Legally speaking: YSU edition

YSU helps prepare students for top law schools in the country. Photo by Aleksa Radenovic / Jambar Contributor

By Aleksa Radenovic

Law schools like Yale University, Cornell University and Pennsylvania State University are considered prestigious, and are within reach for students earning their undergraduate degrees at Youngstown State University.

YSU is one of the few schools in Ohio offering programs and services that give advantages to students who want to become attorneys.

Students interested in law school need to complete the Law School Admissions Test. The exam consists of three sections: logical reasoning, analytical reasoning and reading comprehension. 

Alan Tomhave, associate dean of Beeghly College of Liberal Arts, Social Sciences & Education, teaches philosophy courses that develop students’ critical thinking skills needed to complete the exam and succeed in law school.

“Philosophy teaches people how to think critically,” Tomhave said. “We actually have a philosophy of law class that talks about different ways to interpret arguments and rules that are seen in law school class rooms.”

Tomhave said if a student wishes to go to law school, the first thing they should do is take a logic course — no matter what their major is, work on earning a high GPA, and become involved in such student associations like Student Government Association, Ethics Bowl or Moot Court. 

“In Ethics Bowl, you really put skills needed to argue a case into action and we push our students to their very best,” Tomhave said. “Our Ethics Bowl students have gone to Yale Law School, Penn [State], OSU, Akron Law School and Cornell.” 

Paul Sracic, director of the Rigelhaupt Pre-Law Center, stated that taking the Moot Court class and participating on the Moot Court team as an undergraduate is helpful to being admitted to law school. This is in part because of the skills necessary to succeed in Moot Court.

“Fortunately, YSU is one of the only state universities in Ohio that has a Moot Court program,” Sracic stated.

Academics play a big part in the admissions process, but law schools also look for people who’ve experienced the legal environment outside of the classroom. 

Cryshanna Jackson Leftwich, professor of politics and international relations, said when a student participates in internships before applying to law schools, they can offer those experiences to the schools they aspire to attend.

“With taking an internship, you are able to offer a more diverse perspective about legal challenges or things that you’ve seen in the courtroom,” Leftwich said.

Leftwich also said YSU has connections with the Court of Common Pleas, Community Legal Aid, Youngstown’s Police Department and the Mayor’s office to provide student opportunities.

“We have had students intern in former Congressman Tim Ryan’s and Bill Johnson’s office,” Leftwich said.

Another important part of the application process is the personal statement essay, and help to write one is available on campus. 

Susan Maruca, adjunct-faculty member, student advisor and an attorney, said a personal statement essay is a tool which helps law school admissions get to know the student on a deeper level, and ultimately provides information that sets applicants apart from others.

“Some law schools will admit about 200 students,” Maruca said. “The personal statement is one way that a student distinguishes themselves to the committee.”

Maruca said that each law school is different and might require specific questions to be answered in the personal statement.

“One thing I tell my students is that it is very important that you do not write only one personal statement for all the law schools,” Maruca said. “You do have to personalize it.”

YSU alumni, Ryan Sherer, said he received full tuition to attend the University of Toledo’s School of Law because of opportunities offered at YSU.

“The biggest bump on my application that made me stand out more was Moot Court,” Sherer said. “If I hadn’t taken Moot Court, I wouldn’t be able to talk about half of the things I can today — especially in law school.”

YSU alumni Ryan Sherer.
Photo courtesy of Ryan Sherer

YSU offers guidance for students interested in law school on its pre-law advisement page.