Fords on Friday: Career Tips from David Wessel, HC ’75

Posted on: March 27, 2015

Last Saturday Haverford College held it’s first annual Public Policy forum with great success. The speakers, panelists, poster presentations and everyone in attendance was enthusiastic and impressive… and we were busy taking notes! Below are some career tips from out keynote speaker, Haverford alum David Wessel. Thank you, David!
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Career Tips from David Wessel, the keynote speaker from the Public Policy Forum

1. Do what you want to do, not what your parents want you to do. You don’t have the perfect job right away; the first job is just a first step. One alum said today that in the 16 years he has been out of college he has had 14 jobs at 8 organizations. And his job moves, which seem so logical when he recounts them, only made sense in hindsight.  Opportunities arose, and his interests helped him look for new opportunities

2. Find something you enjoy.
  • Our time is important, so enjoy what you do; oh sure, not everyday is great and there are always hassled, But most of his  time at The Wall Street Journal, David enjoyed going to work. 
3. There is no point in taking a job if you are not going to learn something
  • learning does not end after Haverford
  • in each job, you should keep learning
4. It is important to find a job where you can find a way to have control over your time and to influence things
  • This won’t happen in your first job. There will be some things you have to do in a job that might not be the most exciting. However, there are ways to control your time and make an influence. David looks back at his time at the WSJ, and he wrote things that would not have appeared had he not been there; he believes he made a difference.
5. Your colleagues are important
  • WSJ was a family. You develop bonds with colleagues, you work closely with them and you make important contributions with them.
  • In a good job/ good organization, you have mentors, peers, and proteges.  Be mindful of the different roles you play.
6. It is more satisfying if you feel you can make a difference in the work you do
  • There are basically two ways to change the world:  the first, is one on one, one individual at time;  the second way is to focus on bigger societal issues.  Figure out the best way you want to make that difference.  
7. As the Quaker phrase states, ‘Speak Truth to Power’
  • The Honor Code is so valuable and helps us bring ethics in the workplace.  It is important to treat others respectfully, which I also learned from the Honor Code.
  • You gain a sense of what right.  Practice ethics on the little things, as well as the big things, and stand up for what is right.
8.  Give Credit
  • David said he enjoyed getting credit for his work. That’s natural. People like to know when they have done things well.  Don’t forget to give others credit – when others do a good job or when they do good things for others.
9. Beyond the job itself, you need to have time for family, friends, and things outside of work.
  • You need to set boundaries; your employers often won’t. This is particularly important if you have kids. 
10.  Money does matter.  Be explicit to yourself about choices you make.
  • Be open with yourself and with your partner about choices you make.  
  • Money is not secret to happiness, but think about consciously about your choices and options.  
From the vantage point of 40 years after graduate, David said four our aspects of Haverford stuck with him: rigor of thought, the importance of community, a sense of purpose and a strong ethical compass. He David quoted Bruce Agins ’75. “Haverford didn’t point me to my career. It prepared me for it.” One alum in the audience offered his three-part recipe for a satisfying career: 1) intellectual engagement, 2) passion, 3) fun.

Public Policy Forum: Haverford College News

Posted on: March 26, 2015

Haverford’s First-Ever Public Policy Forum – Haverford College News

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David Wessel ’75 delivers the keynote address at the Public Policy Forum.
Photo by Thom Carroll Photography

The CCPA was proud to actively participate in the first annual Haverford College Public Policy Forum. Thank you to all who planned, participated, and to all who attended.

Read the Haverford news link above for a full account, and stay tuned tomorrow for some of our own notes from David Wessel’s keynote speech!

Surveys & Resources: What careers interest the Haverford College student?

Posted on: March 18, 2015

Here in the CCPA we get a great many questions about the career interests of our students. Questions range from the general (What can I do with a liberal arts degree?) to the specific (How can I get a job in Scientific Animation?) We feel lucky to work in an environment that embraces exploration, and work hard to develop programming to meet these needs.

Interested in seeing what career fields Haverford students are eager to explore? How about where some of our students interned last summer, or what became of the Class of 2014? Take a look at some of our data – readily available on our website!

