GPA and the LSDAS. Your undergraduate GPA is probably the
most important element of your law school application, followed closely
by your LSAT score. Most schools will ask you for your GPA (calculated
on a 4.0 scale) on their application form. In addition, however, you
must also submit an official Harvard transcript through the Law School
Data Assembly Service (LSDAS), which is yet another "service"
of the LSAC. Dunster House does not handle transcripts -- you
must order your transcript from the Harvard College Registrar.
Students often ask
if there is any way to avoid the LSDAS, which is shockingly expensive.
The answer is no. The LSDAS is unavoidable. It is also probably
a violation of federal antitrust
laws -- every year we marvel that they continue to get away with
this scheme. But they do!
Because the LSDAS
handles transcripts for law schools, it is generally unnecessary and
inappropriate to send your transcript directly to law schools yourself.
Exception: if you have not heard from a law school by the time you receive
your senior fall grades, you may choose to send an updated transcript
directly to that school (but only if your senior fall grades are likely
Exactly Does the LSDAS Do? The LSDAS packages the "essential
information" about you for law schools. It works like this: after
forking over their absurd registration fee, you send them a single copy
of your Harvard transcript (if you are a transfer student, send them
a copy of each of your transcripts). They re-process your transcript
to adjust your GPA to a fixed baseline, thereby facilitating law schools'
efforts to compare the GPAs of students from different schools. Yes,
this means that a Harvard GPA of 3.3, in theory, looks the same as a
3.33 GPA from a less impressive/pretentious school! But don't worry
about this point: law schools will not fail to notice that you
went to Harvard and not some other school, and you will get credit for
the increased level of academic rigor. Note, also, that when the LSDAS
reports your GPA, they also report the average of all Harvard GPAs over
the last 3 years. This gives law schools a way to evaluate your GPA
relative to other Harvard applicants.
The LSDAS then packages
this "academic summary" with an original copy of your transcript
and a copy of your LSAT score report, to which the LSDAS (as a service
of the LSAC) automatically has access. It will release this package
only to the schools you designate (and pay for). Note that the LSDAS
does not mail these packages to law schools automatically -- instead,
law schools receive your application materials, call up the LSDAS and
order your package. This gives the LSDAS a bit more time to process
Although your House file includes an unofficial copy of your transcript,
the College does not permit Dunster to produce the official, certified
copies that the LSDAS requires. You must order your transcript directly
from the Harvard
College Registrar and have it sent directly to LSDAS.
Few LSDAS Pointers.