Considering applying to Harvard Law as a transfer student? We recently spoke with 3Ls Sophie and Matt to hear their advice for prospective transfer students. Sophie and Matt both transferred to HLS and serve as co-presidents of Section 8, the transfer student section and community here at Harvard.
What sort of grades do you need to get in?
Sophie: While grades are important, there is more to your application. You should not be discouraged from applying just because you are not number one in your class or you have one bad grade. Just because someone who is higher ranked than you is also applying does not necessarily mean that person is going to get in over you, or that you both won’t get in. In my experience your professors will not judge you for, and will likely support you in, applying to Harvard. Thus you should not be afraid to ask for recommendations, or afraid that if you don’t get in it will impact your experience at your current school going forward.
Is transferring a lonely experience?
Matt: It’s never going to be easy to leave behind the friends and section-mates you soldiered through 1L with. Those are unique bonds forged through cold-calls and outlining. It’s natural that they will weigh heavily in your mind as you consider changing law schools. But it is inaccurate to think that you will stop making law school friends if you transfer. Students who transferred to HLS have formed lifelong friendships both inside and outside of Section 8, the school’s community for transfers. The first-year experience here means that students often don’t meet their classmates beyond their section until after 1L is complete. This means that countless other HLS students are in the same position that you would be upon arriving here as a 2L: ready to meet new faces. Students who completed their 1L year at HLS are often excited to meet new arrivals to campus and curious about the process and decision to make the leap.
How is the summer transition?
Sophie: You are not alone. There are many other transfer students going through the same process as you. You will have an instant support group of people to turn to if you participate in the Early Interview Program (EIP), as well as the move to Cambridge and enrolling in classes. This support group will last, and will have a meaningful impact throughout your entire two years at Harvard.
Matt: For those choosing to go through EIP, within weeks of your admission you’ll be sitting in front of partners of the nation’s top law firms as a full-fledged Harvard Law student, even though you won’t yet have taken a class here. It can be easy to wonder how you got there. Luckily, the school’s Office of Career Services will be available almost immediately upon your admission to help you craft your resume and tell your story as effectively as possible.
Sophie: One of the huge benefits to Harvard’s EIP is that you choose with whom you want to interview. Unlike most schools, where your resume and cover letter is sent to the firm and they can decide not to interview you, at Harvard you get to do the selecting. You also don’t have to write any cover letters. You can essentially interview with any and every firm that you want to. Their first impression of you is the interview and most firms think very highly of students who were able to do extremely well at their 1L school and then transfer to Harvard. Another thing that turned out to be really nice was the fact that there were seats saved in all the classes for transfers. So we were able to get into a number of extremely popular classes that already had long waitlists.
What does transferring mean for financial aid?
Matt: The financial costs of changing schools should absolutely be on your mind as you make this decision. Perhaps you earned a sizable merit scholarship from your original school and are worried about giving that up; that is a perfectly valid consideration. However, you will have the opportunity to apply for need-based aid upon your admission to HLS. This could make transferring more affordable as you (rightly) consider the cost of making the move.
Any final thoughts or general advice?
Sophie: There are opportunities for transfer students to join everything at HLS. One great strength of this program are the clinics. I think my capital punishment clinic and experience was one of the highlights of my experience at Harvard, and definitely not something I would have ever had the chance to do at my previous school. Transfer students also have access to groups traditionally restricted to 1Ls, like Harvard Law Review, but you don’t need to do that to be successful. A Harvard Law degree carries so much weight that it is fine if you do not want to stress about doing the HLR write-on.
Matt: Transferring will be a whirlwind; that’s the reality of having a condensed admissions timeline and early firm recruitment timelines across the law school world. It’s important to own your story. Members of the HLS faculty and Admissions Office have read your file and decided that you belong here. Your decision to change schools is just one of many that led you to where you are now. Before you interview with attorneys (who will be curious, not suspicious, about the transfer process and your decision to go through it), take some time to re-orient yourself with your career arc.