how i get it done

The 16-Year-Old Who Applied to 9 Law Schools and Got Into All of Them

Haley Taylor Schlitz. Illustration: Lauren Tamaki

This spring, Haley Taylor Schlitz applied to nine law schools and got into all of them. She’s also 16. Currently finishing her senior year at Texas Woman’s University, where she studies education, Schlitz will start law school at Southern Methodist University next month. She lives in Dallas with her mom, an ER doctor, her dad, who works in marketing, and her younger siblings, who are also academically advanced for their ages. (Her younger brother, 13, is currently a college freshman, and her 11-year-old sister just started high school.) Here’s how she gets it done.

On a typical morning:
I wake up and brush my teeth and wash my face. For breakfast, I like bagels and French toast. Eggs are okay. My mother is always reminding me about the importance of protein in the morning, so I try to do that, but sometimes sugar wins. I also like to have a smoothie, or hot chocolate on cold days.

After breakfast, I look at my calendar and see what I’ve given myself as an assignment for that day based on what’s due soonest. I’ll do that homework. Recently, after I finish my homework, I’ve been preparing for law school by reading some law books and stuff like that.

On being homeschooled:
My mom and dad pulled me out of public school when I was in fifth grade. Before that, I wasn’t very motivated. I didn’t get into the gifted and talented program because I moved to Dallas too late. My grades didn’t reflect how well I could be doing. When I started homeschooling, there was less structure when it came to class schedules. At first, it was hard for me to stay focused and diligent, but once I got used to it I realized it was actually a lot better for me. Then I got passionate about school again.

I did homeschooling from age 10 to 13, about three years. I was able to finish my high-school curriculum quickly because my mother determined my classes based on my abilities. After sixth grade, I told my parents I really wanted to do algebra, which was like three years ahead of where I was supposed to be. I tested into algebra, and then I taught myself geometry over the summer with the help of an online course. I skipped 7th, 8th, 10th, and 12th grades. Then I passed an assessment exam to start courses at community college.

On the age difference between her and her classmates: 
When my professors and classmates find out I’m 16, they ask all the usual questions. How did I do it? What do I want to do next? Why law school? I love those questions. After that, they’re usually still surprised, but it’s not a bad thing. You would think that because I’m a kid, they might think that my opinion doesn’t matter, or that it’s not as valid as everybody else’s because I’m younger, but that’s not really what I get at school.

I notice the age difference the most when my classmates are talking about a TV show and I won’t even know what they’re talking about. Or they’ll say some word that I guess used to be popular when they were younger, but I’m not 100 percent sure. But that’s pretty much really the only time I notice the age difference.

On her study habits: 
Now that I’m a senior and it’s almost the end of the year, I spend four or five hours a day studying and doing homework.  At the beginning of the semester, I probably spent about eight or more hours a day studying because I was trying to get as far ahead as I possibly could.

When I first started undergrad, I was not well-organized, which kept me from getting my work done. Now, I use lists to help and I have big whiteboards in my room so I can clearly see what I have to do each day.

I’ve spent the summer reading books on how to survive law school. I’ve also done some basic law-school reading, and I really do find the cases interesting. I do get tired, like everyone, and make sure I work in breaks to help myself regroup.

On what she does to relax: 
I’m just like any other 16-year-old — at least I think so. I love to video-chat and play Fortnite with my friends. I enjoy playing the piano because it helps me relax. If I can sneak some drawing time on my tablet, I love to do that. I also like to read fiction, plus I enjoy hanging out with my family.

I watch Grown-ish and Black-ish. I also just binged Lucifer on Nextflix. Did the same thing with Once Upon a Time last year. I really enjoyed Big Bang Theory when it was on, and I like Young Sheldon. I also watch American Housewife, and I’ve been watching the Democratic Party presidential debates with my dad.

On managing stress:
I get stressed out a lot. Honestly, what stresses me out is when I look at my list and I feel like I’m missing something. I feel like that often, especially toward the end of the semester when everything is due. But nonetheless, when I do get stressed, the thing that helps me the most is making lists and organizing what I have and haven’t done, and the things I need to do sooner rather than later.

On competitiveness:
I am competitive. When I was younger, I fenced competitively and that helped me as an outlet. I’m still competitive when it comes to video games and school. For school, though, I focus on doing better than I have before, so I’m competing with myself to do better.

On bad grades:
The one lesson I learned early in my college experience is to engage my professors early on and make sure I’m not surprised by a bad grade. That happened to me my first year of college and I realized afterward that if I had just gone to office hours and talked with my professor throughout the semester, I could have avoided the issues that set me up for a bad grade. I am well-organized now and I always make sure I reach out to my professor at the beginning of class so I can have good communication and make sure I understand what is expected on tests and papers.

On loving the LSAT:
I guess I’m weird, but I really like the LSAT. It was a fun test for me. It was like the show Brain Games. Of course I took it seriously because it’s really important, but the questions they asked and the methods we were taught were actually really fun. It was entertaining to have that intellectual discussion about the questions in the workbook. I used Princeton Review and I absolutely loved it. It worked for me.

I was nervous when I first walked in to take the LSAT, but when I started the test, I felt more confident in myself. I was also super nervous right before I got the results. I try to prepare — maybe over-prepare sometimes — to ensure that I can tell myself that I can do it.

On her goals as a lawyer: 
I want to go into educational policy. I’m really passionate about that because I wonder how many students have been overlooked just because they didn’t get into the gifted and talented program like I didn’t. I wonder how many students accept no as an answer, and then don’t really see the opportunities. I would love to show them the other options they have besides the no the public school might have given them.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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