Law School Survival Series: Prestige Fatigue

Sunday, October 6, 2019

There's nothing new I can say about our culture's obsession with prestige when it comes to education. The recent admissions scandal, the case against Harvard's admissions process, the decades-long squabbling over affirmative action--people are nuts about prestige. And I am sick of it.

I certainly fell into the prestige-hole from a young age, deciding to shirk the path most of my peers took to a midwestern Big 10 university and opted instead for Vassar, an "elite private liberal arts college in the beautiful Hudson river valley." Most recently, Vassar was riffed on SNL for being a place where people named Mackenzie eat tempeh and drink out of metal straws and, you know what, guilty as charged. College was a lovely-if-emotionally-fraught time for me and I'm glad I chose to take the leap and leave the comforts of the midwest for a bit, but the main thing I learned from going there is that A) no one gives a hoot how prestigious your undergrad was and B) the level of prestige doesn't dictate the quality of the people or experiences you get from a place. It can actually be quite toxic because it turns out placing the entirety of your self worth on your grades and the name recognition of the school on your resume isn't great for your mental health?????

I, however, decided to throw those life lessons RIGHT in the trash the second I decided to start the law school application process. I had landed in this vicious cycle of watching all my peers from my prestigious liberal arts college go off and do great things and attend ivy league grad schools and it got in my head that if I didn't get into a T-14 law school (T-14 means top 14) then I was worthless and dumb and my future was doomed so why even try???

Early on in my law school researching I got lost in the Law School corner of the internet. I won't link to it here because if you haven't found that particular black hole yet I highly encourage you to avoid it. I'm talking the law school subreddit, the random forums, blogs dedicated exclusively to bitter students airing their complaints. There are sites where you can literally input your undergrad GPA and LSAT scores and see where similarly situated students got accepted, just to make yourself feel really dismal. Most of it is a drawn-out exercise in ego stroking, a virtual room filled with people who are either wildly bitter or wildly self-congratulatory about where their law school career has taken them. You can truly find the riff-raffiest of law students on the Law School Internet. Avoid at all costs.

This is what prestige does to you: You will never be good enough. You will never score high enough. You will never work hard enough.

In my hot pursuit of T-14 glory, I ran my spirit into the ground perusing the Law School Internet while studying for the LSAT, had some full-blown meltdowns leading up to the day of the test, and then CRIED when I got my score back. I only scored in the 90th percentile, and you need to hit the 97th percentile to get into the ivies. I cried about scoring better than 90% of other test takers. This is what prestige does to you: You will never be good enough. You will never score high enough. You will never work hard enough. This is why some people are willing to literally break the law to get into a higher ranked school. It's absolute, spirit-crushing madness.

To be fair, sometimes law school rankings are helpful. There are some places that are like the Trump Universities of law school - scamming students out of their money while not actually preparing them for taking the bar and practicing law. It's important to do research on the schools you're interested in so you can make an educated decision on where to invest your time and money. And it is a significant investment, so it makes sense to choose a school that will prepare you well for the practice of law and has the connections to help you get a job after you graduate. Because that is the whole point of all of this, in the end. To further your career. To get a better job. But in the prestige madness it becomes about so much more - it becomes about your worth as a human.

I refuse to give power to the idea that my worth can be defined by the name of the school on my resume and how many white men made a lot of money after attending it.

Eventually I came to my senses. Really, I got what I like to call *prestige fatigue.* I got tired of it all. Y'all, life is so short. I refuse to give power to the idea that my worth can be defined by the name of the school on my resume and how many white men made a lot of money after attending it. I have better things to do. If you are in the midst of your law school application process and struggling with prestige fatigue, let me be a testament to the fact that it doesn't matter. I did not get into a T-14 school. I didn't choose to go to the highest ranked school I got into. I literally couldn't even tell you what my school is ranked. I'm on year three and have no regrets. You're gonna be fine no matter the outcome of the LSAT you took last month and the applications you're scrambling to complete. You are worth so much more than the numbers that define your academic performance. Admissions reps and big law firms that profit off the competition, the man and capitalism, etc etc etc, want to make you believe you're only worth the strength of your GPA and test scores, but don't let them. Also, get a therapist. Mine talked me off so many proverbial ledges during the law school application process. You'll probably be better for it.

Think I'm wrong? Feel free to drag me in the comments below. Or, better yet, write a rebuttal article and if it's any good I'll publish it. Email

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*DISCLAIMER* Nothing I write on this blog should ever be taken as legal advice. This entire project is just me applying my limited knowledge of The Law to the news and trying my best to analyze it all. I am not an expert in anything. I don’t even have my JD yet.

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