Things I Wish I Would Have Known: Applications

We’re kicking off the 2021 application cycle with a new series written by our Student Admission Ambassadors – everything they wish they would have known! We hope this will be helpful for you as you research law schools, start the application process, and navigate final decisions. 

Vance, Gabby 1

I was just beginning my senior year of college and applying to law school. I was top of my college class and very involved in extra circular activities and held many leadership positions. While I was on top of the world, or so I felt at Elon, my undergraduate institution, I was just like any other applicant applying to William & Mary Law School. So how could I make myself stand out?

Law school admissions deans like Dean Jordan and Dean Smith are reading thousands of applications from many qualified students. Some things, such as a high LSAT, will make your application stand out in a sense, but I have always struggled with standardized tests. I knew my LSAT was not going to be the strongest part of my application. My personal statement and letters of recommendation provided a space where I felt like I could really show the admissions office who I was. But even now, almost three years later, reflecting on the application process, I could have done more to make my application stand out and be the best applicant possible.

When I was applying to schools, I spent so much time describing awards I had received and significant personal accomplishments. That is not a bad thing, it is good to have that information on your application. But, I spent very little time discussing WHY I actually wanted to go to law school and particularly WHY William & Mary Law School. I was one of the weird kids, who knew since they were in Kindergarten that I wanted to be a lawyer. Through various high school and college experiences, that passion only grew. During my junior year of college, I interned at a state prosecutor’s office and worked on a brutal domestic violence case. While the case was on trial, I had an aha moment that is I wanted to do for the rest of my life. So, where was that in my application? My personal statement was about on my study abroad experience, which was great and a very special part of my life, but someone who has to read so many applications will more likely remember that powerful story in the courtroom that impacted me so significantly to where that Plaintiff is who I think of when law school gets really hard. Those stories sell you as not just another candidate but someone who, when the going of law school gets hard, will keep going because they have their “why” and they really want to be here and do this.

Second, it sounds a bit ridiculous, but the law school application process is you advertising and selling yourself as the best applicant, and part of that is saying you interested in the school, in which you are applying to . If there is nowhere on your William & Mary application that signifies you would choose to go to William & Mary, you have ties to Virginia, you like Colonial Williamsburg – you are selling yourself short. Visit the school, call the dean of admissions, research the programs, and email a current student. Taking these steps will show you are not just thinking about law school. You are going to law school and likely this one. William & Mary was my top choice law school, and I knew if I got in, I was going. But why did I say that on my application? Law school admissions deans love when a student is really excited about their school. It means they are doing their job well! If the school is William & Mary, which I hope it is or elsewhere, make sure that they know how badly you want them. It will bolster you application and can help move you in the pile.

Gabby Vance is a 3L from Severna Park, MD, serving as the 0L/1L representative for the Student Bar Association 

Military Monday: Active Duty in Law School

This week in honor of Veterans Day, we asked Army Reserve member Sirena Rowland, a 2L at W&M Law, to reflect on her time serving while in law school. 

Sirena Rowland stands between two other Army Reserve colleagues.

Sirena Rowland, center, commissioned Army Reserves immediately after undergrad.

Being in law school while serving in the Army Reserve has provided me a very unique and rewarding experience throughout my time at William and Mary so far. When I initially commissioned following college, I had a few options. I could do an educational delay and put off my service obligation until law school was complete, I could enter the active duty component right away and go to law school later on, or I could enter the reserves and serve concurrently while I went to law school. Ultimately, I decided that the last of these paths was the best one for me. I took a year off between undergrad and law school in order to attend training and spend a few months on active duty orders at my unit to accomplish this. I believe this time helped me grow as a young officer because it gave me a glimpse of what the Army is actually like, and it helped propel me into my career path for law school.

While there are challenges to being in the reserve while being a student, such as attending training, meeting deadlines, and just overall juggling “work” on top of law school, the experience I feel I’ve gained makes it all worth it.  My current position is completely unrelated to what I do in school – I serve as a medical readiness officer, so I track all the medical information for the personnel in my unit, but when I’m at my unit I gain more than medical knowledge. I’m constantly learning new things, and I’m able to work with higher ranking officers who share their experiences with me. These conversations and experiences are something that I hope to carry with me into the future when I (hopefully) transition into the active duty side of the army as a judge advocate general. Being in the reserve and being a law student has solidified my decision that the Army JAG Corps is the right career for me. Overall, if I could give one piece of advice to prospective or current law students looking to join the military, it would be to dive in head first and learn from as many people as you can. You can never gather too much information, and there is nothing like hands on experience in the military. Even if you’re gaining information outside of what you think you want to do, or if you’re making mistakes, it’s well worth your while, and every experience is something that you can benefit from in the future.