When I first tried out for my high school mock trial team I never really thought about how it would affect me down the road. At the time I was thinking I wanted to get involved in something, I liked arguing and writing, and it would probably look good on my college application. Even after I fell in love with the activity, I’d often wonder if it was worth the time and effort I put into memorizing rules of evidence, reading countless affidavits, and studying case law. After completing my first year of college, I know it was. Because in the end, mock trial prepared me for college life better than any high school class ever did…
1. Being innovative.
I can’t say I recall any of my high school classes truly requiring me to come up with a unique or original idea. Most of the time it was more about being able to understand an agreed upon fact, concept, or interpretation, and explain or write about it. In college, that’s not enough. In college, professors expect you to see the facts and interpretations in front of you and to create your own theories. High school classes didn’t prepare me for that kind of innovation, but you know what did? Mock trial. How many times have you created a particular spin on a witness, or a theme or theory that worked for your case? Mock trial is all about coming up with original ideas and arguing them…and so are many college assignments.
2. Studying because you want to, not because you have to.
In college, no one is breathing down your neck, telling you to do the reading or to study for a quiz or even to go to class. It’s all on you. Luckily mock trial kids are already used to choosing work over play. I could be wrong, but most parents aren’t nagging you to read that affidavit or to study that hearsay exception or even to show up to practice. I know my parents weren’t. The vast majority of the time it’s you deciding to spend an hour or two on mock trial work or practice instead of Facebook or Netflix because you know it’ll pay off in the end… not for your parents or your teachers, but for you. So while other eager freshman will go wild with freedom, blowing off class to catch up on sleep or skipping study groups to go out partying every night, mockers will get themselves to class and skip a few social nights to do the reading because they know it’s worth it in the long run.
3. Organizing your thoughts quickly and coherently
My best friend and old high school mock teammate called me a few months into our freshman year and we talked for a good half hour about how grateful we were for mock trial because we could argue. For her, a communications class required a 3 minute oral argument that she had no problem acing. Theme. 3 points. Passionate conclusion. A+. For me, it was a political science class that I had to write an essay for. I knew how to structure an argument in a way that was persuasive, organized, and easy to follow. It was just like writing an opening or closing statement, something I had done a hundred times over my high school career.
4. Having respect for your superiors without being afraid to question or argue against them.
Believe it or not the judges of your trials will be pretty similar to the professors of your classes. Both are considered your absolute superior, both are making some important judgement about your preparation and knowledge, and both will make mistakes. Mock trial taught me not to be afraid to contest a judge’s ruling as long as I do so in a respectful manner. The same rule applies to professors. Sometimes you have to take a midterm back to your professor and explain why you think you deserved a different grade or why you should have received credit for a certain answer. Just like in mock trial, the worst that can happen is your professor will stand by his/her original ruling, but who knows you might change their mind or get points just for making the argument.
5. Knowing there are two sides to every argument.
College is all about broadening your horizons, questioning your view of the world, and discovering yourself outside the identity of your parents. While finding your religious or political passions can be empowering and enlightening, it can also be isolating for non-mockers. Why? Because some kids will become so impassioned with a particular belief, they’ll refuse to listen to or befriend anyone who doesn’t agree with them. Luckily we mockers have been trained to listen to both sides of a story because we know we could be defending something today that we’re arguing against tomorrow. Mockers know it’s all a matter of perspective and the facts can be twisted to look good for either side. Mockers will be the ones heatedly debating their favorite issues with people they’ll be getting coffee and laughing with an hour later… no hard feelings.
6. Having friends you geek out with, not just go out with.
Outside of mock trial, your closest high school friends are often people you’ve known since elementary or middle school. Chances are you all have your own interests and are involved in different activities, and you’re so close because you’ve been through it all together. On the other hand, you’re close with your mock trial team because you are a group of people who share intellectual passions. In college, you have a chance to make completely new friends. So where do you start when no one has been through it all with you?! Many freshman just find people that are fun to go out with or always have weekend plans, but mock trial taught me to find the people I could geek out with, not just the people I could go out with. And those are the friends that will be by your side long beyond your crazy college years.
7. Interview Prep
This last one isn’t even just about college preparation, it’s about life preparation. Interviews can make or break some of the biggest opportunities in your life. Anyone can look good on paper, but looking good in person isn’t so easy. Luckily for mock trial kids, we already have the perfect outfit, we’re used to answering tough questions on the fly, we know how to act calm and collected even when disaster strikes, and most importantly, our coaches have ingrained in us that talking slowly and smiling can go a long, long way. Acing an interview is a piece of cake for mockers because we’ve been preparing our entire high school mock trial career.
So next time you, or your parents, or your teachers are doubting if your involvement in mock trial is REALLY worth it, break this list out and know that being a mocker gives you so much more than meets the eye.
By Erin Engelmann