7 things I wish I knew before taking the LSAT

Hey all,

I just started a new year of fellowship, this time on the director’s side. I’m instructing as well as studying with this year’s fellows for the upcoming digital LSAT in September. Of course the fellows have plenty of questions, but it seems that they are most interested in the day-of experience.

It makes complete sense. You can practice all you want but you don’t know what the real day will feel like. As I look back to taking my first LSAT, I realize what a mess I was. I had the material down but I wasn’t as mentally or emotionally prepared for the day as I should’ve been. There are definitely things I would’ve done differently.

 

  1. Research and believe the reviews you find about your test center.

My test center was literally hell. It was way too hot and we were waiting for so long. When we finally got into the mini chem lecture room to take the exam, the desks were far too small and the air conditioner was blowing my papers away and my baby hairs in my eyes. I saw reviews saying this wasn’t a good test center, but it was so close to my home and the reviews were quite old, so I thought the convenience would surpass the cons. I WAS WRONG. Pay attention to reviews. People don’t write them unless they feel VERY strongly.

Also, I realize papers getting blown away will no longer be a problem for the digital LSAT, but you’re still going to want enough room for the tablet, your scrap paper, and some pencils.

2.  BRING EAR PLUGS. DON’T TALK TO ANYONE.

People really show up to this exam thinking they can wing it. They show up not having studied for the exam and they WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT. This is not your time to be friendly or feel like you have to soothe someone who was irresponsible enough to take this expensive exam without studying for it. Do you. Bring ear plugs. Meditate on your 15 min break. DON’T START CONVERSATIONS. Misery loves company and if you’re already feeling bad about the first half, talking to other people will make you feel WORSE.

 

3. PLAN AHEAD.

It’s 2019 and when I travel without my phone, I literally feel naked. What I noticed when I took my exam was that people brought their phones but either locked it up at the local gym or paid the local bodega/deli to hold on to them. (I live in NYC where this is/was common practice for high school kids who weren’t allowed to bring their phones into school). Go visit your testing center. If you feel that you need your phone on you, plan ahead and look in the area or have a friend tag along for the 4 hours to work nearby so that you’ll have your stuff as soon as it’s over.

 

4. IF YOU HAVE HAIR, BRING/WEAR A SOFT HEADBAND.

Emphasis on soft. You don’t want a headband digging into your head and causing you headaches mid-exam. However, a soft headband will keep the hairs out of your eyes especially if there is a DAMN AIR CONDITIONER NEXT TO YOU.

 

5. WEAR LAYERS.

I did this.. but phew.. the temperature differences on that late September morning were extreme. From the hot and humid hallway to the cold, windy lecture room. Wear layers. You won’t regret.

 

6. This test doesn’t define you or your worth. There are people that have been trained their whole life for this exam. It’s kind of elitist, but it’s still important.

The reality of this exam is that it exists. It’s changed in form and other schools are beginning to accept the GRE, but right now the LSAT is still an important component of your law school application. That being said, how you perform on this exam does not define you. Don’t let it scare you into thinking it does because you’ll let it win. Meditate, observe yourself, be mindful of your emotions but don’t let them make you so reactive that you mess up the exam.

7. Work smarter, not harder.

You can take a thousand PrepTests and still keep getting the same score. Be aware. Recognize what you’re struggling with and work your way to understanding the question type. Work with other people to understand their way of thinking. You’ll burn yourself out trying to take so many PrepTests so take a good amount, but balance it with problem sets for specific question types. This allows you to drill in questions or question types that you are weaker at.

 

If you’ve gotten this far, thank you! I’ll be coming up with more content soon as I continue to study for this exam again. I’m coming from quite a different headspace this year so I’m hoping I can make better choices and observations to get a higher score for this exam!

Some of my stats in case you were wondering:

Diagnostic: 149

Highest prep test: 163

Actual: 154

 

^^ I personally think those are big differences which is why I’ll be taking this exam again.

The one with racist experiences.

Hey guys, another part of the reason I have been away for so long is because of the racism I’ve experienced in the past few months. I write about it now because, it’s part of my journey as someone that wants to work for and with people of color, as a person that is interested in immigrants rights, and as a person of color. It’s important to me because it’s part of the reason I keep reading, keep working, keep trying to support people of color.

