Mixing majors and minors to great success
Sarah Sweeney knew as soon as she visited campus that Bradley University was right for her. After discovering Bradley through Instagram and talking with a few students, she felt an instant connection to the tight-knit community that would support her journey toward becoming a lawyer.
“Everyone obviously comes in with their own viewpoint,” Sweeney said, speaking to the sense of community that drew her to the university. “But, because Bradley is all about facilitating open discussion and hearing everybody else's opinions, it really allows you to figure out what you think and what you personally believe, beyond what you've been taught your whole life.”
Breaking from problematic patterns and beliefs is a driving force behind Sweeney’s law-oriented goals. A survivor of childhood trauma and a messy custody battle, she felt from a very young age that she didn’t have a voice. Now, she wants to become a Guardian ad Litem – A representative for children.
“Last year, I did an internship at the juvenile detention center near my house,” Sweeney said. “I worked specifically in the Guardian ad Litem division and I saw how many children are struggling in addictive and abusive homes. I just want to be an advocate for them.”
“As a first-generation low-income student, I didn’t have the resources to apply to law school or navigate the law school process,” Sweeney said. “Bradley University's legal studies program was my lifeline. They helped me prepare for and succeed on the LSAT. The advisors helped me formulate my list of schools, set up meetings with representatives from the schools I wanted to get into, obtain letters of recommendations, and perfect my personal statement.”
On top of a major, three minors and a slew of law school applications, Sweeney works for a program called America Reads, which gives her the opportunity to tutor kids in reading. She was also one of three students selected for the Michael LaHood Internship Program in Washington D.C.
“Essentially I'm going to be responding to constituents, researching laws behind policies and giving tours at the Capitol,” Sweeney said. “It's basically going to allow me the opportunity to see the policy-making behind the scenes.”
Sweeney isn’t the only pre-law student at Bradley pursuing a broad education. With majors in philosophy and English and minors in ethics and political science, Hailey Keeton comes by her passion for divorce law honestly, having grown up a child of divorce in the “really small” town of Sandwich, Ill.
“I have been able to combine all four of these studies into one kind of holistic approach,” Keeton said. “That's the biggest thing I've learned with law school admissions – you want to make yourself seen as well-rounded as possible. To me, these four areas of study really complete the package.”
Part of that package for Keeton includes an internship at Westervelt, Johnson, Nicoll & Keller, a law firm in downtown Peoria where she can interact with a plethora of different people within the legal field.
“It's been a really great experience,” Keeton said. “All the attorneys there, all the legal secretaries and assistants, they have been phenomenal with really taking me in and showing me what this is going to be, because they know this is what I want to do. With Bradley being such a close-knit community, I wouldn't have gotten that if, say, I went to a bigger city like Chicago.”