Guides | Center for Career Development

Employers often spend only 15-30 seconds scanning a resume, so it must work hard to quickly communicate your skills and value. Think of it as a marketing tool that shows that your product (you) meets the needs of your potential customer (the employer).

A resume is a succinct outline of your education, experience, activities, accomplishments and skills as they pertain to your career goals. Effective resumes get noticed because they:

  • Emphasize relevant accomplishments and potential contributions
  • Focus on the skills and requirements of a specific field or position
  • Are concise, well-organized and easy to read 

Need help getting starting? Check out our PDF iconresume guide which includes great advice, worksheets and samples to help you get started or update your existing documents.

A resume is a succinct outline of your education, experience, activities, accomplishments and skills as they pertain to your career goals. 

Learn the PDF icondifferences between a CV and a resume, and how to PDF icondevelop a master resume.   

Most job or internship applications require a cover letter as well as a resume. A well-written cover letter introduces your resume and directs your reader’s attention to specific areas of your background. 

It’s important to personalize your cover letters, and there is more to it than mentioning the organization’s name a few times or quoting the job description. Doing this well means thinking about your target audience and demonstrating the value you can add to your future employer.

Need help getting starting? Check out our PDF iconcover letter guide for advice, worksheets and samples to help you get started or update your existing documents. 

Networking is the act of connecting with others to gather and share information. For some it elicits feelings of discomfort or concern about feeling fake, but it shouldn’t if you’re doing it the right way. 

PDF iconThis guide covers how to network authentically and effectively. 

An elevator pitch is a brief way of introducing yourself, getting across a key point or two, and making a connection with someone. Elevator pitches are handy to have in mind any time you’re at an event where you might meet prospective job or networking connections. 

PDF iconLearn how to put your elevator pitch together

If your summer plans are disrupted or unclear for any reason, this guide will help you to explore possible alternatives beyond traditional internships or study abroad programs and create your own summer experiences. 

Whether you are making decisions about your major, post-undergraduate education or career, alumni are often eager to offer advice and referrals.  

There will be plenty of opportunities to meet alumni during your time at Princeton, and you can use TigerNet and LinkedIn to find others online.

  • TigerNet: Princeton’s official online community, TigerNet is a searchable directory featuring alumni contact information. Paired with the LinkedIn alumni search tool, it’s an effective way to find contact information for alumni and contact them for advice and to learn about their career paths.  

  • LinkedIn alumni search tool: Available for anyone with a LinkedIn account, this tool helps you discover where alumni work and their paths after Princeton.

Contacting alumni

Start with a email. Since most professionals are quite busy, email is often the preferred mode for initial contact.

Always indicate how you obtained the individual’s information. Mention your interest in learning about their experience, profession or organization. In your subject, include how you were referred. In the body, ask if they have time to speak to you by email, phone or in person if that is an option.

Provide a brief overview of your background so that a new contact can best tailor their advice. Do not attach your resume unless you are asked for it.

Preparing for the conversation

Do not ask for a job or internship. While connections may lead to job and internship opportunities, your primary goal should be to gather information and obtain advice, while making a positive impression.

Review our information interview section of this page for more details on how to prepare.

Follow up

Be sure to follow up with a thank you email within 24 hours, mentioning at least one piece of advice they gave you and how you will pursue their recommendations further.

You may not always get the response you are looking for, or in some cases you may not get a response. Don’t take it personally, the timing just may not work out. Focus on the tens of thousands of other Tigers out there!

An informational interview is an informal conversation with the goal of gathering information and advice, not applying for a job or internship. They are most helpful for learning about career paths and building your network. Informational interviews do not typically lead to immediate job opportunities, but do help you develop connections that can prove valuable later.

Alumni are great sources for informational interviews. For tips on how to contact alumni, read our Connecting with Alumni resource on this page.

Ask questions

  • Do your research and develop tailored questions based on prior research of the individual and organization.
  • Ask about the individual’s career path and impressions of the field.
  • Be specific; do not ask about things that can be easily gleaned on a website.
  • Even if you are looking for a job or internship, it is not appropriate to ask for one during an informational interview.

Obtain advice and referrals

  • Based on the individual’s knowledge and experience, ask what they think your next steps should be.
  • Ask if there are other individuals or organizations they feel you should contact and whether you may state that you were referred by them.

Make a lasting impression

  • Always be professional and courteous.
  • Bring your resume, or have one ready to share by email if you are talking by phone. This helps your new contact understand your experience level and tailor their advice.
  • Follow up with a thank-you email. This should be sent within 24 hours. Mention at least one piece of advice they gave you and how you will pursue their recommendations further.
  • Provide updates on your progress from time to time to maintain a connection.

