4 Extracurricular Activities That Boost Your Law School Application
August 19, 2014
Extracurricular Activities That Boost Your Law School Application
Gone are the times when law school admissions were only based on your LSAT score and undergraduate GPA. While those two factors still remain extremely important, admission committees now seek qualities that make you stand out among a diverse swath of candidates. Today, law schools take a much more holistic approach to the application process. They go beyond your academic credentials and delve deeply into what you can contribute to the classroom, school, and community. They also want you to have an impressive resumé. Engaging in extracurriculars for law school is a significant part of law school application strategy!
In addition to your personal statement, supplemental essays, and letters of recommendation, admissions committees will also look at your activities, which shape your individuality. Your choice of extracurriculars for law school--on campus and in your community--reveal a lot about you. Consequently, it is incredibly important to make sure that you have a coherent application persona, or theme, based on these "soft" factors beyond the test scores and GPA. In this blog, I have outlined four of the more typical activities prospective law students engage in, followed by some unconventional ways you can make yourself stand out through extracurriculars for law school. Whatever you choose to participate in, the activities should be true to your interests! Remember that the depth of your engagement matters more than the breadth.
First, here are a few common pre-law extracurricular activities that can help boost your application:
Debate Team. Debate can be an excellent training ground for future lawyers. It will help you develop strong communication skills, form decisive arguments, and learn how to prove and present them extemporaneously. Memorization comes in handy, but it won’t matter if you do not know how to analyze and interpret logical relationships between texts. Debate teaches you that, and allows you to practice it. In fact, several Supreme Court justices are former debaters. Law schools will recognize your ability to distill nuanced arguments from a complex set of facts and to present them cogently in front of an audience. Granted, not all law will afford you the opportunity to speak in public, but you will always need to present your ideas coherently and succinctly.
Pre-Law Society. Most, if not all, universities have established organizations that will help their students prepare for law school by initiating law-related activities on campus, such as moot courts, mock trials, negotiation workshops, and cross-examination exercises. Engaging in a pre-law society will help to demonstrate your passion for the law in addition to helping you hone the skills necessary to enter law school.
Model United Nations. Model United Nations and similar competitions such as Student Congress will help you test your skills in diplomacy as well as your ability to negotiate and possibly mediate disputes. These competitions have a slightly less competitive tenor, but are still very valuable for the skills they help students develop over the course of their preparation and participation.
Student Government. What have you done for your school? What changes have you implemented for the good of the student body? Being in the student government will manifest your leadership skills, if executed properly. Participating in student government demonstrates that you have stepped up and are respected by your peers enough to be elected as their representative. However, to maximally improve your law school candidacy, you will want to be able to show tangible results of your tenure in office as a student government representative. Serving is not enough; you should accomplish some of the goals that you set out to achieve and contribute positively to your school community.
Listen to David, a Harvard Law School alum, talk about the importance of diverse extracurriculars for law school here:
Now that you have seen the traditional extracurriculars for law schools, let’s look at some activities that could be more catered to your unique interests in law:
Start Your Own Organization. There is no better way to stand out as a leader than to start an initiative geared toward your own specific area of interest. If you’re considering real estate law, gather a group of similar-minded students to form a real estate club in college. Or, take it up a notch and start your own company that could help other people navigate the world of real estate. Demonstrating leadership skills while engaging in a topic that you’re interested in makes you a strong candidate, and dictates a specific application persona.
Research. Your college professors have a lot of knowledge and are often underutilized resources. They’re usually willing to help if you approach them. If you’re interested in environmental law, for example, drop by the office hours of your favorite professor in the Environmental Studies department and see if you can assist them in a research about environmental ethics. Conducting research can help you develop skills in data collection and analysis, learn a lot about your field of interest, and engage in one of the strongest extracurriculars for law school.
Publications. Law school requires a lot of writing. To get some practice, submit to your school’s pre-law journal or law review if there is one. If not, start one. Plenty of students are interested in journalism, law, or both. You’ll be helping them find an outlet to get their writing out there, while honing your own writing skills and establishing yourself as a leader. If you decided to pursue the research path, take your findings one step further: write a paper and send it out to publications. Being a published author in a law journal would undoubtedly boost your application.
Jobs and Internships. Admissions officers need to see a beefed up legal resumé, especially if you decide to take a gap year before law school. You could work at a law firm as a legal assistant, or head to Washington, D.C. and intern for a senator. You can be more creative and pursue an opportunity that might seem less “legal” at first glance - such as jobs in education, marketing, or journalism. As long as you are able to tie back the relevant skills to your JD goals, you can set yourself up for law school success.
Working can provide you with new perspectives on the field of law that you’re passionate about, introduce you to mentors and peers who can support you, and help boost your extracurriculars for law school. Plus, you get to form an invaluable network of connections in the field - from supervisors who can write your letters of recommendation to coworkers who can help you navigate the job market once you’re out of school. Even if you don’t plan to take a gap year before law school, you should do this kind of work over your summer and winter breaks!
Volunteer Work. If you’re unable to get an internship over the summer, spend your time doing pro-bono work in related fields. Volunteer in your community, or engage in work more relevant to the type of law you see yourself practicing. For instance, if you wish to be an immigration lawyer, you can volunteer with refugee initiatives and even shadow lawyers in the field. There are various ways you can make this activity unique to you: organize drives to help refugees, film a documentary on immigrant narratives, organize bake sales to help out a cause. Your application would definitely stand out from the rest of the pool, and you’d be helping a lot of people while you’re at it. No matter where or how you contribute to your community, the experience will make you a stronger applicant.
Your involvement and membership in organizations, especially when you hold a leadership role, should be relevant to your chosen career path and make you stand out as a candidate. Since law school involves a heavy dose of reading, writing, and advocacy, activities that help to develop and showcase these skills will aid you in your pursuit of a legal education and career. It's most important to choose extracurriculars for law school that you are passionate about and that interest you, and then devote your time and effort in order to achieve tangible results that you can put forth as credentials on your law school applications. At the end of the day, admission committees look at your commitment and your ability to make a difference.