Sarah Tanner is a first year law student at the University of Chicago. She is from Kingsport, Tennessee, and graduated from UT in 2020. She was the president of the Kappa Alpha Pi Pre-Law and Government Fraternity during her time at UT. She is interested in pursuing a career in public interest law.
What advice do you have for those currently studying for the LSAT and applying to law school?
“I think overall it can be a very intimidating process for most students. It is also worth noting that I think standardized testing is not a very equitable metric by which to measure applicants, since some people have more time to commit to studying than others due to situations out of a student’s control. I personally took the LSAT twice, and that is a totally fine thing to do. I spent about six months total studying for both tests. I did not purchase any super expensive study tools, and I advise really prioritizing where you spend your money as far as test prep and the application process. It all adds up.
“As far as applying for law school, there is no golden number on how many places to apply. I recommend doing a lot of online research about schools and attending law school fairs when possible. Make sure to get your applications in early, and stay organized with a calendar or spreadsheet. The American Bar Association requires law schools to report all of their data as far as what students are accepted and how many pass the bar and what they tend to do after law school, so that is a great tool to use. Those are called ABA 509 reports. Once you find some schools of interest, having the Writing Center on campus help with your personal statement is extremely helpful. I also think viewing any scholarship offers you get once you are accepted to a law school, as a first offer is important. Never be scared to explain your financial situation or that you might be better able to attend if you were to have more financial help. But most importantly, it is so easy to get caught up in the elitism of law school. No matter where you go just know that if you work hard, at the end of the day, you are learning similar material as everyone else at other law school. There are only so many laws! Just try reaching out early to your dream schools and being open to lots of different options.”
What was the process of acclimating to law school like for you? How is the atmosphere different than undergrad?
“Not having a grade incentive day to day is a very different experience for me. You are expected to read a lot of material and think deeper about the material than you would in undergrad, but there aren’t a lot of homework assignments or small deadlines, really. And while cold calls in law school are difficult, it is not as bad as I thought it would be, and I am a lot more confident now than I was just a few months ago… It is common to experience a lot of anxiety at the beginning of school and I personally really downplayed the value of my experiences compared to that of my classmates. But, I have had some of my professors go out of their way to acknowledge me and my experiences. I think at the end of the day everyone is more competitive with themselves than with each other.”
What was the most pleasantly surprising thing about law school for you?
“Overall my classmates are a lot nicer than what I expected and there are some really great organizations where I have met some really awesome people. I am involved in the Criminal Law Society and the Women’s Law Caucus and mentoring program. Upperclassmen as well as alumni are very kind and always there to help and very generous with their time. I was really surprised by how involved alumni are. I really did not expect to find so much support but I have had a lot of very beneficial help from a lot of people—especially when I had a concussion my first quarter and needed notes!”