Dear 1L: You Survived Your First Semester of Law School. Now What?

By David Wang

Dear 1L,

Right now, you’re uncertain, stressed, and anxious. I know it’s easy for someone who has already been through the baptism by fire that is 1L to say this, but as former Gotham City District Attorney Harvey Dent vowed in The Dark Knight, “The night is darkest just before the dawn. And I promise you, the dawn is coming.”

Now, I’m nowhere near as charming as Harvey Dent, but he’s right. There are many moods post-1L semester that permeate throughout the class: anxiety, elation, relief, disappointment, and doubt. These are all normal feelings, but I hope you’ll take it from someone who’s been there and back: the game is nowhere near over yet. So, here are a few tips and tricks to help you navigate the second semester, passed down by classmates and friends:

1) If you are disappointed with grades, start from the beginning. Contact your professors to see if you can come review your exam and ask about areas for improvement. You may be surprised by the feedback, but it is important to conduct this “post-mortem” to understand exactly what you need to do to improve. Of course, each class is different by content, but look for transferrable test-taking and studying skills you can apply to your future exams.

And if you’re concerned about EIW, the best thing you can do is to finish the semester strong academically. I firmly believe that it’s not about how you start, but how you finish. An academic record with a significant upward trend is an amazing comeback story to tell at EIW. It shows humility, self-reflection, and most importantly, perseverance. So, put EIW in the back of your mind and concentrate on the keys that will unlock the kind of EIW you want.

2) Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Outside of regular class attendance and office hours, you should look into the great tutoring services provided by the law school, free of charge. Your tutors can work with you on a one-on-one basis on both specific class content and general exam preparation strategies. Sign up here.

3) Please do not panic based on the clamor around the student body about 1L summer jobs. Internship opportunities and offers roll in at different times, and some of my friends with the coolest experiences did not hear back until May. You alone control your own fate, so ignore the noise and look for the best opportunities for you. If you need help, please contact alumni, 2Ls and 3Ls, or the Office of Career Services (OCS). We’re all here to help!

4) Talk to someone. 1L year is already overwhelming. Now add to that the fast-paced playground that is New York City. If you ever need to talk with someone outside of the law school, NYU offers free counseling through Counseling and Wellness Services (212-998-4780). Sometimes, it can be really helpful just to air your frustrations or discuss your concerns confidentially with an independent third party who won’t give you advice from a law school perspective.

Prefer to talk to someone you know? You’d be surprised how calming it can be     just to hang out with friends outside of the NYU Law bubble. Chances are, you’ve     let some of your past relationships slide because of the insane workload and     endless stresses of law school. Use this opportunity to reconnect with old friends and get a fresh perspective.

5) Continue to dream. There are only so many ways to say “Never give up!” without sounding cliché.  We all came to law school for a variety of reasons, but whatever your reason is, your dreams are valid and nothing else matters. Need inspiration? Check out this remarkable story about US Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan’s 1L grades in The New York Times.

I’ll end with a quote from Randy Pausch, late author of The Last Lecture: “We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.” So, play strategically, play smartly, and most importantly, play true to yourself. Expect as good as you give. You may not have been dealt a royal flush, but do not forget: the dawn is coming.

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