Experiences on the pre-professional path

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I’ve wanted to be a lawyer since fifth grade. That was the moment when I made up my mind that I didn’t want to be an artist, an actress, a graphic designer or a psychologist like I had wanted to be before. I wanted to be a lawyer, like my uncle, my aunt and my grandfather from my father’s side. I didn’t want to be an engineer like my parents, despite their constant nagging and nudging me down that path. But then I watched movies such as “Bridge of Spies,” “Erin Brockovich” and “Loving.” I saw how real people battled with law to enact justice in the world. I saw the power of the Constitution and how its interpretations can change lives so drastically. I have always wanted to be a part of that.

Being on the pre-law track has certainly shaped all aspects of my studies. I’m considering political economy as an intended major; I have taken classes centered around the legal or history field and have attempted to join various clubs that are law-oriented or help with skills that are heavily used in legal studies. I even considered joining a pre-law fraternity, but that’s something for another semester. With regards to all of my academic activities, I always think about whether they will help further my quest to be a lawyer. I even tend to do this in “fun” clubs and activities, but I try to ignore this voice for those aspects.

Being pre-anything doesn’t completely dominate over absolutely everything, but with graduate school in mind, your one goal is to do whatever it takes to get there. For pre-law in particular, a high GPA and LSAT score are absolutely necessary as the admissions process is very numbers-driven. I’m only a freshman here at UC Berkeley, but I’ve felt the need to already map out my future. I always thought there was one set path for a pre-professional undergraduate degree and that my life would finally have some proper direction. I was wrong. There are so many paths down which a student here can go, even while being on a pre-professional track.

I’ve never really considered myself “pre-law;” however, I’d always just think of it as me wanting to go to law school at some point in the future. I never really wanted to put a label on myself as “pre-something,” and I’m not quite sure why. Maybe it’s because I don’t want to be seen as a student who only looks to the future (which ironically, I am). There’s something about being on the pre-professional track that gives you a bad reputation as someone who only cares about getting ahead in life and having a career, not so much smelling the roses and enjoying life as they pass through it.

My dream, of course, would be to attend Yale Law School. At this point, I don’t know if I’ll make it, just like four years ago when I didn’t know if I’d make it into one of the top colleges in the nation and world. For now, this is my plan, my end goal for my education. But things may change in the future. One of my close family friends, who is a UC Berkeley alumna and lawyer in San Francisco, expressed to me how during her senior year, when it was time to apply to law schools, she had massive waves of doubt and almost didn’t end up applying at all. All I could think about at that point was how someone who has worked toward something for four years could suddenly no longer want it anymore.

This is a fear that lingers in my mind and probably will for the next four years. It is likely a fear that lingers in the minds of many pre-professional students at many different universities. What if, after spending $160,000 on my undergraduate tuition and another $50,000 on my first year of law school, I don’t want to be a lawyer anymore? Then what? Right now, I’m putting all my energy and hard work into going to law school. If it doesn’t work out, I don’t quite have anything to fall back on, but I’m taking the risk nonetheless.

There will always be uncertainty on the pre-professional track. One minute, you have your future all planned out, and the next, you decide you don’t want that future anymore. Even now, I’ve had many people tell me that if I want to practice law, I better know exactly why I want to do it and exactly what I’m getting into. For now, I have a strong gravitation towards the legal field, but that could definitely change in the future, whether near or far.

Contact Pooja Bale at [email protected].