When I started looking at colleges, which seems like a million years ago now, my parents stressed the importance of the “college experience.” While it was obviously important to get a good education, they reminded me that the next four years of my life would involve a lot of learning and experiences that took place outside the classroom. And when I left for school, they told me again in fear that I would bury my nose in my books, never to be seen again.
It turned out to not be a problem for me — I didn’t let striving to get good grades get in the way of clubs I wanted to join, dinners I wanted to go to, or friends I wanted to make. I certainly didn’t let a little thing like class stop me from going to the Sugar Bowl. And as a result, I think I had a pretty great college experience while maintaining a high standard of work. I don’t look back on my time here and wish I had done X, Y and Z instead. (Though I do regret never sledding in the Arb — who knew we wouldn’t get snow this winter?)
As I move forward from this period, though, that seems to have changed. Not by any means from my parents, who think it’s important to enjoy your life, but from others. The same people who stress the importance of the “college experience” are now telling me to look toward the end goal as I consider different law schools. Suddenly all that matters is what school has the most internships, what school has the highest placement record and what school is ranked highest on reviews. No one has asked me where I think I’m going to be happy.
It sounds stupid even when I say it. I mean, ask anyone. You don’t go to law school to be happy, you go to become a lawyer. And that is absolutely true. (Seriously, not worth the money if you aren’t going to actually become a lawyer.) But unless I’m totally different from everyone else on the planet, which is not totally out of the realm of possibility, I don’t do very good work when I’m miserable.
Of course, I’m picking a law school based on employment prospects, school reputation and specialization in my field of interest. But I’m also going to pick a school where I am going to get along with the other students, like the area around me and feel like I belong. Honestly, if I’m unhappy at my school, I’m hardly going to do well enough to place in the rankings, even if I’m at the best law school I could get into.
It sounds really simple when put like that, but I think it’s a concept that too many people around me are forgetting, both with regard to my life and to theirs. There is more to life than grades; there is more to life than going to the best school in the country. If I don’t take time outside of law school to do things that make me happy, whether it’s going out with friends, going to the zoo or traveling to Michigan football games, what am I going to have when there is no more law school? If I make myself solely one thing, I’m not going to be very interesting.
And if I make my choice about my future one thing — what is going to best get me to the end goal — without taking into account all the things that are going to happen along the way, my life isn’t going to be very interesting either. I know where I want to be in five years, and I know the rough path I need to take to get there. But I’m going to have some fun along the way.
Erika Mayer is an LSA senior.