Confessions of a Prelaw Student

Opinion Editor Melanie Pineda writes about why she wants to go to law school, and why she believes it will — hopefully — be worth it.

Melanie Pineda, Opinion Editor

As a junior in NYU’s prelaw program, I have never faced anything quite as terrifying as the idea of law school. I’ve known I wanted to be a lawyer since I first interned in an immigration lawyer’s office after my first year of college. Every immigration lawyer I’ve met since then has given me the same spiel — law school is hard, the work is worse and the pay is crap. You have to really love what you do in order to make it all worthwhile. No pressure or anything.

The idea that I could be working toward the goal of law school for nothing is more frightening than the thought of law school itself. What am I going to tell my family if I can’t make a living for myself doing what I love? How am I going to explain to my parents, who have sacrificed everything to give me the amazing opportunity of going to school, that I may not be able to support myself after paying for more than seven years of higher education?

With senior year coming up soon, the anxiety surrounding law school applications has become increasingly daunting. The feeling of not being accepted anywhere or not getting through the first year — let alone not being able to afford the wickedly high tuition — is one that I’m all too familiar with. These were all the thoughts that ran through my head when I was a senior in high school. At the time, NYU seemed so far away, an unrealistic prospect that I considered to be completely out of my reach.

Somehow, I’m here now. I’ve been here since my first year of college, and I love the work that I’m doing. I was able to jump past the hurdle of fear of actually going to college and having to find a way to afford it without causing me stress for the rest of my life, though to be honest, I’m still trying to figure out that last part. I’m proud of my accomplishments and I’m proud of the person I’m becoming.

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It’s difficult to put into words why law school is even more frightening. I know that absolutely nothing can truly prepare me for what is to come. I don’t know what it’s like to pore over countless briefs night after night, though I do have experience spending long nights cooped up in the library. I don’t know every single Supreme Court case by heart, and I definitely don’t know how to argue in front of a court with dozens of eyes watching my every move, hanging on every word. 

What I do know is the feeling I would get after every case my boss and I would win that summer in his law office. The tears that would well up in his client’s eyes when they were granted asylum. The embraces they would give me, thanking me for this new opportunity of a life here in the United States. The hope that would be drip off everything they said. The smiles their children would give me, who look and sound like I did when I was a little girl and my own mother was applying for citizenship in this country.

The journey ahead is going to be difficult and exhausting, and it will probably cause more stress than anything I experience as an undergraduate. But I know it is nothing compared to the hardships immigrants face right now — hardships which my own parents had to face at ages much younger than myself. As a child of two immigrants, who knows the stories of my people firsthand, I know that this is the path I have to take. I have been given the privilege of higher education, found work that I am profusely passionate about and I refuse to take it for granted. If I am able to help at least one family find their way in this complicated country, then it will all be worth it. 

Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Feb. 25, 2019, print edition. Email Melanie Pineda at [email protected]

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