In tackling a graduate program that typically has no set prerequisites, Cornell students looking to earn a J.D. must forge their own path when it comes application time.
On campus, a variety of pre-law student organizations provide students with networking opportunities and a sense of community to supplement the University’s career services.
Lynn-Saskya Toussaint ’20, president of the Black Ivy Pre-Law Society, founded in 2016, sees the role of her organization as creating a “pipeline for diversity and inclusion and addressing the access gap” between people of color and law school.
The organization is made up of students who are underrepresented minorities and aim to go to law school. Black Ivy sets up a variety of programs for these students — most notably the “Advantage Tour,” which takes members to a city to connect them with law schools and firms with the goal of improving their networking skills.
Cornell Latinx Association of Pre-laws is another organization on campus that supports students who are underrepresented minorities.
Cofounded by Melanie Calderon ’20 and Luis Delgadillo ’21, the organization was created in 2019 because its founders observed “a gap between Latino alumni that are now lawyers and pre-law students at Cornell,” according to Calderon.
Calderon believes that the pre-law track can be disorienting for students, because it does not require students to be of a specific major or even take any courses. As a result, Calderon said that underclassmen looking to attend law school “don’t know what to expect.”
Speaking of her own experience with Cornell’s pre-law advisors, Calderon said that while her counselors have “been really helpful,” it still took a while for her “to realize that the resources were there.”
While every college has pre-law advisors, Cornell Career Services also provides a pre-law guide to ease students through the application process, according to the Cornell Career Services website. The process, which many students begin at the start of their senior year, includes writing a personal statement, taking the LSATs and obtaining letters of recommendation.
One of Cornell’s two pre-law fraternities, Kappa Alpha Phi, which was founded on campus 2011, is intended to provide a “sense of community for people who are interested in going to law school,” according to President Ishan Sharma ’20.
The organization’s popularity, and selectiveness, is apparent: Sharma estimated that around 70 to 75 students apply each semester, while the organization has around 50 members across all classes.
“We’re not gonna try to pretend [that] we have the same access to resources as Cornell does in terms of providing and connecting, but I think our niche is that we’re a close knit group of people interested in law,” Sharma said.
Anuli Ononye ’22, who is the vice president of public relations for Kappa Alpha Phi and the social media chair for Black Ivy, spoke about the different resources that both organizations have given her as she prepares for a potential career as a lawyer.
Ononye said that while Kappa Alpha Phi’s six-month education process for new members immersed her in the study of law, she also appreciates her experiences in Black Ivy because “it’s designated for people of color and minorities.”
The diverse groups of people within the organizations are her biggest assets while pursuing pre-law at Cornell, Ononye said. “Cornell doesn’t have an official law school track, so I would say that learning from people in a bunch of different schools in the University has been really helpful.”