The following is data collected from CareerConnect, our online resource for jobs and internships. Students were requested to fill out their profiles, which included career interests:

Haverford College Student Career Interests 2014-2015

For both an account of the summer plans from rising seniors, as well as underclassman, check out the Haverford College Summer of 2014 Survey Report.

2014 summer plans

To see where the class of 2014 headed after graduation last May, check out our “Beyond Haverford” summary and full report. 2014 report

 

It’s Not Too Late To Find a Great Sophomore Summer Experience. But Act NOW.

Posted on: March 9, 2015

This blog was originally posted in The Year After Sophomore blog last week. 

Sophomore spring is a busy semester as you focus on choosing your major, applying for and starting to take on leadership roles in extracurricular activities, and, this week, trying to make the most of spring break. Figuring out your plans for the summer after sophomore year is another important task on your To Do list.

Sophomore summer is key because it’s a chance toScreen Shot 2015-03-04 at 3.19.38 PM build skills while exploring different career paths. The pressure isn’t quite as high as junior summer (which possibly can lead to a full-time job offer after graduation), but gaining meaningful, professional experience after sophomore year is really important because many employers prefer hiring candidates with some relevant work experience.

When should you look for your summer internship? The earlier the better to make sure you don’t miss out on something that interests you or funding assistance. While some deadlines have passed, there are still loads of great opportunities available throughout the spring. In fact, according to the CCPA’s Summer 2014 survey, 51% of the sophomores and juniors who completed the survey received their offer between March and April, and 22% received their offer in May or later (response rate was about 39%.)

For most students the internship search can seem a little daunting. Since many of you haven’t had to formally apply for jobs or internships before, the process may be totally new. Thankfully, once you understand the basics, applying to internships is pretty straightforward.

Here’s what to do:

  • Think about what you want to do and where you want to work (The CCPA can help you figure this out and develop a plan. Also, visit the Internship page of our website.)
  • Search for opportunities on internship databases (like Haverford’s CareerConnect, the Liberal Arts Consortium Network (LACN, Campus Philly’s Online Internship Fair from March 23-27, idealist.org, and the CCPA’s Resources by Field page. And remember to ask alumni and others for advice (check the CCPA’s Networking page for tips on how and where to network.)
  • Write targeted résumés and cover letters for the positions that interest you and have them reviewed by the CCPA. Follow the directions in the internship posting to apply. Talk with friends, family, faculty, Haverford staff, alumni and others every step of the way to gather advice for finding and applying to internships that interest you.
  • As long as the posting doesn’t say “no phone calls”, plan to follow up with the organization in about two weeks to reiterate your interest and ask if the position is still open.
  • Prepare for interviews with the CCPA online interview guide and CareerBeam interactive interview prep tool. You can even schedule a mock interview.
  • Keep applying to positions that interest you until you land an offer that will help you reach your goals for the summer.

Remember, there are many people and resources at Haverford to help you with your search. Don’t be shy about asking for help and advice. Making an appointment with a career counselor at the CCPA or stopping by during CCPA’s Walk-in Hours (Mon – Fri 2:30-4:30pm) is a great place to start.

Good luck!

Working in the Philanthropic Sector, with David Wertheimer ‘77

Posted on: March 6, 2015

The CCPA welcomes back guest blogger David Wertheimer (’77, Religion), Deputy Director, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Seattle, WA.

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Alumni Guest Perspective with David Wertheimer (’77, Religion), Deputy Director, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Thank you, David, for your advice and inspiration!

One of the questions I am asked most frequently by people at a range of different stages of their careers is “How can I find a job working for a foundation?” The field is, admittedly, one that has generated a fair amount of interest and appeal, especially as large numbers of newly minted wealthy individuals across the US and in other countries initiate or re-prioritize their own giving activities, greatly expanding opportunities in the sector.

Although I spend most of my day in meetings (surprise!), it is a remarkably exciting and rewarding field in which to work. At the right foundation, and in the right role, you will have the opportunity to make investments that are unlike the funding that is provided from government or corporate sources – you will be able to “think big” about some of the most seemingly intractable social issues of the day, in some of the most interesting and difficult places in the world, taking innovative risks in pursuit of achieving BHAGs – “Big, hairy audacious goals.” For myself, I can think of no more exciting work.

