Harvard Law School, Harvard University
US News & World Report 2017 Ranking: 3
Founded in 1636, Harvard University is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. The Harvard brand is in a league of its own (ranked No. 1 in Time’s World Reputation Rankings).
Prominent alumni of Harvard Law School include President Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Elle Woods, the current Chief Justice of the United States, John Roberts, and hordes of Associate Justices of the United States Supreme Court, including Antonin Scalia (deceased), Stephen Breyer (sitting), Elena Kagan (sitting), Anthony Kennedy (sitting), Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr (deceased), and Felix Frankfurter (deceased). For this reason (amongst many others), Harvard Law School is seen to epitomise, and be the gold-standard for, an American legal education.
Unlike Yale Law School that is intimate and small, Harvard law is gargantuan. Every year, just under 2000 students are enrolled in Harvard Law School. The LLM class makes up a small portion of this with the LLM class averaging around 180 students per year.
While it may be a larger class size than Yale, it is still extremely hard to get in. It is approximated that every year, more than 1500 prospective applicants vie for one of the 180 LLM seats.
Harvard Application (Essay)
The sample Harvard application can be found here. Most notably, Harvard has unique personal statement questions. This year, the questions are:
a. Briefly describe either an important issue in your field of interest or a current legal problem facing a particular country, region, or the world, and then propose a theoretical framework or a legal analysis or strategy to address this issue.
b. Please tell us something about yourself—in particular, why you wish to pursue an LL.M. degree at Harvard and how doing so connects with what you have done in the past and what you plan to do in the future.
Both parts of those questions need to be answered in less than 1500 words (not including footnotes). At least 750 of those words need to be spent on Part A (when I completed my application, I used 900 words on Part A and 600 words on Part B).
I will do a further post later on how to answer Part A type questions. But, for now, my advice is to choose a topic that complements and “fits” your narrative. Ideally, it would be a topic that you have already done significant research on. Saying that, there is only so much that you can do within 750-odd words – realistically, you are not going to be able to solve world peace in just under two pages (if you can, you probably do not need the help of this blog). As long as your piece is well-written, provides a good exposition of the issue, and offers a logical solution, I do not think Part A is going to be a make-or-break component of your application.
Many applicants (rightfully so) spend a long time on Part A and B of their personal statements (I spent over 7 months!). However, they often do not realise until submitting that the Harvard application also requires two smaller “essays”. These concern career plans and areas of academic interest – they can be found on page 6 of the sample application linked to above. Do not leave these to the last minute. It is best to plan how you will answer all four of the essays to avoid duplication of content (and, more importantly, panic attacks at the last minute).
At the time of filling in your Harvard Law School application, you can opt to fill in a financial aid application. The financial aid form is quite extensive and requires disclosure of parental resources.
If an applicant is accepted to Harvard Law School, the Admissions Committee then considers an applicant’s financial aid application (in other words, admission and financial aid decisions are decided independently – you are not disadvantaged in the admissions stage because you are asking for money). Admitted students should receive their financial aid decisions approximately one week after being accepted. Harvard Law School financial aid comes in the form of grants and (mostly) loans. Harvard Law School does not have a reputation for granting full tuition-waivers (even the top candidates, if unsuccessful at getting other scholarships, often have to take on loans or seek external help).
Given Harvard Law School’s world-renowned reputation, it is in a unique position. Unlike other schools that may counter/match other law schools’ financial aid/scholarship packages to sway an applicant, Harvard only offers financial aid to those that qualify for it.
N.B. If you are from Australia, Canada, New Zealand or the United Kingdom, apply for the Frank Knox Memorial Fellowship. This provides full tuition, living costs, health insurance, and a generous stipend (what Americans like to call “a full ride” scholarship).
Prepare for the Journey, LLMSherpa