55 Successful Harvard Law School Application Essays, 2nd Edition: With Analysis by the Staff of The Harvard Crimson

55 Successful Harvard Law School Application Essays, 2nd Edition: With Analysis by the Staff of The Harvard Crimson

by Staff of the Harvard Crimson
55 Successful Harvard Law School Application Essays, 2nd Edition: With Analysis by the Staff of The Harvard Crimson

55 Successful Harvard Law School Application Essays, 2nd Edition: With Analysis by the Staff of The Harvard Crimson

by Staff of the Harvard Crimson

Paperback(Second Edition, Revised)

    Qualifies for Free Shipping
    Check Availability at Nearby Stores

Related collections and offers


Harvard Law School is one of the premier law schools in the world. It as well as other top schools draws thousands of applicants from the best colleges and companies. With only a limited number of slots for so many talented applicants, the admissions officers have become more and more selective every year, the competition has become fierce, and even the best and brightest could use an edge.

This completely new edition of 55 Successful Harvard Law School Application Essays is the best resource for anyone looking for that edge. Through the most up-to-date sample essays from the Harvard Law School students who made the cut and insightful analysis from the staff at The Harvard Crimson, it shows you how best to:

* Argue your case effectively
* Arrange your accomplishments for maximum impact
* Avoid common pitfalls

55 Successful Harvard Law School Application Essays guides you toward writing essays that do more than simply list your background and accomplishments. These are essays that reveal your passion for the law as well as the discipline you bring to this demanding profession and will help you impress any admissions department. The all-new essays and straightforward and time-saving advice will give you all the insider tips you'll need to write the essays that will get you into the best law schools in the world.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250047236
Publisher: St. Martin's Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/08/2014
Edition description: Second Edition, Revised
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 293,270
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

The Harvard Crimson has been the daily newspaper of Harvard University since 1873. It is the nation's oldest continually operating daily college newspaper.

Read an Excerpt



Chances are the "you" of ten, five, or even one year ago looks very different from the person applying to law school today. A full statement about the person you are often requires a look at the changes you have undergone. Essays in this section explain how applicants' mind-sets have been molded and remolded by experiences and by those around them.

As you trace your own personal evolution, be careful to proceed clearly and avoid covering too much ground. The reader should be able to easily follow your growth and development. Sometimes steps and sequences of events that feel obvious to you, the person who lived them, may seem opaque to an admissions officer.

For some applicants, the tale of evolution demonstrates the vital role of the personal statement in an application. For instance, one writer spent three years toiling in a pharmaceutical company's lab. On its face, the sudden application to law school might seem odd or even suspicious. But his essay paints a broader context of evolution, honing in on the more logical leap from compound creation to chemical patent law. Another writer spent years as a bookstore manager before returning to school, an unconventional path to law school. With context though, his motivation becomes far from early-onset midlife crisis. Instead, his essay weaves a narrative of leadership, parenting, and search for knowledge.

Not everyone needs to explain a unique set of circumstances, but a story of change can take many forms and can highlight a variety of qualities, from openness to discernment to strength tested by adversity. Above all, the story of how you have changed should point to who you are, and to who you see yourself becoming. Every other application component offers a snapshot of who you were or who you are — only the personal statement lets you look to the future.


"Hi I'm Joleen! I'm from Wisconsin! Where are you from?" trills the pretty brown-eyed girl in my dorm room. I sigh. I would love to have a simple answer to give her and, usually, when confronted with such a daunting question, I smile politely and answer some version of the truth. I try to read her. I wonder if it would be enough to give her the "I'm originally from Haiti" retort. This immediately evokes images of me as a little girl sitting at the kitchen table as my mother cooks "Grio" and laughs along to her Maurice Sixto tapes, relishing the Haitian comedian's depiction of Haitian politics. When coming from a country like ours, it's nice to be able to laugh at the folly of it all. This would be an honest answer after all. Although we left Haiti when I was one, my parents enrolled us into a French school in Maryland. We spoke French and Creole at home, I spoke French at school, I ate Haitian food, I listened to Haitian music; we even went back to Haiti twice a year every year — until things got really bad that is. I could always go with a different approach and tell her that I went to high school in Kenya. She might think of me as a world traveler. She might see me as riding matatus and playing with orphans, or, she could look at me as some diplomat's child with a driver and uncanny sense of entitlement; unfortunately, back then she would have been right on both accounts.

