Gourmet Cook, Soprano in the Church Choir, or Little League Coach: Which Extracurricular Activities Get You Into Law School?
So you've taken the LSAT, computed your GPA, and started working on your law school personal statement. That's all good. But as you are filling in your application, you realize that you haven't yet completed the section on "extracurricular activities." You realize with a sinking feeling that since you've entered college, all you've been doing is studying and working. You don't have extracurricular activities. Or, you have the opposite problem - you've done everything in the world on campus except study. How do you answer this question? Well, regardless of whether you have no outside interests, or a thousand different hobbies, the law school admissions committee is looking for certain qualities when they ask this question. Here are some do's and don'ts for this part of your law school application:
- DO mention any leadership positions that you have held in a volunteer role. President of the Latin Club, Co-Chair of a fundraising event, or the instigator of your neighborhood clean-up day - these all count. You want to show that you have given back to your community on a significant level, and that you take this responsibility seriously. Emphasize your leadership role and the impact you have had, as well as any other skills that are relevant to your ability to succeed as a law student and attorney. Examples of these skills include public speaking, writing, and organizational skills.
- DON'T list every single public service activity you have ever done. If you served dinner to the homeless three years ago at Thanksgiving, this one-time event doesn't belong on the list. However, if you spent your summer canvassing low-income neighborhoods and encouraging people to register to vote, you should mention it. Pick the significant commitments, and talk about them.
- DO cross-reference, but don't repeat. You may decide to include elements of your extracurricular activity list as part of your personal statement. You can still list the activities on your application, but don't list everything on your application in your essay. A little overlap is fine; duplication is not.
- DO mention any hobbies or interests that contribute to your diversity as a candidate for admission. If you play the cello, or teach tile-mosaic classes, or spend every free minute of your spare time spelunking, you may add an interesting dimension to your class. These hobbies make you a more unique and interesting potential addition to the class.
- DON'T exaggerate your commitment. If you tutored for an hour a week for a year, say so. Most admissions committees are not going to check on this, but if you are caught lying about any part of your application, you are almost certain to be rejected or have an offer of admission revoked.
- DON'T worry if your volunteer work or hobbies have nothing to do with law. If you worked as a volunteer for Legal Aid, by all means say so. But if you haven't, any kind of serious commitment to outside interests is valued.
What if you really and truly have no extracurricular activities or interests? Well, if you are reading this far enough in advance, you can always start now. Volunteer opportunities are around every corner in every community. Choose something near and dear to your heart, and make a commitment to it. Admissions committees want to know that the people they are admitting to their school are community and civic minded people who value time as much as money, and are willing to give generously to their community.
Still not sure what you extracurricular activities and interests you should or shouldn't include on your application and personal statement? Accepted.com can help! Our staff of experienced editors can guide you along the way, offering sound advice as you work your way through the application maze.
By Catherine Cook