Working with foreign applicants can be a great and rewarding challenge. Most international law school applicants need to get specific degrees from US universities in order to get a leg up on their career back home. For many, getting a LL.M is extremely important, especially from an elite school like Harvard or Stanford.
I’ll call one such student whom I worked with “Jane.” She applied to several top 10 schools, but was only accepted by one, Penn. However, she chose to forgo attending that school and wanted to reapply for her top two choices. That’s when Jane and I came together.
She clearly possessed the necessary academic qualifications to attend a top school. What she had failed to realize is that most applicants to these top schools do clear the academic hurdles and it’s also necessary to research the schools thoroughly to demonstrate a strong fit and highlight some powerful “wow” factors to differentiate your candidacy.
Part of Jane’s initial mistake was failing to optimize the content in her personal statement. She spent more time focusing on her country’s issues and how she could use her degree to try to fix them. Instead, Jane really needed to understand what the schools’ focus were in regards to the LL.M degree, and tailor her response to address that, rather than her country’s ills.
Some schools look at a LL.M degree and see how you can use it to be a proficient practitioner. And some see a LL.M degree as the next important step to be a professor. Once we determined how her top choices viewed the LL.M, we were able to tailor each application to that school’s focus and address her package from their viewpoint. We completely redid her resume and essays to fit each school. While it was a bit more work to do, in the end it was worth it.
– Contributed by Senior Consultant Heike Spahn, a former Associate Director of Admissions and Assistant Dean of Financial Aid at the University of Chicago Law School.