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by Anna Ivey | March 10, 2009

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Anna Ivey is a private admissions counselor who works with people applying to the top business schools and law schools, as well as the author of The Ivey Guide to Law School Admissions: Straight Advice on Essays, Resumes, Interviews and More. If you have a question for Anna Ivey, send her an e-mail.

Formerly the Dean of Admissions at the University of Chicago Law School, she has also practiced corporate and entertainment law in Los Angeles. She received her B.A. from Columbia and her J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School, where she served as an editor of The University of Chicago Law Review. To learn more about her admissions counseling, visit annaivey.com.

Question: Do I have to tell LSDAS about one-off type classes I've taken over the years after graduating college that were not part of a degree program? I have signed up for the LSDAS service and they have requested transcripts from all colleges I've attended. After graduating college with a BA I've taken several classes over the years at several different schools, none for degrees or toward degrees, with mixed results. They were all computer classes and don't seem to be relevant to my law school application. My question is this: If I took classes over the years with mixed results but was never enrolled in a degree program at any of the schools I took classes at, do I need to report these to LSDAS? Do they have a right to know this information? I don't want to do anything unethical but at the same time I don't want to provide information that isn't flattering if I don't have to. It doesn't really seem fair that I'd have to report these as at the time I was working over 80 hours a week and didn't do well in the classes as a result. When push came to shove, my job had to come first.

Anna's Answer: I receive variations on this question quite often. Here is the exact language of the rule as it appears on page 26 of the 2005-2006 LSAT and LSDAS Information Book available for downloading at www.lsac.org/LSAC.asp?url=lsac/download-forms-guidelines-checklists.asp:

You must have a separate transcript sent to LSAC directly from each undergraduate and graduate institution you have attended. These include:

  • law/medical/professional schools
  • schools attended for summer or evening courses
  • schools attended even though a degree was never received
  • schools from which you took college-level courses while in high school even though they were for high school credit
  • schools that sponsored your exchange or cooperative program abroad

The language is very clear: Yes, you do have to submit transcripts for the classes you took after you finished your bachelor's degree, even though you did not take those classes towards a degree. Whether to submit them is not left to your discretion.

Part 2 of your question: Do they have a right to know this information? That question comes up a lot in the law school application context, and also in the context of bar applications. (Applications to the bar are far more intrusive - think IRS audit plus background check plus fingerprinting - so this is just a taste of what's to come.) The answer is that they have the right to ask whatever the heck they want. Nobody is forcing you to apply to law school or apply to the bar to become a lawyer - you are applying to them, not the other way around - so if you don't like what they're asking, or you want to keep certain things in your background private, don't become a lawyer. Lawyers have very little privacy, because the states and the bar associations regulate the profession heavily. If privacy is important to you, law is not the right profession for you.

I'm guessing the subtext of your question is: Why do they care how you did in these classes you took after college? For the same reason they care about your college degree classes. The academic work you've done - whether towards a degree or not, whether those classes relate to law or not - is great information for them to have as they are trying to weigh and predict how you are going to do in their own programs. Those transcripts convey a lot of information about you: Is there evidence that you worked hard in those classes? Did you do well? Did you push yourself? Were they difficult? Did you advance your knowledge and skills? Did you flunk? Were you the subject of disciplinary action for plagiarism/cheating/poor performance? Your transcripts convey information about all of those things. It's hard to argue that they have no relevance to how you might do in your next academic endeavor.

There's an important lesson here for people who have not yet taken these kinds of classes, whether they are classes you take at a local community college as a high school senior or classes you are taking as a working adult for intellectual enrichment or professional advancement: They matter. They become part of your record. Don't blow them off, and don't sign up for them if you can't give them your best. Since you can't go back in time and approach the classes you took differently, your best bet now is to write an addendum explaining what your other obligations were while you were taking them.

The other message I want to convey to applicants is that these kinds of classes can also be opportunities if you do them right, because they can serve to mitigate a less than stellar undergraduate record. (See my previous article Return of the Smart Slacker.)

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Filed Under: Education

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