The advice I have to offer to job seekers is not always welcome to the ears of undergraduates preparing to enter the market for the first time: It’s unlikely that you will find interesting work at in philanthropy coming right out of college. That said, if you have your sights set on working at a foundation, there are steps you can take in your career development that will prepare you for this work, and make you a more attractive job candidate.

1. Get on-the-ground experience with the issues, communities, and places you would like to work in philanthropy. Without experiences that are specifically relevant to the type of work you want to do at a foundation, it’s much more difficult to present a serious candidacy. For those who want to work on issues in the developing world, places like the Peace Corps are a great place to start. (The Gates Foundation has a huge number of Peace Corps alumni.) For those interested in poverty in the United States, places like Teach for America, AmeriCorps, and non-profit direct service organizations provide an excellent place to start. (And, you may love the work so much you never leave.)

2. Get a graduate degree. An advanced degree is virtually essential for almost any role at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. On my team, I’ve worked to build a very diverse group of experts in a variety of fields. For example, I’ve hired J.D.s, M.Ed.’s, M.B.A.’s, and Ph.D.’s. My goal has been to build staff teams that think differently, challenge each other to see the issues from a range of perspectives, and work collaboratively to build solutions to tough problems that are truly interdisciplinary and “out of the box.”

3. Build a diverse resume: The most interesting job candidates are those that have experienced, wrestled with and tried to resolve complex, thorny issues from a range of different perspectives and vantage points in the field. In my own case, I think I was of interest to the Gates Foundation as a prospective employee because I had worked on the issue of homelessness (which is one of my foci at the foundation) in a variety of jobs in the non-profit sector, government, academia and consulting.

I never intended to work in the philanthropic sector. Nevertheless, although I would not have been able to understand this from any vantage point other than a retrospective one, everything I did up to the time I walked into the door of the Gates Foundation was preparing me for the work I am doing today.

If a career in philanthropy is something that you are interested in pursuing, I would encourage you to determine how best to build a career and a CV that actually puts that opportunity directly in your path. That may take some time and several stops along the way in your employment history.

You can be deliberate about this without being in a rush. And don’t forget that some of the most interesting paths may veer away from what you may have planned or predicted for yourself. Don’t avoid those detours. They may end up being some of the most fascinating and rewarding times of your life.

 

 

 

Fords on Friday: Taking time off before law school?

Posted on: February 20, 2015

Or should you go straight through? Many thanks to recent Haverford graduate
Adam Morollo on his decision to get some experience before
diving into law school. From all of us in the CCPA, thank you, Adam,
for a wonderful account of this decision and experiences in the
Latham & Watkins’ Business Services Training Program.  

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By Adam Morollo

Many Haverford students graduate thinking about attending law school. Perhaps that is a Professional photoproduct of an environment that instills an affinity for textual analysis, spirited dialogue and a heartened defense of one’s opinions alongside a unique relationship to justice and fairness that comes from living with the Honor Code.

I thought about law school during my senior year, but between balancing school, sports, the job search, and everything else being a senior at Haverford throws at you, the notion of applying to law school on the horizon only added to the stress and anxiety that is all too common – especially since I was on the fence. Where would I want to go? Where could I get in? What type of law am I interested in? What type of lawyer do I want to be? Do I want to go back to school? Is it worth the debt?

These are important questions, questions that often require time and experience before answering. I applied to different positions at a number of law firms to gain exposure to a legal environment as I consider this possibility. I was particularly drawn to positions that encompassed a rotational aspect where I could apply myself in different roles and responsibilities and see the nuances of a law environment, what I excelled at and what interested me.

This search led me to Latham & Watkins’ Business Services Training Program. Following two weeks of training, new hires begin rotating through various departments at the firm for 1-4 month rotations before ultimately being placed in a department depending on business needs and an individual’s skills and preferences. Individuals in my class have rotated through the Accounting and Finance department, Attorney Development, Attorney Recruiting, the Managing Attorney’s Office, Business Development, Operations, Technology, and Attorney Support.

