Camilo Garcia has earned the Faculty Award for Academic Excellence by graduating with the highest GPA in the University of Virginia School of Law’s Class of 2022.

Garcia, who originally hails from Barranquilla, Colombia, moved to Miami when he was 13, and only then started to master English. A high school internship with his congressman, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, convinced him he wanted to serve in the federal government someday. His first job out of law school will be working for the WilmerHale firm in Washington, D.C., but he is set to clerk for federal judges over the next two years.

At UVA Law, he was an editor on the Virginia Law Review, interned at the Rutherford Institute, and served as a mentor for the St. Thomas More Society and the Latin American Law Organization. He also played soccer in the Barristers United law student soccer club and worked for professors as a research assistant.

Before law school, Garcia graduated summa cum laude from Florida International University with a bachelor’s in international relations and affairs.

Garcia recently answered some questions about his experiences and tips for success at UVA Law.

What are some of your secrets to academic success?

I am not sure I have any secrets. I have been blessed with engaged and caring mentors like Dean Risa Goluboff, Professor Rich Schragger and Professor Richard Re. I am also grateful to my family. None of them really understood what I was doing in law school, but that didn’t stop them from supporting me however they could and reminding me of what really matters. My biggest blessing by far, though, was my fiancée and fellow ’22 grad, Rebecca Weitzel. She was always there to help me work through complex legal questions and believed in me before even I believed in myself. I owe all of my success to them and to countless others.

What advice do you have for current students?

The first thing I’d say is to remember that law school is not that different from your previous educational experiences. Sure, you might read more than you ever have before, and you will definitely encounter new material every day. But this doesn’t mean you should jettison the studying practices and habits that have led you to success up to now. If flash cards or handwriting your notes worked for you before, don’t feel the need to try something new just because your peers are doing so. What’s most important is that you find what works for you and trust that you know yourself best.

You should also try to get to know your professors. I know this can feel intimidating, but our professors are wonderful and eager to meet you and guide you through law school. And if you ever have questions after reading a case or sitting through a lecture, go to your professors! My time at UVA was infinitely better because of my conversations and relationships with my professors.

Finally, make sure to find some time for non-law things. I tried to make time once a week for pickup soccer, and also made sure to take a walk every day with my fiancée. If sports are not your thing, you can try getting involved with one of the many student groups at UVA. Or you can explore Charlottesville and all that it has to offer. The time I spent away from the books was crucial to clearer thinking, and also made the past three years genuinely fun.

What did you get out of your research assistant positions?

Being a research assistant is an especially rewarding way to meet professors. I am particularly grateful for the time I spent as an assistant for Professors Rich Schragger and Richard Re. These opportunities introduced me to new areas of the law and gave me the chance to talk and debate with two great legal minds. I cannot recommend enough working as an RA.

What would you have done differently as a law student if you had to do it over again?

I loved my time at UVA, so there is very little I would change. If anything, I wish I could’ve had an extra semester or two to take more classes. I definitely wish I could’ve taken a class with Professors Caleb Nelson, Ashley Deeks and Douglas Laycock.

Tell us about your current and future plans.

I will soon be starting at the D.C. office of WilmerHale, where I will be for the next few months. Then I will have the great privilege of clerking for two federal judges: Judge James E. Boasberg of the federal district court in D.C and Judge Sri Srinivasan of the D.C. Circuit. As for what comes after, only time will tell!

Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.