March 26, 2018

5 College Regrets

The 5 things I'd redo about college are 1) set goals for myself, 2) take attendance more seriously, 3) do a degree audit earlier, 4) hosted a little harder for a real job, and 5) be more involved with the law. law school blog. law student blogger |

It is absolutely crazy to me that I’m about to graduate law school! High school went by fast, college even faster, and somehow law school went by the fastest of them all. Since I’m about to finally be done with school after 22 years straight of it, I’ve suddenly become very nostalgic. And with that, I got to thinking about things I’d do differently if I could go back and do it all over again. For time’s sake, I’ve narrowed it down just to 5 regrets I have about college. Hopefully this will give some insight to some bright-eyed freshmen and a wakeup call to any upperclassmen so you can have less regrets than I do. Although that isn’t to say that I don’t love looking back on my times in college and high school!

1. Set goals for myself

I came into college flying by the seat of my pants and while that definitely came in handy several times, it did have its downsides. If you know me then you know that I’m a big fan of making a goal and then having lots of little milestones to get me that goal. Once I realized that med school wasn’t for me, I knew in general that I kinda wanted to be a lawyer but I actually didn’t do much about that until the summer before my senior year (why I’m not surprised I had such bad luck applying to law schools). Honestly I think part of the problem was that getting in to college was pretty easy for me so I greatly underestimated the effort that it takes to get in to law school. I wish I had taken the time to figure out all of the little pieces that it takes to get in to law school and all of the little steps that I’d need to do along the way to get me there. I’m happy where I’ve ended up, but I do think I could’ve done a little more work in college to make the journey here way less bumpy. 

What you can do is to sit down and make a 5 year professional plan. Think of everything you would do if you can! It’s okay if some of this is a wish list and something that honestly might not happen. Then take that and figure out what’s most important to you and organize your list. Then try to come up with at least 5 things you need to do to make each thing happen (so if you want to go to law school, think like good LSAT score). Then look at those 5 things and think of any steps you need to make that happen. In the end, you’ll end up with your big goals broken up into small goals, and those small goals broken up into steps to do. Then give yourself a timeline or due dates to keep you on track. I actually really like the Passion Planner for doing this! If you do this at the beginning of every school year or semester, you’ll feel much more in control of chasing after your dreams.

Related: What to do every year of college to prepare for law school

2. Taken attendance more seriously

My attendance my freshman and sophomore years of college were so stereotypically terrible. Even for the easy classes that I could skip a lot, I wish I still would have gone more. First off, it’s just a bad habit and then was a huge adjustment for me when I got to law school and basically couldn’t miss any class (I had perfect attendance in some classes!). Law school really helped me see the obvious in that if you actually go to class and actually pay attention in class, the tests are so much easier! I mean my 1L year I was getting a little paranoid that it was too easy when my “studying” for finals was mostly just a review for once instead of me trying to last minute teach myself an entire subject. Not only that, but regularly showing up in class is a great way to make a good impression on a professor so that when you do come to them for a letter of recommendation they won’t be like “who are you??”

Before I got here, I had heard that the best way to success in law school is to treat it like I job and that’s one thing that I’ve learned is spot on! Now I know this is easier said than done because it’s not the norm in college, but try to at least try to be a good student. Learn how to convince yourself to go to class even though you have 10 other reasons not to go. Learn how to take your laptop and only take notes on it, completely muting iMessage and avoiding Facebook/Pinterest/online shopping. At least read the summaries of the assigned chapter before you go to class so you’ll actually know what’s going on. I promise you that you will be so grateful that you did.

Related: The difference between college and law school

3. Do a degree audit earlier

Here’s the thing: I actually regret my degree. Not because I don’t like Spanish or anything, but because of how I ended up being a Spanish major. The truth is, I was in the honors college working to get one of their degrees, when I submitted my intent to graduate my junior year just like everyone else. I got an email back from my advisor letting me know that I was at least 3 semesters away from graduating since I was behind on my honors classes and there’s only so many offered each semester. At that point, my options were either drag out graduating for a year and a half or bump my minor up to my major. Basically it was a hot mess. All of this could have been avoided if I did a degree audit earlier and kept up with that better. I even have friends who have had the same problem and ended up graduating in August after they had already assumed they were graduating in May. Go to your advisors office often and make sure you stay on top of this. Even if it’s not required, still go visit your advisor and talk to them. When I went to see my advisor about switching my major, she was so helpful and even told me which professors to take because they were easier!

