Class Rank and GPA Newsflash: 90% of Law Students Are Not in the Top 10% of Their Class
July 5, 2012
For better or worse, grades and class rankings are here. With fall recruiting just around the corner, you'll need to consider whether and how to make adjustments to your resume and other application materials to reflect your class rank and GPA. There are no hard and fast rules that fit every situation, so you may need to make some judgment calls. We've included some guidelines below, but if you have doubts, you can always talk with one of the CDO career advisors to determine the best course of action.
Happy and you know it?
Good job and a pat on the back for you. If you are in the top third of your class or higher, you will definitely want to include your class rank on your resume.
Somewhere in the middle?
If your class rank falls between the top third and the top half, you'll probably want to designate your class rank on your resume. It really depends on where you are applying. For example, many firms may assume you are in the bottom half of the class if you do not make a designation. For other employers, it may not be advisable to include a class rank unless you are above the top third. The key is to assess each job application individually and make the move that will both show you in the best light and be responsive to the job application.
I didn't make the top half. What now?
Fifty percent of all law students are in the bottom half of their class. You are in good company. If this describes your position, you will probably not want to include your class rank on your resume (unless an employer specifically requests it). Your job in this case is to focus your application materials on your strengths and show employers other ways in which you shine. In this difficult job market, employers are valuing experience more than ever and many do not put heavy emphasis on grades and class rank.
If you need to bolster your experience, consider doing one or more of the following:
- Participate in clinics, externships or field placements
- Tailor your resume to focus on prior work experience (including pre-law school work) and transferable skills you possess
- Join student organizations and/or look for other leadership roles on campus
- Be active in outside organizations, such as a bar section, trade group or sports club
How should I designate my class rank on my resume?
When designating your class rank on your resume:
- Always round up. If your class rank is 20.8%, for the purposes of your resume designation, you are in the top 21%, not the top 20%.
- Designate your rank in increments of 5%. Typically, you would not state on your resume that you are in the top 21% of your class, but rather that you are in the top 25%.
- Unless it makes sense to not use 5% increments. For example, if a particular job application asks for top 15% only and you have a ranking of top 17%, it may make sense to list 17% instead of 20% for that application as it shows you are "this close" to meeting their requirements.
Should I include my GPA on my resume?
GPAs vary greatly from school to school so they are not as objective a measure for employers. Generally you do not need to include a GPA designation on your resume, and employers who are interested typically request transcripts instead. The unofficial rule is that you should include your GPA when it makes you look better than leaving it off. You will have to make a judgment call. Here are a few examples of when you might include your GPA:
- If your GPA is better than your class rank reflects
- For consistency, if you included your undergraduate GPA
- If an employer specifically requests your GPA
How can I use summer school grades to my advantage?
Summer school can be a great move to make some improvements in your GPA. However, summer school grades do not factor into your class rank until the end of the following year. If you received improved grades in summer school, there are ways to share this with an employer. For example, you can send the employer an updated transcript with a cover letter explaining your summer course success. Or you can designate on your resume (separately from your class rank) that you received improved grades during the summer (especially if it is in coursework that relates to the employer's practice).
For more tips, visit the CDO and speak to one of our Career Advisors.