As I mentioned in my earlier post, I have accepted and deferred my admissions to Washington University School of Law in St. Louis. While WashU was never on my radar, I applied because I received a waiver fee and had read about WashU’s generous scholarships. Amazingly, when I was accepted to their law school, WashU also awarded me a full ride – something that would have never been possible without my high LSAT score. Studying for the LSAT for 1.5 years was not easy but I don’t regret it. Without this extra year, I would have never gotten accepted to T20 law schools nor would have been offered full scholarships. An extra year of studying in exchange for saving hundreds of thousands in loans? Not bad!
In this post I want to focus on how I managed to stay motivated, because let’s face it, studying for the LSAT is hard. Studying for any standardized test is hard.
These tests, like the LSAT, GMAT, GRE, MCAT, are also costly. A 5-week Kaplan LSAT Prep Course can cost you at least $1,190 and registering for the LSAT costs $180. Personally, I have probably spent around $1,100 on LSAT-related things alone. In addition to the monetary cost, standardized tests require a lot of emotional energy and time. Most people don’t have the luxury of solely studying for an exam – they are either in school or working. For this reason, I decided to work and live abroad in Spain while studying for the LSAT – my contract only required me to work 12 hours a week! To maximize your changes of scoring well on a standardized test, you must commit to preparing for it.
However, to stay committed, you need motivation. But how do you stay motivated? Motivation comes from the inside. Nobody can make you put in work and effort into something if you don’t want to. Motivation requires you to see a bigger purpose in whatever you do.
So how did I manage to stay motivated to study for the LSAT so many months?
Personally, by the end of my senior year, I knew that law school was for me. After taking a Constitutional Law class at FIU my senior year and visiting some law schools (ASU Law and UM Law), I was 100% sold on the idea of law. While the written law is black and white, its interpretation isn’t and I love this ‘gray’ area. There is not right vs wrong way to understand the law, only which interpretation is argued and defended better.
Applying to law school requires several things: the general application, transcript, LSAT score, letters of recommendations, personal statement, resume, and optional supplemental essays requested by individual law schools. By far, the most important components of the application are the quantitative elements: the GPA and LSAT score. GPA is something that can only be controlled while still at school. By the time I was set on law school, I had already graduated from FIU and my GPA was set in stone; I couldn’t change my GPA. However, my LSAT score was a blank slate – it was completely up to me and entirely in my control. Where I could/couldn’t go to law school would depend on my LSAT. Knowing the power of my LSAT score to influence my future didn’t intimidate me, it empowered me.
While in Granada, studying for the LSAT was my number one priority. It meant that for the most part, my life worked around my studying sessions. This didn’t mean that I spent all of my waking days studying; I practiced quality over quantity. I was motivated to study because I was empowered by the power I had to influence my future. However, as someone who has a history of depression, I knew that my depressive swings could come in the way of my motivation.
So, in order to be successful at my number one priority, I needed my mental health to be 110%. To do this:
1. I went to the gym 4/5 times a week. Exercising has always been fundamental in helping me manage depression and clearing my head. In Granada, I generally went to the gym straight after work. Even when I didn’t feel like going to the gym (whether it was because I was having a bad day or just feeling lazy) I still showed up and maintained the habit of going to the gym.
2. I ate healthier. Contrary to the produce available in the United States, fresh fruits and vegetables are noticeably cheaper than processed food in Spain. I took advantage of this and usually meal-prepped salads and fruits salads to be read to eat.
3. I knew my excuses. As humans, we’re incredibly good at finessing our way out of things we don’t really want to do. I, for one, try to convince myself that I can’t workout if I feel hungry because ‘I don’t have enough energy’. To counter this self-made argument, I grew accustomed to eating more often and carrying around snacks (like fruit salads, granola bars, and yogurts).
Moral of the story: don’t finesse your way out of things you know that you need to do. Develop habits that ignore these inner excuses. Ignore the voice that’s giving you excuses and DON’T negotiate with it.
4. I did something social at least 1-2x a week. Based on my experiences with learning to manage my depression, I noticed a correlation between my mental state deteriorating and growing anti-social. As a result, I made an effort to go out and socialize weekly.
5. I often took the time to explore Granada. As important as it is to focus on the future, never forget to live in the present. I wanted to constantly remind myself how of lucky I was to live in Granada, a picturesque city with a colorful history. I made sure to take advantage of free walking tours, museums, the different neighborhoods, and trying different restaurants.
Unsurprisingly, sometimes I failed at doing the things I needed to do for my mental health. However, knowing that I had several safeguards in place for my mental health meant that it was okay if one or two of them fell through.
Unavoidably, there were times when I didn’t want to do anything at all. In due time I learned to not beat myself up over the lack of productivity during my depressive swings. In these situations I compromised with myself: I wouldn’t look at LSAT material for 2-3 days and instead did others things like explore, read, or just got out of the house. I tried to avoid Netflix, which made me feel stagnant and lazy. I’d get back into my LSAT mode by doing a section a day until I finally got back into rhythm. Patience and persistency are key. It’s important to be kind to yourself – don’t push yourself too hard but never lose sight of your goal.
I reminded myself daily that I wanted to achieve the best LSAT score I could possibly get. Studying for the LSAT while dealing with a mental health issue is hard but not impossible. It just requires a little more grit and knowing yourself. Ultimately, it comes down to how bad you want it. Remind yourself what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.
Studying for the LSAT was not a breeze, but it was certainly worth it!