Guess what? The LSAT and the GPA really is the only thing that matters. That applies to the non-traditional student as well as it applies to the traditional student. I wish I had studied harder. A few more points and I would have applied to Yale as a non-trad. That was my goal. Instead I am at an awesome law school on a full scholarship with a stipend. Today, many people found their way to my blog as law school hopefuls. That was me one year ago, when I took the December 2007 LSAT, my first and only attempt at the test. So the question is, what would I have wanted to know one year ago about this experience called law school?
It’s not hard. It’s more like a marathon, where running itself is not hard but making it to the finish is. It is rigorous, non-stop immersion into a world where everyone is capable of running just as fast as you. There are no stupid people. There are very few slackers. Most people want to be leading the pack, and most of them are capable of doing it. As a student who is at school on a full scholarship, knowing who the other full scholarship students are, I couldn’t pick us out. Anyone who didn’t know who the top students were coming in would not be able to guess based on anything I’ve seen to date. It’s an amazing group of people.
Being an older student is a challenge. It’s hard to fit in with the younger people. They live in a different world. There’s a lot of drinking. It’s a little clicky. But as far as people comparing it to high school, I would say not. This is nothing like high school. Everyone here is devoted to school and brings it to the table every day. There are no slackers despite the after hours partying.
The Professors are helpful. If you ask, they will help you. This is not about being a gunner – they hate that as much as the students. This is about asking for explanations, asking for assistance with a particular concept, asking someone to proofread your legal memo for you, review of outlines, etc. I have been told directly by a Prof – do not tell your classmates I am doing this. I reward those who are self-motivated and ask. That makes sense to me. I kept my mouth shut and have received valuable input and feedback, particularly on my criminal law outline. That will make my exam much easier than those who didn’t think to ask. I have also received valuable input from 2L and 3L students. Take advantage of their experience to save yourself unnecessary grief.
Scholarships are used by the law schools to draw students in. I would not make my choice based on a $20,000 scholarship. I really wouldn’t. Because it is going to be hard to maintain that. I had multiple offers of scholarships over $20,000 per year. But they did require staying in the top 20% of the class. The scholarship I accepted is a named scholarship, full-tuition, plus a stipend, the opportunity to work as a faculty research assistant, and additional perks. The requirement changed to the top 50%, and in addition, I knew my numbers were sufficient to make me one of the top incoming students. So it is that combination of facts that led me to accept the scholarship. Even with that, I have wondered from time to time just how easy it will be to stay in the top half. The answer is: Not too easy. I need to work hard and work smart, or it won’t happen. I enjoy the challenge. If I was on a $20000 scholarship right now and needed to stay in the top 20% to keep it, I’d be freaking. Only accept it if you can afford to lose it.
Anything else you need to know? Take your summer off. Enjoy it. Relax. There is nothing you can really do to prepare that will give you any advantage when it counts, which is right now. There is nothing I could have done last summer that would help me with my exams right now. And these exams are the only things that count. Literally. The sooner you accept that, the better off you will be. So once you’re accepted to a school and make your choice, go play. Have a good time. Because once school starts, you are going to be busy, with the bulk of your busy-ness beginning in October, picking up intensity in November, and reaching its full power by Thanksgiving. I wish everyone luck with the test and the application process. I hope you get in where you would like to be. For parents out there, I wish you particular luck.