In one of my first blog posts I mentioned that I was going through the law school admissions process this past fall. Good news – I made it to the other side, and I will be attending New York Law School this year!! I’m really excited, and in response to a lot of questions I’ve received about the process and how to go about it, I would like to spread some words of wisdom to the young hopefuls who are looking to do the same.
For starters, if you are interested in learning more about the process from the side of applications, personal statements, interviews, etc., visit your school’s Pre-Law advising department or check out my advisor’s website: Ann Levine. I call this post “The Fine Print” because the advice I want to share has nothing to do with your application or the “normal stuff” you’ll find on blogs or prep test sites – the law school application process is grueling, challenging, and sometimes life-sucking, but there is a lot of inward work you can do to keep yourself on the right path. The most valuable lessons I learned had much more to do with how I kept myself mentally in-check throughout the process.
- Understand your motivations and stick by them.
You are going to apply to law school for a reason, and your story is yours alone. Everyone comes to this point from a very different perspective, whether they are extremely competitive, LSAT brainiacs, people who are just going for a job, or even those who are doing it because they can. Each applicant has their own path, and that includes you. As someone who is coming from an Advertising background and hopes to work in entertainment, I received some “interesting” thoughts here and there. I’m certainly not the average public service kid or secret service extraordinaire. But my passion for the law is indestructible and my journey to law school cannot be compared to someone else’s. It’s your story and no one is telling you how to write it. And you know yourself better than anyone else.
2. Be very attentive to advice and master the nod and “okay.”
If there is ONE PIECE of advice I have given to peers the most, it is to always be careful with who is giving you advice. While it is important and beneficial to take advice from many kinds of sources (professors, lawyers, advisors, peers, etc.) and to know what you are getting yourself into, you have to understand that some people are going to know you more than others. You’ll have the gut feeling when you know that you need to be listening to someone. More often than not, the people with whom I consulted were VERY passionate about their opinions on law school, both good and bad. Everyone has a different perspective, and they are going to want to tell you what you should be doing.
In my experience, this meant that I trusted opinions with Ann (link above), my parents, one or two law school/attorney friends, a professional colleague, and maybe two teachers. THAT’S IT. I chose this “committee” because they knew who I was, they understood my perspective, and they did their best to give me fair advice based on their own experiences and what they have learned from others. This choice will be your own, but you really need to learn to put the blinders on. If you’re like me, who loves doing research and making calculated decisions (hey, I’m a future attorney), you’re going to want to take it all in to make an educated choice. Mark my words, this will make you crazy and super frustrated when you don’t agree with someone or feel like you’re not being heard. In short, humans are humans. Find the right ones. When in doubt, be nice, nod, and say “okay.”
3. Just keep swimming (LSAT prepping).
Whether you study a month in advance or take eight months to do it (*raises hand*), the LSAT is going to be tough for most people out there. But when you feel like you just don’t want to do it or you’re burned out – KEEP GOING. One of the best pieces of wisdom I received early on was that the LSAT is really hard but it is so rewarding when it’s over. She was right. Keep this in mind when you are really angry/upset/worried etc. The LSAT is the LSAT. You can’t change it. The best thing you can do is embrace it and push forward. That being said, when you’re sick of applications, grab a Starbucks and take a music break to your favorite songs – works every time.
4. Always go with your gut.
You know your instincts, let’s not ignore them. My decision to go to NYLS was entirely based on gut when it came down to making The Decision. My choice to not apply to certain schools was also based on gut – For example, Los Angeles has some really amazing entertainment programs, but I know that LA is not the place for me right now. I probably could have had a great experience working with music or film companies in my backyard, but New York was calling. I couldn’t deny it, and I stuck with this mentality throughout the entire process. When the LSAT wasn’t so much of a walk in the park, my gut told me not to cancel. When I was studying for the LSAT across from NYLS last summer, something told me that this would be it. IT HAPPENS. And I have always found that going against my gut doesn’t always end well. Listen to it because it knows you best!
5. If law school is right for you, it will happen. Don’t worry.
There was a time in the law school process when I was really afraid of my scores and what that would mean for me as an applicant. I had worked really hard throughout undergrad, but I felt somewhat “lesser than” compared to some of the other people around me who were very focused on the high scores and GPA factors. Don’t get me wrong, these are the most important parts of the application, but this idea shouldn’t distract you from pursuing your dream and feeling great about it. I have seen too many peers judge themselves and become so focused on these parts of the application that I feel like they lose sight of what is most important and why they are doing it. I know I lost that passion for a minute somewhere in August when I was knee-deep in my LSAT prep. I was so worried about the score that I soon found my stress overcame my excitement.
Even though the test isn’t fun and being stressed out about the unknown is normal, you should never forget why you are doing this. If you are meant to go to law school, it will happen in the way it needs to happen. Maybe it’s not today, maybe it’s not for four years – But if it’s right and you do what you can to set yourself up to where you want to be, the cards will fall. When you freak out, stop the comparisons, stop the calculations. Take a moment and remember why you are there. What made you excited about opening an LSAT book for the first time? What made you think that being the next Elle Woods would be pretty awesome? Your emotions and uncertainties are all valid, you just need to learn how to manage them and take them as they come.
Any other questions? You can always ask. Thank you again to all of the family, friends, and mentors who helped me get to this point. You’re my committee and MVPs.