If you do not have a high GPA and/or LSAT, do not count yourself out the running for competitive law schools. Not only has it gotten even more difficult to be accepted to undergraduate institutions, the competition for admission into masters and Juris Doctorate programs has gotten tougher as well. Most applicants have a high GPA and acceptable LSAT. They are looking for something that makes you different from the next student. In my experience, extracurricular activities during undergrad, professional experience, summer internships, and volunteer work have a positive impact on law school applications.
I know a lot of students who begin internships the summer after their freshman year. I did not start looking for internships until the summer after my junior year. I was late to the game. However, by that time I had declared my major, narrowed my interests, and was able to find an internship that aligned with my career goals. One of my colleagues and law school advisors suggested that I compose my applications like a narrative. Meaning, every piece of the application should play a role in telling the story of why I want to attend law school and what makes me an outstanding candidate. Finding an internship that meshed with my law school interest contributed to the narrative of my application.
Extracurricular activities were helpful to my law school application because there was not much time to improve my GPA. I had one year of classes remaining and a handful of low grades to make up for. (Side note: If you know you want to attend law school or any graduate program, take challenging courses and make sure your GPA remains high. Two years of my college experience were spent exemplifying “C’s get degrees” and it came back to haunt me.) I was told repeatedly that my LSAT score and GPA would determine where I got accepted. At that rate, I was doomed. However, I did my research online and in bookstores and found that almost all law school application guides mentioned extracurricular activities and professional experience. I had to at least try. In a sense, it was my last resort.
So I decided “Yeah I’m going to do extracurricular activities!” and had no idea where to start. It was the middle of my senior year. Most people start student organizations during their first or second year of college. It makes the most sense to start student organizations when your workload is lighter. I was already a participant in collegiate sports so I joined one student organization. I looked for volunteer work but struggled to find time between work and school. It was during my gap year that I became deeply involved in volunteer activities and professional experiences/internships. I looked for legal internships and community volunteer activities that showed my passion for public interest law. I didn’t want to simply tell the law schools my interests, I wanted to show them that I’ve dedicated time and effort to these interests as well.
I think extracurricular activities and professional experiences are essential to all law school applications, but especially applications with a low or average GPA/ LSAT. It proves the student’s commitment and allows the admissions officer to see a beyond the numbers.