I find it challenging to write about the racism I experience because as an Asian woman, I know I have privilege. I acknowledge that privilege, but I am also learning that my experiences are valid. There is no competition when it comes to discrimination. That being said, I share my experiences here with the hopes that someone will feel like they can my relate to my experience in a positive way- that someone who experiences racist micro aggressions recognizes that their experience is valid.

For the past two years, I fell off from some of my friends. I didn’t respond to their texts, I flaked on plans, I was in a bad place emotionally and the only person I would see was my boyfriend (I know, that makes me a REALLY bad friend). Because of that, most of the people I saw were my boyfriend’s friends and their girlfriends. For context, I have a proudly Brooklyn-Italian boyfriend. He’s quite the cutie and is slightly embarrassed by his Brooklyn-Italian accent. I never want him to feel ashamed for being him because quite frankly, I think he’s amazing and here’s a little more about us so I can stop gushing over him here. He does the work, he reads the articles I send, he speaks up when I freeze,  he asks questions, he actively tries to learn and have real conversations about race and class with people in his life that are not as exposed as he is. He is my ally.

When we were in high school, we had the privilege to be surrounded by an incredibly intelligent and diverse group of friends. We’re still friends with a lot of them but they’re off doing big kid things being engineers, athletes, lawyers, doctors, and scientists in different cities and some in different countries. In college and more recently, we’ve been surrounded by more white friends in Brooklyn. It took a long time for me to be comfortable in all-white spaces. From childhood, I’m used to those spaces being hostile toward me or toward my parents. Last summer, I felt like I was in a place where I was happy and comfortable around my boyfriends’ friends and their girlfriends and that was the exact moment things turned to shit.

One girlfriend complained about the table of Asian people I befriended. She complained about her boyfriend being by that table and told me and my boyfriend “I don’t like those Asians.” TO ME. To be fair, she isn’t very bright and once included me when she said “We’re all white here” to which I raised my voice and said “HI NOT ME, NOT WHITE” Am I fucking invisible?

That same weekend, another girlfriend complained about the number of black people that were staying in the same hotel as us. She said it smelled like black people.. to which my boyfriend asked “what is that even supposed to smell like?!” She and her boyfriend laughed as they continued to suggest that we should find a different hotel next time. My boyfriend and I felt like we were sinking into our mattress as we were both shocked and outnumbered in that moment. We froze. We didn’t know what to do. Were these really our friends saying these things?

A few months later on Halloween, we were out with that group of friends again and I went to the bathroom with two of the girls from the group. They had told me to wait for them so we could all go back to our table together. We all got out of the stalls at the same time and I was washing my hands in the sink next to theirs. As I smiled to them in the mirror, I noticed they didn’t look at me. They didn’t notice me.. They didn’t realize I was standing right next to them. So I took my time. Dried off my hands. When I walked out of the bathroom, I saw my boyfriend waiting outside and the girls frantically running back. “Sorry! We thought you had left already!” Bitch, no you didn’t. You didn’t even look for me. You didn’t even see me standing right next to you and smiling.

Needless to say, I no longer consider them my friends. But in that moment, I was so hurt. I had considered them my friends. It took me a long time to get there, but yeah they were friends. I suddenly felt othered, like my existence depended on my boyfriend. Awful things were going through my head: That’s really what they think of people of color? How could they talk about black people like they’re not people? These people are doctors and teachers.. what kind of micro aggressions are they inflicting on their students and patients? What then does that make me? Am I only a person to them because of my relationship with my boyfriend? If these people don’t value me as a person then why am I here? Do I say something? No, I’ll just be gaslit. I’ll be the angry woman of color. Am I a bad ally/person of color/feminist/person for not saying anything? Probably. I don’t know. I freeze every time.

Here is an article about how racist micro aggressions can have negative effects on your health.

There have been more experiences, more racism, but these are the ones I can write about in the most detail. The combination of both blatant racism and racist micro aggressions impacted my mental health in awful ways. I felt so awful.

In January, I went away for a month. I went to the Philippines(the motherland) and Japan with a very short stopover in Korea(like 5 hours lol). Being home in the motherland for that long with my family for so long, being surrounded by unconditional love, being surrounded by people who look like me, sound like me, eat like me… It’s rejuvenating. It grounded me in the love I have for myself and for my family. It grounded me in a rich culture and a great people. The Philippines has its issues, but what place or people don’t? I don’t know what changed while I was there, but something did. I came back to New York feeling strong and new.

