Reach out, ask questions and seek advice.

Report by Alexa Savino

As a student of the Political Science Department, I cannot speak highly enough of the ways in which undergraduates benefit from the network of alumni to which we have strong ties. The relationship built between current students and recent graduates is particularly important for those interested in pursuing careers in law. Since many political science students have unanswered questions about the field, we reached out to alumni to construct a cross section of the most common and meaningful challenges, experiences, and advice relating to the journey towards law school. All alums are in agreement that enrolling in a prep course affords students the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the unique language of LSAT logic; exposure to exam structure is best conducted in the context of a classroom with instructors specializing in LSAT strategy. Despite its difficulty level, the test is predictable, repetitive, and learnable, and, as Christian Fundo (Adelphi Class of 2007; Cornell Law) articulated, “There are only so many patterns that LSAT questions take and the more practice you have with them, the better you will do.”

Commonly referenced test prep companies include TestMasters, Powerscore, and Blueprint, as they are known for producing impressive results, and students report seeing great improvement in their scores; Sarabeth Rangiah (Adelphi Class of 2014; George Washington Law) suggests that “students do their research before committing to one,” however, due to the fact that “different prep courses cater to different learning styles.” It is important to customize your learning experience in a way that is tailored to your success as an independent learner and individual thinker.

When beginning to draft a list of schools to which you will consider applying, you must proceed with two numbers in mind: your LSAT score and your cumulative GPA. Once you determine which schools are within the range determined by your numbers, you can then begin to narrow your focus and target your goals more specifically. “Your decision will be a balancing act of financial aid, prestige, and career goals, so know what you’re getting into,” advises Phil DiSanto (Adelphi Class of 2012; Columbia Law). “For example, if you want to work at a big New York law firm, it is extremely important to attend a top-14 law school. If you’re interested in public interest (e.g. public defender, Legal Aid) or state/local government (e.g. district attorney, county attorney), you should be more sensitive to financial considerations or local alumni networks.” John Miller (Adelphi Class of 2012; Harvard Law) stresses the important role of “a well -rounded resume and sterling personal statement” in “setting you apart from the (very many) other applicants with your same grade credentials.” Each element of the application process ought to be treated with thoughtful consideration and must be the best possible reflection of your unique contribution to the academic environments of the specific law schools you have in mind. When selecting a school after you receive your decisions, “a lot considerations should go into making a choice—job prospects, financial aid, personal fit, and geographic location are just a few of the factors that come into play,” suggests to Joe Bruno (Adelphi Class of 2013; Cornell Law). A big picture, holistic approach will yield the most satisfying results.

Expect that adjusting to your first year, or 1L, at law school will require patience and dedication, on intellectual, physical, and emotional levels. You will be revising and reforming study habits, learning about the most effective and efficient means of organizing and retaining information, and you will develop new practices along the way. “Law school is designed to change the way you think, so don’t resist,” says Phil. Edwin Maldonado (Adelphi Class of 2013; Syracuse Law) advocates the pursuit of a diverse range of endeavors as you begin to shape your identity as a law student and recommends that your academic ventures be accompanied by extracurricular activities and employment opportunities of interest to you: “Taking hold of opportunities out of the gate your first year will be critical as you make a place for yourself at your institution…Look beyond the conventional journal and seek out externships, clinics, moot court and any experience that can get you real-world exposure.” Elizabeth Taras (Adelphi Class of 2013; George Washington Law) recommends flexibility and open -mindedness: 1L students should avoid pressuring themselves to define the course of their specific career immediately upon beginning classes: “I came into law school with a Plan A and I was steadfast in pursuing a specific practice area. In some ways, that has helped me market myself and has presented me with wonderful opportunities such as my 1L summer internship. However, now that I am able to select my own classes, I am starting to realize how many areas of the law I can see myself practicing. The moral of the story is that you have to step outside of the familiar before you can honestly rule out any career plans.”

All recent graduates stressed the importance of leaning on the alumni network—reach out, ask questions, and seek advice. On behalf of professors and students alike, I wish to thank all who responded so thoughtfully to our inquiries. If you wish to reach out to any of the alums mentioned here, please visit our office in Blodgett for more details.

This piece appeared in the Political Science Newsletter Fall 2014 edition.

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