Many students are actively working on their Junior Deferral Program applications, so we asked five recent admits to share their advice on the application process. We hope you find their insights helpful as you complete your application.
What advice would you give current juniors applying to the Junior Deferral Program?
Angela Li, 2019 JDP: Start early and leverage all your resources. Every year, over 70% of HLS’s 1L student body is comprised of applicants who finished their undergraduate degrees before applying. This means they don’t have many of the resources you do as an actively-enrolled student! Meet often with the instructors who are writing your recommendation letters, collaborate face-to-face with your writing professors on your application essay(s), and debate your friends and roommates on what your strengths and weaknesses as an applicant might be. Let your community inspire and lift you. Also, it’s never too early to start drilling LSAT Logic Games.
Kristen Walker, 2018 JDP: Always put your best foot forward. It can be nerve-wracking to apply to law school as a junior; however, it is important to have confidence in your skills and abilities and share why you deserve to have a seat in the Harvard Law School classroom. Don’t forget to highlight your strengths and emphasize the unique characteristics that make you, you. You will be surprised how much your unique gifts will serve you within the realm of law school, so be sure to share why you stand out as you complete your application.
Arvind Ashok, 2019 JDP: Study hard for the LSAT and try to maintain a good GPA, but put the energy you could spend obsessing over the decimal points of school medians towards crafting a compelling personal statement and leaving plenty of time to have trusted people review it. Although the statement is short, it takes more time than you might think to perfect it because of the length constraints.
Luna Floyd, 2018 JDP: Don’t get intimidated! The process of applying to law school is difficult, but it’s not insurmountable. I’m a low-income student from the rural South, and I didn’t know the first thing about applying to law schools when I sent in my materials. Reach out to your support networks, check online resources, and ask for help while you put your application together.
James Holloway, 2015 JDP: If you’re admitted, be open to the many possibilities of what you can do with the years between undergrad and law school. After graduation, I took a very safe, very pre-law government job in D.C. I liked my job, but I wish I would have been open to doing something a bit more “risky.” Think about it this way – if you’re admitted, you basically have a spot at HLS in two years regardless of what you do for the next two years. You don’t have to prove yourself to admissions officers anymore, so why not take a chance on something that might not work out? You could work for a political campaign or launch a startup or take a job abroad. It doesn’t really matter. Just be open to paths less traveled.
How can applicants set themselves up for success and submit an application they are proud of?
Angela Li: Ask questions early on, and listen carefully. Remember that you’re not alone–– you are walking a path that others have walked before. There is an enormous wealth of resources online from law school deans and admissions officers about their dos and don’ts of an application. Your professors and writing tutors will have experience helping others along the way as well. Bounce ideas off of your friends, parents and mentors, and ask questions like, “What unique value or perspective do you think I would bring to a law school classroom?” and “What sort of impact do you think l could make with a great legal education?” Sometimes it can be nerve-wracking or difficult to evaluate yourself as an applicant. Don’t be afraid to ask for help in doing so.
Kristen Walker: In order to submit an application you’re proud of, don’t hold back. Think back through your undergraduate years and highlight the experiences that have brought you to this point. It’s important to tell a story and share your voice. Spend some time thinking about the culmination of events that have brought you to this point of applying to law school and hone in on one or two of these stories. Make sure to weave this story throughout each part of your application, including your personal statement, resume, and diversity statement (if applicable).
Arvind Ashok: My best piece of advice for applicants is to think hard about the reasons why they want to go to law school and apply to the Junior Deferral Program in particular. Consistently weave those reasons throughout the application. Even if you’re not 100% sure of what you want to do during your deferral period and with your law degree, maintaining a cohesive narrative throughout your application will help you avoid the temptation to portray yourself as a kitchen sink of qualifications and instead focus your application on the distinct impression you want to make.
Luna Floyd: Try to tell a story with your application. Write about why you want to be a lawyer, why the Junior Deferral Program is right for you, and what you want to do with the two deferred years. What will you bring to HLS, and what will HLS help you achieve? And definitely don’t forget the diversity statement if it is applicable to you.
James Holloway: Use your resources. At the undergraduate institution I attended, there was a ton of support for students looking to make the leap to law school. My pre-law advisor helped me with everything from my admissions essays to strategizing about which professors to ask for letters of recommendation. Find out what the pre-law resources are at your school, and reach out early and often.