I have to admit—one of my biggest fears before starting law school had nothing to do with being cold-called or the exorbitant amount of reading assignments. It had to do with being “old.”
I started at NYU Law last month—five years after finishing undergrad at age 22. In the years since I last sat in a lecture or took an exam, I have taught high school students in Memphis, Tennessee, and then worked some long hours at a large financial institution in NYC. I felt simultaneously prepared and unprepared for law school. I knew the last five years had given me invaluable work experience, but what if I had forgotten how to be a student?!
On the first day of orientation, Associate Dean for Admissions Kenneth Kleinrock shared an interesting statistic with our class: 12 percent of my fellow 1Ls were 5+ years removed from their undergrad years, and 25 percent were entering law school directly from undergrad. For you math-averse folks, this means 63 percent (almost two-thirds) of my classmates are one to five years removed from undergrad. I was pleasantly surprised by these statistics—we are such a well-balanced class! I breathed a sigh of relief as I realized I was not alone—there were other “OWLS” (older and wiser law students) in my midst.
In the last month, I’ve realized two key things related to my official fear of being on the “old” side of this big adventure called law school:
- Age is just a number. I am surrounded by amazing and accomplished classmates of all ages, both older than me and younger than me. I’ve befriended athletes and an art historian, musicians and military veterans, a Ph.D. and a philosopher—all in the NYU Law Class of 2019. Everyone is bringing a unique background and perspective to our class, regardless of age.
- But age still matters. While everyone has unique experiences to share, those of us who are older just happen to have a few more as a function of having lived just a few more years. It’s been fun to find fellow former teachers and financiers in my class. We share a common understanding of this transition into graduate school life that is colored by our past experiences. The fact that 12 percent of the class is 5+ years out of undergrad means that we OWLS feel right at home at NYU Law.
For those of you who (like me) may be concerned about being “too old” for law school, let me tell you that you’re definitely not! First, being a student is just like riding a bike—if you learn it once, you can hop right back on the next time. Second, I am learning that NYU Law is a meta-community, and “OWL-ing” (i.e., discussing your age and past work experience with other older law students) is just one of the many ways to connect with your fellow classmates here. For those of you coming straight from undergrad to law school, NYU is a great place for you, too! After all, one in four of my fellow 1Ls are in your position.
I am a month and a half into the law school adventure, and being 27 years old never felt so good.