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Freshmen: Study hard from Day 1

Gerald Bradshaw

Gerald Bradshaw

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Updated: September 25, 2012 10:35AM



Dear Mr. Bradshaw — I will begin college shortly and want to make sure I get off to a good start. I hope to pursue a career in law. What advice can you give me about preparing for law school? — College FreshmanDear Freshman

— This is a question I wish all students who are entering college would ask.

If you want to be accepted into law school, you must concentrate on your studies and build a top-notch grade-point average from Day 1.

And, if you think that as a college freshman you can afford to kick back and blow off your grades for a year, then make up for it during your sophomore, junior and senior years, be forewarned: There never will be enough time to overcome a weak first-year GPA.

Although your last three years may show evidence of what well-meaning academic advisers call the “showing of improvement trend” it won’t pull any weight with potential law, medical or business school officials as they sift through transcripts of undergraduates who aced their first-year classes.

It is a buyer’s market, and poor grades can devalue your transcript by as much as 25 percent.

Many students think the freshman year is a time to experiment with classes and find out where their true intellectual and creative selves lie. As a result, grades plunge as students struggle with symbolic logic and Advanced Placement French.

You might even need a fifth undergraduate year to bolster your academic record.

College freshmen also should consider applying for internships during summer breaks. Some of the most successful business and professional people I know enhanced their educations and professional acumen with summer employment.

Be reminded that with anything lower than a 2.5 freshman GPA (on a four-point scale), you can kiss goodbye an internship at a consulting firm or investment bank.

The biggest mistake I see freshmen make is not having clear career direction. When you do not have the slightest idea about a major, you end up taking a hodgepodge of classes, selected for you by academic advisers more interested in filling open classes than helping you define a career strategy and build your GPA.

If you want to pursue a law degree, take courses that relate to the area of law in which you hope to specialize.

Typically, the hardest classes to earn an A are the so-called “required” or general education subjects that must be taken in order to fulfill degree and graduation requirements. Some of these classes must be taken in sequence, but can be postponed until a student’s junior or senior years, when they have built a solid GPA and are better equipped to handle them.

Remember, your academic performance in the first three years of college will count most when you apply to law school, and good grades in your freshman year are critical in building a solid GPA.



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