I took a permanent position within the Attorney Support group known as the Firm Associate Support Team. Here, I work primarily with the first, second and third year associates and assist them with their cases. This position was particularly interesting to me because associates at Latham & Watkins are “unassigned” for their first two years at the firm and have a kind of rotational program of their own. They have the opportunity to work across all of our five practice areas (Litigation, Tax, Corporate, Finance, and the Environment, Land and Resources group) before selecting a practice area to focus on.

In this role, I’ve been exposed to a number of different cases and matters. I’ve created, reviewed and distributed closing materials for corporate mergers, checked references and tables of authorities for litigation filings, drafted legal correspondence for opposing counsel and relevant parties and reviewed attorney’s billable time before it is sent out to clients. I’ve also assisted the Attorney Recruiting department with their summer associate hiring cycle, and I’m currently working on an anti-money laundering research project with the office General Counsel.

Another advantage that comes with working with the more junior associates is the exposure to the different types of pro bono work the firm engages in. Pro bono is a great way for younger associates to gain trial experience and feel comfortable as the lead attorney on a case while providing legal services, resources and expertise to those who otherwise may be unable to acquire them. I’ve worked on a number of interesting and rewarding cases, from domestic abuse cases under the Violence Against Women Act and asylum claims to veteran affairs and German Social Security Ghetto Pension applications and renewals.

In addition to these diverse opportunities, the associates themselves have been immensely helpful in discussing some of the law school-related questions mentioned above. Hearing their thoughts and perspective about the application process, how they chose the right school, what law school was like, things they wish they had known or done differently, and LSAT study tips, among other things, has allowed me to think about my own decisions and what may lie ahead.

This environment – surrounded by engaging, diverse work while working alongside recent law school grads – has been extremely helpful in reflecting on my own law school ambitions. While I may not have the answers to all of these important questions, I know I am in a better position to make an informed decision about my future, starting with taking the LSAT in June.

The rotational aspect and diverse exposure offered by such programs allow anyone, whether they are considering law school or not, to explore different roles, take on new responsibilities, meet different people, and gain new perspectives, all within the security and familiarity of a single work environment. I have been fortunate enough to benefit from such a program, and I encourage anyone who is on the fence about law school or any grad school decision to do the same.

 

 

Career Fairs are NOT scary! Have fun and find a job or internship at the Not-For-Profit Philadelphia Career Fair

Posted on: February 16, 2015

It’s high season for the internship and summer job search, and the Not-For-Profit and Public Service Career Fair on Friday, February 27 from 11am-2pm at Bryn Mawr in Thomas Great Hall will be a great way to learn about and perhaps have preliminary interviews for jobs, internships, and volunteer opportunities with over 50 organizations.

Visit this link for a list of Participating Organizations.

While career fairs are a fantastic way to connect with job and internship opportunities, I’ve talked with many students who really stress out about career fairs.  When I talk to students who are hesitant to attend career fairs because they worry they’ll get nervous and won’t know what to say or do, I always remind them that recruiters register for career fairs because they are eager to talk to and potentially hire talented students like YOU.

Here are a few career fair prep tips to help ease some of that pre-fair anxiety:

Before the Career Fair

  • Reflect on your career interests, skills, and personal goals for the fair. Are you looking for an internship or a full-time job?  What type of what of work do you want to do (i.e. writing, teaching, analyzing, project management, event planning, counseling, researching…)? What industries are you most interested in? Where do you want to live? That said, while it’s important to have goals in mind, it’s also important to keep an open mind so you don’t miss out on an opportunity simply because you overlooked the fact that it could be a worthwhile way for you to gain experience.
  • Prepare your resume. Check out the CCPA’s resume guide.
  • Develop your “30-second commercial”. If that sounds silly to you, just think of it as your basic introduction. Career fairs can get crowded so you might only have a few seconds to attract and keep a recruiter’s attention. This can be a little daunting, so work out a great sentence or two about your career interests, skills, special research projects, and background (your intended major, extra-curricular activities, internships, etc.) 
  • Research organizations that are attending and develop a plan of attack. Come up with a list of your “must see” employers to make sure you don’t miss their tables, but survey the entire list of attendees. Go to their websites and look at their profile on LinkedIn to learn about what they do and the types of opportunities they offer.
  • An organization doesn’t have to be a household name to be a great employer who offers interesting and rewarding opportunities. I know a student who received a super job offer with a great company after she stopped by a table that had no student traffic when she walked by. She would never have known about what that company had to offer if she didn’t stop to ask.
  • Taking the time to reflect on your interests and goals, develop your introduction, and research organizations will help you make the most of your time at the fair.

