Today’s post comes to us from Ann Levine, a law school admissions consultant and the founder of LawSchoolExpert.com. She is the author of The Law School Admission Game: Play Like an Expert.
Every outstanding law school application package has a common quality: extreme thoughtfulness. Nothing is submitted haphazardly – everything has a purpose, and everything adds something new to the law school admission committee’s understanding of your experiences and perspective.
Here are three places where you can concentrate your efforts:
1. The law school personal statement is your best opportunity to shine. It allows you to add context to your experiences, to draw a thread through your activities and decisions, and to show growth and focus. This is your best possible interview because you get to pick each word in advance – what an opportunity! Finding the right topic for your essay is key: the same story doesn’t work for everyone (which is why sample essays are pretty useless).
I encourage people to start by thinking about your application’s weakness: is it your bumpy academic record? Pick a topic that shows your focus and dedication to something else in your life, whether it’s a sport or a cultural activity or taking care of your aging parents. Is your weakness a scattered resume that doesn’t show anything linking you to law school? Then you’re the right person to talk about how much thought you’ve put into this decision and why personal events have led you to believe this is the right next step for you. Take the focus off being more unique or more dramatic than everyone else, and find the story that is authentic to your experience. That’s the real winner – the personal statement that gives the law school real insight into who you are.
2. A resume that really describes your contributions to organizations where you have worked or volunteered. Most schools are happy to accept a 2-page resume, so don’t sell yourself short or waste precious real estate. Just listing that you volunteered at a Food Bank isn’t enough to get you “full credit” for your experience or initiative. See the difference between these two descriptions:
- A. Food Bank Volunteer, San Diego, CA 2010-2012
B. Food Bank Volunteer, San Diego CA June 2010-September 2012: Spent 20 hours/week during the summers and 2 weekend days per month during the school year; Assisted families in meeting their nutritional needs by helping them choose recipes and ingredients and determine portion sizes for their children.
Now, what to do if you only volunteered occasionally and weren’t incredibly dedicated to the Food Bank? How about trying something like this (assuming it’s true, obviously):
- “Sorted food and assisted clients one day per month. Encouraged three friends to split the shift so that almost every Saturday was covered for 16 months. Organized a canned food drive in my fraternity that resulted 35 pounds of food for distribution.”
3. Be a real person. Meet representatives at law school forums or law school fairs (even if you’re not currently enrolled at the universities where they are being held). Schedule visits to law schools (yes, you can – mostly – do this) and sit in on a class. Take the initiative. Show your interest and do your due diligence at the same time. Even if you can’t meet with someone face to face, you can follow up with a thank-you note, or by mentioning your on-campus experience in your personal statement or optional essay. After all, many schools ask you to tell them the reason for your interest in the school in one form or another, including Penn, Northwestern, Michigan, Duke, UNC, Minnesota, Santa Clara, Loyola Chicago, and Pepperdine.
By taking extra steps to prepare thoughtful application materials and go out of your way to express interest in a school, your law school application is more likely to stand out from the crowd.