Thursday, May 27, 2010

Orientation Highs and Lows

Orientation started here at UConn last week. This is a wonderful time of the year when I get to meet my incoming freshman and help them start their college careers on the right foot.  It's a refreshing change of pace to work with excited, happy kids looking forward to the next stage of their life.  This is also an incredibly busy time of year; at least two days a week I meet with more than 30 students a day to go over their courses and career plans if they are pre-law.  Here are some of the things I have learned from orientation over the past two years. 

The Highs:

The excitement and enthusiasm for the future of 18 year olds can cheer up anyone.  They are not the jaded, cynical teenagers we see on TV. They see the world for all the amazing potential it holds. 

18 year olds can't wait to be adults and have the privileges we often feel are burdens.  It reminds you of all the great things that go along with responsibility. 

This is the chance for an ASPer to help pre-law students choose classes that will help them succeed in law school. Classes that stress critical thinking, analytical writing, and use of primary sources provide a great foundation for law school. 

The Lows:

Parents, please let your children choose their own path. Nothing is more heartbreaking than working with an 18 year old who already looks defeated because their parents have decided they will be happy if they become a lawyer (doctor, investment banker, engineer). A colleague spent more than an hour with one student who could not choose one elective; it was the only class his parents did not pre-choose for him. He was overwhelmed by all the classes he wished he could take, but couldn't. 

Rateyourprofessor.com. It's insidious. (Disclosure: I am ranked, at two different schools, and I am well-ranked. I still hate it.)  It is not monitored, and it's the worst possible way to choose professors. It breaks my heart to see kids choosing classes based on who is the easiest grader, rather than the classes where they will learn the most.

You have to watch people make mistakes, and you can't stop them. We see a lot of this in ASP. It happens at the pre-law stage just as much.  From choosing "easy" classes instead of great learning opportunities, poor lifestyle choices, to ignoring enrichment opportunities, it's hard to watch people make mistakes. And it's hard for their professors not to tell them they are making mistakes.

While I am specifically referring to freshman orientation here, all these lessons are true for law students just beginning their journey as well. We should take the time to appreciate the learning opportunities that come from a fresh perspective on life.

(RCF) 

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