Those who follow this blog semi-closely will know that in 2017 I travelled to The Hague, Netherlands, for a summer program in International Public Law at the Hague Academy of International Law (short summary – it was a month of learning all about how the United Nations and international relations work with lawyers from all over the world; and I was sitting there like “Wellll…….I have a degree in Biology, with a minor in International Relations? That qualifies me to be here, right?”).
While my degree may not have been directly in line with those of the other attendees, my knowledge base from participating in Model United Nations, and later working with the United Nations, definitely was. It was one of the best months of my life. Almost immediately after I got home, I researched which LSAT study books which were best at preparing test takers, created a study plan, and devoted myself to a extremely boring 4-months of intense studying.
During my undergraduate at UBC, I definitely struggled. I was never the best in the class. I had trouble keeping up with a lot of the biology course materials. I even failed three classes. At graduation, my GPA was the equivalent of a 2.45 in the USA (according to LSAC, the law school admissions council. Though by UBC’s conversion rate, it was actually more like 2.7 – still not great, but not as bad.) By the end of my degree, I honestly felt like I wasn’t intelligent. And it really hurt my self-confidence.
Fast forward to December 22nd, 2017. Sitting in a starbucks parking lot, getting ready to go write my law school admissions essay, I paused to check my email. “Your December 2017 LSAT Score”. I held my breath. While I really wanted to know the score, the exam had been supremely difficult. Leaving it in December, I was sure I hadn’t gotten more than a 160, if even that.
Despite my fear, I opened the email.
“Your December 2017 LSAT score is 168. The percentile rank is 96.”
Y’all, I’m not gonna lie, I 100% screamed in excitement at that score. For those that don’t know, that is a score high enough to get into some pretty amazing schools. And immediately I stopped feeling so dumb – I did better than 96% of all the other test takers; I am not stupid; UBC sciences were just really hard.
I think part of why I studied so hard was I was so worried that I wasn’t intelligent enough to get a good score – let alone a great one. And I knew that my GPA would be a pretty big hindrance in my application (which it definitely proved to be). But with that score, I had at least a remote chance of getting into a good school, maybe even with a scholarship.
Now fast forward to May 2018. Five applications for law schools were submitted; one immediately offered me both a position and a scholarship, but it was a backup and I hated the campus when I visited. The other four – “Waitlisted”. I may have a good resume and LSAT score, but that GPA is still a glaring caution sign for the schools that would otherwise be interested. [In a conundrum I will never understand, somehow I was waitlisted at American University (top 100), George Washington University (top 50), AND Georgetown University (top 14). How one of those didn’t reject me immediately (Georgetown) will always be lost on me.]
I ended up having a conversation with myself, and realized that going to law school just because I want to go to law school – without considering which school would be best for my career (and which would allow me to graduate with minimal debt) – would be foolish. I would wait, and if I got into a school that I believed would be best for my life goals, then I would attend. But if not – it is better to wait.
I did not end up getting into either of the two schools I had put on my ‘definitely attend’ list. But instead of sulking, I mustered up my courage and tried again – this time only applying to my top choice school, American University – Washington College of Law, which has an amazing new campus, provides scholarships, and is top 10 in both International Law and Intellectual Property (my backup plan).
I wish I could say I was admitted immediately. I wasn’t. I submitted my application in September 2018, and waited with bated breath to hear an answer. Six months later, “American University Washington College of Law Notification” appeared in my inbox. Needless to say, it was not a great feeling.
Waitlisting is almost worse than rejection – its an institution saying “well yeah, you are pretty interesting, but we’d rather have someone more interesting. So here, we want to keep you as a backup, just in case that more interesting individual doesn’t turn up.” It keeps you waiting, holding on to a sliver of hope that maybe – just maybe – you’ll get in. But it can always end with a rejection still. (Can you tell that I’ve thought about this a lot? Side note – I’ve also thought about how Michelle Obama got into Harvard off the waitlist; and how Barak Obama didn’t even begin law school until 27. Once you get into law school, you are in law school, waitlist or no. And everyone has their own time frame – you don’t have to go to law school at any specific age to be able to succeed.)
I started wondering – this is the second time I have tried. Will I ever get into law school? Should I even be a lawyer? Is this the universe’s way of saying I should refocus my efforts elsewhere? Law school is extremely expensive, should I just get a masters degree in another field? My LSAT score is valid until 2022, I can wait a few years and reapply maybe. Or maybe I move on.
Not. Even. Two. Weeks. Later. I get a phone call. Not only am I accepted off the waitlist, I have received a significant merit scholarship (yay less student debt!). The person on the other side of the phone says, “Will you accept the offer of admissions?” WELL YES, YES I WILL. Talk about a freaking emotional roller coaster.
And so the saga ends. I am officially attending American University, Washington College of Law in the fall of 2019. By 2021, I’ll finally be able to say I have similar credentials to all my friends from the Hague (though by then, I’m sure most of them will have Masters/PhDs/be super bad-asses in their field. I’ll catch up eventually, maybe, we’ll see!)
One final thought, and the reason I’m writing about this for all to hear (even though bits are embarrassing), sometimes life works out for the better. I am actually very happy that I didn’t get into law school during my first try – by not getting in, I have been able to settle into my apartment in DC; a close friend stayed with me for 4 months and I got to enjoy my time with her; I had time to help my dog settle into city life (though, to be honest, he still prefers North Carolina I think); and I’ve had time to make some truly amazing friendships. I firmly believe none of that would have happened if I had started law school last fall. Instead of getting sad/depressed/angry about failures, look on the bright side – every missed opportunity opens the door for other unexpected opportunities. And it all works out for the better in the end.