A freshman approaches Law School
Mala Singh UA’19 and Jim Stellar
I met Mala when she was a receptionist at the Career Service office at UA as a freshman. We began to talk and wanted now to write about how even in the freshman year students begin to define themselves in terms of a planned career. Mala, can you tell us how you got to UAlbany and why you are interested in law?
I first applied to UAlbany during my senior year at Queens Gateway to Health Science Secondary School in Queen, NY. At first, I was a bit skeptical on whether or not I should dorm for college or travel from home. At last, I can finally say I’ve been the right decision. My interest in law sparked when I was in middle school. I was easily fascinated by television shows that dealt with criminals, case studies, and detective related work. I started to explore my interest by learning more about legal studies and what it consist of. So far, my main interest and focus right now is legal studies and pre law.
Great. Now how about your experiences on campus? How have we helped you to begin to explore this career path?
UAlbany has provided a handful of opportunities for a student like me who is interested in law. For example, to jump-start my career planning, I was offered a class that helps with career development. ECPY 204U is a class that helps students with their resumes, cover letters, as well as teaching students the building blocks and principles to transform their academic career into a professional one. Resources and material is exposed to students so they can get the help and push they need. Also, UAlbany offers freshman the application into the 3+3 Albany Law School program. If accepted, the program allows the student to start Law School after their junior year at college.
We discussed your pursuing an internship in a law firm back home in Queens and that effort is in progress now. What do you hope to learn on that internship?
The outcome I hope to achieve out of this internship is transferrable and work content skills. I also hope to use these skills in my upcoming endeavors as a student who is planning on attending law school. I hope to also learn about the justice system, the way it works, the roles that create the system and the different laws that pertain to different situations in society. With the thought of pursing many internships; slowly but surely, I am looking forward to creating a foundation for myself that is grounded on the principles of law.
I introduced you to a former student of mine who just graduated from Queens College and who has contacts in the legal field. You met with her. Tell us about that and what are your plans.
I have met with that former student at St. Johns during the spring break. We talked for a while and we came to a conclusion that we will do an in depth search for a legal internship because some of the options we looked at had deadlines that already passed. So far, she told me about an organization called SAYA, which is leaning more towards education/psychology. I actually referred that to my sister although I have an option to apply as well. We now are looking into legal internships in Queens, and if we do not find anything we will move towards the City.
One of the things you are doing here is using your networking capability to make contacts – first with me and then with my former student. You are good at it. That is the kind of active engagement that makes the content of the ECPY course come alive. It is the kind of work that can only be done in the outside world where the work is real. I think it is something that universities need to do more while the student is early in their in college studies. More than just an eventual career promoter, I think the experience of such early career exploration as you are doing helps a student grow as a student and be more mature, focused, and intentional in the classroom. What do you think a student gets out of it?
First and foremost, during this process the student is taught to have and keep an open mind when it comes to developing networking skills. The student learns to keep close relations with those they network with because many opportunities can arise. You did mention that it is something that the universities need to do more while the student is in their early college studies. I agree with you. Being a freshman, I am able to take the skills I learn and apply them to different people that I encounter. For example, networking skills can do an amazing job in obtaining an internship or job at career fairs, which we do have on campus quite often. Networking opens doors for many students. Connections enhance a student’s career, academically and in the real world.
Employers and graduate or professional schools all want the same thing from college students. They want them to be able to us the knowledge they learned in college and while a good deal of that happens in the classroom, a good deal more happens when the student goes into the real world with their eyes open and in charge of their own education. What makes this process work is a social network that taps into basic processes developed in our brains by group dynamics in evolution and some learning often in childhood that shapes us to be the social beings we all are. Rather than set that aside, experiential education leverages those natural talents to enhance the fact and theories education in the college classroom. The one thing we would add is the importance of a mentor to provide encouragement, a “been there, done that” oversight from which the student can learn, and the critical opportunity for the student to reflect upon their experience and integrate with what they are studying. Finally, we also think that this social-mentoring-experiential approach provides a valuable confidence boost that comes from doing it (e.g. the internship) oneself, and that confidence boost can be particularly helpful in underserved populations.