GUEST BLOG Makenzie Way, 1L at the University of Pennsylvania Law School
…choose the school that is going to support you, because you will need that support in a variety of ways throughout your three years.
This past week was the hardest week of law school, in fact, it was the hardest week of my life.
Makenzie and her brother Brandon Way.
I lost my brother, he was only two years older than me, he was my best friend, and he was too young and too good to be taken this soon.
I remember a year ago, applying to law schools and explaining the ranking system to him – I wanted to attend a “top 10.” Back then the most important thing seemed to be getting the highest number on the chart. Funnily enough, when the time came to choose schools I selected not the highest school I got into, but a lower one that I found was a better fit for me personally. At the time, I couldn’t explain it because, like most law students, the appeal of saying I went to the higher ranked school was strong.
Now, a year later I can explain it, and I’m here to emphasize how important it is for you to choose the school that fits. More importantly, choose the school that is going to support you, because you will need that support in a variety of ways throughout your three years. Whether that support is in the classroom, during office hours, from the student body, or from the dean, what matters is that you have it.
Some schools will support you academically, but will fail to go above and beyond for you personally. My school, Penn Law, prides itself on ‘collegiality,’ and until this week I was unsure what, in reality, that meant. I now know that collegiality means having the dean offer not just to record the classes you’re going to miss, but giving you her personal cell phone number to call “in case you just need someone to talk to, or even if you just need someone to sit with you at 2am.” Collegiality is new friends sending a condolence gift all the way to Canada. It is classmates, whose names I didn’t even know, sending me notes because they noticed I was missing from class. And, it is upperclassmen reaching out to offer outlines, and a shoulder to cry on regardless of whether I actually knew them or not. Finally, it is professors not only excusing me from class and telling me to forget about that assignment, but offering up their personal time to support me both academically for the time I had missed, and emotionally.
In summary, choose the school that is going to go above and beyond for you, because while I hope none of you face a tragedy like mine, each of you will face hardships over the course of your three years, and it is your school, and the community it fosters that will determine whether you thrive or whether you just slide by.