Submitted by Kabl Wilkerson
Applying to law school can be strenuous and difficult. However, some students know exactly where they want to go and have a relative timeline of when to take the LSAT, apply to their school, etc. If you fall into this camp, then it is important to know that Harvard Law School has just now started its Junior Deferral Program. This program used to be exclusive to Harvard undergraduates but recently opened up to promising college juniors at all four-year colleges and universities.
The purpose of the program is to have undergraduate juniors apply and defer their schooling for at least two years so that accepted students can bring in myriad experiences and backgrounds. Since 2008, most applicants accepted into law school have at least two years of work experience under their belt, and, through programs like the JDP, Harvard seeks to create a diverse student body.
What are the benefits of a program like this?
After graduating, you can pursue private work, enroll in the two-year master’s program or go on a mission trip. It’s a condition of the program that enrolled students successfully finish college and then take a minimum of two years to gain professional experience working, studying or pursuing research or fellowship opportunities before beginning law school.
As for the application process itself, it’s quite easy. All a student needs to do is register with the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC). This website will send applications to all U.S. law schools unless your specific law school has different admissions requirements. Through LSAC, you’ll submit application answers, a personal statement, LSAT/GRE scores, a resume, transcripts and references. The application cycle opens Feb. 1 and closes April 1.
All the different application components must be completed in advance. That means making sure to ask your three recommenders at least a month in advance, transcripts sent two weeks ahead and completing your written materials early on. Harvard Law recently began accepting the GRE in addition to the LSAT and is far more available than the LSAT. LSAC or your testing service will be able to send your scores in, but make sure to do this ahead of time to make sure everything makes it to admissions officers by the deadline.
The process of review is the same. It’s not just your test scores that matter, it’s everything. HLS Admissions reviews each part of the application, so it is important to highlight certain attributes. Some applicants get nervous when writing their statement of purpose, and it is important to know that the people reviewing your essay want an honest image of who you are.
Write clearly, and articulate how you can contribute Harvard’s learning environment through your life experiences. Show them why you deserve to go, but don’t exaggerate your role in organizations or aspects of your life. They like seeing your achievements, but ultimately, they are interested in knowing the applicant.
You don’t need a 4.0 GPA and 30 internship and research experiences to apply to Harvard. If you are interested in Harvard, make a convincing statement for why you deserve to go. If you don’t have a very high GPA, but it can be justified by a life experience that hurt your grades, make sure to mention it.
Know what you want to say, write it down and then keep rewriting. It’s important to communicate who you are, your goals and your contribution to Harvard. Think about yourself as a student, what your desired career path is and how Harvard can help you achieve your goals. Visit your university writing center for help. Schedule appointments with professors to have them look over your statements, and have your friends and family read your whole application. That sounds exhaustive but will make for an outstanding application.
Taking a GRE or LSAT prep course is also something that can help boost your scores. It is not necessary for every applicant, but for those who are wary of their math, logic or verbal skills, it is highly recommended to get some sort of practice material.
This program is a new and exciting opportunity to apply to one of the oldest and most prestigious law schools in the world. Applying as a junior might sound daunting, but it makes for good practice when applying to other law programs of interest because you can see where you might need to improve on your application for your senior year. Harvard Law also keeps your application and encourages previous applicants to reapply, potentially improving chances of acceptance.
Visit hls.harvard.edu for more information.