Hard to believe, but it’s already March! All those things you didn’t quite understand in class and planned to catch up on later? Yeah, later is now!
Time’s getting short to pull things together before the exam crunch hits. (But don’t flip out if you’re feeling unprepared. Here’s the story of my almost disastrous second semester, and how I pulled things together in the last few weeks to avoid flunking out.)
Here are a few tips for getting it together:
- Realistically evaluate where you’re at. One thing many 1Ls are surprised about is that it seems like you have a lot more work second semester. That’s true! You probably have an additional class, and your professors are assigning more reading because they expect you to be better at it by now. What does this mean? You might be even more behind than you were at this point last semester! Don’t panic, but get real about where you’re at. Are you behind in your reading? Have you spent no time processing what you’ve learned so that it makes sense to you? Are practice exams just a distant aspiration? Whatever the situation is, acknowledge it. Then go on a walk.
- Prioritize and make a plan. If you’re way behind, it’s time to triage. Better to spend time reading a commercial outline that gives you an overview of all the reading you didn’t do (sure, you should have done it, but what difference does that make now?) than to spend hours trying to catch up. If you’re basically up to speed, keep up the good work but also start thinking about your exam plan. Here the 80/20 rule is your friend. You’re gong to run out of time, so prioritize NOW. What are you going to spend the most time on? What’s the biggest bang for your buck? If you plan your schedule now for things like practice exams, you’re much more likely to do them when the exam craziness starts.
- Take a deep breath. It’s way too early to panic. If you want to go into the exam period in full fighting strength, it’s important to take care of your creature comforts now. Sleep, exercise, time off — all of these things will help you stay sane and function at the highest levels when it’s really necessary. And it’s far easier to maintain your established good habits in these areas than to try to change your bad behavior later! So treat yourself nicely, get off the late night Twitter, and get some extra sleep. You’ll need it.
- Reflect on what you’ve learned so far. You’ve come a long way since August, right? You’ve learned a lot of law, and you’ve learned a lot about being a law student. But have you thought carefully about what went wrong, and right, last semester? Have you critically evaluated your old exams? Have you talked to your first-semester professors about what you did well or what needs improvement? Time is running out for these conversations! Painful though it may be to read your prior exam answers, it’s the single best way to improve your performance going forward. Neglect it at your peril.
- Remember why you’re here. It’s easy to lose track of the motivations that brought you to law school as the second semester drags on. But connecting with your deeper motivations can be highly, well, motivating! Law students tend to get swept into the competition for external rewards such as grades or jobs. But, ultimately, these rewards are hollow. Connecting with your intrinsic motivations, such as learning for its own sake or a desire to do good in the world, can really improve your law school experience, and — ironically — your results. Even if it seems embarrassingly cheesy, dig out your law school admissions essay and give it a read. What happened to that hopeful, idealistic person in the last eight months?
This is the calm before the storm. Use it well, and you’ll be ready to go when exam time arrives.
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