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Don’t Let Anxiety Drive Law School Applications

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Today’s post comes to us from Ann Levine, a law school admissions consultant and the founder of LawSchoolExpert.com. She is the author of The Law School Admission Game: Play Like an Expert.

I am writing to you from my happy place – I’m in Palm Springs. It’s good to get away sometimes, get out of the grind, and open myself up to new ideas. All week, I’ve known I wanted to (had to) write this article about anxiety, but until I got away, to a new place, I didn’t feel ready. New surroundings help clear my head. Heck, even an hour-long yoga class or the rare treat of a massage – anything that gives me time to let my thoughts emerge tends to result in my best ideas.

Which leads me to the whole point of this article: you need freedom to think in order to make good decisions about everything in the law school admission process, whether how to prepare for the LSAT or deciding what’s most important to you in a law school or what to write about in your personal statement – these are not decisions that can be made well under pressure.

Anxiety cannot be the driver in applying to law school. We can’t make good decisions while anxious. So how can you clear your head of anxiety? For me, as I mentioned, it’s yoga, or simply a change of scenery – even a 24 hour business trip with time on planes and trains helps. Get yourself out of your normal surroundings: just take a walk and think: What’s causing the anxiety?

It’s almost always pressure. For most law school applicants, it’s the pressure to have a good career and a good life. After all, this is what most young people want, so why would law school applicants be different? After admitting this, the next step is to think about where the pressure is coming from. Perhaps the pressure is all internal? Wanting to be someone, wanting to impress people, wanting people to like you. Perhaps you are one of the lucky ones and it’s all about a sincere drive to reach your goals so you can get started with the real work of serving others in some capacity.

More likely, the pressure is coming from elsewhere. Maybe partially from your parents, who want to brag about you to friends, or who want to feel secure that you’ll be taken care of even though they can’t leave you a trust fund? Or is the pressure coming from your peers, who all seem to be on their way to accomplishing marvelous things? Listening to strangers in online forums tends to feed this, but why do we reach to forums? For comfort? Or is it from fear? The fear that the person next to you knows more, is more prepared, is going to therefore have a happier, better, more trouble free and successful life?

Most likely, it’s a combination of these factors. Regardless, I want you to put it all in a box. Focus on yourself. Stop worrying, and use your time productively – If you’re on your way to the December LSAT, know that worry is not going to improve your studying, and is only going to take away from the hard work you’re putting in. If you took the September LSAT, think of application time as a place free from the pressure of the LSAT in which you can focus on your personal statement.

A key driver in personal statement anxiety is the worry that other people will have better things to say; that it’s impossible to stand out among all the Teach for America teachers, Fulbright Scholars, Senate Fellows and Capitol Hill interns. Take a step back. Don’t think about anyone else’s story and how yours will compare. Remove the pressure by changing your environment. Go somewhere that allows you freedom of thought – not Starbucks. Pick the park. Or a long train ride where you have no cell reception. Think about your story. Tell it effectively. Show why you’ve done what you’ve done. Go deep: why do you want to do what you want to do? Whether to get into your dream law school or to simply get to know yourself a little better, this is where the magic happens.

Remove the anxiety and create and think. I bet you this is how you’ll make your best decisions and do your best work.

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