A letter to the Middle Eastern and North African community applying to HLS from the Middle Eastern Law Students Association (MELSA).

For many of us, the law school application cycle is one of the most difficult and important processes in our academic and professional careers. It is one that can shape the trajectory of our lives and determine the cohort with which we will grow into attorneys.

Yet, for roughly half of the top schools in the country, Middle Eastern and North African students are not included in racial and ethnic demographic designations listed on the admissions application. This is an act of erasure – one that ignores the diversity Middle Eastern and North African students bring to their campuses and obscures the struggles, cultures, and lived experiences of our communities. We regret to say that Harvard is one of these institutions. This is something that we have fought to change, and hopefully in the future, HLS applicants will be given the option to more accurately identify their racial/ethnic backgrounds.

Until then, we encourage Middle Eastern and North African prospective students to use HLS’s free-response racial/ethnic background question to identify themselves as Middle Eastern or North African. This is a brief 300-word maximum question that allows one to elaborate on one’s racial and ethnic background. Our racial and ethnic communities are part of who we are. For many of us, they might be a part of the reasons for which we came to law school. Please make sure to use this space to identify yourself as Middle Eastern or North African, as well as any other aspect of your background you feel is relevant, so Admissions may consider your racial/ethnic background when reviewing your application (as they do with the other listed racial/ethnic communities!).

More specifically, Section 8 (Racial/Ethnic Background) Question 2 of the HLS J.D. Admissions Application asks candidates to select “Please select one or more: American Indian/Alaskan Native, Black/African American, Caucasian/White, Asian, Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander.” If you feel one or more of these categories applies to you, feel free to mark them. However, you do not need to mark one of these categories if you do not identify with them, and may use Question 4 to designate your racial/ethnic background. Question 4 specifically asks, “We understand that racial and ethnic backgrounds may not be fully captured by the options above. Should you wish to elaborate on your response or nonresponse to the previous questions, you are invited to complete the section below.”

The way you choose to fill out this application is, of course, entirely up to you. We at the HLS Middle Eastern Law Students Association (MELSA) want to make sure you know all your options, given that many of us struggled to identify our own backgrounds as we navigated the law school application process. Should you come to Harvard, know that there is a 100+ person Middle Eastern and North African student community that is eager to support you, believe in you, and uplift you. In the meantime, please make sure to fill the J.D. Admissions’s Introduce Yourself form and mark “Middle Eastern and/or North African” so we can reach you for our Prospective Student Q&As and other outreach efforts for prospective students. You can learn more about MELSA at our website.

Best of luck with your applications and we very much look forward to welcoming you to HLS!

Filed in: Student Voices

Contact the J.D. Admissions Office

Website: hls.harvard.edu/jdadmissions

Email: jdadmiss@law.harvard.edu