By Shirlene Armstrong • February 28, 2018•Writers in Residence
One of the hardest decisions in my life was also one of my easiest: deciding to go to law school. I know, this seems paradoxical but it is the reality that I faced and lived through. This decision was easy because, as I talked about in last month’s edition, I have always wanted to go to law school. I wanted to pursue my dreams and initiate positive change in the world by becoming a lawyer. However, it still was a difficult decision for me.
Should I go? Will I be successful? Can I afford it? These were the questions that haunted me as I deliberated about my future. I had always been confident in my abilities, but I was constantly advised that law school was extremely difficult (it is) and that it was hard to do well. Further, even if I did go, I may not get a job because the job market was not great. Not only that, law school is extremely expensive. I was nervous about my future but knew that this was my calling in life. I had been preparing for law school for as long as I could remember.
High school was the first opportunity I had real exposure to legal education. I had always worked hard in order to excel in class and earn good grades. I also took on numerous activities, leadership roles, and took advanced courses. Additionally, I was able to choose electives that related to law. My first class was a business law class, and although it just gave an overview of the law, I was hooked. Class would fly by, and I would be left craving more.
I was really excited to go to college. I would have the freedom to choose classes I wanted to take while also learning more challenging material. I traveled 3 hours (approximately 180 miles) from my hometown to go to Grand Valley State University (GVSU) on the west side of Michigan. Along with the AP classes I took in high school, and I was admitted into the Frederik Meijer Honors College, so I had a lot of flexibility in my schedule. Unfortunately, GVSU removed their pre-law program the year I entered, so I had to figure out what I wanted to focus on. GVSU prides itself on being an interdisciplinary liberal arts university, so many of the programs across numerous other disciplines. I decided on the major of Political Science and had numerous majors and minors throughout my undergraduate education but decided to take an International Relations minor to broaden my understanding. Fortunately my minor and major corroborated with one another, so I was able to take numerous law-related courses. Each class grew my desire to learn more about the law and increased my thirst for law school.
In addition to classes, I also wanted to participate in a lot of different organizations and activities. In my tenure, I was the President of the Residence Housing Association, a member of the Honors Community Council, a two year Student Senator, a Transitions Leader, and participated in numerous other events, activities, and conferences. I was constantly busy and had a million different things to do with virtually no time to do them. This helped me prepare for the craziness of law school and really developed my organization skills.
As a first generation law student, I was clueless on how to apply to law school, let alone what law school was about. While in undergrad, I found some law blogs and stumbled upon the Law School Toolbox and the Girl’s Guide to Law School. These websites gave me a ton of information that helped this lost, clueless girl. Now I write for these websites to help other prospective (and current!) law students prepare for the scary adventure of law school.
So that’s how my education helped me decide to go to law school and prepare me for the craziness to come. While I still had some insecurities and fears, I felt ready to get started with the next step in my legal career.