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Ms. Pre-JD: Unsolicited Advice from an Undergrad

Welcome to 2017! Even though January 1st isn’t inherently more meaningful than any other day of the year, I think it’s useful to use the turn of the year as a time of reflection on our past goals and preparation for our new, or continuing, ones.

I figured that to start off the year right, I would offer some advice that you didn’t want (or, most likely, need). I’d like to think that, by again not fulfilling my new year’s resolutions, I have once and for all learned the importance of committing to my goals. This probably isn’t true, and come December, I’ll be providing the same advice. Regardless, I’ll share in the hopes that someone else will gain, even if I don’t.

  1. Don’t lose yourself and your interests in the process. I believe that every time you use your career as an excuse to stop doing something you love, you become more resentful towards your work. I am a computer science major who wants to go to law school, and with every bad grade (ie. literally every five seconds), I proclaim that I’m going to switch my major because I need a good GPA to get into law school. It took me a few months to (slightly shamefully) realize that the main reason I wanted to switch majors was because computer science was hard. I’m trying to reform my attitude now so that law school doesn’t become the reason I use to stop developing my interests.
  2. Focus on the now, and the then will come. The bad grades I mentioned earlier? And the worry about getting into law school? I’m trying to avoid worrying about those things. My goal is to keep my attention on short term goals that I can actually accomplish (study four extra hours for an upcoming exam, for example), and then let these short term successes inform my long term ones. I’d argue that this is true for everything – don’t focus on the top of the mountain, focus on each step.
  3. Keep self-improvement on the schedule. Trying to learn that I have to keep time in the day to worry about myself is proving really tough for me. This past semester, on some days, I was too tired to go to work…which was basically the antithesis of my intent. I was working extra to accomplish extra, not to be out of commission for a whole week. That being said: take ten minutes at night to play a game, or ten minutes after work to watch some videos. It’s shocking the difference that ten minutes can make. I’m still working on committing myself to this one.
  4. If you want something, just go for it. So many people act as their own judge. Here’s the thing: someone else is always judging you. For grades, for law school admissions, for promotions, for everything. So let that barometer be the only judgement, rather than precluding your success by not even trying. This past semester, I applied to something that explicitly was for law school students because I chose to trust that they would know what kind of intern they wanted, and I was called back for an interview. You really never know.

So there. Unsolicited advice from an undergraduate student. Now, I’ll solicit your advice – I want to hear your vision for 2017, and why I should share it. What mistakes do you think that everyone should avoid making in the new year? Have you mastered any of the lessons I mentioned, and if so, how? Let me know in the comments, and have an amazing 2017. I’ll see you all in February.

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Nikki Datta is a second-year at Columbia University in the City of New York. She serves as the executive editor of the Columbia Undergraduate Law Review and was an intern at Lambda Legal's New York City office during the Fall semester. She is also the founder and President of Columbia University Women in Law and Politics (cuwilp.weebly.org).

Connect with Nikki at: www.linkedin.com/in/nikkidatta

2 Comments

coloharp

I am not in undergrad. However, these lessons really speak to my current situation. Earlier this evening I mastered lesson number four. I am twenty-eight years old, and after being out of the classroom for quite sometime I’ve decided to go to law school. Today , I received my results from the December LSAT’s. I was very discouraged and frustrated by my score. Yet, after doing my research I’ve decided to keep pushing and going after my dream of becoming a lawyer.

lawyergirl

if you have a passion for the law do not let LSATs stop you! There are over a hundred other nations with vibrant legal systems and great universiities… and many of themdo not worry about LSATs.  When I took LSATs they were the center of my life during my undergraduate pre-law program. WHen I was not working at my job, studying , in class, doing my internship or flirting around with partners, I was in the Kapalan course grinding away at preactice exams. But when I worked in teh United Nations I learned that most nations do not use them. Find a nation you like and think seriously about whether you would enjoy law school there.Many European universities are low cost and student life there has many benefits.

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