Faith and the Law School Admission Process

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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.

No, this post isn’t about having “faith” that you will get into the law school you desire. I want to talk about sharing religious involvement in your law school application. Blueprint asked me to answer a question for a blog reader:

Will the faith-based volunteer work on my resume be frowned upon or looked at differently than non-religious experiences?

I really love this question, because the applicant assumes she will share that her work was, in fact, religious in nature. She didn’t have the sense that she should hide it, which is wonderful. A lot of applicants feel shy about sharing their religious background with law schools, and it’s no great shocker why when you look to recent events at UCLA. Students of all backgrounds fear being judged based on their religious affiliation. We should be ashamed of creating this kind of culture on college campuses, but that’s a whole other story (or book).

I encourage applicants to embrace what is important to them, and if missionary work, religious participation, youth group leadership, or bible study is a part of their background, this should be shared in the application. Listing these involvements on your resume shows commitment, focus, a desire to serve others, and numerous other qualities to be proud of. I’ve read beautiful personal statements, diversity statements, and other optional essays on these topics.

Two examples:

  • Bible Study/Talmudic Study: I would argue that this is great preparation for law school – poring over a text to debate its meaning and significance in today’s world? Hello! That’s exactly what you’re going to do in law school! No reason to hide this on your resume. I’ve read very meaningful personal statements about the study of Talmud leading to a natural inclination and appreciation for law.
  • Missionary Trips: The key is to emphasize the service aspect of your trip on your resume, rather than focusing on the part where you shared bible stories with children. Working with children on reading English… It’s all in the semantics isn’t it? Doesn’t that sound more substantial for a resume?

Your service feeding the homeless through a religious organization is no less impressive or impactful because it was through that organization. The fact that this is what you spent your time doing, that you were committed to serving others, that’s what the law schools care about.

Where are the potential pitfalls? I would avoid talking about God in your essays. This can be off-putting and is rarely – if ever – necessary to a story line in a personal statement. I also encourage you to remove “God Bless” from your voicemail message for the same reason. It just doesn’t feel professional. You can have your beliefs, share your beliefs, and be proud of who you are without flying the flag with every interaction you have with others. The same is true in your law school applications.

The bottom line: be proud of your beliefs. They form your character and will guide you in all things – how you treat people, how you spend your time. These are characteristics that are important as a law student and lawyer. Law schools know this, and it’s part of what makes up a well-rounded class. And remember, any school that wouldn’t want you because of your beliefs isn’t a law school you should want to attend.

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