The law school application process can be extremely stressful because you have limited space to show that you are the ideal candidate for a program. For this reason, it’s important to be strategic in how you represent yourself. Every detail you include has a significant impact on how the admissions committee will view you.
Your extracurriculars can be a tricky part of the application. You need to think about which extracurriculars to include and what each says about you as a potential legal professional and as a person. Sometimes, the best way to represent yourself through extracurriculars is not entirely intuitive. Some important tips to keep in mind include:
1. Shorten the list.
While it can be tempting to include every organization you have ever been involved with, this won’t attract much attention—application readers will likely give a long list of organizations only a cursory glance. Instead, focus on the activities that demonstrate characteristics you would like to highlight and provide some details about these experiences. You may want to prioritize the activities that have been the most meaningful or that have resulted in the most personal growth.
Ultimately, describing a handful of extracurriculars is much more impactful than a laundry list of 15 different positions and minimal other information.
2. Include non-law activities.
Many people feel like they should only include extracurriculars directly related to the legal field. This is a mistake—don’t limit yourself in this way. Law schools do not expect you to come in knowing about the legal system already.
While it’s fine to include these activities, prioritize extracurriculars that were particularly meaningful, or that allowed you to engage in the community and make a real impact, regardless of whether they were related to the legal field. Prioritize the experiences that helped you learn about leadership and responsibility. Ultimately, being president of a social justice organization is likely to look more impressive than shadowing an attorney.
3. Emphasize your skills.
Admissions officers often want to know more about what you learned through a particular extracurricular activity. Did you learn how to manage teams, write clearly, or engage crowds through public speaking? Point to specific things you accomplished through each extracurricular, especially if these skills are directly relevant to law school. Organizational skills are very important, as is public speaking, writing, and leadership. Prioritize activities that can demonstrate your achievements in these realms.
4. Be completely honest.
Avoid the temptation to exaggerate your commitment to extracurriculars. In some respects, the time you spent on an extracurricular is less important than what you learned or the impact you made. For example, even if you only spent an hour tutoring each month, you may still have learned valuable teaching skills.
Of course, in all likelihood, no one will follow up with organizations to verify the information you provide. However, an offer of admission can be revoked if a school finds out you lied, and this violation of ethics could close other doors for you. It’s not worth the risk, and it’s just plain wrong. If you feel like you didn’t spend enough time with a particular extracurricular, take that as a sign to omit it and focus on a different activity.
5. Think outside the resume.
For the most part, applicants only get the chance to explore their extracurriculars on their resume. However, that does not mean you cannot delve deeper into a particular experience or include it as an addendum. Usually, application addenda are meant to explain discrepancies between LSAT scores and GPAs, but you can use an extracurricular experience to address how you made up for the issue. Importantly, your personal statement or addendum should not rehash what is already in your resume but rather add to it by providing additional details about a position and what you got out of it.
6. Use your time wisely.
Undergraduate students sometimes spread themselves thin by getting involved with many different clubs, volunteer groups, and other extracurriculars. However, when you’re doing too much, you’re less able to contribute meaningfully to any activity. As a result, you won’t learn as much, and law schools will see through long lists of extracurriculars. This is why it’s better to focus on a few experiences that mean something to you, rather than get involved in every single group on campus just to add to your resume. You don’t need a dozen extracurriculars to get into a good law school. Instead, focus on doing more with only a couple of organizations.
7. Start an organization.
You certainly don’t have to start an organization to get into law school, but doing this demonstrates drive, leadership skills, and social abilities. If you feel like nothing at your undergraduate school or in your community speaks to you interests, do some soul searching and figure out how you can change that. Most likely, someone else feels the same way and would jump at the opportunity to meet like-minded people and make a difference. Note that this isn’t a last-minute fix for a lackluster resume. However, it can help you earlier in your college career, as you begin to think ahead to law school.