And here’s a quick run through for the day of the fair

  • Dress sharp and brush your teeth
  • Bring lots of copies of your resume
  • Carry as little as possible (no coats or backpacks, etc.)
  • Turn off cell phones in the employer areas.
  • Approach employer representatives with confidence and a welcoming SMILE (and thank them for coming to campus)
  • Introduce yourself, make good eye contact, and offer a firm handshake.
  • Give the recruiter your resume and tell him/her about yourself and your career interests.
  • Ask intelligent questions about opportunities, the organization, application process, etc.
  • Take business cards (and make notes on those cards for easy recall), and follow up with recruiters that night.
  • Speak with as many employers as possible; you never know what you’ll find.
  • Visit your top choices first. Avoid standing in a long line to speak with one recruiter when you could talk with 3 or 4 others in the same time period.
  • If you have questions please approach of one the staff members at the check-in desk.

After the Career Fair

  • Send a thank you letter or email message. Thank employers for their time at the career day and restate your interest to those employers in which you are particularly interested.
  • Include a copy of your resume. Since most candidates will not follow up with employers after the career day, this will make you stand out.
  • Follow up on any of their particular directions.

 

Fords on Friday: Should you think about attending a Masters of Business Administration program?

Posted on: February 13, 2015

by Dan Clare HC ’9Dan Clare3

I will start by admitting that as a Haverford student, I never once thought about Masters of Business Administration (i.e. MBA) programs, much less whether I would ever like to attend one. Like many of my classmates, my focus was centered in other directions, and towards other graduate programs, in my case relating to international relations and public policy. However, circumstances (i.e. needing a job!) led me to consider an alternative career path in business, and ultimately, attending an MBA program at Harvard Business School, or HBS, in which I was one of five Haverford alumni in my class. Some in my Haverford class attended other top MBA programs, including the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, etc.

In the 15 years since I received my MBA, I have been asked many times by current college students and recent college graduates whether they should consider attending an MBA program. Here are some thoughts:

  • Most importantly, whether to seek out an MBA is a personal choice. Unlike other professional graduate degrees (law, medicine, science, academia, etc.), an MBA is not a formal requirement for any field, although it is the norm in some areas of business. There is no ‘right’ answer, even for colleagues at the same level, in the same company, and with the same professional objectives.
  • As a Haverford student, it is worth keeping in mind the opportunity that MBA programs can offer down the road. For example, to the extent that you are feeling pressure about securing the ‘perfect’ job out of Haverford, MBA programs provide you with an opportunity to take risks in your career after college and ‘reset,’ after you have had several years of work experience, into a new area that may end up being a better fit for your longer-term objectives. Many (and perhaps most) MBA students end up switching professional careers by the time they graduate.
  • MBA programs look for people with all types of experience (and keep in mind that most of the top MBA programs require work experience prior to matriculation; for example, HBS’s current class averages 4 years’ full-time work experience, while Wharton’s current class averages 5 years). While it is true that consulting and financial industry firms are well-trod routes to MBA programs, many of my HBS classmates’ experience had been in non-profits, as officers in the military, and as entrepreneurs. My Haverford alumni classmates at HBS included an economist who worked at the U.S. Federal Reserve and a buyer of fashion at a large retailer. The common denominator is that each took on a role that they were passionate about, and was able to demonstrate a history of leadership experience.
  • If you choose to attend an MBA program, the diversity and depth of your classmates’ work experience is a great part of what makes the MBA experience special. Given that Haverford does not have a business curriculum, Haverford graduates in particular will certainly learn in depth about new aspects of management and business, such as finance, operations, and entrepreneurship, from the excellent faculty at these schools. But you will likely also find that you will learn as much from your classmates, and make great life-long friends in the process. The experience will almost certainly open your eyes to new fields, new opportunities, and new ways of thinking.
  • With all the great things about MBA programs, there are negatives, of which the primary one is funding the high cost of most MBA programs while at the same time not working during this period. In addition, when you have already worked for several years, taking two years off from a seemingly-straight career path can seem like a long and unnecessary diversion, particularly when your peers may not be making the same choice. However, as one of my mentors advised me at the time I was applying, one’s career is far-longer than many people appreciate in their early 20s, and can take unexpected turns. If anything, I think this observation is even more true today.
  • Finally, and to this point, selecting the right MBA program is important. As mentioned above, because merely obtaining an MBA is not a precursor to a professional accreditation, MBA programs are not worth attending ‘at any cost.’ It is worth taking the time to do your research to see if a given program is well-regarded in the professional area you are targeting. Also keep your geographic preferences in mind — there are excellent programs with particularly-strong networks in different parts of the U.S. and the world (for example, the Darden School at the University of Virginia, the Haas School at University of California Berkeley, INSEAD in France, IESE in Spain, etc.).

