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Clearing the Bar for Law School

Mary A. Tetro
Mary A. Tetro guides students through the process of applying to law school.

By David Hunt

Why would admissions officials from some of the nation's top law schools, like Duke University, UNC-Chapel Hill, Yale and Washington & Lee, visit NC State to meet with students considering a career in law? It's not just because NC State students are bright and qualified, says Mary A. Tetro, coordinator of the university's Pre-Law Services in the Division of Undergraduate Academic Programs and the Office of Advising Support Information and Services.

"Law schools love NC State because of the diversity of our curricula," she says. "We have such a wide range of degrees from which to choose. They appreciate the breadth of the applicants they get from NC State."

It's no wonder. If you leave NC State with a degree in marine, earth and atmospheric science you're well on your way to a career in environmental law. A degree in engineering could lead you to success as a patent attorney. Although it may seem the undergraduate degree links a candidate to particular field of law, students from NC State have been accepted to law school from every college.

In fact, in the past 10 years, Tetro has helped shepherd hundreds of NC State students through the process of applying to law school and watched as many have gone on to successful careers in a wide range of fields, including corporate, family, criminal, public service and contract law. She brings a diversity of life experience to her role, much of which has helped her develop her skills as an adviser, she says. She has lived overseas, is fluent in Italian, has a wide range of international experience and has worked in academia for 28 years, including 25 years as an academic adviser.

Last year alone she worked with 250 students individually and another 900 in groups. Her role, she says, is to help them through a long and complex process by providing information, advice and important networking opportunities.

What Does It Take To Get Into Law School?

Mary A. Tetro is an expert in guiding students through the process of getting into law school. So what does it take to get into law school? Here are her top tips:

  • Choose a major that you are passionate about. The most important thing you can do to prepare for law school is to be academically successful.
  • Present yourself as a fascinating candidate, one a law school wishes to recruit.
  • Be involved – as much as your schedule allows – in some form of continuous community service. Be a leader of your group.
  • Develop strong relationships with faculty members. It will help you academically and provide you with a resource when you need a letter of recommendation.
  • Prepare extensively for the LSAT. Test scores do matter.
  • Don’t wait till the last minute to write the personal statement that accompanies your law school application.

"I'm not the deciding factor," she says. "I'm the guide. My goal is to help them have the tools at their fingertips to make the right decision for their next move."

Among those tools is the annual Law School Fair – held in the fall – which gives students from NC State and other area schools a chance to meet with admissions staff from dozens of law schools. Tetro also organizes "mock admissions" sessions with a variety of law schools to help students prepare for the admissions process, hosts panels of attorneys to educate students about different fields of law, brings to campus students currently in law school to discuss "What law school is really like," works with the Office of Professional Development and other vendors that sponsors LSAT prep courses and provides an annual forum to review "Issues of Academic Integrity and Misconduct in the Application Process." 

The pre-law services Web site provides detailed information to help students create the package of information they'll need to apply to law school. The site includes a calendar of events, law school resources, and a four-year checklist.

Tetro also serves as adviser to the Pre-Law Students Association, a group that meets monthly to hear speakers, plan community service projects and network.

Her work at NC State has earned Tetro recognition throughout the region and now nationally. She serves as president of the Southern Association of Pre-Law Advisers and was recently named chair-elect of the Pre-Law Advisers National Council for 2009-11. As president of the national council in 2012, Tetro will preside over the organization's national convention.