Welcome to your first year at HLS from the Board of Student Advisers! You’re entering alongside a class of almost six hundred other people who both have wildly different dreams and experiences and yet are going through many of the same things as they walk through the doors of the WCC.
HLS is a remarkably opinionated place—you’ll find that most people probably have opinions not only about what they should do with their lives, but what you should do with your life. And those opinions are going to be as varied as your classmates. This doesn’t even begin to consider the opinions of family, friends, grade school acquaintances, and your mom’s dentist who always insists on giving you life advice. A lot of people seem to think they know what you should be doing while you’re at Harvard and after you graduate from Harvard.
Even if you don’t have people shouting opinions at you (please, tell me your secret), just the very fact of being at HLS may make you feel like you should do something in particular: you should work in public interest, you should work at a law firm, you should work in politics, you should get a clerkship, you should write on for Law Review, you should avoid student orgs and focus on your studies. All of these shoulds can start to look like gold stars you must attain at any cost.
The secret to HLS, though, is learning what makes you happy, what’s best for your goals, and where you want to go.
You may not know the answers to any of those questions right now, and that’s okay! What’s important is to keep asking them. So go ahead and try out classes, organizations, clinics, jobs – the amazing thing about HLS is the sheer number of opportunities. Ask people about the things they love and the things they think are important. Try new things. Change your mind.
Sometimes, the things that will light you up might be things with no other purpose than to have fun and enjoy yourself—embrace those things! Building community and spending time doing things that bring you joy are an essential part of making the most of your time here, as much as any classes or professional organizations.
One of the most exciting things about being a member of the BSA is that we get to interact with every single 1L that walks through these doors, and one of the things I’ve been amazed by is the sheer number of ways there are to be successful at HLS. This place is full of people who define success in different ways, and it’s so much fun getting to know them and support them in those journeys. I couldn’t be less interested in insurance law or consulting or corporate finance, but I know people who find joy and excitement and meaning in each of those things.
It’s so important to listen to and learn from other people’s experiences, but don’t assume they define success the same way you do. Find friends to hold you accountable to focusing on the things that are meaningful for you, not just the people around you. And be honest with yourself about what those things are.
When I started at HLS, I was a little afraid of getting lost in a sea of 1800 faces. I discovered two things: first, it’s a much smaller world than I thought, and second, being a part of such a large school means that there are people interested in every imaginable topic, hobby, and profession, and there are resources and communities available for all of them. I did not expect to spend my career at HLS splitting my time between mentoring 1Ls and writing stage comedy for Parody, but that’s what has made my experience here so rewarding.
And because the BSA does its best to reflect a wide range of the student body, I stand up at Orientation among aspiring civil rights attorneys and RuPaul aficionados and ballroom dancers and entertainment law junkies. We want to have a wide experience to draw from for every class of 1Ls that has a wide experience of their own.
So come ask us about our favorite professors and experiences on journals and most-recommended classes—and then feel confident in designing your time at HLS, and beyond, around whatever most speaks to you.