There are no "shoulds"

By Anne Dutia, Senior Consultant at The Spivey Consulting Group

When I was a prelaw advisor, and before that an admissions officer at Michigan Law School, I encountered so many students asking me what they should do to get into law school. Of course, there are certain procedures and processes applicants have to follow to be admitted to law school, but these students were looking for the right way to be a pre-law student or applicant. A lot of them were still stuck in the college application mentality: be hyper-involved in everything, follow this particular path, take these classes, and you will get into college. Law school -- and most graduate programs’ admissions, really – are different. They are more interested in students who have shown committed involvement and have a history of making a positive impact.

But if there’s no right way to be an applicant, then it’s going to take some work on your part to figure out what you’re interested in and then developing who you are within that interest. For some people, that’s going to involve self-study outside of the classroom in their academic area, which really can be anything. For others, it will involve assisting a professor with a research project. Still others will join, lead, or create organizations to immerse themselves in their interests. The possibilities are endless and if there is a “should,” it’s that they be driven by your passions. A student that has a proven track record of taking advantage of or making opportunities for themselves is going to be an especially attractive applicant.

The key is identifying your interests and then deeply exploring or involving yourself in them. And don’t worry if you get into something and decide it’s not for you. That’s not wasted time if you have made contacts, or acquired skills, or learned some new things. A lot of people want to do things the “right” way, almost like checking certain boxes will ensure admission to law school. Life doesn’t work this way and neither does law school admissions. Go out there and try new things, stretch yourself, engage in some self-reflection to consider what truly inspires you, what truly enrages you, and then figure out how you want to invest your skills and energy to effect change.

Schools are looking for their next superstar. Show them through your experiences, skills and knowledge you’ve picked up along the way, and your planned trajectory, that you are on track to be that person. Don’t worry about what you should do and concentrate more on the problems you want to solve in the world and figuring out what you need to know and what you need to learn to do that.

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