"If I'm applying to law school this fall, should I have my transcripts sent now at the start of the summer or wait until the fall?"
If you are planning on applying to law school this coming fall, go ahead and order your transcripts now. That's the case whether you have just graduated (congratulations!), you have already been out of schools for a while, or you are a rising college senior. You'll be submitting transcripts reflecting any classes up through the end of the spring term that just ended. If you end up taking classes over the coming summer or during the next academic year, you can (and must) send updated transcripts once those grades are finalized.
You do NOT need to wait until you have decided on your exact list of law schools to which you'll be applying. That's because LSAC collects and processes all your transcripts, and then you can tell them later which exact law schools should be receiving copies. The transcripts just stay parked at LSAC in the meantime.
In fact, LSAC serves as the gatekeeper and transmitter for almost all of your law school application components — your LSAT score, your transcripts and Academic Summary Report, your recommendations, and the applications themselves — so now is a good time to familiarize yourself with LSAC's website and process. Here are some links to get started:
- Overview of the process
- More overview (make sure to read both overview links)
- The Credential Assembly Service for your transcripts and recommendations (aka CAS)
- Rules governing which transcripts you need to be sending and how to send them
You'll ask the registrar at your various undergraduate and graduate institutions to send your transcripts to LSAC. You can download the form to give your registrar once you have signed up for the Credential Assembly Service (linked above).
Law schools typically will NOT accept transcripts that you arrange to have sent directly to them, and your application will be deemed incomplete if you do so. You MUST route them through LSAC to apply to U.S.-based, ABA-approved law schools. Here is the list of schools requiring you to use LSAC's Credential Assembly Service for processing your transcripts. (In that list, note that rules can be different if you are applying to non-U.S. law schools or non-ABA approved law schools. Transfer applicants should also check with their respective target schools whether they are required to use CAS for their transcripts.)
It's best to start ordering your transcripts now rather than later because it can sometimes take a while for registrars to send them out, or you might have to clear up problems in order to have them sent (for example, if you owe that school fees of some kind, or you discover errors on your transcript that you need fixed). Additionally, LSAC takes several weeks to process your transcripts once they receive them, so it's best not to push your luck with the timing.
Former Dean of Admissions at the University of Chicago Law School, Anna Ivey founded Ivey Consulting to help college, law school, and MBA applicants navigate the admissions process. Read more admissions tips in The Ivey Guide to Law School Admissions and How to Prepare a Standout College Application. Follow Anna on Twitter (@annaivey).