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Taking the LSAT in Afghanistan While in the Military

A few LSAT Blog readers have shared their stories about taking the LSAT while abroad, and/or while serving in the military.

In this LSAT Diary, I share the story of Bryan, a U.S. Army paratrooper, who took the LSAT in rural Afghanistan.

He just graduated from the University of Oregon Law School, where he spoke at Commencement. He plans to practice public interest law.

[The following is based on my phone interview with Bryan. It’s essentially an edited transcript of his words.]


Bryan’s LSAT Diary:

When in these far outlying outposts, you have a lot of time to think. You may be staring down a gun barrel in fighting position, or a guardtower, or out in the hole you dug in the side of a hill. I spent a lot of time thinking about what I wanted to do and where I wanted to be, and with my aptitude, nothing appealed to me more than being an attorney – the only route to that was law school, and the only way to law school is the LSAT.

When I had some time, I did some research and contacted LSAC – we exchanged some emails. Every large military installation has an Army Education Center, which does a lot of things, administer standardized tests, provide credentialing options for people, etc. They even have them in places like Afghanistan and Iraq. I managed to link up with someone online at Bagram Airfield, and LSAC arranged to have a test sent to the Army Education Center’s third-party administrator equipped to administer the exam. She was a civilian attorney employed by the Army.

I flew out of my outpost on Thanksgiving to get to the Army Education Center by the LSAT testing day in December. The Army really goes out of their way to make sure you’re taken care of. For Thanksgiving, they were sending turkey dinners out complete with centerpieces to all these far-flung outposts – we never really had a regularly scheduled flight out of our base – just intermittent resupplies. Food would typically come from an airdrop (from parachute), sometimes helicopter resupplies.

On Thanksgiving Day, they flew in a “CH47” helicopter big dual-motor Army helicopter – that was my only guaranteed ride out of there. There was a chance I might not see another helicopter for a week or two. This “turkey bird” was my only opportunity. I ended up being drafted into delivering turkeys all day, getting more turkeys and delivering those, and refueling then doing it all over again – all over Afghanistan.

At the end of the day, it stopped at Bagram Airfield and kicked us out. I ended up in a circus tent – a giant outdoor tent – with no privacy, a bunch of strangers, where you stick your weapon under your cot, drop your sleeping bag, and that’s your spot. I started drilling with LSAT for Dummies and a few practice tests, and essentially started studying.

Like every soldier in a platoon-sized firebase, you have some free time, but you also have missions and other duties, maybe an hour a day on average for 3 weeks or a month before the test, not every day.

If I had radio guard in the Radio Operations Center, I’d have a practice test or some drills in front of me and work through some problems. I never had opportunity to take full timed practice tests or anything like that, but I studied when I had the time. I was able to carve out the time because I had the support of my chain of command. A lot of things could have gone wrong.

We could’ve come under attack, or the helicopter might not have come that day. My future could have been very different, but I think a lot of factors resulted in my being able to take that test – the professionalism of the people at LSAC, the army education staff, my chain of command, luck, a helicopter, and a hot Thanksgiving meal. All those things came together to my being able to take the test. And I had the tenacity to go out of my way to try to make this happen.

With the right support and initiative, you can make it happen.


So, not only did Bryan have to study for the LSAT while stationed in rural Afghanistan but he had to do it after an 8-hour helicopter flight. And he had to take it after using a book as bad as LSAT for Dummies. (And you guys complain about being distracted by Facebook.)


A news story on a University of Oregon website further describes Bryan’s shift from soldier to aspiring law student:

He was reassigned [from rifleman] to radio telephone operator and operations noncommissioned officer for his company before eventually being promoted to team leader and then squad leader. But the personal transition was striking, shifting from a decision-maker in his brief financial management career to an Army foot soldier in an ill-defined war. 

There were many patrols of 15 kilometers per day, carrying 80 pounds of gear on his back. And there were skirmishes.  

“Of course I saw combat,” Boender says. “I was a paratrooper. That was my job.” 

He started to think of life after the Army, and took his Law School Admissions Test while still in Afghanistan. He applied to law schools — focusing on the Northwest — as soon as he was redeployed to the U.S. in May 2008, and eventually was accepted into the UO School of Law.

For further reading:

Afghan war veteran takes rambling route to UO law degree [The Register-Guard]

Scholar goes from financial advisor to soldier to law student [UO Champions]


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