Overall, there are many reasons to keep an MBA in mind for the future, even if it is not at the forefront of your thinking today.

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After graduating from Haverford, Dan spent four years as a management consultant at Bain & Company prior to attending Harvard Business School. During his MBA program, he was a summer associate in the investment banking division of Goldman, Sachs & Co., and, following graduation was an investment professional at two private equity firms. In 2010, Dan became a partner at a credit investment fund affiliated with a large private equity firm. Dan lives in New York City with his wife and three young children.

 

 

 

Haverford Mock Trial wins Spirit of AMTA award!

Posted on: February 10, 2015

Congratulations to the Haverford College Mock Trial team in their inaugural regional competition last weekend! Below is a full account of their accomplishments, holding their own and garnering much respect against twenty-six well established teams. Having only mobilized in October, the CCPA is excited to see how far these leaders can take their team in coming years. Thank you to all of the Haverford lawyers who helped this team get off the ground, including the HC Mock Trial Attorney coach Jeff Monhait and HCLN co-founder Rahul Munshi. 

10955564_999500346744094_1731682862233671194_o American Mock Trial Association (AMTA) Regional Tournament
Philadelphia, PA
by co-captain Jordan McGuffee

On the weekend of February 7, 2015, the Haverford Mock Trial Team competed in its first ever American Mock Trial Association (AMTA) Regional Tournament held at the Philadelphia Criminal Justice Center. In the tournament, Haverford competed against many challenging and well established teams, including the University of Virginia, University of Pennsylvania, and Fordham University. Haverford picked up its first win against the City College of New York and came within two points of taking the ballot from Penn. Every attorney and witness from Haverford was ranked in the top four competitors for their various positions. During closing ceremonies Haverford won the Spirit of AMTA Award, given to the team that exhibited the most professional and sportsmanlike conduct.

Mock Trial is a courtroom simulation where students portray either attorneys or witnesses for that year’s case. Attorneys must compose opening and closing statements, give direct 1800459_1596294553924922_1316654230632019958_n copyand cross examination to witnesses, and make objections. Witnesses learn the affidavit, deposition, or expert report or the character they will act as and must answer questions as that person. The Haverford Mock Trial team was created this year and has exceeded all expectations for first year teams. Jordan McGuffee, Nick Barile, and Eli Cain served as Haverford’s Plaintiff and Defense attorneys. Isabella Canelo Gordon, Nick Munves, William Leeser, and Mike Bueno all performed outstandingly as witnesses. Will Foster was Haverford’s timekeeper and Vaughn Papenhausen helped support the team during the tournament. Jeff Monhait is Haverford’s Attorney coach and has been assisting the team since its inception. If you have any questions or interest in Mock Trial, please email co-captains jmcguffee@haverford.edu or nbarile@haverford.edu to be placed on the mailing list for future events.

Fords on Friday: Tips for the Law School Applicant

Posted on: February 6, 2015

By Lizzy Pierson HC ‘12

Thank you to Haverford alum and current law school applicant Lizzy Pierson, who took the Fords on Friday alumni blog challenge! We love advice from alums! 

