Will Law Schools See My Non-US Transcripts?

I had about two semesters worth of credit from US undergrad schools, then another two from St. Andrews in Scotland, before leaving school for awhile. I’m finishing up through the University of London International Programme this May. The LSAC put my US GPAs on the report and then just put “foreign” for the st. andrews and uol grades. How might law schools consider this? Do they look at the individual transcripts or just the lsac report? My US GPA was really great, but the uol classes have been so-so given that I also am working beyond-full-time while finishing.

It sounds as if you have a lot going on, my friend! Life is like that sometimes. Not everyone experiences one smooth, contiguous journey through college. In fact, the majority of college students don't. 

Let's unpack the two questions that are bundled together in this scenario.

Will law schools see your international transcripts?

For readers who aren't familiar with how LSAC handles international transcripts, you can find their rules here. You might have the option, or even be required, to submit your St. Andrews and University of London transcripts to LSAC's "authentication and evaluation feature" for international transcripts. (If in doubt, contact LSAC and ask if your international transcript is required. Talk to a Candidate Services Representative at the contact information at the bottom of this page.) That report will supplement the Academic Summary Report (ASR), and as you noticed, the ASR includes your undergraduate grades and transcript from the US. Will law schools see the international transcripts? Typically yes, because the transcripts are attached to the authentication and evaluation report.

Related to that: Some applicants get worried when they see only their undergraduate grades on the ASR and not their graduate school grades. That is normal. The ASR will still attach your graduate transcripts so that admissions officers can see them.

How will schools evaluate your so-so grades at University of London?

Admissions officers are pretty powerful people, but — for better or worse — they can't read minds. So if all they have in front of them is a transcript, with no further explanation of what's behind certain grade trends, you leave that backstory to their imaginations. Not all backstories are worth sharing. Hypothetically, if your grades had been so-so because you were spending too much time drinking at the pub, you'd be better off not trying to justify or spin your grades. As I like to say about a lot of addendum ideas that applicants have, it's best to let that sleeping dog lie.

But if you were working beyond full-time, as you say, that's important backstory for them to have. There are sections in some (but not all) law schools’ application forms that ask you to list your work history along with dates and time commitments. However, you'd also be relying on weary-eyed admissions officers to be able to connect the dots and piece all that together in a quick read-through, and that might be expecting too much. So in addition to listing that required information in the application form, you could write a short addendum explaining the commitments you had outside of school during that time period. Or, even better, you can add a bullet in your resume, in the University of London section, where you say that you were working full-time while taking classes. The latter is my preference, but either of those solutions would get the point across.