of Law School FAQ
is Dunster's role in my law school applications?
Dunster House is deeply involved in the law school application process.
Indeed, the House has established certain
procedures that you must follow to apply to law school. Broadly
speaking, Dunster performs three functions. First, we advise. Dunster
will assign you a nonresident pre-law tutor (usually a current student
at Harvard Law School) who will answer your questions, help you pick
law schools, edit your personal statement, and otherwise coach you through
the often Byzantine law school application process. Second, Dunster
provides a substantive element of your application: the dean's letter.
The dean's letter, which functions like a letter of recommendation with
certain limitations, is drafted by your pre-law tutor and signed by
the Resident Dean. Read more about
the dean's letter here.
Finally, Dunster performs certain essential administrative tasks. The
House coordinates the copying and distribution of your letters of recommendation,
which are stored in your House file. Read more about letters of recommendation
an alumna/us of Dunster House who just decided to apply to law school.
Can I still use the Dunster Pre-Law Program? Is it different for me?
Yes, you sure can! The process for alumni/ae is mostly the same, although
there are a few special considerations
for alumni/ae applicants.
had a terrible freshman year academically, but my grades have improved
since then. Do I still have a chance at a good law school?
Definitely. Law schools do emphasize GPA and LSAT data, but they look
for trends as well. Talk to your pre-law tutor about this issue -- your
is one place where we can emphasize trends in your academic performance,
just to be sure that law schools get the point.
didn't concentrate in government or economics or anything like that.
Can I still apply to law school?
Absolutely. Many (if not most) law school students do not have undergraduate
degrees in traditional "pre-law" subjects like government
or economics. Mark Freeman, a past Resident Tutor in Law, was an East
Asian Studies concentrator; his good friend at law school studied biochemistry
in college. Unlike medical schools, law schools do not require any particular
undergraduate course experience or prerequisites. Law schools are simply
interested to see that you pursued an academically challenging and analytically
rigorous course of study -- and just about anything at Harvard qualifies.
I need to take certain classes before I can apply to law school?
Nope. Anything goes. Just graduate! Seriously, there are no prerequisites
for applying to law school. That said, law school obviously emphasizes
certain kinds of skills and knowledge. A basic economics course like
Ec 10 will provide useful background knowledge, as will a course in
modern American history, etc. But you will learn everything you actually
need to know in your first year at law school.
a sophomore. What should I be doing now to prepare for law school?
Nothing. Really. Don't worry about anything except focusing on your
classwork and keeping up your GPA. There are no particular classes you
need to take, etc. for law school (see above), and
you don't need to worry about the LSAT until the end of your junior
year at the earliest. But you should still register
for the Dunster Pre-Law Program so that you will be assigned a pre-law
tutor who can answer any questions you may have about law school or
careers in the law.
a junior. What should I be doing now to prepare for law school?
Junior year is the time to start thinking ahead. Consider when you want
to take the LSAT, whom you want to ask for letters of recommendation,
whether you intend to apply in your senior year or wait until after
you graduate, etc. For more details, visit the downloads
page and download the "Memo to Rising Seniors."
a senior, but I have decided not to apply to law school this year. I
might want to apply next year, or some time in the future. Is there
anything I should be doing now?
Yes. There are several aspects of the law school application process
that are MUCH easier to accomplish while you are still a student, such
as asking for letters of recommendation. You should also think hard
about when you want to take the LSAT. Many alumni/ae plan to study after
work or on weekends but find that they just don't have time -- and their
LSAT scores suffer for it. For more details on things you can do now
to make your life easier later, visit the downloads
page and download the "Memo to Graduating Seniors and Alumni/ae."
See also our special considerations
for alumni/ae applicants.
do I obtain law school applications?
Many schools prefer to receive applications electronically via LSDAS. This is generally a good idea, so you should look into it. Alternatively, if you are more old-school, you can still get the application forms directly from the schools. In any event, you should carefully research the requirements and preferences of the schools to which you plan to apply. You can find
more information here.
the application deadline for law school?
The formal deadlines vary by the school (typically between February
1 and March 15), but these dates are virtually meaningless. Law school
applications operate on a "rolling" basis, so the earlier
you can submit your applications, the better off you'll be. The Dunster
Pre-Law Program sets deadlines that are designed to get your applications
completed and mailed by November 1, which is plenty early. You can find
the current Dunster Pre-Law Application Schedule here.
is the LSAT offered?
The LSAT is offered 4 times each year: February, June, September/October and December.
