Why no Grad School Data Assembly Service?

Applicants to law schools register for the Law School Data Assembly Service. The LSDAS is the place where you send transcripts and have professors upload letters of recommendation, greatly reducing the paperwork on your end. Individual schools have things like Dean’s Certifications and such that are completed on a school-by-school basis, but most of the work is done by the LSDAS. (NB: It’s run by the people who administer the LSAT, so they have access to that data already.)

I, meanwhile, have to have transcripts sent by each school I’ve attended to every school I’m asking to accept me to a PhD program, and my recommenders have to navigate individual application websites. Frankly, this seems like a lot more work for everyone.

Is there a significant difference between the application processes that makes a GSDAS unwieldy? I know programs differ greatly from field to field, but why hasn’t, say, ETS taken this on as a business model?

Also, I have no idea how business schools work, but they have their own test (the GMAT) instead of the standard GRE. Do business schools have a data assembly service like the LSDAS? Do med schools?

Thanks! I’m really curious about this.

I don’t know for sure, but I’m guessing it has to do with volume of applications and cost to the applicant. My guess is that graduate programs would be more sensitive then law schools to making the application process more expensive for prospective students.

It looks like the minimal LSDAS costs for U.S. applicants are $132 for the LSAT, $121 for the LSDAS credential assembly service, and $12 for each report sent to a law school. Then in most cases applicants must also pay the applicant fee for the individual law school; the Boston University Law (chosen at random) fee is $75, and it’s mandatory to also send the LSDAS report. In 2009 BU Law got 7,660 applications for an entering class of 270 students. My WAG is that the number of applications sent out for an individual law school applicant would be greater on average than the number of applications sent out by a grad school applicant, so the economics for a “GSDAS” type service may be less favorable.

It might be the wave of the future, but I can see some reasons why it makes more sense for law schools than for PhD programs. PhD admissions are very individualized decisions handled at the level of the individual department. A department admits a small handful of future PhDs each year. When you get admitted, you’ll find out just how fragmented and administratively idiosyncratic they tend to be. A law school admits a whole class. If there is a cost to the institution to use the service (in addition to the cost to the applicant) that would be easier to justify at the level of a law school than an individual department.

There are generic credential services that will submit your references and transcripts to multiple schools / employers. It wouldn’t be quite as unified as the LSDAS, but they do exist.

When I got my MBA 25 years ago one school wanted me to get all the stuff and send it to them in 1 big envelope. That was good since I knew that everything needed was sent in. For the other schools I had to wonder if everybody sent everything in.