If you’ve decided that your interest in law or political science would offer a strong hook for your college applications, it is crucial that you not only pursue opportunities available to you at your school but also extra learning or pre-professional experiences outside of school. Because gaining experience in these fields as a high school student can be particularly challenging, each activity and accomplishment you earn will particularly impress colleges!
High schools typically offer academic clubs that expose students to diplomacy, governance and public speaking fundamentals through regional, national and international events. These are some of the most accessible ways to learn and get hands-on experience in fields like law, international affairs, and public policy.
6 ideal clubs for students interested in law and politics:
Though the club will vary by school, students typically gather weekly to discuss and debate current issues relevant to politics and economics.
Competitions mimic the exact courtroom procedures used in real-life trials. Students can either participate as lawyers or as witnesses in mock cases.
Created for students who would like to experience mock UN General Assembly and various subcommittee sessions as ambassadors who debate controversial topics relevant to world affairs.
This competition focuses on domestic policy issues through a simulated session of the United States Congress.
Elected by their peers, select students help run the school, liaise with administration and work to find solutions to address specific issues faced by the student body.
A team of students gather to debate competition styles practiced around the world, including (but not limited to!) extemporaneous speaking, policy debate or public forum.
Keep in mind that club offerings and competition formats will vary by school! If you’re unsure which clubs are offered at your high school, you can likely obtain a list of the clubs from your school’s counseling or student life office.
If you do not see a club related to law, international relations, or politics, you might have the ability to create one yourself! Make sure to follow your high school’s protocol for creating one— some high schools will ask you to create a club proposal while others require a certain amount of student signatures to demonstrate that there is interest in the club you want to start. If you’re interested in founding a club at your school, check out our guide to starting a club here.
Start a Blog or Podcast
Starting a blog or podcast can be a great way to demonstrate intellectual curiosity, document your journey of learning about a specialized field, and share what you know with others. Checking out existing podcasts and blogs can help spark ideas of your own! Law podcasts for popular audiences and aspiring lawyers often trend in one of two directions–educational and analytical or career-oriented. Some popular podcasts include:
While listing involvement in clubs on your college application is great, having a breadth of activities on your application related to your hook will certainly catch the eyes of admissions officers.
Completing an internship is an excellent way to show that you are genuinely interested in this field! Securing an internship will showcase your ability to succeed in a professional environment and allow you to develop skills around interpersonal communication, professionalism, and self-determination. It’s crucial to know where to look for a political science or legal internship. Here are several internship programs to consider:
This program allows students to explore federal careers through part-time or full-time work.
Many DA offices offer volunteer internship opportunities to high school students. You can contact your jurisdiction’s DA office to ask about internship opportunities.
Two students are selected from each state to “gain an in-depth view of the Senate and the federal government overall as well as a deeper understanding of the interrelationship of the legislative, judicial and executive branches.”
“Senate pages come from all 50 states. Still appointed and sponsored by a senator, they must be high school juniors, at least sixteen years old, and attend school. Senate page duties consist primarily of delivery of correspondence and legislative material within the Congressional complex. Other duties include preparing the chamber for Senate sessions, and carrying bills and amendments to the desk. Pages attend classes in the early morning at the United States Senate Page School, a program fully accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.”
As a high school student, it’s not uncommon to have minimal work experience or limited connections in these fields. Start your internship research process by checking out local companies and organizations, as they won’t require much travel and are more likely to hire locally. For the summer, extend your research to regional or national companies that often open their students who don’t have to balance work with classes during the break.
Once you’ve conducted your research, you may be forced to “cold apply” to companies you are interested in to sell yourself as a potential intern. You should cast a wide net by sending out many cold emails and applications, keeping track of your correspondences and any application deadlines for those internships along the way. If you are unsure about how to draft a cold email for a legal or political internship, here is an example you can reference:
Subject: Unpaid Intern – Summer 2022
Dear Mr./Ms./Mrs. X,
My name is Daniel Lopez, and I am currently a junior at Daytona Beach High School. I will be graduating high school next year and hope to study politics in college.
As a member of my high school’s Law Club, I often take on the role of counsel in mock trial cases. This experience has allowed me to learn the fundamentals of litigation and writing case briefs, further reinforcing my interest in pursuing law as a career.
I am looking for a summer internship opportunity and am wondering if you are in need of a summer intern? I would be glad to bring my passion for legal research to your office and support your team in any way I can.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this email. If a summer internship would be a possibility, please do not hesitate to contact me at 123-456-7890, or [email protected]. I am available to talk Monday through Friday, anytime after 3:00 p.m. I hope to hear from you soon.
*Keep in mind that while you can reference this example throughout your outreach process, your outreach emails will be most successful if you personalize them to your own interests and search, so it’s best to write your email from scratch!
A degree in political science and government or a postgraduate law degree offers graduates a plethora of career options.
As such, lawyers or public servants typically specialize in a specific subject area they are most passionate about once they graduate. You can get a head start by finding specific domains within the legal world, such as immigration, criminal justice, international relations, or voting rights, and determining ways you can get involved. For example, if you care a lot about the environment, gaining conservation experience would help lay an excellent foundation for a career as an environmental lawyer. If you feel strongly about politics, finding internship opportunities for a political campaign or nonprofit advocacy group would help you learn about the issues society faces and potentially inspire your career as a legislator or ACLU advocate.
No matter what kind of lawyer you choose to be, you need to be mentally prepared to complete all of the schooling required to earn your law degree (you should expect to be in school for seven years after graduating high school, four years in college, and three years in law school). Becoming a lawyer is not a quick or easy process, so it’s important to be confident in your intention to make a difference in your specific cause area of interest through the legal system!
There is no shortage of contests for pre-law and political science majors. Earning an award from a national-level contest will add a unique flair to your college application. Here are a few of the most popular contests currently available to high school students:
3 Popular Legal Competitions for High School Students
Case Study of a Past Command Student
Growing up in a family of lawyers, Julia* felt confident that law was the right path for her to make a difference in society. Taking advantage of the resources available to her as a student in a major metropolitan area, Julia attended law-related classes offered at a university during the academic year and joined her high school’s mock trial team, one of the best in the state. Her aptitude for mock trial and organizational skills helped her become co-captain as a junior, and under her leadership, the team continued its record of success in regional and state competitions. Seeking to share her passion for mock trial with younger students, Julia developed a passion project through which she founded a mock trial after-school program at five local middle schools, inviting over seventy students to four mock trial competitions over the course of her junior and senior years.
Julia also earned several individual awards. She attended two pre-college programs in law and policy over summers and interned with a humanitarian aid nonprofit the summer before senior year. The experience led her to decide that she ultimately wanted to pursue immigration law. With nearly perfect grades at a competitive high school and steady, though relatively less intense, involvement in a few other extracurriculars she loved, Julia was admitted early to her top-choice school, Stanford University.
*Name and details changed to comparable alternatives for anonymity