Law School

Am I In This Alone? Navigating Feelings of Isolation as a PreLaw Student

One of the emotional barriers we have to overcome when we start the law school application process is the loneliness and feelings of isolation. It’s likely that very few of your friends or family will have gone through this process. When you’re starting a path less traveled, it’s normal to feel like you have no one to turn to for practical advice, or that no one understands the stress you’re experiencing, or generally feel like it’s so unfair that you have to navigate this process all alone.

When no one else has succeed in the goal you’re setting off to achieve, it feels daunting. There will be moments that you even question yourself and your ability. Like, is this goal too far-fetched? How do I even know if I can do it, when no one around me has done this before? Should I just lower my expectations?

It’s hard. And it’s not just learning the ropes on your own, but that disconnect that builds between you and your family as you progress professionally starts to feel more distinct.

Unfortunately, this is just one of the very normal experience many Latinas will endure in pursuing their JDs. Part of joining this profession means accepting that there will be many feelings of isolation and detachment from family and friends as you begin this journey. And you’ll have to work hard to find systems of support outside of your normal family and friends. It’s tough, but this is the time where you also start building the skill that leads to a greater ability to use self-discipline and self-reliance to move forward—and those skills are priceless. In the meantime, how do you keep your mental health strong?

One. Find support elsewhere. Yes, well-meaning family is precious and irreplaceable, but there will come a time where you need someone that can really mentor and guide you. Make it a goal, even as a prelaw student, to seek out groups that can help you. When I was in college, I was part of student government and many of those participants ended up in law school. I am still SO grateful for a few of those upperclassmen who saw how lost I was in the process and sent me advice and tips on next steps. It doesn’t have to be so informal, either. Join a pre-law society, find online resources (hello! Email us with questions!)–whatever you can do to make sure you have some type of support you can rely on when you have questions.

Two. Ignore the noise. As you venture into this stressful time, you may start hearing that self-conscious voice questioning your capabilities. You may have some well-meaning family members, who don’t want you to get hurt because they know exactly how society mistreats outsiders, gently encourage you to consider something else. You may have friends or family that are jealous or scared at your ambition and all it entails. All those voices may steer you in the wrong direction. So really be aware of the messages you’re consuming. Does talking to this cousin leave me feeling bright and happy about my future or am I constantly defending my dreams and goals? Take stock of how people and situations make you feel and ignore the noise that doesn’t propel you forward.

Three. Acknowledge it. Finally, acknowledge what you feel. It’s ok to feel frustrated that no one in your family can help you. Or frustrated that you feel completely alone. Having negative feels and fleshing them out is what makes us human. And this law school journey is most def not a #positivevibesonly type of deal. Figuring out what makes you feel bad and then ways to cope is the best steps you can take as you move towards your goal. In fact, this will strengthen your problem-solving skills and teach you even more self-reliance.

And that’s vital as you enter law school. Because even with the most amazing, supportive family filled with legal professionals, at the end of the day, it is still just up to you. You have to learn how to push yourself, when no one else will.  How to motivate yourself to meet your goals, try new things, and craft your own career.

I don’t mean to paint these bad feelings like a boot-strappy story that will make you a good attorney. It sucks that this career causes such a great divide in the connections we have to our family and friends. I wish it was a more pleasant experience. But the most important thing to remember is that ultimately you are the one that gets to set goals for your future and then you are the one that has to work towards them.

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