Whirlwind: On admissions and affirmations

Because of the ongoing pandemic (and last year's deferral), I decided to take my chances and apply to other universities for my LLM, despite believing that some of them may be quite a reach. While my heart was set on going to UNH Franklin Pierce because of its consistently top-ranked and renowned intellectual property law program, a part of me also wanted to see if I had a shot at other schools, if only to explore other options and satisfy my need for affirmation. (Insert insecurities caused by law school here.)

Realistically, I wanted to apply to California law schools because I might have a chance of defraying costs, considering the relatives living there. I have an aunt in San Francisco and we have close family friends in Los Angeles. I greatly enjoyed my last visit in 2017 and have always felt like I belonged more to the sunny West Coast.

But deep down, I wasn't sure if I'd even get in these schools. It's no secret that I did not excel that much in law school grades-wise, and I had a hard time coming to terms with that. Typical law school story: I was a consistent honor student from grade school to college, so to find myself in a place where everyone was so much better, the environment wasn't as encouraging, and the subjects were so terrifying certainly took some adjusting. But of course, I did manage, and I did survive. I found great, supportive, life-long friends (in my sorority, my block, and in different batches) who helped me hurdle four-and-a-half years.

And I did eventually stumble into a field I enjoy, enough that I now think I'm deserving of pursuing higher studies in it. Ha! Me, wanting to study more law? Crazy how it all turned out.

I'm happy to share that I got zero rejections in all the schools I applied to. I got accepted to University of Southern California, University of California Davis, and University of California Hastings. Even better, I was offered merit scholarships / Dean's Academic scholarships in all three law schools. To say that I was shocked would be an understatement. Me??! How did this happen!

In addition, I got waitlisted at UC Berkeley and UCLA, schools where I was a hundred percent sure that I will be rejected. I kept telling myself, before pressing the "Submit" button on LSAC, "Sayang lang application fee ko dito." For real. I could not believe that my application was even strong enough to merit being placed on the waiting list for these universities. I didn't get rejected! What!

(I also got accepted to Loyola Law School and Santa Clara University last year. Yay, Jesuits!)

My grades in law school were not stellar, but I'd like to believe that I made up for it with my "softs" - work experience, internships, and strong application letter. During law school, I actively pursued internships during the summers, including work for the Regional Trial Court and the Supreme Court. I'm certain our fourth-year internship for the UP Office of Legal Aid (OLA) and externship for the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC) helped as well. This, on top of my work experience that focused specifically in IP and media law, and my teaching experience.

Perhaps more significantly, in my personal statement, I made sure to highlight my affinity for arts and literature. It was the reason why I mainly wanted to pursue IP. Outside law school and in practice, I kept writing, had a few articles published in magazines and newspapers, and continued to explore this pursuit. I honestly think this helped make my application stand out because it showed an aspect of me beyond academics. It also reinforced why I wanted to pursue an LLM in IP: I honestly wanted to make a significant impact in the Philippine literary, artistic, media, and entertainment landscape.

In the end, it just feels so good to have your work experience mean something. To receive confirmation that your output is impressive is much-needed, especially during this time. I admit that I could have chosen to no longer apply to these schools, especially since I already paid for my deposit to UNH last year anyway. But I guess I just really wanted that affirmation. Sue me. Law school was difficult, but it shouldn't be the end-all, be-all predictor of how our careers will turn out. We can flourish even more in the field, where our actual skills and expertise truly matter. 

It's worth pointing out Chief Justice Peralta's retirement speech from last week. “I was not a Bar top-notcher or an honor student. That is the truth. Unlike most Chief Justices before me, I was not an academic standout,” he said. Same. It's statistically impossible for everyone to stand out in law school or in the Bar. But our collective body of work outside law school - and even outside the legal practice - should say so much more about who we are as professionals, and ultimately, as people. I don't think I can claim to be as brilliant as some of my (very) impressive schoolmates and peers (all of whom I hold in high regard; they know who they are!) But as far as my own personal goals are concerned, I'm happily and luckily getting at them, slowly but surely. 

I would have loved to go to any of these prestigious universities, and right now nothing is quite final yet (still waiting on scholarship negotiations), although I'm really leaning towards going to UNH Franklin Pierce this fall. The cost of studying in the US is steep, and their generous scholarship offer will realistically allow me to pursue my LLM this year. They're also the only university among my choices which offers a specific LLM in IP. Not to mention, it really was the school I intended on going to in the first place. My boss and mentor went there in 1993 and encouraged me to apply. His recommendation as an alumnus helped land me an additional financial grant from the university. They're also a consistently top-ranked school for IP in the last 30 years. Just yesterday they rose in ranking to be #4 in the US for IP, from last year's #5. (Google "Top IP law schools" and they always come up.) I really could not pass up that chance. 

But I'm keeping the admission letters below to remind myself that I'm so much better than my transcripts. That some professors were wrong to write me off. (Is this my villain origin story? Yes. No. Maybe. Lol.) That I'm doing something right and going in the right direction. And that the sky's the limit, even for regular, non-genius, jowa-over-GWA, slightly kalat girls like me. 

You just have to try.

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