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Jillian Farley ’20

What made you choose TCNJ and choose to be a History Major?

TCNJ was the first school that I visited, and before getting to campus, I didn’t want to go there because I thought it was too close to home. However, after visiting, I fell in love with the campus atmosphere and was very impressed by all of the academic and extracurricular activities offered. I ended up comparing every school I visited afterwards back to TCNJ, and that’s when I realized it was the right fit for me! The fact that I was able to continue my field hockey career while getting a great education was also a bonus for me. 

When I first started at TCNJ, I was a sociology major. I had always been interested in history, but I didn’t decide to add it as a major until my freshman seminar––Remembering WWII: Distinguishing History and Memory with Professor Campo––made me realize how much I genuinely enjoyed learning about the subject. After meeting with advisors and hearing about the curriculum, I decided to become a history major so I could continue learning about what I loved, and also because most history courses grant students a great degree of freedom in choosing topics to research. I valued that freedom then because I was always able to do projects on things that interested me, and value it now because research makes up a great deal of the work I will be doing as a lawyer!

Can you discuss your experiences as a student-athlete while you were a student here?

Being a student-athlete was definitely tough, but also incredibly worthwhile. Some of my best friends are the people who I met on the team, and it was great getting to come to college with a built-in social network that included upperclassmen who could help us navigate life at TCNJ. I also think it taught me great time management skills, as I had to balance being a full-time student with 4 hour practices, travel for away games, and strength and conditioning sessions. During my time on the team, we also made 4 NCAA appearances (including a trip to the Final Four in Louisville, KY) and won 3 NJAC championships which made the experience even more incredible. I wouldn’t change a thing about my student-athlete experience!

What have you been doing since you graduated from TCNJ?

After graduating from TCNJ, I went straight to Columbia Law School. While at Columbia, I took a variety of different classes in addition to the required curriculum that mostly focused on criminal law, and also held multiple internships, including working for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Manhattan D.A.’s Office, and a Third Circuit judge. I graduated this past May, am currently studying for the bar, and began working at a litigation law firm called Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan in New York City in October 2023.

How did being a history major help prepare you for the coursework found in law school?

I think being a history major prepared me well for law school. Based on my experience, history is one of the most reading and writing intensive majors one can have in undergrad, and both of those skills are incredibly important to succeed in law school. There is a very heavy course load (especially during 1L), and basically all of the homework involves reading in advance of class so you are prepared to participate. Because I read frequently to prepare for history seminars and other classes (including having to read entire books in between classes), I felt my reading comprehension skills were above average, which helped me get through the required readings more efficiently and retain pertinent information. As previously alluded to, researching and writing papers for classes and my senior capstone has also served me well in my law school career. Law school evaluations are based solely on exams (which typically involve writing long responses to “fact patterns” or short answer questions) or term papers (quite similar to those required in undergrad but typically a bit longer––more like 25-30 pages), so having written plenty of history exams and papers that were similarly structured to law school materials was very helpful. Doing an honors capstone was probably what prepared me most in terms of research and writing, as it was quite comparable to many of the term papers I was required to write, including my law school capstone paper (“note”). In terms of research, as a litigation associate the bulk of my job will be researching legal issues and preparing memos, motions, etc., so having gotten started on that skill early is definitely a bonus. 

 Can you discuss what your life was like as a law student? Did your experiences at TCNJ help prepare you for this?

Life as a law student is academically rigorous, but also incredibly interesting. The first year of law school is the most difficult because you are required to take the standard black-letter law school curriculum and are subject to the dreaded “curve” grading system, but it is also the time when you learn to think like a lawyer and bond with other students in your class (my closest law school friends are the people that I met in my 1L section). The classes are also in large-lecture format with up to 100 students in a single class, which was different from the TCNJ experience. That said, in your second and third years, you have the option to pick what classes you take and can participate in certain seminar classes which usually have 12-15 people in them and are discussion rather than lecture based. I thought the  seminars were almost identical to TCNJ history seminars with different subject matter. If you are interested in a specific area of the law, I would definitely recommend looking into a law school’s upper year course offerings so you know if they offer classes that you are interested in! 

What advice would you have for a prospective TCNJ History major interested in law school?

Take advantage of the resources offered by TCNJ! I was in the pre-law society which connected me to others who were interested in attending law school and provided practice LSATs, invited admissions officers from various law schools to speak with us, and organized a trip to the LSAC conference (basically a career fair but with different law schools). The professors at TCNJ are also a great resource. The history department professors in particular were so supportive of me when I told them I was planning to apply to law school; Professor Hollander wrote my recommendation letter and was the one who pushed me to pursue the honors capstone, which is one of the things that I am most proud of and, as previously stated, that prepared me best for law school. Reaching out to alumni (including myself) is also a great idea, since we have been in your exact shoes before and are happy to help you navigate the law school application process! I would also recommend working hard in all of your classes––getting the best grades you can will make it easier to get into law school, and challenging yourself with different courses  will serve you well once you’re in law school because it is definitely challenging.