I’m a first generation college student, meaning I am the only one in my immediate family (and in my situation, most of my extended family as well) that has gone to college and gotten a degree. I am also the only one in my family who graduated from law school and is a practicing attorney. As a first gen who went through the bar exam process, I have learned some of the challenges that are presented by being a first generation student. Although everyone gets stressed regarding preparing for the bar exam and learning exactly what is tested, I feel like there is extra stress added if you’re a first generation law student. Not only did I not have anyone that I knew who had taken the bar other than my fellow classmates, I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into or where to turn. It was a very stressful experience. Fortunately for you, I did successfully pass the bar exam on my first attempt! Although it was a difficult time that I still have nightmares about today, I am hoping that I can use my experience to make your trip to the bar exam a much easier and smoother process. So here is my bar exam advice as a first generation student:
First Generation Challenges
I’m a first generation law student and now a lawyer. When I was in law school and preparing for the bar exam, I had absolutely no idea what I was getting into. Unfortunately, I did not have a convenient source of information from someone who went to law school and took the bar before me. Just like back before I started school, I didn’t know what law school or the bar exam was like or how to prepare. Before law school I had to search for answers which actually led me to the Girl’s Guide to Law School and subsequently the Bar Exam Toolbox.
Fast forward to my 1L year…. I was extremely anxious because I didn’t know what to expect on the bar exam, and I didn’t know who I could reach out to to figure out what to do. I knew that the bar exam would be here before I knew it and as a futurist, I wanted to be prepared. Fortunately for me, I happened to sit in on a lunch meant for 3Ls about the bar exam and coincidentally gained a basic framework that eased some of my anxiety. However, I will never forget the stress I felt over the knowledge gap that I needed to get over as a first generation student.
You Can Work and Study
Working AND studying for the bar exam?? That’s crazy! It seems like everyone tells you that working and studying for the bar exam is a bad combination. It makes sense. The bar exam is extremely difficult and many people study for the bar exam as a full-time job for a few months. However, if you’re like me, it is extremely difficult to take such an extended time period off without bringing in any money! Many first generation law students supported themselves throughout school and thus, needed to work on top of classes. Personally, I have had a job since I was 16 years old. When it came time to study for the bar exam, I had to make the decision to continue to work to support myself. So I worked and studied for the bar exam during bar prep. At first, I worked full time following graduation, then dropped down to part-time about 6 weeks prior to the bar exam. I was fortunate enough to give myself the month of the bar exam off so that I could focus on my final preparation! Although it was difficult and stressful to juggle both working and studying, it is manageable, especially if you have excellent time management skills. So if you have to work to support yourself, it is definitely possible to work and study for the bar, as long as you can dedicate some time towards the end to fully focus on studying.
It is Okay to Lean on Your Loved Ones
Sometimes as a first generation law student you may feel all alone and that people don’t understand the specific struggles that you are going through. However, even if your friends and family haven’t personally experienced what you are going through, they are still excellent sources of love and comfort. Your loved ones are people you can lean on and go to in times of hardship and stress. My parents, siblings, best friends and my now husband were such amazing sources of support during the most stressful times in law school. Without them, I would not have been as successful as I was. Your loved ones are your cheerleaders. They are willing to help you through the hard times, and you should use them for support.
No Matter What Happens, It’ll be Okay
There is a lot of pressure that goes into the bar exam. Many people are worried that they are going to fail and that they won’t be successful. They put this monstrous amount of stress on their shoulders, thinking if they don’t pass then their life is over. This is especially true for first generation law students. They may feel additional pressure from friends and family as the first graduate and future lawyer. It sometimes feels like if you don’t pass then you are letting everyone else down. On the second day of the bar exam I remember convincing myself that I had failed and that everyone was going to be disappointed in me. However, it is important to remember that is not true! Your friends and family will understand. Whatever the result may be, they will be there for you. They will try to help you through the hard times and celebrate with you when you do eventually pass. It will be okay and you can be successful.
You Can Pass the Bar!
The bar exam will be here before you know it! I know it is difficult to imagine the day of the bar exam and visualizing yourself being successful. It may even seem impossible right now. However, you can pass the bar. I know it seems daunting now, but you have already taken the first steps by trying to prepare yourself for what to expect as a first generation law student. I hope this was helpful for you and that you can learn from my experience as a first gen taking the bar exam. I am sure you will be successful on game day! Best of luck, I know you can do it!