LSAC, LSDAS, LSAT—Help!
What Do All Those Letters Mean?
In order to apply to law school, you need to take an exam and
have your transcripts and pertinent college records forwarded
to each school that you will apply to. This process is basically
done for you by the LSAC, the Law School Admissions Council,
a non-profit organization headquartered in Newtown, New Jersey.
The LSAC’s members consist of all 200 of the law schools
in the United States (185) and Canada (15).
The LSAC creates, administers, and scores the Law School Admissions
Test, or LSAT. The test is given four times a year: in June,
October, December, and February. Test dates are set at least
two years in advance; you can look up the dates for upcoming
tests at the LSAC web site, www.lsac.org.
The LSAC sends your LSAT test score to all of the law schools
to which you have chosen to apply. In addition, the LSAC compiles
all of the college information that the schools need to see
about you. This service is called the LSDAS, the Law School
Data Assembly Service. It’s really more of a service
to the law schools than to you, the applicant. The LSDAS process
is not optional, as virtually all law schools require
you to use it. The law schools like the service because it
presents applicant information to them in a uniform manner,
from one source.
The way it works is this: You sign up for the LSDAS service
and pay the required fee. You can sign up at the same time
you register for the LSAT, or later, but at some point you
have to do it. Then you send them your transcripts and any
other required information. Next, the LSDAS prepares a report
on you. It includes their own calculation of your GPA, how
your GPA compares to other SCSU graduates, a list of colleges
you attended, photocopies of all of your college transcripts,
etc. Essentially the LSDAS service puts together the data package
for you and sends it to your chosen law schools.
There is also a separate service offered by the LSAC, the
Letter of Recommendation Service. The same folks who compile
your college data will also collect, photocopy, and distribute
your letters of recommendation. This is a very popular service,
and easy to use. It is good for general letters, but is not
to be used for school-specific ones. Thus, if you want a special
letter sent to a particular school, you should handle that
All of these services are bundled together and remain good
for 5 years. Thus, once you sign up for the LSAT exam, the
LSDAS data service, and the Letter of Recommendation Service,
your registration in all of them lasts for 5 years. This is
particularly nice if you do not plan to go to law school right
away—everything sits waiting for you, until you tell
the LSAC where you want your file to be sent.
The process of applying to law school has become much more
streamlined and electronic in the last 5 years. You can expect
this trend to continue. Many law schools have their applications
on-line; some will allow you to apply for free if you use their
on-line application process. You can register for all of the
LSAC services on-line, too, and pay the fees with a credit
card. More than two-thirds of applicants are now using the
Letter Service, too. Currently, the service stores up to 3
for you. They are sent out to law schools in the order received.
(Thus, if a law school requests only 2 letters, the first two
that arrived at the Service are the ones sent out.) Soon, however,
this service will be updated to allow students to pick and
choose which letters go to which law schools.
The only thing that will NOT be electronic anytime soon is
the LSAT exam. This will continue to be a pencil and paper
examination scored by computer. Other testing organizations
have experimented with on-line testing, with decidedly mixed
results. For this reason, the LSAT will continue to be given
and taken in person. The test changes periodically; LSAC is
now considering whether and how to add a listening component
it. For changes
to the test, consult the lsac.org web site or your pre-law advisor.
Why does the LSDAS calculate
a GPA for me, and what can I do about it?
Remember, this service is
mainly for the law schools. They want one source, and only
one source, providing a GPA. Your
college GPA is also reported as it appears on your transcripts.
But the LSDAS GPA is considered somewhat more accurate because
it incorporates all of the grades you received at all of the
you attended (including community colleges) into one score,
and it uses the same formula for everyone. There is basically
nothing you can do to get out of this system or change their
mind about your GPA. You can appeal if you feel the calculation
was inaccurate, but appeals are rarely successful. If you
think your GPA as reported by the LSDAS is too low, you
an explanation in your application materials.
Are school-specific letters better?
Yes and no. Letters of recommendation
are down on the list of important admissions factors, after
the LSAT score, GPA,
and personal statement. They are usually used in close calls,
or to differentiate folks in the “middle of the pack.” If
you have someone who knows you well who can personalize your
letter (like an alum from the particular law school), that’s
great. Send his or her letter separately to that law school.
If you simply want to change the heading on each letter to
reflect the name of another school, it is not really necessary
to do so, and the general or generic letter will do. These
letters aren’t really personalized, after all. A truly
personal letter is one tailored to a particular school for
a particular reason. Most of your letters will not be of this
type, but if you have one, then use it. Remember to waive your
right to see your letters of recommendation; waived letters
are considered much more credible. For more information, see
the section of this CD on letters
What if I think my LSAT score
is wrong, or if I need to explain a low score?
You can request
that your exam be re-scored by the LSAC. If your score is
low, you may need to explain why in a separate
statement included with your application. Generally it is
better to do this in a separate statement, rather than in your