Advice for Teachers Applying to Law School

Factors like grades and standardized test scores weigh heavily in law school admissions, compared to other graduate programs. This is not because admissions officers are obsessed with numbers — it’s because they’re looking for candidates who perform well in a rigorous academic environment. Studying and practicing law both rely on academic skills like reading and writing.

Candidates who are no longer in school can demonstrate these strengths through work experience that involves research, analysis and communication. For example, accountants can show how their work is analytical and detail-oriented, even if it is not directly related to law.

Few jobs center academic skills more than teaching. Just like lawyers, teachers must understand their subject material, communicate strategically and respond carefully to the needs of their students. A lot of legal work involves teaching clients what they must know to make informed decisions about their situation. Getting through to these clients can be just as difficult as connecting with a disengaged student.

[READ: Questions to Ask Before Heading to Law School]

Whether you are a primary school teacher or a college professor, here are three tips for highlighting your experience in your law school application:

— Revisit your resume.

— Use your essays to bring your experience to life.

— Avoid a negative tone.

Revisit Your Resume

In my experience as a law admissions coach, I have found that teachers and professors tend to give their resume short shrift. Applicants who have climbed the corporate ladder tend to be more accustomed to detailing their tasks and responsibilities and achievements. In contrast, academic hiring is often based more on training credentials and publications.

As a law school applicant, your resume will present the overview of your adult life, enhanced and explained by your essays, recommendation letters and other materials. So, think carefully about what a reader outside your field will take away from your resume.

For example, a law school admissions officer is less concerned about the specific classes you taught and more interested in what this work entailed. Did you create your own lesson plans? Did you take on extra responsibilities outside the classroom? Did your work receive any positive feedback or lead to any notable results?

Applicants who have not worked as a full-time teacher may still have teaching experience worth highlighting. Don’t overlook tutoring experience, whether paid or voluntary. Working with a student one on one takes real time and dedication. The same goes for mentoring a junior colleague at work or coaching a teammate in an extracurricular activity.

Use Your Essays to Bring Your Experience to Life

You certainly don’t have to write your personal statement or other essays about your work. You could write about other areas of your life in which you’ve shown courage or resilience or other admirable qualities.

[Read: 5 Personal Qualities That Law School Applicants Should Have]

That said, if you want to write about your teaching experience, support your argument with specific details and examples. Think about situations that tested your skills, like a class that felt intimidating to teach or students who were difficult to reach.

While admissions officers work on university campuses and give plenty of presentations to students, they are unlikely to have much direct teaching experience. They may not know the challenges it entails, beyond how it is portrayed in movies and television shows. Show them how this experience shaped your life and career goals

Avoid a Negative Tone

Teaching can be a frustrating career, from working in schools with insufficient resources to dealing with unhelpful administrators and inflexible rules. It’s understandable that many teachers and professors feel burnt out.

[What Does It Take to Get Into a Top Law School?]

However, an essay written in a negative tone can turn off readers or even raise doubts in their minds. If you found academia disillusioning, then what happens when you face the realities of legal practice? Will you seek to drop out of law school?

By no means should you sound unrelentingly positive. It is OK to discuss challenges and setbacks. But when you read over your drafts, consider your tone. If you sound jaded or resentful, think about reframing your experiences in a more even light.

Learning how to teach others well is a lifelong gift. Don’t be shy about sharing it with law admissions officers by thoroughly conveying what your experience means to you.

More from U.S. News

How to Write a ‘Why This Law School’ Essay

Advice for Older Law School Applicants to Consider

‘Typical Law School Applicant’ Is a Myth

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