The thing is, the world attributes who we are with where we are from, and so, for a long time I didn't know who I was. I didn't know where I was from and so I couldn't know where I was going. All of that changed when I got to NYU.

I moved to the big city alone while my parents remained halfway across the world in Nairobi, Kenya. I chose New York because in fourth grade, on a school excursion, I saw Les Misérables on Broadway and it changed my life. I moved to New York having lived a very contradictory life. On the one hand, I was quite privileged. The international community in Kenya lived in their own world with their own set of rules. On the other, I had always had a heart for children and had spent much of my time in a baby orphanage known as "The Nest." I looked at these two-week-old infants, children of victims of rape who had died from AIDS and I had a piercing sense that something was not right; we were living in a world of disequilibrium and something had to give. I was going to change the world and I knew that I needed to go to New York; the same place that so beautifully told the story of a French orphan girl.

I had moved around before. I had lived in four places by the time I was eighteen and so I hadn't expected the culture shock to hit me; you always get hit harder when you don't see it coming. The city's stresses slowly but surely took their toll on me. I didn't know what I was doing anymore. Among the actresses and models, away from the slums and the injustice, my big plans didn't seem so feasible anymore. It wasn't until the second semester of college, when I joined a Christian fellowship on campus that my vision came back to life. I came to Christ that year and, later, with tentative support from my parents I moved into a house in the Bronx and became one third of the nonprofit organization A House on Beekman. We felt the biblical call to serve the poor and for us New Yorkers, Beekman Avenue was where we could do that. It was a far cry from the Kibera slums but it was the land of single teenage mothers who were victims of domestic violence. It was the place where dozens of kids had absentee parents and appreciated a healthy snack and a good story. These people weren't as poor as the people in Kenya, but they were marginalized. I started to see the other forms of oppression that existed. My roommates and I began to share all of our clothes and as we grew in community, God grew our ministry. More kids started showing up for family dinner on Monday night. More "gang members" started calling us "Ma'am" and pulling their pants up as they walked into our home. Living here has shown me what it is to serve in the United States. God continued to grow my intolerance for injustice when I received an internship at an immigration law firm. We mostly worked with asylum cases and as I walked into the conference room wearing a suit, and sat across a girl my age who was being forced to be the fourth wife of a seventy-five-year-old or who had to undergo female genital mutilation to be eligible for marriage, day after day after day, something in me snapped. I decided I was going to law school. I decided that I couldn't live a life that glossed over the gravest injustices of the world. I realized that I could hold orphans for months or give our Bronx kids healthy snacks for weeks, but that one day, I was going to die. One day, my roommates will die as will the lawyers at the law firm that I work at. I need to be a part of systematic change. I need to be a part of something bigger than the one life I have been given. I knew I was graduating in December, and so I applied to the International Justice Mission. I will be working there as the Human Rights intern in D.C. from January through April. My projects will be in Haiti, Ecuador, and Peru. I finally get to partner with lawyers who are changing the system from the inside out.

Through all of these experiences I finally realized where I was from. I realized that I am a child of God and a citizen of the world and this has led me to where I am going. I am going to law school. I am going to get a degree that allows my voice to be loud enough for all us world citizens. I am going to be part of the redemption that far outlasts the one small life that I have lived.


Admissions officers certainly see many tropes repeated in application essay after application essay. There's the "overcoming adversity" story. There's the "look at my passion" narrative. There's the "I have finally discovered myself" reflection. Without a doubt, these archetypes can get stale, especially for someone who is reading them as part of their fulltime job. The power of this essay arises from its masterful ability to synthesize those well-worn application genres into a compelling story of personal growth. One of the hallmarks of a successful application essay is the ability to capture the reader's attention — to draw him or her out of the monotony of reading prosaic bullet points that do little more than list the achievements that already appear on applicants' résumés.

While Anne-Valerie Prosper does not skimp on her personal accomplishments or her coming-of-age story, she takes those tropes and successfully brings them to life. Rather than account important aspects of her life, she grapples with them vividly, giving the reader a privileged look at both the details of her life and the lucidity of her mind.

