Choose a Summer Option to Boost Law School Applications

pic5Working in a firm during college can show schools that you will enter law school with some knowledge of the day-to-day life of a lawyer.

The importance of pursuing internships and volunteer opportunities is often overlooked.

Welcome to the latest installment of law Admissions Q&A, a monthly feature of Law Admissions Lowdown that provides admissions advice to readers who send in questions and admissions profiles.

If you have a question about applying to law school, please email me for a chance to be featured next month.

Dear Shawn:  I am currently a junior in college and I am planning on applying to law school next fall. Right now I’m trying to put together my plans for next summer, and I am looking into two very different options. The first option is to spend the summer interning at a law firm in their paralegal department, and the second option is to work on a volunteer basis at an immigrant rights nonprofit.​ Would one option be better than the other in terms of applying for law school next fall? -Summer Indecision​

Dear Summer Indecision: First, you’re doing the right thing by thinking about how to best position yourself to put together a compelling admissions package. Summer jobs, internships and volunteering are important parts of one’s application that is often overlooked.

In your case, though, both these summer opportunities will strengthen your application. You’re choosing between two excellent options. You should therefore feel free to consider which option works best for you in other ways.

From a purely strategic perspective, the answer to your question depends on other aspects of your profile. If you already have significant volunteering experience or  ​significant experience in the immigrant rights field – either through other work experience, courses or additional volunteering – then you will strengthen your application most by gaining experience in a legal office. This will indicate to schools that you will enter law school with some knowledge of the day-to-day life of a lawyer and with skills that will make you effective.

If, on the other hand, you don’t have much structured experience in immigrant rights but are considering pursuing that area of law in law school and as a lawyer, you would be best served by pursuing the volunteer opportunity. This volunteer opportunity will enable you to present yourself as someone who has a demonstrated interest in immigration rights law, and will likely provide you with experiences that you could discuss in a personal statement or interview.

Dear Shawn: I received my October LSAT score and it was a bit of a disappointment. I am planning on retaking the test. Unfortunately, though, since I am currently in my senior year of college, I don’t think I will be able to devote enough time in November to further prepare for the test. Some of the schools I am planning on applying to have deadlines before the February scores will be released. Will I be able to submit my applications to those schools with my February score or will they only consider my October score? -Test Problems

Dear Test Problems: The situation you describe is not uncommon, and law schools are generally willing to consider a February LSAT score. You should make sure to do two things, though, before you proceed.

First, get in touch with the schools’ admissions offices, either via email or phone, and ask them if they are willing to consider a February LSAT score. Being able to submit an October LSAT score means you will have “completed” application by their deadline. This means you will not need your February score.

The only question is whether they will be willing to postpone fully evaluating your candidacy until your LSAT score is in. Make sure to get clarity on that point.

Second, make sure you know exactly how they would like to be notified that they should expect you to submit a February LSAT score. Some schools will ask you to submit a note or addendum with your application, others will ask you to contact the admissions office directly so that they are made aware of the situation.

Even if the school is comfortable with a note submitted with the application, I strongly encourage you to email the admissions committee directly so that you have a written record of your request and can receive confirmation that they have received the request and will honor it.

How are you dealing with summer or LSAT issues? Email me or tweet me.​

Shawn P. O’Connor, Esq. is the founder and CEO of Stratus Prep, a New York City-based test preparation and admissions counseling firm. For nearly a decade, he has counseled thousands of law school applicants, many of whom have been admitted to the nation’s top law schools including Yale, Harvard, and Stanford. O’Connor is an honors graduate of Harvard Law School and Harvard Business School and is an attorney admitted to the bar in New York and Massachusetts. E-mail him with questions.

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