My first recommendation is that you review the Haverford Pre-Law website. I’m going to offer some tips that supplement those provided there. The Pre-Law people are experts who know a lot about the application process, whereas I am a twenty-five-year-old who applied to law school once. Mostly, I’m going to tell you things I wish I had figured out sooner. Every applicant is unique, and my experiences and advice might not resonate with you. Then again, maybe they will, so here goes:

1. Take the LSAT early, if you can.

When I was a senior in college I decided to take the LSAT while in “school mode” rather than put it off until I had gotten out of the habit of studying. The first six weeks of senior year were about as miserable as you would expect, with practice tests crammed between reading assignments and thesis preparation. But then it was over! Three years later, I applied to law school with the score I got as a Haverford student. Based on my conversations with friends who took the LSAT later, I really think my way was more humane. Trust me, current students: when you are working full-time, commuting, cooking, and trying to maintain a social life with friends who live more than a quarter-mile away from you, you will not feel like devoting your Saturdays to logic games.
If you’re reasonably confident you want to go to law school, but you plan on taking time off after college (which I definitely recommend), just take the LSAT as soon as possible. The scores last five years. If you take the test a year or two before you actually apply to law school, the application process will be much less stressful.

2. The dreaded personal statement: draft, draft again.

The Pre-Law website tells you to write several drafts of your personal essay. I found I had to write several versions, on totally different topics, and then write multiple drafts of the chosen version. Although this might seem like hair-splitting, to me, it’s a meaningful distinction. It’s not easy to find a topic you can use to showcase your intelligence, wit, compassion, ambition, integrity, wisdom-beyond-your-years, and oh yeah, down-to-earth humility (isn’t the personal statement fun?). I know I stumbled my way through three or four terrible essays on different subjects before I generated one that was almost ok, which I then edited beyond recognition. Don’t marry a topic before actually drafting an essay or two.

3. Read the applications first.

Before you start your applications in earnest, do yourself a favor: invest half an hour to skim the applications on LSAC. Some schools hide mini-essay questions behind innocuous titles like “Applicant Background,” or “Activities and Interests.” If you know they’re coming, you will be more likely to craft thoughtful, thorough responses, instead of resentfully pounding out a few sentences while wishing you could just watch Netflix already.

4. Make sure you know why you are going to law school. Then come up with your elevator pitch for the 1,587 people who will ask you to defend your choice.

You will probably find yourself discussing your law school plans with a lot of people. Once your friends and colleagues know you’re applying to law school, they’ll introduce you to others with that fun fact. Soon, you will find yourself at a party, or a work event, holding a drink and explaining to some guy named Mark why you want to study law. Mark might not like lawyers. Or, Mark might be fascinated by every detail of your career plans. Mark might be a lawyer, hate his job, and try to convince you to change your path. Mark might be really obnoxious. But with any luck, you can make Mark go away by telling him in a few short, confident sentences about your goals, then changing the subject to sports.

Although I feel good about my decision to go to law school, I still struggle sometimes with my “elevator pitch.” If someone asks me why I want to go to law school, and I’ve been stressing for days about the FAFSA, I might have some trouble coming up with a convincing answer right away. Then that makes me think I’m not committed enough, and maybe the questioner is onto something (because of course, when you’re in this kind of mood, every innocent question feels like an attack on your life choices). I think a lot of us question our major decisions as we’re making them – as part of the process of making them. It doesn’t mean we’re making mistakes. It just means we’re thinking. But I know that on the days when I can tell someone confidently why I want to study law, I leave the conversation even more confident about my decision. Sometimes you have to provide your own positive reinforcement. Which brings me to my final tip…

5. Keep your balance and remember your motivation.

We apply to law school because, hopefully, we want to study law and be lawyers. Keeping that in mind should help stop the application process from temporarily ruining your life. If certain books or movies inspire you, turn to them when you’re ready to erase every word you’ve ever written because your personal statement is garbage. (I watched Legally Blonde the night before taking the LSAT. Best decision ever.) If certain people have always supported you, call them when somebody makes you second-guess yourself. Do something positive and affirming to balance the stress of applying, and to keep it in perspective. The applications are a pain, but they’ll get you where you need to be.

At least, that’s what I hear. I need to go work on my FAFSA… good luck!