Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Finding Myself in the Graduate School Fair

So there I was. The gymnasium has been fashioned into a fairground of booths, like St. Lawrence Market with booklets and pens instead of trial-sized sausages and cheese. The fluorescent lighting bakes everything with a harsh orange glow. The people at the door make me swipe my student card into a scanner, maybe to make sure I’m not an imposter, and I’m pushed right in, into the battle.

There’s every graduate school imaginable. Dentistry, massage therapy, business administration, education, rehabilitation science, acupuncture, forestry, law, medicine, and more. It’s an all-out melee to get to the medical school booths, while the representatives for some of the more obscure schools look bored and lonely. I want to talk to them just to make their day, but don’t. I also walk quickly away when a representative from one of the dentistry schools starts to make a kilowatt smile in my direction.

I’m on a mission, after all.

I want very much to go to law school, to have the letters LL.B. behind my name. As far as any direction in my life goes, this is it. I want my neighbours to look at me and go, Wow, he’s a lawyer. I want my kids to boast about it on the school yard. Whether or not I’d enjoy being a lawyer is another question, to be asked only after I graduate from law school. No, it’s the prestige. That is what life is about.

In the fairgrounds I wander lost. There’s a map in the back, but I haven’t found it yet. The voices and the people criss-crossing through the aisles, and the scent of longing in the representatives, a smell something like Come here…please talk to me, or, for the ones in the medical school booths, Go away, are disorienting.  There are numerous aisles I walk up and down, like a shopping mall with humans instead of groceries. The cardboard backings of the booths extend into the sky. Voices and footsteps echo through the cavernous room. There’s not enough air circulation.

Finally I find the map, hidden in the weirdest possible place, and realize that I’d just walked past the law schools. I head over, my heart thumping.

I take some free pens, and flip through the literature while standing awkwardly back. The entrance requirements to U of T Law School make my stomach turn. I’m not sure if I’m sweating from the humidity or something else. I approach the other booths for the literature, careful to smile at the representatives while not making eye contact so that they won’t try to speak to me. I’ve heard it all before: oh, the hours you will work, the astronomical grades you will have to have, the LSAT which you’ll have to ace, the water you will have to walk on. But no pressure, they will say through giant polished teeth. I’m sure you can do it.

I’m walking up to the booth for U.K. law schools when the representative starts talking to me. “Hi,” he says.

“Hello,” I say. I try to keep glancing to the booklets so he’ll realize that I just want to take one and leave.

He says something miraculous. “No LSAT.” No LSAT? No undergraduate degree needed either. In the U.K. you can apply to law school straight out of high school, so they’d just look at your high school marks.

“And what kind of high schools marks would you need?” I ask.

“An 80 average.” He smiles. “Which you probably already have, because you’re at U of T, right?”

I nod. It seems very good. U.K. LLB degrees take three years, not four. The fees are lower or comparable to Canadian law schools, and getting accredited for practice in Canada is now “routine”.

I leave the graduate school fair with my options opened. I will still probably wait to get my undergraduate degree, but I have a plan B to fall on if I don’t get into a Canadian law school. The U.K. seems like a fine place, full of gorgeous architecture, sexy accents, and prestige. Lots of prestige. I might even adopt an English accent to go along with the letters after my last name—something else for my kids to sing about in the schoolyard.


  1. That's a stupid reason to want to go to law school. Take it from someone who knows, you'll hate it if that's why you choose it.

    1. I was partially kidding. I wanted this post to reflect the anxiety that many people in university face, the big question of "what next? what next?" The graduate school fair, with its confounding and chaotic expanse, perfectly symbolizes this state of mind.

      While I truly am interested in law, and not only for the reasons given, I'm not SURE it's what I want to do. No one's sure. The line "Whether or not I’d enjoy being a lawyer is another question, to be asked only after I graduate from law school" parodies my uncertainty, while also hopefully tapping into a greater truth about the university experience.

  2. The only thing useful in this entry was the announcement that there were free pens available.

  3. "No, it’s the prestige. That is what life is about."

    Good Lord. For your sake, I hope you are trolling.

  4. thank you for this post, it was actually helpful to me:)


Thank you for your comment! Don't forget to join and FOLLOW our blog. :)