Dearest 1Ls, welcome to what will be a roller coaster of three years. A Parodian’s tip for survival? Make friends and be a friend. Whether you are straight through from a state college or a real adult who worked for ten years with kids and everything, we all got to the same place. It is important that you remember that and treat those around you like people you can learn from and people who can learn from you, because they are! That mentality, and the friends you will make, will keep you sane and grounded in a place that sometimes attempts to put people on impossible pedestals. It is easier to make those friends when you treat everyone like equals—and that includes yourself.
Friends are the key to success here. The first friends you make will be in your section. You do not know all their names now, but by the end of this semester, you will probably know more about their sleep habits, family secrets, and weird hobbies than you ever wanted to. These first friends will send you their notes when you are out sick, let you borrow their laptop when you inevitably spill on it while writing your memo, and be sure that you get off campus and at least make it to Cambridge Common for drinks (they are the cheapest in the area, so learn to love them).
The next friends you make will be in student orgs. There are tons to choose from, from affinity groups to activist groups to Parody, and they all have their own way of taking on HLS. These orgs can be where you find a family of support made up of people who care about the things you care about. You will meet 2Ls and 3Ls and LLMs who all make for great life coaches and therapists. As members of Parody, we do not know what we would have done if we had not found our dramatic little family (well, not so little—we have over 100 members).
As 1Ls, we were worried about taking on too much responsibility in a club, especially one that did not promise us a clerkship or an outline bank. The thought of having even more work to do than 18 1L credits was terrifying. But something about a group of people coming together for no reason other than to have fun, tell a story, and put on a performance for the HLS community drew us in. And we are so glad it did. Those late nights scrambling to get our reading done, working on our briefs backstage, showing up to class like zombies—all of those nights were worth it and then some. We ca not imagine how we would have survived 1L without it: without upperclassmen who taught us which classes to sign up for, how to even sign up for classes, and how to navigate the crazy place that HLS is, and without other 1Ls who were just as overwhelmed as we were but just as committed to making time for a community. Because that community treated us like equals. We were not just the new 1Ls who were in over their heads, we were singers and dancers, classmates and colleagues, artists and technicians, and most importantly, friends. The friends we met in Parody are some of our best friends at HLS and in life.
If you got to HLS, you are smart. You might not feel it every day, but you are. You are smart and driven and got here through a lot of hard work. You might think that if you got this far, the rest is smooth sailing. As great as HLS can be, these three years are hard work, too. You cannot do this alone, and you do not have to. You will need a support system, not just a study group. You will need a shoulder to cry on when things get overwhelming. When things feel hard for you, but look easy for others, you will need a friend to help you push through. When you just need to blow off some steam and grab a drink, they will be right there ordering another round.
So, find those friends and be that friend. Treat people like they are worthwhile, and spend time with people who treat you that way. This roller coaster is a lot more fun when you ride with friends.