Sample questions

  • How did you choose this career field?
  • What has been your career path?
  • What is the typical career path for someone starting in this field?
  • How has the field changed since you started?
  • Who are the leading organizations in the field?
  • How does your organization compare with its competitors?
  • If you were back in college and had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?
  • What skills, personal qualities or abilities are important to being successful in this field or job?
  • What is your opinion of my background and resume?
  • Do you see any problem areas or weaknesses?
  • What next steps would you recommend with regard to my (major or career) search?
  • Is there anyone else you recommend that I speak with?

Before the event

Learn about the attendees

HireTiger Career Fairs and Meetups present a great deal of opportunity in a short amount of time, and it’s important to arrive with a plan. Making connections with alumni and employers before you start looking for internships and jobs can help you get your foot in the door. It is also a great way to explore the types of industries and professions that match your skills and interests.

For Career Fairs, you can view the list of employer organizations in the Fair listing in Handshake. In addition to a description of the organization, you can also find what types of positions they are hiring for and other details.

For Meetups, we provide a list in the Handshake event of all alumni and representatives from organizations attending.

Come prepared

Make a list of questions for employers and alumni you plan to approach. Most questions will depend on your own motivations and research, but a few general questions that are helpful include:

  • “Can you tell me more about the projects interns/new employees have worked on in the past?”
  • “What do you love about your work?”
  • If the person is an alum(na), ask how their Princeton experience was helpful in their career and about the work they do.

Develop your introduction

This is a perfect time to use your elevator pitch. State your name, your year in school, concentration or area of interest and a few of your industry-related skills.

Need some pointers on your elevator pitch? Check out our PDF iconguide.

During the event

Be considerate

Don’t stand out in anyone’s memory for the wrong reasons. Make eye contact during conversations, don’t interrupt and thank everyone for their time. If there are other students around, don’t hesitate to invite them into the conversation. Also, be aware of the time. There may be a line of students behind you who are also trying to speak with the same person.

Close the conversation

Thank the person for their time and gather contact information so you can follow up.

Ideally, mention something you learned from them to establish a connection.

After the event

Follow up

There are many ways to follow up on the leads you will acquire at a career fair or a Meetup. If you receive a business card, send an email or call to establish contact. When you follow up, thank the contact for their time and reference something you learned during your conversation or the next steps you plan to make as a result of the interaction.

Funding is available from Princeton-affiliated sources for Princeton students who independently secure unpaid internships, propose special projects or plan to conduct independent research.

SAFE Funding Portal

The Student Activities Funding Engine (SAFE) connects students with university funding for a range of activities on- and off-campus, including internships, summer study abroad, senior thesis research projects or other independent projects.

Additional Princeton Resources

Fellowships for Independent Projects

The following is a sample of awards that require applicants to propose an independent project.

Martin A. Dale ’53 Fellowship: Awarded for an independent project of extraordinary merit that will widen the recipient’s experience of the world and significantly enhance his or her personal growth and intellectual development.

Princeton ReachOut ’56 Fellowship: Open to Princeton seniors who commit to spend their first post-graduation year performing a public interest project. It emphasizes innovative and entrepreneurial projects.

Daniel M. Sachs ’60 Graduating Scholarship: The Scholarship’s core concern is to encourage the development of individuals whose life’s work is likely to benefit the public interest. The Sachs Scholarship at Worcester College, University of Oxford allows the Sachs Scholar to read for any appropriate degree from the University of Oxford. The Sachs Global Scholarship enables study at any foreign institution or the pursuit of an independent program of the Scholar’s own devising.

Funding for International Projects

The Office of International Programs maintains information on the range of fellowships and awards.

Academic Departments

Some academic departments have funding available for students who do work related to their concentration or to that field of study. Please check with each department for current information.

What to consider

When considering the study and practice of law, examine the key skills law students and attorneys excel in and use daily: analytical reasoning, research, writing, communication, and critical analysis. Begin by researching your own skills and strengths and then investigate the real work of attorneys across legal fields.

Explore the field

Seek real-world insight. Use the Alumni Careers Network to connect with alumni in the profession to understand what it’s like to practice law.

Examine law schools and programs

There are a number of factors to consider when researching schools and deciding where to apply and matriculate.

