactory, Fail, etc.) is converted to zero on the 4.0 scale and is included in the calculation of the GPA, even if the issuing school considers the grade to be nonpunitive. Failure is defined as credit attempted but not earned. If a transcript is not clear about credit attempted, LSAC staff will contact the registrar at the issuing school to confirm whether course credit was attempted.”

Discover more about how LSAC converts grades.

3 Tips:

  1. Students concerned about grades, particularly during this difficult time, should contact their advisor before making any final decisions.
  2. If you have opted into taking some or all spring 2020 courses P/F, consider acquiring an additional academic letter of recommendation.
  3. Contact your law schools of interest to get their take on P/F grading for the spring 2020 term.

Above all, remember that this is an unprecedented time for higher education. Law school admission committees understand the challenges presented by COVID-19, including the drastic and abrupt measures institutions took transitioning to remote educational delivery. The committees evaluating your candidacy for law school admission will consider your entire academic history as well as non-academic factors like academic letters of recommendation, leadership experience, work experience and your reason(s) for pursuing law school.

Still have questions about P/F grading and its impact on your law school application? Our Admissions Staff is available Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. for appointments by phone and video meetings

Photo of Lindsay Gladney, Vice Dean for Admissions.

Guest blogger Lindsay Gladney is the Vice Dean for Admissions at UB School of Law. 


Office of Admissions
University at Buffalo School of Law
309 O'Brian Hall, Buffalo, NY 14260