Every person who graduates with a degree in the humanities or social sciences will eventually have to decide whether or not to go to law school.

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Unless you explicitly rule out going to law school, it will always be there in the background, haunting you. If you’re underemployed, got good grades, and went to a decent college, then you’re triply at risk: you’re on the express train to law school. If you want to get off it then you’re going to need to jump out and hope that the landing is softer than it looks.

The path to law school often begins with a person saying: “Hmm, why don’t I just take the LSATs to see what I’ll get.”

Don’t do it that way. The time to rule out something is before you’ve started to pursue it.

This was a hard lesson for me to learn. I am a big fan of the shotgun approach to low-probability contests. If there’s only a 5% chance of getting into something, then why should I waste all this time agonizing about whether or not I really want it? Maybe I should just go ahead and apply. If I don’t get in, then the decision is moot. And if I do, then I can decide then.

This is how I lived my life for years. Seriously, the only reason I’m not in law school (or a PhD program) right now is that my undergrad grades weren’t very good. Thank God for my past laziness.

Oh man, and when I think of the MFA programs I applied to…the horrible places I might be consigned to. I swear. I am really glad that I am not writing this from West Lafayette, Indiana.

Don’t be like me. This is a crazy way to make major life decisions. Because when you have that acceptance letter in your hand, it’s going to be really hard to turn it down.

On the one hand, you have concrete proof that someone wants you. And on the other hand, you have the rest of the world, which daily gives you proof that it doesn’t care about you at all. Are you really going to say, “No thanks, Duke Law School. I am just going to go on being an editorial assistant!”

No, of course not.

So, annoying as it might be, it’s much better to do at least a little bit of preliminary work sorting out what exactly it is that you think you might want.

Furthermore, this does have its benefits. For instance, you get to pre-reject places that would probably NEVER accept you. Like yeah, Yale Law School, sorry…you’re a perfectly decent place and I’m sure that many qualified candidates would like to be in you, but you’re just not a good fit for me.