Common law school selection criteria

  • Realistic appraisal of your chances of admission
  • Cost and merit scholarships
  • Prestige and reputation
  • Location, size and access to faculty
  • Specialty programs, centers and clinics
  • Employment opportunities
  • Diversity of the student body and faculty

What Law Schools Want

In determining who will be admitted, law school admissions committees try to predict how successful a candidate will be academically and professionally. While your GPA and Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) scores are of primary importance, admission committees look at your application as a whole, including your academic plan, recommendations, personal statement, resume, research, leadership, community service, and employment.

Law School Information Sources

  • LSAC: Visit the Law School Admission Council website for the Official Guide to ABA-approved Law Schools. A print copy is available in the Center for Career Development for reference.
  • LSAC Forums: Visit a forum attended by more than 150 law schools from around the country. See the LSAC website for up-to-date information.
  • Law schools: Research individual law school websites.
  • Campus visitors: Speak with the law school admissions deans and representatives who visit campus each fall, or meet them at the Graduate and Professional School Fair.
  • Alumni conversations: Contact alumni who have volunteered to provide career advising through the TigerNet Directory. Watch for alumni panel presentations on campus.
  • School visits: As you narrow your options, visit schools, speak to students or sit in on classes.

The Law School Admissions Test (LSAT)

Law school admissions is rolling, which means applications are accepted from September until early or late in the spring depending on the specific school. Taking the LSAT early in the process provides you with the option to apply early decision or early in the process so you can take advantage of rolling admissions.

The LSAT is offered four times each year: February, June, September (or early October), and December.

  • June: Ideally, the best time to take the LSAT is the June preceding your application. This allows you to assess your chances of admission and retake the test, if needed. You can take advantage of early admission applications and benefit from the rolling admission process.
  • Late September/early October: This is the most common time for applicants to take the test.   
  • December: This test is released after the first of the year, which extends the application process into January. This test may be too late to qualify for early admission applications. Please check each law school’s deadlines on its website. 
  • February: If you are applying for admission during the testing year, this exam is not accepted by all law schools. Please review each law school’s deadlines on its website.

Once you have determined you will take a specific test, you should register on the LSAC website for your desired location because testing locations may become full.

Writing your personal statement

The personal statement provides law school admission committees with the opportunity to understand your unique background and interests in law. The statement is a significant part of the application.

What should I write about?

In a word—you. First, reflect upon why you are applying to law school. What intrigues you about law? about practicing law? Where did your interest in law originate? What makes you a unique candidate for law school? The most effective personal statements contain stories that illustrate a candidate’s strengths and skills as they relate to the study and practice of law. The personal statement does more than describe why someone is interested in law school; it provides the applicant’s thoughtful, vivid, and engaging story.

Sample personal statement topics

You may be sharing academic, research, leadership, athletics, community service, or employment experiences in your personal statement, or a combination of several experiences. Examples of topics include the following:

  • A compelling experience that challenged you, resulting in intellectual or emotional growth
  • An opportunity in which you demonstrated your creative thinking or analytical skills to solve a problem
  • An example of the leadership and initiative you displayed to advocate for others or yourself

Your statement should:

  • Speak for you in lieu of an interview with an admission officer. Most law schools do not offer interviews.
  • Be free of grammatical errors.
  • Be clear and concise.
  • Demonstrate your ability to craft an argument—an important skill in law school. Convey your ideas creatively and supply evidence and accomplishments.
  • Follow the application instructions. The typical length is two or three pages.

Letters of Recommendation

  • Number of letters: Most law schools require two letters of recommendation, and some accept up to four letters.
  • Recommenders: Ask faculty, staff members, or employers who know your work well and can write a positive recommendation to be your recommenders. Admission committees prefer faculty members who can realistically assess your academic work and potential. Law schools advise applicants to not select recommenders based on their titles, but rather based on their knowledge about the applicants.
  • Content: Recommendation letters should provide highly detailed, specific information about an applicant that focuses on intellectual ability, research and writing skills, analytical skills and capability, work ethic, character, motivation, leadership potential, ability to work with others, and professionalism.
  • Process: You should ask recommenders early in the process and provide several weeks for them to complete your letters. Arrange to meet with a potential recommender in person to discuss your interest in law and ask him or her to be a recommender. Then provide your recommender with updated information about yourself—your background, interest in law, aspirations, and any other relevant information.
  • Acquisition: Recommendation letters can be acquired early and do not need to be written in the year that you apply to law school. Letters may be acquired before leaving campus and can be kept on file.

Timeline for Applying to Law School

First year

  • Do as well as you can in your courses. If you apply to law school during the fall semester of your senior year, schools only have access to your first three years of grades.

