Legally Bella: Isabella Dee ’23 accepted to Harvard Law School
When recent law and justice graduate Isabella Dee applied to Harvard Law School, she told no one. She thought she might lose $85 for the application fee and 15 minutes for the interview but surprised herself – and everyone who didn’t even know she applied – when she was accepted.
“All my friends call me 'Legally Bella' now, and everybody’s been so funny about that,” Dee said. “Harvard was more of a ‘why not?’ It was never really a reality. Finally, the confirmation email comes in, and it just hits me and I’m like ‘This is so surreal.’ Never even in my wildest dreams did I picture this for myself, which kind of makes it all the more special.”
Dee grew up on a family farm in Aliceville, Alabama, a small town in west Alabama where everyone knows everyone. She graduated high school with 20 other students, then traveled to Auburn University’s bustling campus with more than 30,000 students to start her journey to law school.
After graduating in May and preparing to move to Cambridge, she said all of Aliceville is cheering her on to the next chapter.
“It’s been really sweet seeing how my whole town has kind of shared that excitement with me,” Dee said. “I went back for graduation, because I had a cousin who graduated from my high school, and all my old teachers wanted to talk about it. That was really surreal and sweet, sharing that moment of, ‘I never thought I’d be here. Thanks for building that foundation, and thanks for instilling in me a love of learning.’”
Aliceville has one attorney, who earned a degree in accounting. Dee knew she wanted to attend law school, so she first started in accounting, then changed her major to law and justice for a more direct path to success.
Dee said the faculty and staff in the Department of Political Science and Pre-Law Scholars Program Coordinator Debra Armstrong-Wright supported her goals. Because Auburn University does not host a law school and the College of Liberal Arts offers small class sizes, Dee said all her professors were invested in her success.
“Honestly, coming from the law and justice major and talking to other people who have gone to law school from Auburn, it really works to your advantage,” Dee said. “You have all these professors and staff who are so qualified, and all the law schools are trying to recruit them, but instead they’re here and focusing all their attention on undergrads, as opposed to dividing it between the people in law school and the undergrads.”
At Auburn, Dee served in the Student Government Association (SGA) as director of civic engagement, executive director of schools council and director of outreach programs. She was also a member of the pre-law honor society Pi Lambda Sigma, a CLA student recruiter and involved in Greek life.
Dee also used Career Services resources to find an internship in Washington, D.C. During the summer of her junior year, she interned for the U.S. House of Representatives, the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation. Throughout her senior year, she interned for Auburn’s Davidson, Davidson, Umbach & Forbus.
Dee tailored her on and off-campus involvement to her professional interests, and so she graduated with an impressive resume, but she said she hopes Harvard took note of the passion and care she has for the study of law.
“Maybe I wasn’t in the absolute top of the percentiles in everything, but they can tell I care. I like to think that’s what kind of gave me that second look,” Dee said. “Soft skills were really important to me. Your grades and all the things on your resume kind of get you in the door, but then to me, it was always drilled in my head to make sure that in all of it, you’re still being a good person and still on the right track in that way.”
Dee will spend the next three years at the historic and picturesque Harvard Law School campus, working to earn her Juris Doctor.
She said she’s humbled and excited by the opportunity to attend one of the nation’s most prestigious law schools, and hopes other students invest in the opportunities and community at Auburn that made her successful.
“You’re going to be more invested in the things you care about across the board, and that’s definitely going to translate into your grades,” Dee said. “Find what you’re interested in, but also make sure you’re investing in friendships and the community that Auburn has to offer. The community that I found pushed me, and they made me a better person, and they made me more excited about my future.”
Learn more about law and justice at Auburn at the Department of Political Science website.