Harvard Law School – an Insider's Perspective on Life at an Ivy League Law School

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to attend an Ivy League law school like Harvard Law School? I attended Harvard Law School from 1991 through 1994 and obtained my Juris Doctorate in June 1994. Although it has been awhile since I graduated from Harvard Law School, I hope that you will still find my experiences valuable and relevant if you are considering attending an Ivy League law school.

Harvard Law School admission tips

Harvard Law School has relatively large classes in comparison with many other law schools, with approximately 550 students in each class. Because of this, I believe that Harvard Law School looks to create as diverse of a student body as possible. This means that you don’t need to attend an Ivy League undergraduate school or have a perfect score on your LSATs to get in to Harvard Law School. I am living proof of this — I attended a very small Catholic liberal arts college in Pennsylvania that not many people have ever heard of. Also, I received the median LSAT score for those admitted to Harvard Law School.

Even though my undergraduate degree was in political science, you shouldn’t think that you have to be a poly sci major in order to be admitted. Harvard Law School admits students with a wide variety of backgrounds (for example, there were several medical doctors in my class), and there is no specific curriculum that you need to take in order to be admitted to this Ivy League law school.

My biggest piece of advice for getting admitted to Harvard Law School is to focus on the personal statement that you are required to submit with your application. Almost everyone who applies to Harvard Law School is going to have the grades, LSAT scores, recommendation letters, and resume necessary to get in to this Ivy League law school, so the personal statement is your one real opportunity to stand out from the crowd. Be as interesting as possible!

Harvard Law School financial aid

Although Harvard Law School does not award “merit” scholarships, it does offer a tremendous number of financial aid opportunities. If you gain admission to Harvard Law School, be sure to visit the financial aid office every year to see what “need-based” scholarships are available. You might be surprised at the number of offerings at this Ivy League law school.

For example, in my second year at Harvard Law School, I received a scholarship that was specifically earmarked for residents of county where I grew up — Carbon County, PA (apparently my county was deemed to be “needy” in some sense). As Carbon County is extremely tiny, I could hardly believe it when I found out that this scholarship existed. It paid for all of my second year and part of my third year at Harvard Law School.

Depending on what type of work you want to do when you get out of law school, you should also be aware of Harvard Law School’s Low Income Protection Program (LIPP). It helps repay the student loans of Harvard Law School graduates who enter the public interest field, and it does not require you to commit to working in the public sector for a fixed number of years.

Harvard Law School exams and grades

Getting in to Harvard Law School is the hardest part! Others may disagree with me on this point, but once you are admitted to Harvard Law School, it is my strong belief that you are on easy street with a capital E. The grades at Harvard Law School are extremely inflated. Discussions that I have had with other lawyers over the years have made me realize that grades are often not inflated at all at many other law schools. When I attended Harvard Law School, if someone in my class got a C, it was big news because basically nobody at Harvard Law School gets C’s. They all get B’s and A’s.

Back in my day, almost everyone at Harvard Law School graduated with honors. However, since my time at Harvard Law School, the school has changed its policy so that fewer students are now awarded honors. However, I highly suspect that the grade inflation at Harvard Law School remains the same.

Most classes at Harvard Law School have only a final exam or final paper at the end of the semester. You might think that this would create a lot of pressure because your entire grade is based on one test or paper, but I never minded being in this situation. Most exams during my years at Harvard Law School were open book, which made life less stressful.

Harvard Law School – Is it as competitive as people think?

I found Harvard Law School to be surprisingly uncompetitive, especially once I caught on to the grade inflation that I discuss above. I was never interested in being on Law Review, so I didn’t even look into it. Again, just graduating from Harvard Law School will open up many doors for you. Honestly, I worked a lot harder in college than I did at Harvard Law School. Don’t get me wrong, I studied while I attended Harvard Law School, but I have to admit that I also watched my fair share of television. As the school’s official website says: “The bottom line is that Harvard Law School is what you make of it.”

Sources: Personal experience; Harvard Law School’s website; Fewer Students At Harvard Law School Awarded Honors, Chicago Tribune, June 9, 1999.