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I have 14 Withdrawals on my college transcript, how much will this hurt me?

Yeah, that's right not a typo. Sorry for the long post, but allow me to explain. I have been working on my BA for almost 10 years, and have made many different career/life moves in that time. When I was younger I was very impulsive, not in a reckless sort of way, but I was pretty unafraid of making big, life-changing decisions pretty much on a dime.

So in 2009, I was in my second semester at my local community college when my girlfriend broke up with me and the financial crisis really began to hit home for my family. These two events made me really question what I was doing and what I was working towards in school, and I decided that I wanted to do some serious travelling before continuing with my degree. So I withdrew from 3 courses and got a restaurant job while finishing the other 2. In September of 2009, I registered for 3 courses to take while I was working, but ultimately decided to withdraw from these courses too and got two more jobs, so I could save more money. That's 6 W's so far.

I saved for this trip, and wound up going for a 16 months backpacking trip that lasted from 2010 to 2011. I visited 25 countries on 4 continents. I'm hoping I can somehow use this fact to spin the massive number of withdrawals I have from this part of my education.

While abroad, I applied for university and got in, with the aim of becoming an engineer. In 2011, I returned to school, took a bunch of math and science courses, and got into Engineering school; however, when I started the next semester, I realized I really didn't enjoy math and science all that much. So I withdrew from 2 of the 5 courses I was taking (calculaus and matrix algebra), finished the other three, and enrolled in a history and a poli sci course for the summer, with the aim of majoring in International Relations. We're at 8 W's now.

I was accepted into the IR program, but on starting my next year of study, I felt a lump in my throat. I went to my doctor, who referred me to a ENT specialist. While this lump turned out to be benign, it totally derailed my studies and changed my perspective on life. I found myself asking myself: if I had 1,2,3 years to live, what would I be doing? And the frank answer was, I wanted to be a bartender. While working at restaurants to save the money to travel, I'd developed this huge interest in cocktails, wine, spirirts, etc. Once I'd realized this, even after discovering I was healthy, I just knew I couldn't stay in school. I had to pursue this dream, as silly as it may be. I withdrew from all five of my courses, and started beating down the door of all the best bars in the city. That's 13 W's now.

I wound up working as a bartender for five years. At the end of my career, I had won numerous awards and managed bar programmes for some of the most decorated bars and restaurants in the country; however, the late nights and booze were getting old. I realized it was finally time for my to go back to school. In September 2017, I enrolled in two courses just to try to school out again. I enjoyed it but didn't know what I wanted to do still, so I didn't register for any courses for the next term.

Instead I went to woodworking school for 6 months. I liked it, but I realized my romantic notions of manual labour did not accord with the reality. And the pay was terrible. So in 2018, I came back to university AGAIN and decided, screw it, I'm just going to major in English, which I love. It's been amazing, I can't believe I didn't do it sooner. I have been taking just English courses for the past academic year and was just accepted into English Honours. Stupidly, I wasn't enjoying one of my profs teaching styles, and withdrew from one of my courses. That's W number 14. This was a totally avoidable W and, in light of everything else, I shouldn't have done it. Oh well.

Additional info: I am writing the September 2018 LSAT and am currently PTing in the mid-to-high 170s. I have a 4.0 GPA over all my courses, despite all the interruptions and course changes. I am close with many of my profs and will have several strong academic references. I have 2 more years of academic study left (since I opted for honours, which takes a few more credits) and am fully committed to my life path in a way I never was before. Also, there will be no more W's.

So what should I do? How much will this effect me? Will the things I did while out of school help to justify the W's I got when leaving school multiple times? How should I acknowledge the events described above?

Thank you if you took the time to read this wall of text.


  • Gunningfor121Gunningfor121 Alum Member
    517 karma

    Hey! So in terms of the LSAC calculation of your GPA, they will only hold Ws against you if the university from which you received the W counts it as punitive. If the university doesn't count it as punitive, neither will the LSAC.

    As for the qualitative considerations of having so many Ws, I would simply write an addendum explaining your circumstances. Since admissions are largely a numbers game (LSAT and GPA) I think you'll likely be just fine considering both your numbers are likely to be great. :)

  • kimpg_66kimpg_66 Alum Member
    1617 karma

    I don't have any advice towards the Ws, but are you absolutely sure you want to go to law school? It is not something you want to do for a semester and then withdraw from. It seems like you have a good head on your shoulders and have figured things out, but your past also tells me this "ah-ha" moment may have come a few times already. I recommend getting a few internships at a firm. I know you're a non-traditional student and a little older, so maybe you could even get paid work.

