What we wish our friends and family knew about bar prep


[ Makenzie Way, 2020 Law Graduate at the University of Pennsylvania ]

Most people understand that studying for the bar exam is hard, but unless they’ve studied for it themselves, or watched someone else go through the entire process, they’re likely unaware of just how difficult and time-consuming it really is. This places bar prep students in the awkward position of having to navigate the murky waters of balancing relationships against the demands of bar prep life.

If there’s someone in your life studying for the bar exam, there’s a good chance they wish you knew some of the following things:

  1. Don’t be surprised if we fall off the face of the earth. Studying for the bar exam is in no way comparable to studying for a high school or college exam. We don’t study for a few hours each day; we study for upwards of six or more hours, seven days a week. It’s akin to a 9-5 job.
  2. Don’t be offended if we say we can’t hang out in the evenings. Though technically, we may be ‘free’ in the evenings, that doesn’t necessarily mean we have the energy to engage socially. We want to see you, but oftentimes we need to use our free time in the evenings to rest and recharge so we can go through the whole process again tomorrow.
  3. Our weekends aren’t necessarily free. Some students take a one-day break on the weekend, others do not – it really depends on what your personal study schedule looks like. But please don’t just assume that we’re available for weekend road trips, especially during Covid and bar prep.
  4. Chances are, finances are tight during bar prep. Many bar takers recently graduated from full-time legal studies – meaning, they didn’t work steadily during the last three years; likewise, most bar takers do not work full-time, or at all, while preparing for the bar exam. Thus, we may be financially limited in what we can afford to do.
  5. Our emotions are all over the place, so if we seem moody or if we lash out, please know we’re not in our right minds at the moment. Studying for the bar exam has its ups and its downs – some days we’ll be full of energy and happy because we feel like we’re making good progress, other days we’ll be burnt out, or upset by a bad test score. It’s not you, it’s just bar prep taking its toll on us.
  6. Being flexible with your activity suggestions helps us stay socially active. The further into bar prep we get, the less we’re able to take weekends or full days off, so instead of suggesting a road trip or a time-consuming hike, suggest walking the dog for 30-minutes, watching a movie at home, grabbing lunch or coffee at a nearby café, or even just a phone/video call.
  7. Please, please, PLEASE, do not downplay what we’re going through. Yes, objectively speaking there are more important things going on in the world, but subjectively, the bar exam stands between us and gainful employment; us and our career goals; us and paying off our student debt without going bankrupt. Doing well is important to us, so please act accordingly.
  8. Even if we don’t respond, we appreciate any support thrown our way. Don’t misread our silence as indifference, your text messages and the small things you do are noticed and appreciated.
  9. Finally, with most of us working from home, please consider that we too require adequate space and relative silence when studying. To the extent it’s possible, please try to keep noise and disruptions at a minimum while we’re engaged in our studies.
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