As the fall weather starts to pick up and the end of the semester is in sight, I am constantly reminded that I am approaching my final months at Boston College Law School. Recently I have been feeling very nostalgic.
Thinking back to this time three short years ago, I knew little to nothing about this place that would take so much of my time and energy in the near future. Instead, I was hurriedly getting application materials together, parsing through the web for any shred of advice on how to get into law school (and pick the right one at that).
Looking back, there are a few tips I wish I had known that were not so obvious to me as I was submitting my own applications. While I knew the basic strategies, I was missing a few principles less frequently emphasized.
So, for you prospective student readers out there: here are three things I wish someone had told me during the law school application process. While you’re here, be sure to check out advice from past Impact bloggers, located at the bottom of this post.
1. Start Early
I am putting this tip first for a reason: it is imperative that you give yourself ample time throughout the application process.
First and perhaps most obvious, you need to give your references enough time to write their letters of recommendation and your school(s) enough time to respond to your requests for important documents like your transcript or records. There are many people applying for graduate school during this time, so it would be wise to account for delays and plan accordingly.
Second, I think a longer timeline improves the materials you will ultimately submit and resolves some of the stress around the process. As a whole, the application process can be extremely daunting. I think it is important to give yourself a lot of time, not only to ensure that you are submitting your best work, but to avoid getting overwhelmed by trying to get too much done too quickly. Though it might not work for everyone, I remember devoting specific days to working on applications in order to try and lessen the stress. On specific days I would only work on application materials, and on others I would not think about it at all. Having the time to make that lengthy schedule was imperative, and it helped me cut down on general stress and anxiety about admissions.
2. Do Your Research and Be Cognizant of Your Goals
Picking a law school is a huge decision. Not only will this choice impact the next three years, it very likely will alter the course of your career and your life. Make sure you do your research—beyond just that of rankings and employment statistics.
One important example: geographical factors. Do you want to live in a big city for the next few years or would you prefer a small-town environment? Look for schools that fit you. Would you like to stay in the area after school or go somewhere else? Check if students typically stay in the area or end up somewhere else after graduation. Would you commute by car or will you rely on public transportation? How’s the weather? (Okay, I know this one is a bit basic, but as a Texas native who moved to Boston with nothing more than a windbreaker, part of me wishes I would have thought this through a bit more).
Beyond geography, think about the programs and opportunities the law school offers. While you don’t have to know exactly what you want to do with your degree, you’ll still want to consider the particular courses, clinics, journals, or experiences the school provides. If you do know what field you would like to pursue, even better: do your research and find a school that you think will best fit your career goals.
That all said, sometimes doing your research on a school is easier said than done. This brings me to my next tip…
3. Get Personal
I would highly recommend reaching out to the school to get in touch with current students. For example, here at Boston College the Admissions Office runs a really robust Ambassadors Program, where dozens of current students help run tours, meet with prospective students both virtually and in person, and are generally available to help answer your questions. They are a tremendous resource for you while you’re getting to know BC Law, and see if it’s a good fit.
While again I definitely recommend doing your own research, talking to current students will allow you to hear about the personal experiences of those actually involved in your programs of interest. It is also a great way to get information not easily found online, or that you might not even think of. For example, after talking to some prospective students myself, I learned about some great neighborhoods nearby that are perfect for law students and some well-advised tips for making the first semester more manageable.
At the end of the day, most of us want to talk all about our own experiences and help prospective students make the right call. When I was applying, I found it extremely helpful to get real advice and insight from people who were actually attending the schools I was considering. It helped me to envision myself as a student there and make a choice that seemed like a good fit for me.
There are infinite tips out there on your applications: proofread everything over and over, try to distinguish yourself from other applicants in your personal statement, apply before a certain point… the list goes on and on. And while many are important, at the end of the day I think it is most important to acknowledge the weight of both the application process and the decision you’re going to make. Take time to submit application materials that you are proud of, be kind to yourself as you get through the process, and make sure you are ultimately making a decision that best fits your individual needs.
Have more tips for prospective students? Be sure to comment below on your words of advice for some potential Legal Eagles below!
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Devon Sanders is a third-year student and president of the Impact blog. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.