Community college graduates bring so much to the Harvard Law School student body. Each year, we see a number of impressive applicants who have transferred to a four-year institution after attending community college. The HLS student body includes those who completed their associate’s degree at institutions including Lone Star College, Los Angeles Pierce College, Community College of the Air Force, and Los Angeles Valley College. Many more students have attended a community college somewhere along the way to their bachelor’s degree.
We understand that community college students represent a wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds and often have external obligations they must balance with their coursework. We also know that it’s no easy feat to transition to a four-year program midway through the college experience, and we are always impressed by the grit, determination, dedication, and adaptability that community college graduates display. Students who have made this leap often find great success at Harvard Law School.
Whether you are in the midst of a community college experience or thinking about that path, we hope you will continue to work hard and dream big. We want to hear your story, and we hope you will consider applying to HLS sometime in the future.
Below, you’ll find some HLS student profiles of community college grads, along with resources that may be useful to you as you prepare your HLS application. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you have questions!
HLS Student Profiles
Read profiles of HLS students that attended community college.
From Community College to HLS
Meet Josh and Saeed, two students at HLS who attended community college before transferring to a four-year institution.
His American Dream
Read Ricardo’s story, who attended community college in Boston before transferring to Emmanuel College.
Student Voices: Mitchell Santos Toledo
Meet Mitchell, who attended Santa Monica College before transferring to UC Berkeley.
Harvard Law student’s nonprofit receives Harvard Innovation Labs award
First Gen Empower, founded by Arabi Hassan ’23, enables first-generation, low-income, and immigrant high school and college students to pursue their dreams
Am I eligible to apply to HLS having transferred from community college to a four-year institution?
You can apply to the J.D. program at HLS if you have completed a bachelor’s degree (or international equivalent) by the time you expect to enroll. If community college credits transferred towards your bachelor’s degree, great! Rest assured you are eligible to apply to the J.D. program.
I took community college courses while in high school. Do you need to see those transcripts?
If the courses you took in high school contributed towards a post-secondary degree, you will need to submit the community college transcript reflecting those grades with your application.
How does HLS view community college coursework?
We review community college coursework in the same manner that we review the rest of your academic record. We look closely at the classes you took, how you performed in those courses, and how your GPA developed over time. We will see your community college GPA reported separately on your community college transcript, however the grades you received in the individual courses are of more interest to us than the GPA alone.
We also understand that many community college students must balance a range of external obligations, whether it’s a full-time job, caring for a family member, or supporting loved ones. Don’t hesitate to make us aware of the full context of your academic record by sharing more in your Written Statements or in an addendum.
I was enrolled in community college for more than two years before transferring to a four-year institution. Will I be disadvantaged in applying?
Not at all. As noted above, we understand that many community college students must balance a range of external obligations that may impact the timeline in which they are able to complete their studies. Don’t hesitate to make us aware of the full context of your academic record by sharing more in your Written Statements or in an addendum.
Is it OK to have a community college professor write a letter of recommendation?
We are always glad to hear from a professor who knows you well and can speak to your academic successes and classroom engagement. One caveat – if it’s been some time since you were enrolled in community college, consider opting for a letter from a professor who knows you from a more recent academic experience.
What course of study would you recommend for a community college student hoping to apply to HLS after their bachelor’s degree?
Above all, we would encourage you to prioritize meeting the requirements of your program so you can transfer to a four-year institution to complete your bachelor’s degree. Beyond that, Harvard Law School considers applications from all undergraduate majors. There are no fixed requirements with respect to the content of pre-legal education. We review the nature of a candidate’s college work, as well as the quality of academic performance.
However, in preparing for law school, a broad college education is usually preferable to one that is narrowly specialized. The Admissions Committee looks for a showing of thorough learning in a field of your choice, such as history, economics, government, philosophy, mathematics, science, literature or the classics (and many others), rather than a concentration in courses taken primarily as vocational training.
How can a community college student start preparing for the law school application process?
First, we recommend that you prioritize meeting your immediate educational goals. An important pre-requisite to applying to law school is, of course, first completing your bachelor’s degree.
Second, embrace opportunities to challenge yourself academically. Law students must read and analyze huge amounts of information, as well as communicate ideas and arguments with precision. If you can, take courses that will allow you to hone your reading and writing skills during your time in community college and beyond.
Third, don’t discount your experiences and accomplishments in community college. The HLS community benefits from having students with varied backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences, including those that community college students bring.
Fourth, nurture your passions and reflect on your motivations for law school. Seek opportunities to gain experiences in spaces that energize you, whether it’s taking an elective course on a potential legal interest area, or finding ways to engage with communities or populations you hope to work with as a lawyer. Let your interests and passions guide your decision-making, regardless if that leads you to law school, or down an entirely different path.
How does HLS view extracurricular involvement (or lack thereof) for community college students?
We understand many students who attend community college don’t have the flexibility to participate in extracurricular clubs and/or campus activities to the same extent as other applicants. Don’t discount the very real obligations and responsibilities you undertook in place of these extracurricular activities. We are eager to hear from candidates who demonstrate a sustained commitment to supporting themselves, their families, and their communities alongside their studies.
Is having an associate’s degree helpful for getting into HLS?
Not necessarily. We know many students are able to transfer community college credits towards a bachelor’s degree with ease due to articulation agreements. We don’t expect or require you to complete your associate’s degree. Plenty of students accrue enough credits to transfer to a four-year institution without formally completing their associate’s degree, and we evaluate those candidates the same way as those who have completed their associate’s degree.