Who wouldn’t want to go to Harvard Law? If you’re from a city or college with a lot of Harvard graduates, the answer might be obvious. But that’s not the case for every community in America, and if you also question whether a national law school is the right fit, I’d like to share how I grappled with the same doubts.
First, Admit Yourself
One of the reasons I wanted to attend HLS was to learn alongside classmates from all across the world. One of my concerns was that I wouldn’t be able to fit in. I grew up in Buffalo, New York and attended Canisius College (now University) there. I’d never lived outside of Buffalo. I love my hometown, but that’s all I knew—how could I possibly acclimate as well as classmates who’d lived in big cities or gone to big universities?
I hadn’t thought about applying to HLS until a professor challenged me to try half a year before applications were due. He connected me with our alumni who attended HLS, and while they couldn’t tell me what it was like to go there in 2023, I asked them about how they adjusted to a big city; and how they didn’t lose touch with the amazing community they had back home; and how well prepared they were compared to their classmates. In other words, I wondered whether someone like me could be at a top law school.
HLS is looking for people who will participate in the law school community. The best evidence you can provide is participation in the community you are currently a part of. And small, regional schools offer immense opportunities to do that.
You have everything you need
All three of my letters of recommendation were from professors, but each saw me in a different light. One was a local elected official whose campaign I worked on, another advised a club I led, and another was my research supervisor and thesis advisor. This isn’t to say you need that specific combination. For me, they showcased my three types of involvement in college: local politics, student organizations, and research. They were able to illuminate different aspects of my personality and passions.
Your university may not have a Phi Beta Kappa chapter (don’t worry if you also didn’t know what that means) but you likely have other campus traditions that HLS might never have heard of. My school had a leaderboard for the most “Petey [the name of our mascot] Points” for participating in campus events, and I noted my second-place finish in my application. I don’t know what difference that made, but I was proud of it, and I didn’t want to prejudice my application based on preconceived notions of what the admissions committee wanted. I figured that, if I had to change who I was for a law school, I wouldn’t want to go there anyway.
Ultimately, it was up to me. I had to know that my college was equal to any other, and it has proven to be. I had to believe that I could keep in touch with family and friends back home, and I have. I had to trust that I wouldn’t forget the passion for public interest that led me to law school, and I’ve kept it. I hope others like me can make the same leap of faith, because I think I do contribute something unique to HLS, and so would you.
–Patrick Healy, ’26