The June 29, 2006 Wall Street Journal published an insightful column by Sue Shellenbarger that discussed the idealism of recent college grads, tempered by their parents’ concern about their finding “real work”. “Doing Well vs. Doing Good: Parents Struggle With Their New Grads’ Idealism” revealed the story of a recent University of Pennsylvania grad, Rachel Kreinces, who chose two years of Teach for America rather than her parents’ goal of an immediate start to law school.
As a long-time consultant to law school applicants, there is good news for both Ms. Kreinces and her parents in this situation. Top law schools welcome veterans of Teach for America. It is one of the most powerful ways to interest elite law schools in one’s application (along with the Peace Corps). And as demonstrated by Ms. Shellenbarger’s account, the learning experience on the job in Teach for America can be positive and profound, for the graduate and her entire family.
I once had as advisee an ivy league graduate who chose a tough inner city school as his Teach for America job. Despite circumstances so difficult that he found himself in a war not of his choosing with the school’s principal and in trumped-up litigation, he persevered, eventually telling the story in his application to his target law school, an elite institution ranked in the top ten. He was welcomed there and is flourishing, all the stronger because of the real-world experience he earned on the job in Teach for America.
So America’s current generation of idealistic college graduates shouldn’t worry a bit about a period of public service before professional or graduate school. They, their families, their communities, and the nation will all be stronger for such service, and their ability to apply, gain admission, and succeed in elite settings like top law schools will only be enhanced by such work before law school.