Here's the third episode in a nine-part web series I recently recorded with PowerScore founder and author of the PowerScore LSAT Bible Series, Dave Killoran. You can also find it on the PowerScore YouTube channel.
DAVE: Well, let's move on to transcripts now, which obviously is the bulk of your academic information. Anne, I'll let you take over for that one.
ANNE: Thanks, Dave. As far as the transcripts go, the one thing I want to make sure everybody is very much aware of is the first point under the LSDAS Requirements. You'll see that it says, "Official transcripts must be sent from the registrar's office of every school attended by the applicant," and that includes two-year, four-year, and graduate.
I want to just harken back to something we just talked about as far as "disclosure, disclosure, disclosure" goes. This applies to your LSDAS requirements: You are not allowed to "cherry-pick" the grades that you want to show them, [and] you are not allowed to "cherry-pick" the schools that you went to. If you took classes when you were in high school at your local community college, that counts as a two-year institution, and you need to disclose. If you went to a number of different undegraduate institutions, you need to submit every single transcript. If you went to a number of graduate schools, you need to submit. Disclose, disclose, disclose. This kind of thing can follow you around forever. The way you have to think about it is: When you're sitting for your Bar Character and Fitness examination, do you want to have to explain why you chose not to disclose the grades that you received from community college twenty years ago, or ten years ago? Do you really want to have to sit through that? No, you don't. You want it to be as simple as possible, and that's why you have to disclose everything from [your] criminal, academic, and military [background]--all the way down to the little things like an F that you got in a community college course when you were in high school.
It's better to disclose it now than have to deal with it later, and run the risk of having something withdrawn or having something taken away from you for something that's so very, very tiny.
The only other thing that I want to point out with regards to transcripts is that it can take up to two weeks for processing, and they have to come directly from the undegraduate or graduate institution. You can't actually receive them and send them on [to LSDAS]--they have to go straight from the school to LSDAS, so you have to make sure that you tell these peope with enough time so that they can get the forms, complete them, and send them in for you.
I know that Dave wanted to say something about the LSDAS grade conversion, so I'm going to turn it over to him for that.
DAVE: Thank you, Anne. Well, LSDAS is one of those organizations that can really, really cause a big impact upon your application. You wouldn't think, at first, that it would. I mean, it's the Law School Data Assembly Service, and all they're doing is assembling the data that you already have, so nothing should really change, should it? Unfortunately, that's not the case, and many students I have worked with in the past have gotten an unpleasant surprise from LSDAS, particularly in the area of their grade-point average.
Now, when you look at what LSDAS is doing, when you think about your academic record and your GPA, look at it from the side of the law schools. If they had to look at everybody's registrar report, with all the classes and all the grades in its own individual format, given how many schools there are in the United States and all the different reporting forms, the law school Admissions Committee would really be up against a wall. Every single time they picked up somebody's transcript, they'd be struggling to figure out where the grade was, how many credits they had, what courses they took, what grades they got. So the purpose of what LSDAS is doing in terms of your grades is to standardize the readout that the Admissions Committee gets. That way, when they look at a single applicant they know what the master GPA is, the master GPA-within-major, the courses that each term had. That's what [LSDAS] is trying to do: they're trying to standardize it.
As they standardize it, one of the things they look at are the grades, and converting those. There's lots of different grading systems at colleges across the U.S. and elsewhere, and so what happens is that they turn it into their own standardized grading scale. You can actually get that grading scale on their website [www.lsac.org], and they show you what the conversion is. But there's one thing that does happen to students that's a huge problem, and that is that every single grade that appears on your transcript will be converted. Normally, that wouldn't be a big deal, but it is a big deal if you've ever failed a class and then re-taken the class. [For example] If you get an F for whatever reason (maybe you missed classes, maybe there was a sickness in your family and you couldn't attend classes that particular semester), when you come back and re-take those classes (let's say you got all As) your school replaces the Fs with As in your school GPA. However, almost every school shows that you originally got an F in that class, and that you then replaced it with an A. When LSAC gets that particular transcript, if that F is there, they will process it. So, all of a sudden, you get that zero GPA hit right there with each one of those classes, and a lot of those students that have been saying "I have a 3.8 GPA," without counting that replaced grade that was originally an F, suddenly have their transcript processed by LSAC and their GPA's dropped a couple of points. That's something that you really want to be careful with: Taking a look at that transcript and seeing how [LSDAS is] going to convert it. Do not assume that the GPA your school is reporting is the GPA that LSDAS is going to report. I know that it sounds unfair--I think it is unfair in many respects--but they're a huge bureaucracy, and there's nothing you can do to change them. You just have to look at it carefully, and maybe see how your school is actually reporting situations like that.
So, transcripts are a big deal, obviously. You'd think it would just be a one-to-one conversion, and most of the time it is, but every once in a while people have run into problems here. So make sure that you're informed about the process and know exactly what it is that they're going to do.