Sophomore year

  • Take courses that will sharpen your writing and analytical skills. Both are very important for law school and the legal profession. Investigate law-related courses at Princeton University that may interest and challenge you, and take a variety of courses.
  • It’s never too early to begin preparing for the LSAT. The Law School Admission Council (LSAC) has a free LSAT exam available on its website, complete with actual test instructions. LSAC’s online tool LSAT ItemWise will familiarize you with the three question types (logical reasoning, analytical reasoning, and reading comprehension) by providing you with questions, tracking your answers, and then explaining the rationale.
  • Understand and reflect on your unique interests and skills. Attend the Design Your Future workshop to begin to understand your strengths and skills so you can make thoughtful decisions about your next academic, professional, and leadership steps. Work on developing your resume as a planning tool to understand what you have accomplished and what you want to accomplish.

Junior year

  • Begin to assess your financial needs and the availability of financial aid. Consider how you will pay for law school. Will you require loans? Will you investigate schools that may award you merit scholarships? Will you live at home, if possible, to mitigate costs? What is the compensation range in your intended legal area?
  • Give serious consideration to LSAT timing. Taking the test early in the process will allow you to take advantage of rolling admissions.
  • Plan for the cost of applying to law school: Review the LSAC website for the costs associated with taking the LSAT and applying to law school. Develop a budget to cover these costs.  
  • After your spring semester grades have been submitted to the registrar, have your transcript sent to LSAC. You must submit to the registrar’s office your CAS bar-coded transcript request form. For coursework completed outside of Princeton University, you should submit a transcript to LSAC. While LSAC may not require it, many law schools will require that you submit all college- and graduate-level coursework. Some study abroad transcripts can take significantly longer for LSAC to obtain.
  • Target schools. Based on your GPA and LSAT score (actual or diagnostic), begin to research law schools that fall into your scoring ranges where you would be considered a very competitive, competitive, or reach applicant. Utilize the LSAC website’s “UGPA and LSAT Score Search” feature to understand the 25th-75th percentile range for the undergraduate grade-point average (UGPA) and LSAT score.
  • Develop your professional profile. Using your strengths and skills, consider your narrative. How have you developed your skills at Princeton and before you arrived on campus? Why have you selected your specific interests, for courses, research subjects, extracurricular, and leadership? Understand and consider the major themes in your life. Start developing your professional profile by updating your resume and writing your LinkedIn profile.

Senior year

  • Take advantage of rolling admissions. Complete your application to the best of your ability as early as possible.
  • Write thank you letters. Send a personalized, handwritten thank you card to each recommender.
  • Visit law schools and gain an understanding of the differences in culture and opportunities available. Meet with an admission officer, sit in on a class, talk to a faculty member, and ask current students questions about their experience. The admission office may connect you with current students who are Princeton alumni as well as law school alumni and faculty in your area of interest.
  • Continue to develop your professional profile and a network of legal professionals. Utilize the Alumni Careers Network to investigate your interest in law and develop a network.
  • Obtain financial aid materials early and prioritize processing them. Complete the FAFSA even if you may not require loans. Many law schools only award specific merit scholarships to students who have completed the FAFSA. Be attentive to each law school’s specific financial aid process. Contact that office and ask relevant questions when necessary.

Financial aid sources

Law school websites

Begin with a law school’s financial aid section on its website. Financial aid regulations change annually and law school financial aid offices are the most up-to-date sources of information. Substantial differences exist between financial aid for college and law school.

Scholarships, grants, loans, and work-study

Scholarships and grants are awards based on need, merit, or a combination that do not require repayment. Many law schools award substantial merit scholarships. These may require students to maintain a specific GPA in law school.

Some schools award merit scholarships when a student is admitted, while others my offer merit-based awards in March or April. Some schools require students to complete the FAFSA to be considered for awards. Loans require repayment.

If you are considering taking out a loan, plan to meet with a representative from the law school’s financial aid office to determine the projected costs of repayment.

If you are considering public service, some law schools offer the Loan Repayment Assistance Program for graduates who will work in public service. The federal government administers the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, allowing law graduates to forgive the remaining balance of their direct loans after making qualified payments if they work full-time for a qualifying employer.

While in law school, the Federal Work-Study Program may be an option to assist with some costs. Research fellowships may be available to assist with costs and provide some tuition remission.

Considering graduate or professional school? PDF iconThis guide will help you think through your motivations and prepare you for the application process. 

A virtual or remote internship is a unique opportunity to work without visiting a physical office. Virtual internships require increased planning and consideration by both the intern and supervisor, but they can still be a great way to gain skills and make connections. 

Learn how to PDF iconexcel in your virtual internship experience

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