At the time, I didn’t really feel like it mattered because even though you have to have a science degree to get in to med or dental or vet school, there is no degree requirement to go to law school. But now that I’m semi out here in the real world, I realize that this was the wrong way to look at it! Sure you can have a degree in underwater basket weaving and still get in to law school, but that’s still going to show up on your resume. So imagine you’re sitting in an interview trying to tie together your random degree with the job you’re applying for. I’ve definitely already ran in to that because I’ve lost a lot of my fluency since graduating so my degree is kinda worthless now. Now that I know I want to work in in-house or employment law, I wish I would have taken more business and HR classes. I also really wish I would’ve taken a tax class so that I actually knew what “basis” and “the line” was before I was struggling in my tax law class. My point is, don’t just do a degree audit with your school for graduation; do one with yourself for your future as well! (conveniently, this also goes along really well with that I was saying in #1)

Related: How to Choose a Pre-Law Major

4. Hustled a little harder for a real job

I only had two jobs in college, and both of those were minimum wage retail associate positions. They helped me to have spending money, but that’s about it. Do you know how hard it was for me my 1L year to apply for jobs with no real job experience? I mean, I couldn’t exactly connect being a teller with being a summer associate because they didn’t have much in common besides “excellent people skills” and “trustworthiness around money.” I fully understand that everyone has to start somewhere and that I probably would have had these jobs anyways, but I wish I would’ve used what little experience I did have at these jobs to move on up in the world. I can’t explain how jealous you feel when you’re sitting in class and someone is talking about how they totally understand the foreign concept your professor is talking about because they had some experience with that in some way at their job. Remember, law school is a game and one way to get ahead is to come in with some life knowledge beyond just how to neatly fold and stack shirts.

If I could, I would go back and tell myself to always be on the job hunt. I know job hunting is miserable but I missed up opportunities by being complacent with my boring job. Even if it’s still a typical part-time job, look for jobs where you can possible find a mentor (and hey maybe a rec letter on your worth ethic too). Look for jobs that will give you an opportunity to grow and gain some experience. Springboard what you have into moving up in the world and set yourself up for success once you get to law school and you’ll be so grateful that you did!

Related: How to find an internship

5. Be more involved with the law

I thought I had a good idea about what to generally expect working in the law through hearing law students and lawyers come and talk to my pre-law chapter of Phi Alpha Delta when I was in college, but at the time I didn’t realize how that was just the tip of the iceberg. There’s actually a lot of stuff about the law that I didn’t even know about until I went to orientation as a 1L! I wish I would’ve hung out in a courtroom, shadowed a lawyer, seek out an unpaid internship, really just anything to give me some fist-hand experience before I went in to law school! It was really hard my 1L and 2L year when I’d get asked “what kind of law do you want to practice” in a job interview and all I had for them was a doe-in-the-headlights look (as you can imagine, this didn’t exactly impress them). Even when I was interviewing for my externship, they asked why I wanted to do in-house law and I had no real good answer for them! Now in interviews, I’ve experienced enough to say that I know that criminal isn’t for me because I sat through a few trials and I know that I like employment law because I’ve had a few assignments with that and I know I like commercial real estate law because I’ve looked over dozens of real estate agreements. Having these experiences to tie in to why I want to work somewhere is a much better answer than just “oh I liked this one class that’s relevant to this so I think I’ll like this job.”

I didn’t bother to get involved in the legal field before law school because I knew that I would figure it out on my own, but I wish I would have had some real life experience before I came so I could have some kind of idea about what classes would interest me and what jobs would be good to apply to. Make it your mission to learn about as many different areas of the law as you can so you’ll know more going in! Even if you do have to spend all summer working a paid part-time job for money and an unpaid part-time internship, you won’t regret doing it. And absolutely try to go hang out in a courthouse as much as you can! It sounds little, but you’d be amazed at what you learn. Trials are open to the public by law and if you tell them you’re a prospective or current law student, you’d be amazed at how the help give you a behind-the-scenes look. And all of these experiences are great to touch on in your personal statement to connect your own story and the law.

Related: 5 things to do before law school 

I feel like such a big sister out here pushing y’all to learn from my mistakes haha! But I do hope that some of what I’ve said today will resonate with you and help you get your life just a little bit more together before you head off to become the Next Elle Woods. If you’re brave enough, I’d love to read what mistakes you realized that you made after graduating college!  


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