When I got back, I KonMari’d (Marie Kondo? Tidying up? You should read it. You should watch it) my social media. I unfollowed, muted, or blocked everyone that doesn’t spark some fucking joy. I started setting boundaries for myself. Gone are the days were I would doubt my self worth for a bunch of people whose life experiences are limited to people and places that are just like them.

I have spent the past few months reconnecting with my friends. My beautiful friends that are composed of women, queer folk, and people of color. I have spent the past few months searching for more work and volunteer opportunities to support people of color. I’ll be interviewing women of color for this new fellowship season(only women of color applied and I’m not mad).

There have been more racist, more blatant experiences lately, but they don’t hurt as much. I’m walking away when I should. I’m working the courage to speak up. I’m working up the courage and the knowledge so that when I finally burst, my voice will not shake. I’ll be confident in what I have learned and firm in what I believe in.

If you’ve made it this far, thank you. I realize that as a woman of color, I’ll experience worse in the future as I continue to pursue a career in law. I can hope that won’t be true, but I’d rather be prepared for when it is.

The one with the explanation..

Hey all, it’s been a long time since I’ve last logged into this site. I thought my views might have died off when I stopped posting, but I was pleasantly surprised when I saw that over the months that I’ve let this blog rot, people have actually been checking out my content.

Because of that, I feel like I owe my 2 readers an explanation for my absence.

After my last post, the feelings of fear, anxiety, and failure started to kick in as time got closer and closer to my LSAT. I wasn’t eating, I wasn’t sleeping, I felt nauseous and scared ALL the time. I lived off of chicken broth for a month. That’s all I could stomach.

There were some ups and downs in that last month. I did so many practice tests, I was so organized, but I still didn’t feel confident or prepared. I managed to start scoring in the 160s right before my exam date which was a nice boost to my ego, but didn’t help in my confidence and assurance that I would do well.

Come test day, everything that could go wrong went ABSOLUTELY WRONG. They let us in late, my test center didn’t have air conditioning in the waiting area but BLASTED the air conditioner in the test room, I was accompanied by some very talkative and anxiety-inducing test takers, and some guy in front of me just started STANDING UP IN THE MIDDLE OF THE EXAM, BOY WHAT ARE YOU DOING?????

The air conditioner was blowing my baby hairs on to my face, my pages off the teeny tiny desk of what looked like a mini chem lecture room. I couldn’t even eat the snacks I brought. I also felt nervous because, like a dumbass, I signed the sheet you’re supposed to bring before my arrival. (If you haven’t taken the test yet, the sheet says to wait to sign before your exam)

So I scored relatively low. I hadn’t scored that low since maybe my second practice test EVER. It was 5 points below my average score. I scored a 154.

When I woke up, refreshing the site like a maniac, I thought I was going to vomit. I was so disappointed in myself. For the next month I was so angry, so disappointed, so confused.

I had a plan. I was going to apply to law school in 2019.

Then, the rest of the world came crashing down. We sold my childhood home. We had a VERY stressful move to a new apartment that involved being somewhat homeless for two weeks and living with my cousin. My mom’s chronic illness got worse. My dad had to get surgery. Everything that could go wrong, went wrong.

It’s taken me a long time, but I’ve accepted that it just wasn’t my time yet. I’m grateful for the fellowship I participated in last year. I made some great friends and I learned a lot. I’m also grateful and lucky that I’ve been selected to be the instructor for this year’s fellowship. Why? Please don’t ask me, I don’t know. But I’m going to be positive and take this as an opportunity to study again, look up the reviews and be more selective about my testing center, and achieve my long term goals of going to law school.

This has truly been a learning experience for me and I’m learning to love myself more. I believe that there’s some plan for me that I don’t know about and I’m going to keep putting in the work. I know I’m not my score and I have a good feeling about my near future. I like myself a lot more now, so I’m hoping to be more active on this again for the one person still reading.

My journey is FAR from over.

The one with the month before the LSAT.

Hey guys! If you follow me on Instagram, I said I’d put up pictures of how I plan to study for the LSAT this August. I apologize for not getting that up sooner, but to be honest, I had just started prep testing and I was feeling really sad and down on myself for not scoring much higher than my diagnostic after completing the curriculum.

