Dear 1L Self,
Hey there. You’re lookin’ good! I bet you’re excited, anxious, nervous and bunch of other emotions for your first year of law school. Good! You’ll feel a lot of different emotions as you go through. To prepare you a little bit for your first year, I thought I’d tell you some things:
- “Be prepared to apply yourself and cry in the process.” This is probably the first thing I would like to tell you as you start out. You know you never truly applied yourself when it came to school–it all came pretty easily to you. But law school is ROUGH. To do well, you have to apply yourself more than you’ve ever had to before. Which leads to…
- “Chica, this is TOTALLY DIFFERENT than undergrad.” By far, the hardest thing you’ll have to overcome in your 1L year is realizing you can’t get away with treating law school like how you treated your undergrad. For your bachelor’s, do you ever remember studying, going to class, or talking to your professors (other than your advisor)? And you still got good grades and good rapport with everyone. Honestly, your first semester of law school will be HARD. Like, you-will-draft-your-withdrawal-letter HARD. The reason it will be so hard, probably, will be more than just the work–it will be you trying to make law school studies fit inside your undergrad-habits-box. You have some BAD habits you developed when it came to school, most of them being the habit to not have to do anything and it all work out peachy-keen for you. That won’t work out so hot for your first semester. Which leads me to…
- “Fashion? Dressing up? Not necessary every day.” Yeah, I know. Kinda disappointing. Kinda relieving. Even though some dressing up or suiting up will be necessary, most of the time it’s perfectly acceptable to go to class in a baseball cap, yoga pants and a sweatshirt. Switch it up though. Don’t go EVERY DAY all gym attire, show that you can clean up nicely.
- “BACKUP BACKUP BACKUP.” Just practical stuff, but WOW will you save yourself some panicked, hopeless cries if you just put all of your class notes on Google Drive or a USB every day after classes.
- “Learn how you ACTUALLY retain information.” You never really had to learn how to apply study skills because, as stated before, you never really had to study before law school. So for your first semester, you’ll probably just do the bare minimum in studying and your grades will reflect it. But you can bring your grades up significantly or start out with them good if you’ll try different methods of studying and actually apply them (final grades aren’t up yet, but your midterm grades were really good so judging from that…). Flash cards, outlining, practice exams, etc…do them all to figure out what works best for you. Then stick with that method!
- “It’s OK to feel like a failure your first year.” For real. THIS. Everyday during your first semester you’ll probably not understand basically ANYTHING and you’ll feel too embarrassed to ask for much help because it will look like everyone else is doing awesome. But if you keep on pressing on, at the beginning of your second semester, something will just CLICK and you’ll be, like, “Oh. THAT’S what this means. THAT’S what they want.” So it’s OK if it’s taking you awhile. There are so many 2 and 3L’s that didn’t feel like they hit their stride until their 2L year. Thank God your lightbulb will likely click on at the beginning of your second semester, but if your 1L year or first semester isn’t jiving well and you feel like you’re just not *getting* it, THAT’S OK TOO. Some people just get law school as soon as they start and for some it just takes longer for them to understand how legal research and writing and case briefings and legal lingo and courts decisions and the procedural histories and how everything can come together and work. If you’re not getting it and your grades reflect that in your first year, don’t give up. You’re not alone. Just keep on pressing on.
- “Learn how to manage stress by learning how to PUT THE WORK AWAY.” We know, when you get stressed, you eat and breakout in nasty cystic acne. Your first semester, you’ll probably be pretty much always eating and always having a breakout because there will always be something for you to read or study and you’ll just feet like you can’t do it all. Your second semester, please exercise way more and learn that when your brain can’t handle anymore information, that it’s OK to just put it away and mindlessly watch Netflix for a few hours. This will help in managing your stress levels–just knowing that all of the reading and writing and briefing and outlining could allllllll be put away and you’re allowed to forget about it all for awhile.
- “You’re really really REALLY capable.” At the end of your first year of law school, when you’re walking out of your last final exam, before you lay down to sleep for a week, you’ll just have this “whoa” realization. That realization is “Whoa. I saw a lot of people drop out of school this year. But I WASN’T one of them. I made it.” It’s a for-real moment of pride and satisfaction in yourself that will make you realize how amazing you are. Relish it.
It goes so fast. It may feel like a long time, bit it ends. And you’ll feel AWESOME. I’m proud of you.
I’m Now A 2L Self