Four hundred forty students. Four hundred forty remarkably different, incredibly intelligent, extremely accomplished, and very ambitious students. That is the makeup of the NYU Law Class of 2016. As I meet my peers, I am astonished over and over again. No longer are we all the superstars we had become in our previous places. We are not the big fish in a little pond anymore. Thinking about that can be kind of intimidating.
Although my high school class was slightly larger than my class here, it was the first of the small ponds I occupied. Whether as an athlete or an intellect, in high school it was easy to stand out. Being known as one of the smartest students was not very difficult. All one had to do was get As, with no curve to worry about. Competition was virtually nonexistent in that cozy little pond. Then life’s journey took us out of that pond into a bigger one, college. I can say without a doubt that my college experience made me into the man I am today. It was very different from high school, but in the end, like Bon Jovi said, “The more things change the more they stay the same.” It was still rather simple to be the big fish in undergrad. While there were other students who had excellent high school marks as well, proving yourself to be something different, something special was not too hard.
Now here we are, at NYU Law in New York City. This pond is huge. It’s evident by the number of my classmates who were just like me in high school and college. When people talk about their hoped-for class rank here, most are saying they are shooting for top third or above median, but when high school ranks are brought up it’s a different story. I’ve met about 10 people already who were the valedictorian of their high school class. In college almost everyone graduated with Latin honors, and almost everyone scored in the 95 percentile or higher on the LSAT.
There are published authors, fraternity and sorority presidents, student government presidents, Division I athletes, and achievers of almost any other impressive college accomplishment you can think of. That’s not even mentioning that the majority of the class has been working or doing something else since college graduation. My roommate worked as a paralegal for three years at a top firm in Boston, while another friend spent two years in Africa volunteering with the Peace Corps. Everyone’s resume here is so impressive that it can be scary. My whole life I, and I’m sure my accomplished classmates, have always been the big fish. Here, we are a bunch of big fish in the same pond.
This can be daunting, but that’s the way life is. We are all training to be lawyers, meaning we will one day be entering one of the biggest ponds in the world. Being a lawyer requires a certain edge, an edge that we will develop by not only competing with but learning from our remarkable classmates here at NYU.
Just remember, it’s not the size of the pond that matters, but the direction you are swimming. To my classmates: let’s begin that upstream journey together.