University Welcomes New Pre-Law Advisor

Kathryn Fair, Staff Writer

Applying to law school is a long and daunting process. Thankfully, the University has recently introduced a new pre-law advisor to help students plan and prepare to apply to law school or explore careers in the legal field throughout their undergraduate years. Alex Karlesses came to Villanova in December from the Twardowski Career Development Center at West Chester University, where she was the Graduate Assistant. Karlesses is currently completing her Master’s degree in Higher Education Policy and Student Affairs at West Chester University.

“I’m originally from the Delco/Cheso area, so it’s great to be home,” Karlesses said.

The law school application process as a whole can begin up to two years before attending, and pre-law clubs and advising on campus help students understand and prepare for the process as early as freshman year. 

“In the pre-law sector, I typically advise students on the law school application process and timeline, how to go about selecting a school, finding law-adjacent internships and/or advice and resources for LSAT preparation,” Karlesses said. “In addition to pre-law topics, I also offer traditional career counseling as well. So if you need help deciding on a major, finding an internship or practicing for an interview, please feel free to schedule an appointment.”

When asked why she chose to work with Villanova students, Karlesses responded, “I have always admired Villanova’s commitment to excellence, and the resources that are provided for our students. Plus, I happen to be a huge basketball fan.” 

If one has an interest in the legal field but is not interested in attending law school, pre-law advising can also be helpful for exploring careers as a paralegal, legal writer, social worker and many more. 

Karlesses’ gave her biggest piece of advice for undergraduates applying to law school.

“Your application should reflect who YOU are,” she said. “There is not a singular definition of the best law school applicant. Obviously test scores and transcripts are important, but so is your journey along the way. There are many roads that lead to law school, so find an area of study that you are truly passionate about and will be able to speak on your intellectual development.

“If you find internships, they do not necessarily need to be directly related to the law. However, make sure that you do not take them for the sake of having one. The point of your application is to be intentional, so that if someone pointed to an experience on your resume, or a class that you have taken within your major, you can truly speak to what you learned and how you grew from it as a result.”

Karlesses is eager to help students throughout their journey and is passionate about her job. 

“For me, it is about making career counseling more than just about finding a job,” she said. “In my opinion, your undergraduate years are a time of exploration and discovering how your identity coincides with your goals for the future. So, in our appointments, I like to ask students about the bigger picture, even though it might seem scary and intimidating.”

Karlesses is introducing the concept of “value-based and appreciative advising” to the University, the topic of her master’s thesis at West Chester University.

“Picture this,” she said. “If you come into my office and I simply give you a one-dimensional list of things to do in order to be ‘successful’ post-graduation, then I have only offered one definition of what success looks like. I have just told you what you should do with your future without really considering what you have to say about it. It’s like if you came into a doctor’s office with stomach pains. Sure, the doctor can prescribe a one-off medication that worked on their last patient, but there could be other factors contributing to your stomach pains that they have not considered. So, they ask follow-up questions and rely on your input as well as their expertise in order to give you the best care. I like to think of advising in the career space in the same manner.

“Appreciative advising focuses on the collaborative nature of advisor and student, as well as considers a student’s own personal development and identity to help optimize and contribute towards their fulfillment. That’s what I love the most. Thinking of creative and exciting ways to get students excited about the next phase of their life.” 

Pre-law advising sessions range from 15 minutes to an hour and cover quick questions about law school or the legal field, career exploration and preparation and in-depth advising regarding the law school application process. Appointments are made via Handshake, and Karlesses offers both in-person and virtual appointments.

“Log on today—I look forward to meeting you,” she said.