Quad Day and Building Your Pre-Law Resume

Quad Day is coming! Sunday, August 25 from noon to 4 pm, the Quad will be hopping with hundreds of Registered Student Organizations (RSOs).

Pre-law students often ask: What is the best RSO for law school? Here are some considerations for how to use your free time in a productive, fun, and useful way with an eye toward law school in the future.

What are law schools looking for?

Law schools like applicants who are well-rounded (not one dimensional), productive (manage their time well), and interested in contributing to their communities or committed to certain issues (like the environment) or populations (like children or the elderly).

You can use your RSO experiences to highlight: transferable skills (like working with money or managing teams), time management skills, commitment to causes or populations in need, working with different kinds of people, and leadership experience.

  • How many? Think quality over quantity here. That’s why we recommend 2-3 meaningful activities. It’s just not possible to be president of 15 organizations and work and volunteer and carry a full course load and retain your health and sanity. Law schools do not expect that, and trying to achieve that much can lead to crashing and burning.
  • What is meaningful? By meaningful, we mean:
    • You actually find it interesting and productive (or fun) OR you’re working for the income or the skills
    • Ongoing engagement (over multiple semesters, not just one and done or one evening each semester)
    • It provides some benefit to you–learning a new skill, networking, improving academics, or even a health or social benefit

What kind of RSOs are “best” for pre-law students?

There is no one magical RSO that will guarantee your admission to law school. Think about how many different kinds of law there are–from environmental to corporate to healthcare. Those lawyers have different skills, interests, and backgrounds, and that’s okay. With that in mind, here are some considerations…and keep in mind that these are only suggestions.

A reasonable approach to student activities is: One professional, academic, or volunteering organization and one “fun” organization. (Add more if and when you have time and interest).

Professional/Academic organizations include: Professional, networking, or skills-based clubs and fraternities, clubs within your major, honor societies (if you’re actually involved and not just inducted and done).

Pre-law organizations can be a great way to meet other pre-law students (with whom you can prep for the LSAT and commiserate), network with the legal community, and explore the profession. There are many, from the Pre-Law Club, Pre-Law Honors Society, Minority Association of Future Attorneys, Illinois Trial Team, and many others. (Visit this website to explore all RSOs at Illinois.)

Social organizations can add fun and help you build community and look like a well-rounded student. Illinois has countless options including Greek life and clubs for all sorts of fun hobbies from music to skiing.

Volunteering is also a great way to network, build community, and explore a particular topic or population. It shows a law school that you are a concerned citizen willing to contribute your time to important causes. As lawyers we are expected to contribute pro bono (free) legal services to people or causes in need, so law schools like to see that you are already someone who understands the importance of helping.

Volunteering is especially helpful to prepare for a career in a particular legal area. For example, if you think you’re interested in environmental law, join an environmental organization. If you think you’re interested in family law, volunteer with children.

Do I have to be a member of any certain RSO in order to be a successful law school applicant? 

NO. Law schools are not looking for cookie cutter applicants who all have the same resume and experiences. Take advantage of this by pursuing RSOs that actually interest you! Whether you are interested in the environment, animals, immigration, or entrepreneurship, pursue your interests.