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Undergrad Course Load - Problematic?

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Hello everyone, I have a question which concerns how different law schools might assess a law applicant's course load. Particularly, I'm concerned with whether or not schools would outright reject an application on the basis that the student did not take 5 courses per semester (I am also taking into consideration that different schools will assess this differently).

In my situation, I often took three courses per semester (fewer in the summer). The reason I took a lighter course load in some of my semesters was due to the fact that I lived alone and had to work a certain number of hours each week to earn enough money to cover my living expenses. At the same time, I was also volunteering. With the way this worked out, I virtually had zero days off during the week between work, school, and volunteering. In the rare event that I did happen to have a day off, I always spent it studying (I will add that I achieved mostly A- and A grades, as well as a few A+ grades). However, in my last two semesters of my undergrad (minus the summer semester), I took four courses at a time, all while working and volunteering. In those semesters of which I took four courses each, my grades were fantastic.

Can anyone provide some insight as to whether or not my situation would prove troublesome for gaining admittance into law school? 

Also, are there any users in this forum who have been admitted to law school having studied on a part-time basis during their undergrad?

For a bit of extra information, I will add that my L2 is roughly 3.86/4.33 (self-calculated). I am also planning to write the LSAT in August.

Schools I am most interested in applying to: UVIC, TRU, UofA, Calgary, Dalhouse.

I appreciate the help and feedback.

 

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I may be able to provide a bit of insight here! I was not a part time student, but I had 4 courses each semester this past year, so I was wondering if this would cause me a problem as well. I think the first thing you need to do is to contact each of the schools you are interested in because each will have a different response. The only school on your list that I can speak to is dal. They consider a full course load 5 classes per semester. When I spoke to the admissions staff, they told me that they would take my final two years (even though it is less than 20 courses) and compare that to a calculation which actually includes full courses. For this, they would take an extra semester of my undergrad to make up for my lack of classes in the final two years. This resulted in me having more than 20 classes in the L2 calculation, but they said that was quite common. Then they compare those two, and take whichever is higher into consideration. THEN, they compare that to your cGPA. Whichever of the two is higher will be considered when calculating your gpa. Hopefully that makes sense. Calgary takes your last 20 credits as well. If your do not have this amount in your last two years, they will literally go backwards on your transcript to collect the remaining grades.

In all cases, you should obviously explain why you had to take a lighter courses load in your PS. As long as you have a valid reason, schools should not draw adverse inferences. I have some info about others schools not on your list as well, so if you want to PM about those please do!

With all this said, I am not 100% sure whether your part-time status will impact these calculations. So again, I would reach out to each school individually to confirm. Hope this was helpful!

 

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I can provide some info about the UofA. Simply - they just take your last 60 credits. That's it that's all! The UofA doesn't read personal statements, either, unless your application goes to the holistic stage. If your GPA and LSAT are high enough, it won't.

In my first three years of undergrad I only did four classes per semester, then did five for my final year, for the same reasons you mentioned, OP. Still got in!

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I got into UBC, UVic, and U of A never having taken more than 4 courses per term. I'd say on average I took 3 courses per term. I did include an explanation in my PS though. Provided your stats are competitive you should be good.

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I think far too many people get full course load and full time studies mixed up which causes a lot of extra confusion.

I only applied to 3 schools and was accepted into 2 of them (dal and ryerson). Though I took a 5th year to do my degree so I could finish an extra certificate program at the same time but i only ever did a full 5 class course load in my first year of university and after that did 3 or 4 a semester. My school considers 5 the usual norm and 3 being the minimum to be considered a full time student (so i was a full time student for all 5 years of my degree) or 2 classes being the minimum if you have a disability. 

I'm sure there are schools that care but i wouldn't spend a ton of time justifying why you dropped a course a few times and then just made up for it in the summer or whatever, its really really normal. 

Edited by rolypolyjoly
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On 5/20/2020 at 12:11 PM, magicmtn said:

I got into UBC, UVic, and U of A never having taken more than 4 courses per term. I'd say on average I took 3 courses per term. I did include an explanation in my PS though. Provided your stats are competitive you should be good.

That's fantastic. It gives me some hope for sure. If you don't mind my asking, what were your stats? Also, did you apply in the regular categories or in special considerations?

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I applied in the regular categories. My stats were CGPA 3.7 before any drops and 167 LSAT. Hope this helps.

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Your post sounds almost eerily similar to my own experience. I applied to four schools this cycle (Osgoode, Ryerson, Western, and Queens), and was accepted at both Ryerson and Queens, and was waitlisted at Osgoode and Western. I've provisionally accepted Queens, and while I'm completely happy with going there, I'm still curious to see how things will work out with Osgoode and Western. My stats are 3.75 OLSAS GPA, 3.82 L2 and 153 (Nov), 160 (Jan) LSAT. These grades are on a 4.0 scale. I tell you from experience that it is indeed very possible to get into a law school without having taken a full courseload throughout your undergrad, but I emphasize that I have no experience with the schools you're interested in applying to.

