Some of you are eager to get a break from the books, but for those of you who can’t get enough of the classroom, graduate school might be the way to go post-college. We’ve outlined the pathways to law, medicine, business, master’s, and doctorate programs, complete with advice from women well-versed in each process so you can figure out which one (or none) is right for you.
Degree: Juris Doctor (JD)
Test: Law School Admission Test (LSAT)
Class time: 3 years
Lawyers you may know: Hillary Clinton, Mohandas Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher
What law school is like: “Law school can be very stressful,” says Eimear, a graduate of Villanova University and Capital University Law School. “Your grade is based on how you do in comparison to other people, and some individuals are extremely competitive because of that. Having said that, I made some very good friends in law school, who would help me with anything I ever needed.”
Aside from that competitive atmosphere, Eimear has identified plenty more to take into consideration: “If anyone asks me today about going to law school, I try to tell them that it is a decision before which you should really weigh the pros and cons,” she says, the latter of which include that “it is a very expensive, three-year degree, and there are not a lot of high-paying jobs available. The economy has taken a toll on the legal field.” While she laments the scarcity of jobs in this economy, though, Eimear’s story is proof that hard work and getting involved in graduate school can contribute to employment success afterward. As a law student, Eimear had worked in the legal clinic at Capital, which aided her transition to a post-graduation job: “My professor [at the legal clinic] called to say they had a job opening, so I decided to take it.”
What you can do with a law degree: Eimear explains her decision to law school by pointing to her desire “to do something in the health law and health policy areas.” But keep in mind that not everyone with a JD lives a real-life rendition of Boston Legal. Though Eimear works in the courtroom now, she pursued a JD in part because it kept several options available to her. “I realized that a law degree could help with many different careers, so I thought that it was a degree that would not pigeon-hole me into one career,” says Eimear.
How to prepare: As with most graduate programs, GPA and test scores are important features of any law school application. One characteristic specific to law school, however, is that the admissions process allows for a fair bit of flexibility regarding coursework. “My undergraduate degree is in finance, which is not a typical degree for law school,” says Eimear. Despite this leniency, some law school hopefuls attempt to strategize by structuring their coursework such that they get a better preparation. “I had friends who were political science majors who tried to take specific classes that would prepare them more for law school, [classes] that sometimes included publications in law journals. These friends also tried to work in law firms during the summer breaks to try to make them stand out,” says Eimear. Whether or not this strategy was effective is up in the air, but as for Eimear herself, she chose to boost her credentials outside the classroom. “I was in a sorority that did a lot of volunteer work, so I tried to focus on that work because I thought that would stand out as compared to other applicants.”