The specific dates vary each year but the test is always on a Saturday
(religious exceptions are made for people who observe the Sabbath on
Saturdays). For more information on the LSAT, click here.
should I study for the LSAT?
Don't study, practice. The LSAT does not test any substantive knowledge
(unlike the MCAT, for example). The test focuses exclusively on reading
comprehension and logical reasoning skills, and the whole trick is to
learn to answer the questions fast enough. So practice! Buy a bunch
of old tests, use a stopwatch and just practice over and over again.
Your score will improve. For more about the LSAT, including the debate
over whether to take a prep class, click here.
it true that law schools look only at your GPA and LSAT score?
This is a very complicated question, the short answer to which is that
your GPA / LSAT data will probably account for 80-90% of your chances
of admission at any given school. These things vary by school, of course,
and it is obviously artificial to speak in terms of percentages. The
point, though, is that your GPA and LSAT score will form the core of
your law school application. Most people would say that your grades
are slightly more important that your LSAT score. Other factors law
schools consider include letters of recommendation, extracurricular
activities, your personal statement, etc. For more information on this
point, click here.
is the best time to submit my transcript to the LSDAS?
As soon as possible
after registering with the LSDAS, which you can do anytime within five
years of the year in which you intend to apply to law school. Don't
wait until the last minute! The LSDAS takes a few weeks to process transcripts.
Don't let this delay hold up your application. Also, remember that
Dunster House does not handle student transcripts. You need to order
a transcript directly from the Harvard Registrar.
For more about the LSDAS and transcripts, click here.
took AP classes in high school and got advanced standing credit for
them at Harvard. Do I need to report my grades in those classes to the
No. The LSDAS asks
for a transcript for any "college level course taken for credit
during high school," but they're not referring to AP courses. If
you took classes for regular credit at a local community college or
similar institution during high school, however, talk to your pre-law
tutor about whether you should send a transcript from those classes
to the LSDAS. (This does not apply to most students). For more about
the LSDAS, click here.
are the "grids," and how can I see them?
The "grids" are a collection of data organized by OCS that
tells you the average GPA and LSAT score of every Harvard student admitted
to each of the major law schools in a given year. Read
more about the grids and how to access them.
whom should the return postcards included in applications be addressed?
The return postcards that are included in law school applications should
be addressed to you, not to Dunster House. You are responsible for ensuring
that all materials arrive at the law schools in a timely fashion, and
therefore you should be notified of their receipt.
mails out my applications -- me or Dunster House?
You do, with the exception of your Dean's letter, which is mailed by the House. You must provide stamped
manila envelopes for this purpose. Read the House
application procedures for more information.
So what's the deal with financial aid?
Good question. Law school, not surprisingly, costs money. Often quite a bit of it.
Most law school educations are financed by a combination of private and federal government loans.
Individual law schools determine your aid packages, and the means they use (as well as the results
they come up with) vary more than you may think. Some schools offer merit-based scholarships, and
some do not. Some schools offer increasingly generous loan forgiveness programs for students who
pursue public interest careers after graduating law schools. Others do not. Some schools offer
significant grant packages based on need. Others do not.
The most important advice we can offer you is twofold:
Start with the FAFSA and fill out / supply whatever other forms the schools require.
Prepare your federal income tax forms as soon as possible after January 1--the law schools will most
likely ask for copies. Make sure that your credit situation is in good shape well in advance of the
financial aid process, because your credit history will determine whether private lenders approve you.
- Research! Contact the financial aid offices of the schools you are applying to / considering.
Ask them what sorts of aid are available, about potential scholarship opportunities, and about what
information is needed. Ask what private and alternative sources of aid are widely used at each school.
Some schools require more information than the Free Application
for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and
may require you to fill out other rather lengthy forms like the CSS Profile or Need Access. Every
school will list its financial aid office on its website. Call them. E-mail them. Visit them.
- Start early! You can't wait until after you get into schools to apply for financial aid. Try to
have the financial aid materials ready to send out before the first day applications can be filed.
Also, many schools require your parents to submit their financial information (although the federal government,
through FAFSA, does not) even if you haven't lived with your parents or taken their money for many years. As
an example, Harvard Law has a seven-year rule, whereby if you've relied on your parents substantially for money
within the past seven years, you have to include their information.
Finally, starting early allows you to take some time and get creative with ways to find money. Visit OCS.
Hit the Internet hard, and explore websites like www.finaid.org. Ask law
students you know for advice.