When they first enrolled at Hollins, Julie “Jay” Garcia ’26 planned to pursue a career in dentistry. But after taking a first-year seminar on the law, they developed such an interest in the field that they decided the legal profession was their calling.
There was one hitch.
“Applying to law school was going to be a financial hardship for me,” Garcia recalls. They shared their concerns with then-Assistant Professor of Political Science Courtney Chenette, who encouraged them to look into a program sponsored by the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC), a not-for-profit organization whose stated mission is “to advance law and justice by promoting access, equity, and fairness in law school admission and supporting the learning journey from prelaw through practice.”
Focused on supporting future legal professionals from underrepresented communities, the LSAC PLUS Program is a free initiative that offers selected prelaw undergraduate scholars an opportunity to experience what law school is all about and learn about the path to enrollment.
This summer, Garcia participated in a month-long remote PLUS Program hosted by the University of Oregon School of Law. They were part of a cohort of 30 students selected from about 300-400 applicants.
“We took a legal writing course, which was really informative. I learned a lot about how to write legal memos and developed the ability to take a step back and revise my work.”
In a second class on race and the law, Garcia and their cohort “analyzed some important cases involving race. We also read The New Jim Crow, which was fascinating. It helped me look at things from a different perspective that I’ve never considered.”
Garcia says that networking with law school students and alumni and hearing from a justice on the Oregon Supreme Court was invaluable as well. “Learning about their law school experiences and how things turned out for them, it helped me see if the legal field is the right fit for me.” They note that they also continue interacting with students from the cohort through an Instagram group chat. “We’re a diverse group of people and we’re all from different colleges, including UC Berkeley and NYU. And I still stay in contact with our teaching assistants and the program director. We discuss everything from how we’re all doing on the LSAT (Law School Admission Test) practice test to where to find scholarship money.”
Paid for completing the PLUS program, Garcia also got waivers from LSAC that cover six applications to any law school, two LSAT tests, and a year of test preparation. Those benefits, they say, will help ease the financial burden of the law school application process.
“I’d love to see greater awareness about the LSAC PLUS program on our campus,” they add.
Currently researching internships, Garcia is hoping for an opportunity in her hometown in Texas with either a law firm or a circuit court judge. Because of its affordability, nearby Texas Tech University is a possible law school destination after graduating from Hollins. But they are still keeping their options open as to what will be their focus of study (“I’m particularly interested in immigration law because both of my parents are immigrants.”) and where they will practice (“I may end up in Texas, but I like Virginia.”).
Even as their passion for the law has grown, Garcia has remained actively involved in the sciences. Recommended by their high school physics teacher, they serve as a teaching assistant at a pre-engineering summer camp program in Texas for sixth through 10th graders. “The students take physics, they take engineering, and by the end they’re immersed in calculus and linear algebra. It’s really incredible considering how young they are to see them participating in activities that students on the college level are doing.”
Garcia has not yet declared a major, “but I’m thinking between political science and gender and women’s studies.” They are grateful for the input they are getting from Hollins faculty in determining their path forward. “The professors here are so helpful and approachable. I ask a lot of questions about how they ended up where they are, and it’s been great learning about all their experiences. It is definitely informing what I want to do.”