My diagnostic score was a 149 and my first prep test after the curriculum was a 152. I felt so disappointed in myself that I hadn’t scored significantly higher than my diagnostic, but it took me a couple preptests to really understand that it’s going to take more than a curriculum to score higher. PRACTICE IS EVERYTHING. With each full, 5-section, accurately timed & proctored (found on YouTube) exam, my score began to gradually increase.

152

154

155

156

159!

On my 5th preptest I had officially scored 10 points higher than my diagnostic. Was I happy? Of course! Was I content? Absolutely not. On the preptest right before that, I had only gotten one question in the logic games section wrong. I had gotten many more wrong on that preptest. I know that if I can increase my accuracy in logic games, I can hit the 160s. If I continue working and increasing my accuracy in both logic games and logical reasoning, the possibilities are endless!

As you can see, I’m feeling much better, and much more hopeful. I’m not where I want to be yet, but I’m so excited to get there. This is definitely one of those things where you should celebrate your little victories. The process is already difficult and it isn’t conducive to your improvement to be hard on yourself.

I know that’s easier to say than to put in practice, but when I recognized that I was feeling down, I had to check myself. That time I wasn’t feeling my best, I hadn’t been eating as healthy as I’ve been, I didn’t get a chance to exercise as much, and I definitely hadn’t been drinking enough water. Take care of your body, friends! Do everything you can to stay in the best physical and mental shape you can.

More to come! LESS THAN A MONTH AWAY FROM SEPTEMBER 2018 LSAT.

The one with the pre-LSAT checklist.

Hey guys! I’ve been changing my blog up here and there now that I’ve been getting a few more views here and there.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about the things I have to/ should do in preparation for my LSAT on September 8th. I’ve done a pretty good job of building some healthy habits this summer in conjunction with LSAT prep, but there’s always room for improvement. They say it takes 28 days to build a habit and there are a few healthy habits I’d like to build leading up to the exam. Some of these healthy habits are to help with memory retention, some to help maintain energy, and some for all over health and peace of mind.

We’re getting really close, so here is the routine I hope to build as I continue prep-testing.

  1. Go to bed at the same time every day.

I really need to train myself to put my laptop and phone away and get in my bed at the same time. Getting enough sleep is SO important for memory retention (a key that will help you for those pesky reading comprehension sections!).

2. Wake up early and go for a run/go to the gym.

I’ve been going to the gym at least 3 times a week during LSAT prep and I can confidently say it’s been helping with my energy in the morning and it’s been helping my overall mood. All those happy chemicals that get released through exercise are worth the sweat.

3. Drink a large cup of iced green tea.

Coffee makes me feel AWFUL. My heart starts palpitating, I get nervous and nauseous, my stomach won’t leave me alone, and I feel borderline panic attack every time….. so I stopped drinking coffee. I stick to a pink blender bottle full of iced matcha. If you’re not familiar with matcha, it’s a powdered, concentrated Japanese green tea. It can be a little bitter but I’m used to drinking tea without sugar so I don’t mind it. It has caffeine without making me feel absolutely terrible. Green tea also seems to come with other great benefits as well, but I just love it as a beverage.

4. MEDITATE!!

I say that aggressively because I’m terrible at doing this every day. My longest streak was a week. I love using this meditation called SimpleHabit because it’s free and comes with some great meditations ranging from 5, 10, 15, 20+ minutes. The flexibility is great. It’s also pretty cool that they have some for commutes, some specifically for focus, and others for just about anything you can think of.

5. Put that all together into a routine.

Wake up at 6am. Go for some exercise. Eat some breakfast. Take a shower. Drink iced tea. Meditate. Preptest. Go to sleep early.

 

THESE ARE MY AUGUST GOALS. I’m planning to incorporate this into my bullet journal somehow, so if you’re interested in that, please let me know! I’ve been trying to figure out how to incorporate my bullet journaling with my blog as well so if you have any ideas, I’m all ears.

The one with the childhood home.

The road to law school comes with a lot of changes. For me, it means my parents officially reach retirement age and ditch me to live in the Philippines. It means my childhood home is up for sale and everything else is up in the air.

Yes, it’s true, my childhood home is up for sale. It’s both heartbreaking and a little exciting. What comes next depends largely on how much my house sells for, what school I get accepted to, and where I’ll be able to afford rent.