  • Leah M BLeah M B Alum Member
    8392 karma

    Great answer above. For LSAC's full explanation, here is their policy on transcript summarization:

    I would also say, even if those do not count against you, you should probably consider either an addendum or working some of this school narrative into your essay(s). A law school is probably going to look at this record and think it's pretty wandering, you veered on to many different paths and maybe think you don't know what you really want to do. They're going to want to know why you are going to law school and that you are deeply committed to it. I think you're going to need to address this somewhere in your application, and likely will need to address it again if you interview with a school. It's good to have a lot of interests, but they'll probably want to know that you won't drop out of law school after a year or so to pursue something else, ya know? I think it's awesome that you have tried out many different things and had a really interesting life. But law schools don't want their students dropping out, so you may need to encourage them that this is set in stone for you.

  • 200 karma

    Thanks all for your feedback. Writing this all out and hearing from you has really helped alleviate some stress, and focus the remainder productively.

    @"David Bennett" Awesome thanks for the advice!

    @kimmy_m66 Your impression is very perceptive! Also, that's a fair question. Coping with a sick relative really drove home the lesson that I need to have more direction and work hard towards one thing for an extended period if I want to have more freedom later on in life. But you're definitely right that I need to be sure this is something I want to do.

    @"Leah M B" I was thinking very similar things. This is great feedback and I will consider it as I prepare my application. The hope is to spin this all as a positive, but, if some of my past decisions hold me back a bit, so be it! I will just go to the best law school that will have me.

  • AudaciousRedAudaciousRed Alum Member
    2689 karma

    Yeah, so long as the school didnt count them in a negative light, you should be okay. I had a withdraw on my records due to dropping a class pretty early on that I wasn't enjoying, and it didn't weigh on their gpa calculation at all.
    I think it took 12 or 13 years to finish my AA? LoL. Life happens. Sometimes bad life happens. Sometimes it takes some trial and error to learn what you like and don't like. Keep moving along. That's the important part.
    An addendum explaining all the W's probably wouldn't hurt, tho. Better safer than sorry.

  • Seeking PerfectionSeeking Perfection Alum Member
    4423 karma

    Strange things happen with LSAC GPA calculations sometimes so I would just have the schools submit the transcripts to them, see what happens, and challenge it if you don't like the outcome.

    But you definitely should be careful about law school. It's potentially a lot of debt and you don't want to get trapped in something you don't want to do.

    What I would recommend is to take however long you need studying for the LSAT, while also researching the legal fields you are interested in, get a 170+ LSAT score and take a big scholarship somewhere. That's what I'm doing and because of the way the law school admissions process fetishizes LSAT score and GPA it is basically the only way to ensure you are not trapped in a job you don't like for the rest of your life(something that seems important to you). If you don't have debt, then after a couple years of practicing law you can write it off as another cool experience or if it's Big Law a miserable experience which when properly saved through can give you a good solid lump of retirement savings.

  • Cofife88Cofife88 Member
    90 karma

    All of the above suggestions are great. It sounds like you’re a great candidate with all of your softs and numbers. I’d find it hard to believe that someone turned down an application with so much diversity in experience.

    All of the above points still stand, but I also think that you should make it very clear in your application why you want to attend law school. I think the only concern the schools will have are the same that were brought up by @kimmy_m66. If they admit you to their school, will you actually stick around to finish and pass the bar? I would make it very clear in your application that this is the only path that you are willing to take and that you fully intend to become a lawyer. If you can convince them of that, you’re a great candidate for any school.

  • 200 karma

    @AudaciousRed @Cofife88 Thank you for the advice and enouragement. This kind of feeback is good both for self-motivation and, in my case, much needed self-reflection.

    @"Seeking Perfection" Definitely going to ensure this is something I want to do before I take the plunge financially. I've been studying for the LSAT pretty solidly for about a year, so, if I can replicate my higher PT scores on the real thing in September, hopefully I can avoid too much of a financial burden :)

  • OhnoeshalpmeOhnoeshalpme Alum Member
    edited July 2018 2531 karma

    I think that admissions officers will doubt your ability to commit to a lengthy rigorous academic routine. You have to impress upon them your commitment to law school. Convince them that this is not another temporary pursuit.

  • Adam HawksAdam Hawks Alum Member
    990 karma

    The most important indicator will be your LSAT score. If it is above their 75th percentile, then they'll take a longer look at you. You'll need to write an addendum. But if your LSAT is not above their 75th, they'll probably put you on the wait list/deny pile rather than the admit.

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