Although Prosper does a formidable job integrating the various elements of her identity and development, she occasionally overextends herself. For instance, the reference to Les Misérables is accompanied by minimal interpretation or explanation. And the attribution "it changed my life" sounds odd and exaggerated, especially beside the compelling, real-world examples she provides. Of course, viewing the play might truly have been transformative, but unless the reader can understand and appreciate that influence, a reference like Prosper's can cause more trouble than it is worth.

Nonetheless, after reading this essay, the reader gains unique insight into who this author is and what makes her tick. She isn't as she lays out the case for herself, but she does impart a meaningful message all the same. There it is, right in the essay — impossible to pinpoint but also impossible to ignore.

— John F. M. Kocsis


Eighteen months ago, I viewed my career path as very divergent from that of my parents; both were attorneys, and I was a scientist. I had just entered my third year of employment at a major pharmaceutical company, and I was starting to come into my own as a medicinal chemist and making significant impacts on our drug discovery programs. I was working side by side with incredibly talented people at the cutting edge of my field, and yet I felt strangely unfulfilled. I began to reassess my plans for doctoral study in chemistry and in doing so, reflected on my path thus far.

My scientific career began in earnest in the chemistry lab of Professor William Armstrong at Boston College. Due to a lack of funding and resources at that time, I was given full reign over a research project normally reserved for graduate students. To compound the challenge, the research was centered in bioinorganic chemistry, something I had never studied before. Nevertheless, the prospect of leaving behind my textbooks and designing my own experiments proved sufficient motivation for me to start finding my way. With the generous support of my faculty adviser and labmates, my research grew over the next year and a half to include two other undergraduates, and produced an award-winning thesis project. The collaboration and problem-solving skills I learned in the Armstrong Lab would become invaluable as I moved into the next phase of my career, the pharmaceutical industry.

When I arrived at Merck Research Labs in the summer of 2007, I was excited to finally put to use the teachings from my favorite college class, synthetic organic chemistry. Unfortunately, I quickly learned that doing chemistry on paper is very different from doing it in real life. Because associate chemists at Merck are expected to spend most of their time making compounds in the lab, my lack of experience with organic chemistry techniques meant that I would have to start from scratch if I were to succeed. Thankfully, my experience of being thrown into the deep end at school prepared me well for this dousing, and with the help and patience of my manager, my skills in the lab grew by the day. Eventually, I became comfortable enough making compounds that I was able to think about designing and optimizing them. Delving into the patent literature and finding free intellectual property space to make novel drug candidates became my favorite task at work, and before long I was named as a coinventor on my first of five U.S. Patent Applications. It slowly became apparent that what I really liked about my job was not the chemistry of drug design, but the problem solving and strategy involved. I found myself in a quandary: I had fallen in love with the process of doing science, not just science itself.

The remedy for my dilemma was provided in short order by a "Patent Law 101" presentation given by members of our in-house counsel. There, I was introduced to the idea that intellectual property, rather than internal research and development, is the true life-blood of the pharmaceutical industry. It quickly became clear to me that the ability to create, protect, and manage this resource effectively is essential to generating the necessary revenue to fund all of a drug company's other functions, including my chemistry department. As the session drew to a close, I realized that intellectual property law, in the context of pharmaceuticals, offered me an opportunity to combine my aptitude for drug discovery with my love of creative problem solving. Over the next year, I met with patent attorneys both within and outside of the pharmaceutical industry to discuss my path forward. Additionally, I was able to attend a patent trial in Federal Court, and found the challenge of explaining science to the lay jury fascinating. In sum, these experiences served to further crystallize my desire to enter the field of law.

I intend to pursue a career in intellectual property law with a focus on chemistry and drug discovery. Therein, I hope to leverage my skills and experience as a medicinal chemist to provide clients with the unique perspective of someone who has stood in their shoes. I believe that such enhanced communication and understanding would foster a more collaborative, innovative, and productive discovery environment. I am confident that my past experiences in solving new and difficult problems will facilitate my ability to discover the common ground between the rule of law and the laws of science.


