I've been talking to big groups of law school applicants recently, and when I ask for a show of hands to find out how many people already have their Academic Summary Reports, very few hands go up. Sometimes none.
So today's post is in the spirit of a public service announcement: Send your transcripts to LSAC now so that they can process your Academic Summary Report sooner rather than later.
That's for a couple of reasons:
1. The ASR includes amazing data about your grades. LSAC doesn't just summarize your transcript, but also slices and dices your grades in a bunch of different ways. For example, they compare you to other law school applicants who applied from your college in recent years. (Privacy note: It's aggregate data, so you don't learn anything about specific prior applicants from your school.) They see lots of data about grade inflation at your school. They see information about trends in your grades over time. Admissions officers will be scrutinizing your ASR carefully, so you should educate yourself about what's in your ASR. You might learn something about your own grades and your school's grading patterns that you hadn't known before.
2. The ASR can take time to get done. Whenever you have to rely on third parties for a component of your law school applications, you should build in lots of lead time. In this case, you have to download forms from LSAC, get them over to the registrar for every college or university where you've ever taken even one class (with some exceptions), and then those registrars have to process your request and send the transcripts out to LSAC, then LSAC has to process them to generate your ASR, which it will then make available to you in your LSAC account. That's a lot of moving parts. What if there's a hold on your transcript because you never returned that library book and you owe the school money? What if there's an error in your transcript? What if the transcript is correct but LSAC makes an error in the ASR? Those problems should all be fixable, but they can take TIME to fix.
Many law schools are already accepting applications, and they make offers on a rolling basis. Don't let the ASR process hold you up. So if you haven't already done so, take these steps now:
1. Sign up for "CAS," LSAC's Credential Assembly Service. Read their FAQs and their grade conversion policies. (Note: If you're applying for an LLM program, there's a separate page just for you.)
2. Figure out which transcripts you have to submit. That semester abroad in Paris? The community college transcript from when you were a high school senior? That summer course in calculus you flunked and would rather make go away? That painting course you took at the Fine Arts School just for fun? Make sure you understand the rules, and if in doubt, contact LSAC directly to get confirmation.
3. Have your transcripts submitted to LSAC now. Also order copies of your transcripts for yourself, and take a close look at them. Look for any errors and do what you can to get them fixed.
4. Analyze your Academic Summary Report to see what weight LSAC has assigned to Withdrawals, Incompletes, etc. If you are still in school, you can have another round of updated transcripts sent to LSAC once your new set of grades has come in (you have a duty to update your ASR with new transcripts once they are available, even after you've submitted an application). In the meantime, you can see how LSAC handles the grades you've earned so far.
Here's a sample ASR from the LSAC website (without any instructions about how to read it, which is not super helpful). If you're not sure how to analyze your own Academic Summary Report, you can find more tips in chapter 2 of The Ivey Guide to Law School Admissions.
Former Dean of Admissions at the University of Chicago Law School and a recovering lawyer, Anna Ivey founded Ivey Consulting to help college, law school, and MBA applicants navigate the admissions process. You can find more admissions tips in The Ivey Guide to Law School Admissions, downloadable as an e-book. Join the conversation here in the blog comments and on Twitter and Facebook.