On Dec 20, this photo popped up on my timeline – and I couldn’t believe it had already been a year since I got my HLS acceptance call. It’s been WILD, but I’ll never forget the stress of submitting that application and wondering if I should re-test, if I should read my statement of intent one more time, if I should run my resume by just one more person.
The answer was no – hitting the submit button was the solution to all those worries! But I’ve gotten a ton of questions about applications, so I figured I’d give my two cents on what matters and what doesn’t.
Remember when Elle Woods rolled into her guidance counselor’s office and dropped the “Help me get to Harvard” bomb? (If not, check it out here at 1:45 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EVmLV7swH2k) Probably not that poor woman’s best day. But after going through it myself, here’s my personal take on the counselor’s application advice:
1. Excellent recommendations from professors – TRUE
This is a given, except they don’t necessarily have to be professors. All law schools, Harvard included, want some evidence that you’re not totally useless in class. Checks out. But if you’ve had work experience post-college, like me, they would also like to see recommendations from your boss! I submitted one professor (shoutout to retired Col Richard Lemp, you are the GOAT) and my Wing Commander (highest ranking guy on our base…yep, scary asking for that one) and both were extremely well-written and clearly advocated for me. It’s VERY easy for admissions officers to tell when someone is half-heartedly recommending you, so solid letters are a MUST.
2. A heck of an admissions essay – TRUE TRUE TRUE
Uh…it’s kinda hard to get into law school. Your admissions essay is your ONLY shot, pre-interview, to showcase three very important things: your personality, potential to contribute differently than others, and how your goals align with the schools’ goals/mission statement. Your resume shows what you’ve done – the admissions essay showcases you as an individual.
I used my mil experience to the MAX, because that’s what set me apart the most from other applicants. My essay opened with a scene from War Games as my “attention-grabber,” before describing my experiences in the missile field and how they fed my passion to become an Air Force lawyer. In the second page I talked about why Harvard would be a good fit, my interests in national security and the courtroom, and how my unique experiences as a missileer and female officer would create a unique viewpoint in class AND positively impact my classmates.
Also, schools usually give guidelines for essays that say, “limit to two pages or whatever you feel is appropriate.” If you get that line, KEEP IT UNDER TWO PAGES. The admissions staff have to read thousands of essays – yours better grab their attention and keep it, and anything over two pages has failed. I promise. It can be short and great.
3. At least a 175 on your LSATS – FALSE
Your girl got a 170 and is PRRRROUUUUUUD OF IT. Harvard is very clear that there is no ‘bottom limit’ on your LSATs, and I’m proof. The median is like a 174, but if you’re going to contribute to the well-being of the school, you’re going to get a pass (shoutout to the other slumdogs with under 175 LSATs out there, I SEE YOU). Plus, how Elle went from a 147 to a 179 LSAT is absolutely beyond me.
OTHER APPLICATION ASPECTS NOT MENTIONED BY ELLE’S COUNSELOR WHICH ARE ALSO IMPORTANT
Transcripts, with hopefully a 3.7+ GPA. I got by with a 3.67, albeit from a STEM school, but this is another category where HLS (and many others) does not have a set minimum.
Resume. This is a crucial part of an application, and should reflect as much leadership, work experience, and non-academic potential as possible. The school can see your academic transcripts; they CAN’T see what kind of a person/leader/worker you are. (Side note, I DARE someone to put “First Runner Up at Miss Hawaiian Tropic’s Pageant” on their application resume)
Interview. Harvard Law interviews EVERY single person they admit, and I had mine about 2 weeks before I got my acceptance letter. It was a 20 minute, rapid fire, formal skype interview. This is not a standard for all schools, by any means; I only did one other interview, with Columbia, and it was completely different. But I enjoyed talking to my admissions counselor, and when he asked if I had any questions before the interview ended, I DID ask if he had ever gotten an Elle-Woods style application video.
He kind of laughed and said no, he had never seen one…and that was probably a good thing. Yikes. Did I consider making one?? Youuuuu betcha. Did I tell him that? NO WAY.
FEES ON FEES ON FEES. You best be financially prepared to pay approximately one million dollars for ADMISSION, or else have a great reason to get a waiver. I had neither. I had to skip Starbucks for a few months and it almost killed me 🙅🏼♀️ Start saving!
Unlike Elle Woods, I applied to schools beside Harvard; however, I found all these materials were important to every school. If you’re in the midst of applications or have any questions for me, shoot me an email!