You may also find the Applying to HLS as a Military Service Member blog post from the J.D. Admissions team helpful in preparing your application.
So you’re wrapping up your military service and trying to think about what comes next. Over the protests from your fellow servicemembers applying for their two-year vacations — sorry, I kid my MBA friends — you’re looking at law school. Rest assured, you’re not alone. Hundreds of us make the same transition every year. Here are some tips as you navigate the application process.
1. Know that law schools want you
Make no mistake — you’re a hot commodity. Veterans bring a unique perspective to the table, and admissions staff recognize that. This is true for both enlisted servicemembers and officers. There are currently over 75 veterans enrolled at Harvard Law School. We have a fantastic Armed Forces Association and our members are active in every part of the law school, from student government to the Ames Moot Court competition to the Harvard Law Review. In the military, those transitioning to law school can be a rare breed. On this side of the fence, however, you will quickly find your community.
2. Treat this the way you would any military evolution
The military taught you to be prepared for whatever comes next. Now is not the time to forget those lessons. Applying to law school is absolutely doable, but your approach will affect your chances. Do your research. Know why you want to come to law school, what the application deadlines are, and the time commitments for hurdles like test prep and crafting personal statements. I have mentored dozens of veterans looking to come to law school; a surprising number take a lackadaisical approach to this process. Don’t be that person. Law school is a big step, so treat it with the seriousness it deserves.
3. Lean on the resources out there to help you
That’s not to say you have to go at this alone. The veteran community is extremely supportive of fellow servicemembers looking to transition to law school. As previously highlighted, our Admissions Team crafted an entire webpage dedicated to applying as a veteran that covers everything from unique application tips to questions on the GI Bill. There are also plenty of resources to help you make the jump successfully:
- Service to School partners you with current law students to provide free 1-on-1 application advice.
- Warrior Scholar Project hosts intensive, one and two-week academic boot camps for enlisted service members, with follow-on coaching for those interested in graduate school.
- Fellow Vets. Use LinkedIn to connect with vets currently in law school. Ask about their path, their experience, and what resources they used to get there. The three mentors I leaned on throughout my application process were the most valuable resources I had.
- The Armed Forces Association can also help you answer vet-specific questions you may have in your application process. Drop us a line via our website!
4. Highlight more than just your veteran status
The Admissions Team looks to build a diverse community with each admitted class. Unfortunately, an “I survived boot camp and it was hard” personal statement might not fully demonstrate your unique contributions to that community. Dig deeper to find something about your military experience that gives you a distinct perspective, and make sure to reflect that throughout your application. Did your military experience change how you viewed yourself? Did you find a unique community within the military that impacted you? Did something happen on deployment that stuck with you? Our veteran community here is diverse, with a wide array of interests and experiences that they bring to the table. Try to go beyond the cliché military experiences when crafting your application.
5. “Semper Gumby” still applies
Unless you’re one of those lucky folks on their sunset tour with nothing to do past 1500 every day, I don’t need to tell you that your schedule can be unpredictable. Preparation and flexibility are key here. Below are some common hurdles that may arise, and how to overcome them:
- Recommendation Letters: Your commanders face the same time constraints and unpredictable schedules as you. Sit down with them early to discuss whether they would be willing to write one for you and give them time to craft something meaningful. Also, a friendly reminder that a recommendation letter to a law school should look different than a military end-of-year fitness report. You can also look here for further recommendation letter tips from the Admissions Team.
- Tests. In 2021, my ship surge deployed a month early, which killed my hopes of applying with an LSAT score. I wound up studying for the GRE on deployment and took it during a two-day port call. Try to front-load as much as possible to avoid any last-minute chaos, but also be willing to think outside the box as things arise!
- Interviews. Interviewing for law school from a ship or a FOB can be daunting, but can be done. Be flexible and do not be afraid to ask the Admissions Team for accommodations. A quick e-mail may help get you a more convenient time slot or a more appropriate communication method!
–Brian Henson, ’25