Be Yourself – It’s What Got You Here

1. Breathe 

You’ve just been accepted into one of the top law schools in the country. Chances are, you’re feeling a whirlwind of emotions — from disbelief to excitement and anxiety. My emotions were all over the place! 

I know that it can be overwhelming and even (yes, I’ll be the first to admit) quite intimidating. You’re entering a student body, largely comprised of —  wait for it —  people who are just like you! Whereas you’ve created quite an impressive admissions profile and are used to excelling and being at the top of your class,  now you’re in a section of 80 individuals who’ve been acclimated to similarly diligent academic performances. 

Just take a second and breathe. Don’t let intimidation silence you. Don’t be afraid to speak up in class or at social gatherings. Don’t be afraid to be yourself! 

A truly productive learning environment requires a diverse student body to facilitate meaningful dialogue. You matter. Your voice matters. You’re here for a reason. Just breathe. 

2. Don’t overdo the orgs! 

Ahh the activities fair! What will you find walking into Milstein East on a Thursday night? Spoiler alert: all your fellow 1L compadres will be walking around in their crisply ironed suits, collecting pamphlets from just about every table with visions of how irresistible their resume will look at the end of 1L. 

STOP. IN. YOUR. TRACKS! 1L is already difficult enough without the stress of subciting for that journal that you want your name on. (Yes, subciting. You will not be writing. You will be subciting, i.e., proofreading footnotes.)

In addition to adjusting to a rigorous study regimen and reading probably more than you’ve ever read in your life (including all of your past lives cumulatively, LOL) —  you’re now generally adjusting to the “law school culture.” Though some organizations will help forge important relationships and community for you —  you must focus on learning how to be a successful law student (exam taker) at first, rather than overexerting yourself with social demands. Join a reading group —  and become best friends with Langdell. Kidding! (Not kidding.)

3. You can (and probably should) find a community outside of your section. 

Repeat after me. “Hefty budget allocations will not control my ability to make friends.” Ok. Now repeat it again. 

Every year each section is given a significant budget for social events. While it is great to make long-lasting connections with your sectionmates, don’t limit your communicating to only those who are in your section. The world is big and grand outside of your section and outside of Cambridge Common. Explore it. 

4. What is in a name? Don’t lose yourself 

“Hi, my name is Jane Doe and I go to Harvard Law” —  said who, ever? You are Harvard, but Harvard is not you. Therefore, Harvard should not be your opener. Harvard needed your diverse intellect and background to enhance its student body. Harvard needed you (cause you’re awesome, duh!) So, try not to lose yourself in the pretention. Be yourself, that’s what got you here!

5. These next three years will be the best years of your life. 

All sarcasm and joking aside —  law school really will be be best years of your life. But only if you let it be. 

You must make the best of this time, because if you let yourself —  you will grow tremendously in all capacities. Harvard has outstandingly aided my professional and academic development. The growth that I’ve experienced here is unfathomable. From learning the importance of sociopolitical involvement, to being exposed to communal opportunities that I may otherwise have not had the socioeconomic resources to access. And I still cannot believe that I am on my last year; I feel as though I’ve got so much more learning to do! The time really does fly,  so make the best of your time. You are going to do and be great.

Briana Williams is a 3L. She is the communciations director of the Black Law Students Association.

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