During my undergrad, there were some terms where I had to take only 1 credit, or even 0.5 credits. I also took courses during several summers. Like you, my grades hovered almost entirely within the A range. However, I get the sense that your part-time semesters may not have been as reduced as mine. From what I've read on this site, (and anyone please free free to correct me if I'm wrong) you may not even be in terrible shape, depending on whether or not you're getting course load and full-time/part-time mixed up, as @rolypolyjoly mentions. 

While there is no way for me to know for certain how exactly admission committees viewed my sparse courseloads throughout my undergrad, I feel that @culitigator is correct in stating that you should work to explain this somewhere in your personal statement if you are truly concerned. I applied using the "Access/Special Consideration" status at the above schools (and filled out optional essays where there was no official "Access" category). This essentially gives you a chance to discuss any barriers that you may have faced during undergrad and to explain how they affected your performance. Note that Access Claims cannot overcome absolutely anything, and are more for giving context to explain how an otherwise successful student's performance may have dipped a little during specific times in their undergrad. You may need to provide documentation to show how your work schedule coincided with, and pushed you to take a reduced courseload. This step is necessary for Ontario Access Claims, but I can't really speak to other provinces. You may also want to discuss the specifics of your financial status, if you feel that they're applicable. 

If you regularly worked long hours to support yourself financially, and you explicitly explain that this is the reason for your reduced courseload,  I imagine that your Access Claim would be considered valid. Just for transparency's sake I will mention that my access claim was of a different nature, but I feel my point still stands. 

I will be honest in stating that I know nothing about the 4.33 scale that you used, but of course, grades and LSAT are of paramount importance. From what I've learned from this forum, extracurriculars are important, but are considered more as "soft factors." If you're really worried about your reduced courseload try to do as well as possible on the LSAT and support your access claim as best as you can. This is of course only if your Access Claim is genuine, but I do get the sense that for you it very well might be.   

Edited by ChiasticWalrus
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Actually, what @ChiasticWalrus mentioned is something I should have addressed in my answer as well. I also come from a school which uses a 4.3 scale, so I was a little shocked to see how much my gpa changed after converted to OLSAS. I would recommend using the gpa calculator on the general page (though I think some people, as well as myself, have found that the calculations can be a bit off- especially with the L2 and L3 calculations. Don't let these calculations worry you too much of course, but just bear in mind that your 3.86 will likely drop. It just depends on how many A-, A, vs A+ marks you got. Don't let all this worry you too much though- you can't do anything to change your marks now. Its just something to be prepared for:) 

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On 5/23/2020 at 11:06 AM, ChiasticWalrus said:

Your post sounds almost eerily similar to my own experience. I applied to four schools this cycle (Osgoode, Ryerson, Western, and Queens), and was accepted at both Ryerson and Queens, and was waitlisted at Osgoode and Western. I've provisionally accepted Queens, and while I'm completely happy with going there, I'm still curious to see how things will work out with Osgoode and Western. My stats are 3.75 OLSAS GPA, 3.82 L2 and 153 (Nov), 160 (Jan) LSAT. These grades are on a 4.0 scale. I tell you from experience that it is indeed very possible to get into a law school without having taken a full courseload throughout your undergrad, but I emphasize that I have no experience with the schools you're interested in applying to.

During my undergrad, there were some terms where I had to take only 1 credit, or even 0.5 credits. I also took courses during several summers. Like you, my grades hovered almost entirely within the A range. However, I get the sense that your part-time semesters may not have been as reduced as mine. From what I've read on this site, (and anyone please free free to correct me if I'm wrong) you may not even be in terrible shape, depending on whether or not you're getting course load and full-time/part-time mixed up, as @rolypolyjoly mentions. 

While there is no way for me to know for certain how exactly admission committees viewed my sparse courseloads throughout my undergrad, I feel that @culitigator is correct in stating that you should work to explain this somewhere in your personal statement if you are truly concerned. I applied using the "Access/Special Consideration" status at the above schools (and filled out optional essays where there was no official "Access" category). This essentially gives you a chance to discuss any barriers that you may have faced during undergrad and to explain how they affected your performance. Note that Access Claims cannot overcome absolutely anything, and are more for giving context to explain how an otherwise successful student's performance may have dipped a little during specific times in their undergrad. You may need to provide documentation to show how your work schedule coincided with, and pushed you to take a reduced courseload. This step is necessary for Ontario Access Claims, but I can't really speak to other provinces. You may also want to discuss the specifics of your financial status, if you feel that they're applicable. 

