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What, Like it’s Hard? Actually, Yes, it is

I have been studying for my LSAT, the test people take to get into law school, for a while now. This summer, I suffered from a major loss in motivation, and I decided to do something I knew would cheer me up: have a movie night. Hoping to regain my motivation, I opted to watch "Legally Blonde." I hadn’t seen the movie in a while, and I was optimistic that Elle Woods would inspire me to get back to studying relentlessly for the LSAT. I was sadly mistaken.

The beginning of the movie focused on the end of Elle Woods’ relationship and her sudden decision to go to law school. What follows is a quick montage of Elle studying, taking one practice test where she scored a 143 (which is below the average), and then, by the end of the montage, improving enough to score a 179 on the real test, which is just one point less than the perfect score of 180.

I paused the movie and sat there in disbelief. When I was younger and watched this movie, I had no idea what the average range of scores for the LSAT were, and at that point in my life, it didn’t really matter to me. But now, after the experience of having taken the test once and studying for it since January (and I still am), this scene ignited anger and annoyance in me. Improving that much on this test so quickly is not realistic, and watching it unfold on the screen in front of me made me feel defeated and sad.

Even though I knew Elle’s improvement was not realistic, it still bothered me that this movie was making the process of getting into law school look so easy. And hey, maybe it is easy for some people, but that has not been the case for me. I’m not ashamed to admit I have had to give this test my all for months. If I had seen this movie at the start of my study journey, I can’t imagine how much worse it would have made me feel.

I know that "Legally Blonde" is just a movie, and I still love it, but it made me realize that a lot of movies and television shows we grew up watching showed us unrealistic scenarios regarding academics. Getting into Harvard Law School or Yale University is not as easy as Elle Woods and Rory Gilmore make it seem.

A lot of the shows I watched growing up involved a significant character from the show ending up at one prestigious school or another. In "Gilmore Girls," Rory ended up at Yale University; In "Sister, Sister," Tia and Tamera both end up going to the University of Michigan, even though Tamera was not a good student and Tia was; and Lilly got into Stanford University on "Hannah Montana" even though the series never showed her doing anything related to school or extracurricular activities. Considering all of that, it’s not surprising that I didn’t realize how difficult it was to actually get into those schools until I got to high school. Even now, getting into a state school like the University of Florida is exceedingly difficult-- I mean, we are a top 6 public university after all!

But the real problem with these shows isn’t that these characters got into prestigious schools. The real problem is that they do so without ever showing how much time these characters must have spent doing community service, extracurricular activities or even at the bare minimum studying for their classes. I really believed that getting good grades and doing the bare minimum was enough for an acceptance letter to your dream school. Once I started looking at the requirements and scores needed to gain entrance into some of my own dream schools, I realized that some of my favorite shows and movies had lied to me.

Today, having great grades isn’t enough to get into most schools. You also have to have multiple extracurricular activities, good test scores, internships, on campus involvement and a variety of other skills and experiences that will help make you a competitive candidate to whatever schools you are applying to. Every year, applying to schools becomes increasingly competitive as admission departments expect more from applicants. And as if that wasn’t enough, schools are receiving more applicants every year, making the competition even more heated.

Things are not as simple as the media, movies and TV make them out to be. The reality of actual life, which involves studying for exams, applying and interviewing for internships and balancing involvement activities with your social life is often left out of movies and TV shows. And I get it, showing me guzzling cup after cup of coffee as I study for the LSAT would not make very interesting television. But it can be so frustrating to watch characters on a screen so easily attain the things that we work so hard to achieve in real life.

Movies and TV shows set unrealistic expectations of how easy it will be to reach a certain test score or get into an Ivy League school, but we choose how we let these unrealistic expectations affect us in the long run.

The same way these unrealistic expectations about school can make you feel defeated, they can also lead to some positives. Having a dream school and then finding out the reality of how difficult it might be to get in can be disappointing, but it can also push you to study more and do all that you can to get accepted.

Seeing that study montage of Elle Woods was frustrating because I had been studying for months and felt stuck. I felt like I was not improving as much as I wanted to as quickly as I wanted to. But what stuck around longer than the disappointment and frustration that the scene caused was the motivation. I was left feeling confident in my ability to achieve the score I wanted. Seeing Elle Woods in her montage, though unrealistic, reminded me that going to law school is something I really want. Even though I know I have a lot of work still ahead, "Legally Blonde" encouraged me to keep practicing and believing in myself, which I know is the key to improving and succeeding.

It’s crucial that we acknowledge what part of the movie is unrealistic. For me, I probably won’t be able to raise my score as much as Elle did, but that’s okay. I know that if I work hard and focus all of my attention on the LSAT, just like Elle Woods did, then I’ll be able to do the best I can on this test.

If you ever find yourself lacking motivation or feeling discouraged by what the characters in your TV show are achieving, take a step back and ask yourself “is this realistic?” It’s important to remember TV shows and movies should inspire us and not be our marker of what is normal or realistic.

Let’s face it: You might not be able to get a 179 on the LSAT like Elle did, but that’s okay. All you can do is your best, and that is enough.

Caroline is a fourth-year sociology major at the University of Florida. She is from south Florida and loves to travel, cook, read, and listen to true crime podcasts.
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