Every good essay makes a point to emphasize the positive qualities of the applicant. This one certainly takes home the trophy, punching out a different theme at the end of each anecdote. The first paragraph ends with an assertion of Eric Romeo's self-reflection and evaluation skills. The second brings out his quick adaptability and independent learning abilities. The third showcases his creativity in producing chemical compounds and willingness to seize and make the most of opportunities given to him. The fourth tells of his enthusiasm for his newfound passion, and his impeccable motivation and drive in pursuing his interests. Each paragraph homes in on a specific trait, and each fits with the others like the pieces of a puzzle that compose and present the ideal applicant.

Still, this essay does take on a fairly daunting task — explaining a career switch — and that comes with its pitfalls. Romeo sets the stage for his switch with the line, "I had fallen in love with the process of doing science, not just science itself." That line raises more questions than answers: Isn't a job in science a fusion of those aspects? Romeo then leaps to a presentation, and in a flash he is a law school applicant. The shift is abrupt. He doesn't need to attribute the shift to a single moment or quandary. The essay is at its best when it tracks his organic interest in patent law and its yearlong evolution.

That said, Romeo appeals to the applicative nature of careers in law by emphasizing his underlying passion for drug discovery, which drives his interest in intellectual property law. He ties this together in the last paragraph, where he specifically states how his indispensable previous experience in organic chemistry will assist him in his law studies, and how it grants him a unique perspective as a law practitioner.

Luke Chang


My university experience tore apart the foundations of everything I believed in.

Three years ago, I entered university with high ambitions but no target. I aimed to work hard, complete my degree in three years instead of four, and then study law to earn my way to a prestigious political career. I had a powerful passion for politics and was quite certain of my political views. I was also quite religious, and held a high degree of certainty in the veracity of my faith. These two elements formed the core of who I was at the time, but my first year of university would completely dismantle these convictions. In their place, it would instill a sense of confusion that persists to this day.

Curious about the new intellectual environment I had entered, I ventured to learn more about the faith of others by engaging in interfaith initiatives. But increased contact with those from within my own religious community bewildered me, as I encountered different perspectives that I found difficult to reconcile with my own. Looking outward to other religious traditions only confounded me further. Concurrently, my courses in political science shattered the positive conception I had of world politics and left in its place a dismal portrait of an international system motivated by power and greed. With my fundamental beliefs broken apart, I delved into the academic study of both of these areas in search of definitive answers. The lack thereof only led me into deeper confusion, and I wandered about in search of something certain to grab onto.


Excerpted from "55 Successful Harvard Law School Application Essays"
by .
Copyright © 2014 The Harvard Crimson.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction xi


Anne-Valerie Prosper 3

Eric T. Romeo 7

Zain Jinnah 10

Jimmie Strong 14

Brian Aune 18

Michele Gauger 22

Suzanne Turner 25

Telling a Story

Jacqueline Yue 31

Sarah O'Loughlin 34

Rachel E. Endick 37

John 40

royalcrown 43

John Wheeler 46

Joel Knopf 49

Nimra Azmi 52


Amanda Morejon 57

Josh 60

Alicia Robinson 64

Jordan Klimek 68

Marissa Florio 72

Enumale Agada 75

Isaac Ho 79

When the Going Gets Tough

Claire M. Hankin 85

E.S. 88

Richard Davis 91

Tony Carr 94

Mara Ludmer 98

Justin Lu 102

Natalie Rad 105

Dasha Wise 108

Thinking Critically

Oscar Stanton 115

Michael Elias Shammas 118

Ritu Gupta 122

Peyton Miller 125

Victoria Abraham 128

Nicholas Warther 132

The World

Marisa Schnaith 139

William Barlow II 143

Lara Berlin 146

Deanna Parrish 149

Daniel McMann 152

Elizabeth Spencer 155

Joshuah Fiveson 158

Yonatan Levy 162


Michael Jacobson 169

Stephen Iya 172

Emma Raviv 175

Anonymous 178

Angela Chan 182

James Baker Jr. 186

Jason Lee 190

Avery E. Hook 193

Nicolas Sansone 197

Alene Georgia Anello 200

Khalea Ross Robinson 203

From the B&N Reads Blog

Customer Reviews