If you regularly worked long hours to support yourself financially, and you explicitly explain that this is the reason for your reduced courseload,  I imagine that your Access Claim would be considered valid. Just for transparency's sake I will mention that my access claim was of a different nature, but I feel my point still stands. 

I will be honest in stating that I know nothing about the 4.33 scale that you used, but of course, grades and LSAT are of paramount importance. From what I've learned from this forum, extracurriculars are important, but are considered more as "soft factors." If you're really worried about your reduced courseload try to do as well as possible on the LSAT and support your access claim as best as you can. This is of course only if your Access Claim is genuine, but I do get the sense that for you it very well might be.   

This is very informative, thank you. Out of curiosity, did you have to submit any supporting documentation to demonstrate that you worked long hours during your undergrad? If so, what sort of documentation did you provide? I'm under the assumption that simply mentioning that one worked certain hours while studying doesn't suffice. Do you think a letter from a manager who can validate my work schedule is enough? My pay statements from previous years are not readily accessible to me, but I'm sure I could ask my work to search for them in the system if they are what law schools want to see.

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On 5/23/2020 at 12:02 PM, culitigator said:

Actually, what @ChiasticWalrus mentioned is something I should have addressed in my answer as well. I also come from a school which uses a 4.3 scale, so I was a little shocked to see how much my gpa changed after converted to OLSAS. I would recommend using the gpa calculator on the general page (though I think some people, as well as myself, have found that the calculations can be a bit off- especially with the L2 and L3 calculations. Don't let these calculations worry you too much of course, but just bear in mind that your 3.86 will likely drop. It just depends on how many A-, A, vs A+ marks you got. Don't let all this worry you too much though- you can't do anything to change your marks now. Its just something to be prepared for:) 

You're right, the OLSAS conversion is a little bit of a downer. It changed my L2 to a 3.76 and my B3 to a 3.78. Ah well, it's good to have an indication of what that looks like. It just means that I need to do what I can to score high on the LSAT. 

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On 5/26/2020 at 8:45 PM, RelaxingTimes said:

You're right, the OLSAS conversion is a little bit of a downer. It changed my L2 to a 3.76 and my B3 to a 3.78. Ah well, it's good to have an indication of what that looks like. It just means that I need to do what I can to score high on the LSAT. 

I feel your pain. The OLSAS conversion took my cGPA from a 3.8 to a 3.75. If you're applying to Ontario law schools, check out Ryn's (a site moderator and former Osgoode adcom member) admission predictor website. It also offers other good Ontario-focused application advice. https://www.lawapplicants.ca/predictor

On 5/26/2020 at 8:41 PM, RelaxingTimes said:

This is very informative, thank you. Out of curiosity, did you have to submit any supporting documentation to demonstrate that you worked long hours during your undergrad? If so, what sort of documentation did you provide? I'm under the assumption that simply mentioning that one worked certain hours while studying doesn't suffice. Do you think a letter from a manager who can validate my work schedule is enough? My pay statements from previous years are not readily accessible to me, but I'm sure I could ask my work to search for them in the system if they are what law schools want to see.

Like I said earlier, my Access Claim was of a different nature than yours, so while the effects of our experiences were remarkably similar, the causes don't seem to be exactly the same. While you can definitely just mention the fact that you worked long hours, I imagine that it will go a lot further if you submit the documentation to back it up. I would say that you should submit whatever you have, with a preference for the "most official" things you have available. If you can get more official documents than a letter from a supervisor, I'd say get them. Don't give the admission committees any reason to doubt the validity of your Access Claim. It might be a bit of a headache, but if you (or any student, for that matter) were genuinely affected by something beyond your control during undergrad, the extra consideration that adcoms give your file will be well worth it. 

Edited by ChiasticWalrus
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On 5/31/2020 at 7:31 PM, ChiasticWalrus said:

I feel your pain. The OLSAS conversion took my cGPA from a 3.8 to a 3.75. If you're applying to Ontario law schools, check out Ryn's (a site moderator and former Osgoode adcom member) admission predictor website. It also offers other good Ontario-focused application advice. https://www.lawapplicants.ca/predictor

Like I said earlier, my Access Claim was of a different nature than yours, so while the effects of our experiences were remarkably similar, the causes don't seem to be exactly the same. While you can definitely just mention the fact that you worked long hours, I imagine that it will go a lot further if you submit the documentation to back it up. I would say that you should submit whatever you have, with a preference for the "most official" things you have available. If you can get more official documents than a letter from a supervisor, I'd say get them. Don't give the admission committees any reason to doubt the validity of your Access Claim. It might be a bit of a headache, but if you (or any student, for that matter) were genuinely affected by something beyond your control during undergrad, the extra consideration that adcoms give your file will be well worth it. 

Thanks very much, I appreciate all of your advice and help. 

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