‘It’s the dream’: U of T Commerce undergrad set to attend Harvard Law School this fall
In the winter of 2019, when Courtney Jones, 21, learned she’d been accepted into Harvard Law School (HLS), she felt a quiver of excitement at attaining the goal she had set when she was 14 years old. Then came fear. Doubt crept in where confidence once lived, and suddenly Cambridge seemed awfully far from home.
“There is excitement but it’s an excited sort of terror,” Jones says, laughing. “I’ve never left home before.”
What were the chances that a humble kid from Erin, Ontario – a sparsely populated but homey town located one hour north of Toronto – would be accepted within Harvard’s Ivy League halls that produced American presidents, captains of industry and literary giants?
As it turns out, they were excellent.
This fall, Jones will be joining the incoming class of HLS, a place steeped in a tradition of rigorous legal reasoning and analysis that spans back more than two centuries. “I’ve never been afraid of the work but it’s something that I have to prepare for. I’m going to be learning how to be a very responsible advocate for change and people.”
It is a challenge she feels ready to meet head-on, thanks in large part to the ongoing support she has received from her tight-knit family, and community of friends and faculty at University of Toronto Mississauga. “This is an amazing achievement and one that makes us so very proud,” said Manfred Schneider, an associate professor of accounting in the Department of Management at the University of Toronto Mississauga, and a member of the Law Society of Ontario.
Out of several thousands of students that Schneider has taught over the last thirty years as a faculty member at the University of Toronto, Jones is the only student to be accepted into the prestigious school directly out of an undergraduate program. “Courtney has a very sharp analytical mind, and she comes prepared to class and participates in discussions at an extremely high level,” said Schneider.
She is a truly exceptional student, echoed Tanya Kirsch, associate professor of finance and acting director of undergraduate programs at the Department of Management. “Courtney is the only student to have achieved 100 per cent in both the Finance I and Finance II courses in recent history.”
Rising to the occasion
With a major in economics and specialization in finance, Jones thought it would be interesting to pursue this particular academic route because it would add value to her as a lawyer later on. “I always thought it would be really interesting to be an advocate for small businesses and help them grow, expand and develop.”
Although she has yet to begin her studies in law, Jones already espouses the qualities that make a good law student such as a strong work ethic, being detail oriented and also having a public spirit. “I want to go in with my eyes wide open and just be ready to experience as much as I possibly can; there could be something that catches my eye that I’m just fascinated by and love and decide that’s what I want to do,” said Jones.
“I think the important thing is not closing yourself off to those opportunities.”
Jones was able to stay focused on reaching her goal of getting into law school despite intense competition for a spot – the acceptance rate for HLS was at 12.8 per cent last year, which means that out of the 7,578 students that applied, only 968 received offers of admission.
The road to Harvard involved several intricate steps, all of which needed to be completed with near-perfect execution, including an impeccable application package complete with personal statements, essays, academic transcripts, test scores and recommendation letters written by Jones’ professors who knew her well enough to describe her academic, personal, or professional achievements and potential with candor, detail, and objectivity. “Although I didn’t read them, my understanding is that Professor Schneider and Professor Kirsch wrote very nice, candid references for me and I think that is why I got an interview and why I got into the school.”
“I owe them a lot and I am really appreciative of that.”
When Jones walks into Convocation Hall to receive her U of T degree in June, it will be the culmination of many years working toward the goal of realizing her dream. “As long as you’re willing to work for it, follow it through, and just be yourself and believe that you are capable of doing it, I think you can achieve anything you want.”
Update: U of T's top student, Courtney Jones, is this year's recipient of both the John Black Aird Scholarship and a Governor General's Silver Medal.