I’ll be honest, I’m internally freaking out. I’m a planner. I love knowing things far in advance. I love planning, making lists, keeping my bullet journal as up to date and beautiful as possible (anyone want a post on that? no? okay..) So not knowing where I”ll go to school or WHERE I’LL BE LIVING is making my insides a little chaotic.

Listen, I’ve already got a cooking and cleaning and laundry schedule somewhat planned out but I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHERE I’LL BE LIVING. That’s how much of a control freak I can be.

Also, a question I get asked a lot is whether or not my boyfriend and I will be moving in together. As wonderful as that sounds, we’ve agreed that our priorities right now are to focus on careers. For me, that means having a place to be in quiet and alone to focus on my studies. For my boyfriend, it means staying at home and working until he’s in a place where he feels financially secure enough to be on his own. We’ll spend a lot of time together, I’m sure, but moving in together just isn’t part of our plans yet.

Anyone have moving tips? Anyone have tips of how to get over the trauma of selling your childhood home? (Might need more of those second group of tips)

The one with the law school personal statement.

Hello again! Be prepared, this one is going to be a long one. A little about me, a little about my writing process, and a little bit about where I hope this all goes.

I’ve been outlining and drafting personal statements here and there which is exciting but also scary and draining. I know I’m not the typical applicant. I didn’t even know I’d be applying until a little over a year ago and even then I thought “could this really be a thing?”

But it is a thing. I’ve made it a thing. I’m taking my LSAT prep, I’m networking with other attorneys and law students, I’ve been to an LSAC forum, I’ve registered for another LSAC forum, I have drafts for my statements, I’ve reached out to professors for recommendation letters.

This is really a thing.

So I wonder why I still have all this self doubt about whether I should even be applying. I look at myself and I don’t see the typical law school applicant, but isn’t that beneficial for me? Won’t my journey make it that much more interesting for how I got here and where I want to go?

I’ve been trying to articulate that in a personal statement and right now I’m finding that the most important contribution to me and the contribution that I would like to make involves community accessibility.

I never thought this career path was accessible to me because I didn’t see anyone who worked within the legal system in my community. I saw teachers and I saw nurses, all wonderful and educated, but neither seemed to really appeal to me. I also grew up in a community of immigrants. I found that story much more interesting. To be raised by a community figuring out their way in a new space is fascinating to me and gives me a different perspective on life, work, family, and community. These communities developed because everyone left their families to come here and work.

Community accessibility. When a new owner bought the nursing home where my mom and my “aunts”(the other Filipino nurses that my mom worked with that became our family) worked, they all lost their jobs. Suddenly the accessible and safe career choice wasn’t safe and I freaked out. I was convinced healthcare was the only career option. What was I supposed to do now? I stopped taking all the science prerequisites and focused on the subjects I was truly interested in. I took more literature classes, more Asian-American classes. I read more about immigration stories and I ended up taking a law class.

Asian-American Civil Rights and the Law taught by my Filipino-American professor. A Fil-Am lawyer! Who grew up in the states? Who didn’t have a stellar academic record? Who didn’t know he wanted to do this his whole life? Who is KILLING the game now as a lawyer and the creator of a non-profit organization for Queer Asian Americans? I was amazed. He was a tough professor and it was a tough class, but I was so determined to do well. I taught my self to work smarter, not harder for this class. I got an A at the end of the term after many classmates dropped out of the course. I was sure this was what I wanted to do. I want to be like him.

When I told one of the men who came during the retreat to help us with our statements, he said that this was exactly what I should write about. I should write about how I never thought this career was accessible, but that seeing someone that looked like me in the space allowed me to see myself in this space, and how I want to be that person for someone else.

I’m having a little trouble figuring out how to articulate how I want to be that for someone else or even who I want to be, but I think it’s so important to be able to see yourself in different spaces. If we don’t know what’s available to us, how do we know what we want?

Anyway, this clearly isn’t my personal statement. That’s still in the works. This is just me trying to mind map the ideas and the experiences I’ve had to come up with my compelling story for an admissions committee…. which is kind of terrifying. Is that good enough a reason to want to go to law school? I have plenty of other reasons. But this seems to make sense out of some of my experiences that are briefly outlined through my transcript and resume.

How are your personal statements going? Which one of your stories do you want to tell?