May 1, 2018

A step-by-step guide to applying to law school

Abigail Baker ’19

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Do you aspire to attend law school? You are not alone! Every year, dozens of Mount Holyoke students and alumnae apply. The process may seem daunting, but the Career Development Center (CDC) is here to help you every step of the way.

Make an appointment.

If you’re considering law school, start by making an appointment with Roshonda DeGraffenreid FP’10, the pre-law advisor at the CDC. She can help you make a plan, navigate the process and, when the time comes, put together a strong application!

Inside a class with Catherine Corson (left), Miller Worley Associate Professor of Environmental Studies
Inside a class with Catherine Corson (left), Miller Worley Associate Professor of Environmental Studies

Keep your grades up.

While you’re an undergraduate, the most important preparation for applying to law school is to maintain a solid GPA. But! You do not need to be pre-law or even major in the humanities. As long as you are taking classes that push your writing, speaking and logic skills, you’re preparing for law school.

Venky Feng ’16, who is applying to law school this year, realized her interest in law while doing a materials science doctorate program at Oxford University. Though she loves science, the program made her realize that she didn’t want to do scientific research for the rest of her life.

“I think one of the best things at Oxford is their college system, because you get to be friends with all the postgraduates from different departments. I spent quite a lot of time with them talking about politics, justice and equality. One day, someone suggested that I look into law school, because, they noted, Obviously, you’re more interested in pursuing justice than doing your little 3D-printing research project.

Kathryn Garrett ’16, who majored in art history and is currently applying to law schools, echoed this sentiment. “My art history major and outdoor adventure education experiences won’t detract from my law school application; they will add to it,” she said. “One of the more consistent bits of advice I’ve received is that law school will teach you the law. I wouldn’t stress about learning it during your undergraduate or even post-undergraduate years.”

Regardless of your major, if you focus on developing your writing, leadership and speaking skills as an undergraduate, you’ll be ready for law school.

A bright view of the Fidelia Nash Field Gate, the gateway to Mount Holyoke, which was built in 1912.
A bright view of the Fidelia Nash Field Gate, the gateway to Mount Holyoke, which was built in 1912. 

Decide when you want to go.

The majority of law school applicants from Mount Holyoke each year are usually alumnae. As DeGraffenreid explains, “Sometimes to strengthen your application, it helps to have experience behind you and to work within the world first.”

In the two years since she graduated, Garrett has been working, volunteering and traveling. She also completed an 80-hour wilderness first responder course and pursued SCUBA certification. “I’m so happy I took this time to explore and work before beginning a career in law,” she said. “I have the rest of my life to practice law and work in the legal industry.”

If you decide to wait before applying to law school, you can still ask professors to write your recommendations and save them for when you are ready to apply. You can also start studying for the LSAT.

One of the many intriguing architectural details on campus
One of the many intriguing architectural details on campus

Work on your application materials.

The LSAT is a major component of the law school application process. “It is a rigorous exam, and it takes a couple of months if not longer to prepare. There is a way of approaching the test and it’s about figuring out that process,” DeGraffenreid said.

The LSAT is offered four times per year, and though most law schools require that it be taken by December for admission the following September, it is recommended that students take it earlier, especially since many law school programs have rolling admissions. DeGraffenreid encourages applicants to apply to the law school programs by late November, as fewer people submit early and the chances of acceptance may be higher.

There are both qualitative and quantitative components of the application. Law school programs will require you to submit your LSAT scores, academic transcripts, a personal statement, a resume, and two or more letters of recommendation. If applicants need to address any weaknesses in their application, an addendum may also be required.

Feng self-studied for the LSAT from April to June of last year, and then signed up for an intensive summer course and took the September LSAT. She then skyped with DeGraffenreid for advice and to work on her application essays.

DeGraffenreid encourages students to think of their application as “their first case. You’re arguing for a position at the institution.”

Abbey Chapel
Abbey Chapel

Take advantage of on-campus resources.

Use the CDC’s resources! DeGraffenreid is available for 30-minute advising sessions, and a free practice LSAT is offered at the CDC most Fridays at 1:30 p.m. Be sure to select Government and Law career interest areas in your Handshake profile for information on when law school recruiters, as well as companies hiring in the legal field, will be visiting campus.

Said DeGraffenreid, “I’m here if you need me.”

If you want to discuss law school or need help with your law school applications, make an appointment with Pre-Law Advisor Roshonda DeGraffenreid at 413-538-2080.

Push your skills. Learn More

Abigail Baker ’19 is a junior at Mount Holyoke College, where she studies politics and development. She is the digital content writer for the Career Development Center
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