By: Drew Winslett (WFU Law ’20) with a brief introduction by Professor Abigail Perdue
I’m a strong believer in the popular saying, “Don’t ever look back except to see how far you’ve come.” That’s why at the conclusion of each semester, I invite my Legal Writing students to complete a reflection, considering which academic strategies worked well and which did not.
This year, I did things differently. During our final Legal Writing class, I provided students with ten different prompts from which to choose. Each prompt invited a different kind of focused reflection. One asked students to discuss their favorite exercise, while another asked them to consider five things they would have done differently this year if given the opportunity. Students had the remainder of our 1.5 hour session to reflect, write, and revise. I invited the authors of the most insightful pieces to publish them here in a student-authored series. So without further adieu . . .
If I could give one piece of advice to the person I was on the first day of law school, it would be to know that you deserve your spot in law school. The first day of law school was more stressful to me than my first cold-call or my first final exam. This was the day that I realized law school was more than just an answer to “what are you doing after graduation?” Law school had officially begun, and all the horrors and bad experiences that I had heard from others came flooding into my mind. More than anything, the burning questions that had always been in the back of my mind suddenly came to the forefront – “Do I belong here? Can I handle the pressure and the high stakes of law school? Will I succeed?”
Following a rigorous Foundations Week during which we worked extremely hard and did much more reading than in college, I felt really unsure about my place at Wake Forest Law. After all, the work for Foundations Week was just to prepare us for classes, so I could not imagine what actual classwork would entail. Anxiety filled my head (and stomach) on that first day of class, and it took several days to dissipate.
On that first day of law school, I hearkened back to the challenges I had faced in my life. I survived every single one of those challenging experiences, and I learned and grew from them. I reminded myself that law school would be yet another challenge I would face in my life, albeit the hardest one I have taken on to date. I knew that I would just have to put my head down, work hard, and enjoy the challenges ahead. I had earned my spot in the incoming class of 2020. I had worked hard in college to make good grades, participate in extracurricular activities, and represent my undergrad institution as an Ambassador all while working a job on campus. I had challenged myself in college, and law school would be no different. Looking back on my pathway to law school, I realized that throughout my life, I have always embraced, rather than avoided, challenges.
Despite this, during my first class, I lacked the confidence that I carried with me throughout college and the law school application process. It all seemed to vanish, and I suddenly doubted my abilities. I know that this situation was not unique to me. To the contrary, “imposter syndrome,” which has been defined as a person’s inability to internalize his or her accomplishments, is a phenomenon that all or most incoming law students will experience at some point or another. So they need to understand it or at least reflect upon it before their first day of class.
So if I could give one piece of advice to the person I was on the first day of law school or to any incoming Wake Forest Law student, it would be this:
- You earned a degree from your undergraduate institution.
- You took the LSAT and did well enough to be admitted into Wake Forest Law, a top law school in the nation.
- You applied to schools, writing countless essays and filling out many applications.
- You were admitted and made arrangements to find housing in Winston-Salem.
- You have come so far and worked so hard for your spot at this school.
- You deserve to be here.
This is an invaluable lesson that I wish I had fully understood before I began the journey of my 1L year and one that I hope proves helpful to the generations of students who will come after me.
What advice would you give the person you were on the first day of law school? If you have a talented law student who would like to publish a blog with teachlawbetter.com, please encourage him or her to send a draft of 1000 words or less to [email protected]