How to Navigate the LSAC Credential Assembly Service

Applying to law school was once a logistical headache. You had to get applications from each law school and mail them back individually, along with copies of every transcript and recommendation letter. It is exhausting to imagine how many follow-up calls this required.

The Law School Admission Council, the organization that creates and administers the LSAT, eventually established a centralized online clearinghouse called the Credential Assembly Service, also known as CAS.

Now when you apply to law school, the CAS compiles your LSAT scores, transcripts, recommendation letters and applications, so you can submit them securely with the click of a button. Each school is then able to access your CAS report in standardized form.

While this process is easier than it used to be, some applicants find CAS a bit confusing. Here are some tips for dealing with the following elements:

— Fees

— LSAT score report

— Transcripts

— Recommendation letters

— Application materials

Fees

The CAS service does not come cheap. The fee is currently $195, plus $45 for each law school to which you apply. This is on top of the fees that law schools charge to evaluate your application, not to mention fees for LSAT registration and transcript requests. The total can easily exceed $1,000.

However, whole or partial fee waivers are available for applicants who demonstrate need with supporting documentation. These waivers may cover the cost of CAS, LSAT registration and even LSAT preparation.

In addition, applicants may receive application fee waivers from individual law schools, either upon request or unsolicited based on their LSAT score and other factors.

[READ: Use Fee Waivers to Cut Law School Application Costs.]

LSAT Score Report

This part is easy. Since LSAC manages both the LSAT and CAS, your scores and writing section are automatically recorded.

On the other hand, LSAC’s control over the LSAT score report means that you cannot selectively withhold LSAT scores. If you take the LSAT multiple times or take both the GRE and the LSAT, law schools will see all your LSAT scores from the past five years.

This also means that law schools see when you have a pending LSAT exam. If admissions officers look at your file and see you have signed up for a future test date or are awaiting the results of a recent test, they will wait until receiving that score to consider your application. Since law school admissions is a rolling process, a long delay may hurt your chances.

Before submitting your applications, review your LSAT score report. In the rare event that you see a mistake, contact LSAC.

Transcripts

Make sure to upload all official transcripts from any undergraduate or graduate programs. Yes, this includes study abroad programs and college courses that did not count toward your degree.

[Read: How to Address a Low GPA in Law School Applications.]

For example, while I was studying for the LSAT the summer before my senior year, I took a modern literature course at a local college, just for fun. I never even checked my grade. I panicked when I realized law schools would see that transcript. Fortunately, it was not as bad as I feared!

Note that your CAS report will include several GPAs calculated by LSAC: a GPA for each institution, a GPA for each year and a cumulative GPA for all undergraduate work. The cumulative GPA is most important, but ultimately law schools will look at your transcript itself to assess your academic performance.

LSAC provides more specific information online about GPA calculation.

Recommendation Letters

You can either upload letters of recommendation yourself or have recommendation writers submit them directly. Recommendation writers most often do it themselves, but you should defer to their preferences.

[READ: How to Get a Compelling Letter of Recommendation for Law School.]

If your recommendation writers submit their letters themselves, you may indicate whether you waive your right to read the letters. It is wise to do so, to encourage candor and show self-confidence.

Application Materials

After law schools open their applications in August or September, you can access and submit them through CAS. It is worth reviewing each application carefully, as they may change from year to year.

CAS is also where you upload your personal statements, resume, optional essays and other written materials. You may send different versions of each document to different law schools. This is useful if you want to tailor your personal statement to a specific school or send a longer personal statement to a school with a higher page limit.

Be sure to label each page of each document with your name and LSAC number.

Since LSAC streamlined the application process with CAS, the average number of applications submitted by each applicant to various law schools has increased over time, with a noticeable jump last year. For your best odds, consider applying to multiple schools, early in the cycle.

More from U.S. News

How to Talk About Yourself Modestly on a Law School Application

14 Mistakes That Can Keep You Out of Law School

Advice for Law School-Specific Recommendation Letters

How to Navigate the LSAC Credential Assembly Service originally appeared on usnews.com

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