Brandon Ricaurte ’22
March 14, 2022
Hometown: Toledo, Ohio
Branch: Army / Special Forces
Rank: Staff Sergeant
What motivated you to apply to HLS?
I was motivated to apply to HLS because it represented a pathway back to civilian life that would create many meaningful opportunities to continue some form of public service beyond the military. I was also drawn to the tradition, the history, the standard of excellence, and the community of students who are similarly drawn to HLS for comparable reasons.
What concerns were on your mind when you applied to HLS?
That I wouldn’t get in! I figured that getting in was a huge long shot, but it was better to apply and give it a shot than to assume that I wouldn’t get in.
Looking back, what advice would you give yourself now?
First, I would tell myself basically what I was thinking at the time. If you want to attend HLS and you think you might have a chance of getting in, then just apply and let the admissions committee decide. Second, I would tell myself that HLS is filled with regular people. Harvard Law School has this mystique of being on a different level, that only valedictorians and future supreme court justices get in. Just based on the numbers, that’s clearly not true. If you compare yourself to this imaginary standard, then you might be dissuaded from applying. So don’t. Third, I would tell myself that Harvard Law School values its veteran students for their maturity and unique perspective. What is more, HLS is one of the rare schools that actually realizes that there is a difference between commissioned officers and enlisted soldiers, both in the nature of their military experience and in the unique value they add to the HLS community.
What were you concerned about after being accepted to HLS?
I had been out of school for a while and was concerned that it would be hard to identify with other students or feel like I fit in.
How has being a student at HLS addressed those concerns?
HLS has a large student body, and it’s not just a cliche to say it values diversity. I may not fit the profile of the typical student, but I don’t feel out of place. Of course, it was a huge adjustment at first, but eventually everyone finds the people they really connect with.
How has your military experience helped you at HLS?
In general, it has been easier to face the academic challenges of HLS knowing that no matter what, no one is going to smoke me for getting an answer wrong, I don’t have to go to sleep in the middle of the woods in the pouring rain, and I won’t have to wake up the next day at 0400 for a lengthy ruck march.