Law School Application Spotlight: Work Experience: Is it Necessary?
November 29, 2010
All of your applications ask for a resume, but you’ve just graduated and haven’t worked much at all, especially in your related field. Or have you?
"Work Experience" means something different to an admissions committee than it does to a potential employer. For purposes of your graduate or law school application, this isn’t exclusively referring to paid employment.
List relevant coursework you’ve taken. This shows academic experiences that are related to your chosen field, and have given you exposure to the vocabulary and subject matter you will be studying and, after graduation, pursuing as your career.
What about internships, or teaching/research assistantships? Be sure to list these and have bullet points for all of the duties you performed, computer skills you used/acquired, responsibilities you assumed. Let them see that in a small way you’ve already been doing the work you’ll be doing in both their program, and as your profession.
Have you done any volunteer work or community service? Even if it hasn’t been in your chosen field, list any details that illustrate leadership skills, compassion, being of service, ability to communicate with diverse groups and individuals, professional demeanor. Committees are impressed by these qualities.
If you have served in your related field, even though you weren’t paid, list this in the same format as if it were a professional experience and have bullet points for all of your duties, responsibilities, etc.
Your experiences make an even more positive impression when you have an anecdote about an aspect of them that you can write about in your personal essay. Being able to mention a person whose life you touched, or you shared a powerful moment with, will bring the experience alive in a way that makes your application more personal.
Also helpful would be to have a letter of recommendation from someone who can reinforce your relevant qualities and experiences. Once you’re seen as a person instead of merely paperwork, you’ve increased your chances for acceptance.
By making the most of any experiences you’ve had that in some way prepared or motivated you to pursue this field for advanced study, and a professional career, what at first may seem like a weakness in your application can actually be used to strengthen it.