If only there were a secret formula for getting accepted to law school. You could pick the perfect extracurriculars, and poof! Law school admissions committees would fall in love.
Sorry to burst your bubble, but there is no such secret formula. Committees are seeking academically qualified candidates who can demonstrate that they have a pulse outside the workplace and classroom.
So, what activities should you engage in? First of all, don’t make decisions based on what you think admissions committees want you to do. Do what you actually enjoy. Find your passions, and then highlight the characteristics you have developed and showcased through those activities.
How do you answer the school’s question about extracurricular activities?
Regardless of whether you have no outside interests at all or a thousand different hobbies, use this question as an opportunity to highlight certain qualities.
Here are some do’s and don’ts for this part of your law school application:
DON’T exaggerate your commitment. Be truthful throughout your application.
If you tutored for an hour a week for a year, say that and nothing more. Most admissions committees are not going to check on such details, 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.
DO mention leadership positions you have held in a volunteer role.
President of the Latin Club, co-chair of a fundraising event, the founder of your neighborhood cleanup day – these kinds of experiences 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, such as public speaking, writing, and organizational skills.
DON’T list every single public service activity you have ever done.
Focus on the significant commitments. If you served dinner to the homeless three years ago at Thanksgiving, well done, but this one-time event doesn’t belong on the list. It might make the committee ask, “Why just one time?” However, if you spent your summer canvassing low-income neighborhoods and encouraging people to register to vote, you should mention that.
DO cross-reference, but don’t repeat.
You might decide to include elements of your extracurricular activities in your personal statement. If you do, you can still list these activities on your application, but don’t incorporate everything on your application into your essay. A little overlap is fine; duplication is not.
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, that is okay. Any kind of serious commitment to an outside interest is valued.
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 could add an interesting dimension to the program’s next incoming class. These hobbies make you a more unique and interesting potential addition.
What if you really and truly have no extracurricular activities or interests?
First, how are you thinking about extracurricular activities and interests? If you find yourself saying, “That doesn’t count” about something, take a moment to look at it from the perspective of someone on an admissions committee. The committee wants to know you as a whole person. If you started a monthly potluck gathering, organize a fantasy sports league, or regularly take care of a sibling or grandparent, think about that from the perspective of the committee. What does the activity tell them about you that they wouldn’t otherwise know?
Finally, if you are reading this post 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 individuals who value time as much as money, and who are willing to give generously to their community. Schools seek applicants who have developed “work-life balance” and have figured out how to cope with the stress of school or career. Admissions committees also want to establish how an applicant will connect with the broader law school community and take advantage of the opportunities the institution provides.
Still not sure what extracurricular activities and interests you should or shouldn’t include on your application and in your personal statement? Accepted can help! Our staff of experienced editors can guide you along the way, offering sound advice as you navigate the law school application maze.
Sadie Polen has more than ten years of experience in higher education. She reviewed statements of purpose, personal statements, and resumes for political and public service opportunities and made candidate selections for elite programs at Harvard University. She also has experience advising individuals on their career and post-graduation plans. Sadie holds a BS from UC Davis, an EdM from Harvard, and a DEI certificate from Cornell. Want Sadie to help you get Accepted? Click here to get in touch!