During 1L year, most students don’t have the opportunity to choose their own courses. Even those lucky students who get some choice in their courses probably only get to pick one elective during one semester. After a year of having a mandated schedule, it can be exciting (and even relieving) to be able to pick your own courses. However, it can also be overwhelming, as there are many factors that students should consider when choosing courses for their 2L and 3L years.
Pay Attention to Requirements and Prerequisites
Before you dive into your school’s course catalog, remember to check your graduation requirements! After having virtually no ability (or very little ability) to choose your own schedule during 1L, it can be tempting to want to pick out all of the courses that interest you. But, remember that you still have graduation requirements to fit in! Make sure you consider your school’s graduation requirements before registering for any courses to make sure you’re fitting them into your schedule – the last thing you want is to get to 3L year and realize you can’t fit them all in. In addition, be sure to consider whether any courses you’re interested in require prerequisites so that you can be sure you’re eligible to take the courses you want.
Consider what you Need to Know for the Bar Exam
You should also consider what subjects you will want to take to prepare for the bar exam. Any bar subject that you don’t take during law school will need to be learned while you’re studying for the bar exam. At that point, reviewing subjects will be far easier than learning new subjects from scratch – so take those into consideration as well, as it may be helpful to take as many of those as you can. Courses such as Corporations or Business Organizations, Evidence and Federal Taxation will show up on the bar exam, and will likely be easier to learn over the course of a semester, rather than in the months leading up to the bar.
Plan for both 2L and 3L Year
It may seem overwhelming to plan out the remainder of your time in law school as you’re just finishing 1L year, but creating at least a rough plan for your next two years can be immensely helpful in making sure you cover your requirements, and still get to take the courses that interest you. Start with the courses that are required for graduation, and arrange them in a way that makes sense to you. Depending on what your school mandates, it may be possible to get your graduation requirements out of the way, or mostly out of the way, during 2L year – leaving you with complete discretion to choose any courses you’d like during 3L year. Alternatively, you could spread out your required classes so that you can choose a few courses that interest you each semester. Whichever you prefer, planning for both 2L and 3L year can help you make sure that you can fit in the classes you want and the classes you need.
Consider Final Exam Schedules
It can be easy to forget to consider finals before you’ve even started the semester – but taking any final exams into consideration when choosing your courses can help you to avoid a lot of stress later. First, check to see whether your courses have an actual, scheduled final or whether there is a paper or take-home. You probably don’t want all final exams or all papers and take-homes, so try to select a couple with a final exam and a couple with a paper or take-home exam so that you have some balance. Additionally, if there is any sort of final exam schedule available, even if it is tentative, be sure to check it! 1L finals are often spaced out nicely for you, so you don’t have conflicts or even multiple exams in subsequent days. But ensuring that your exams are spaced out sufficiently is your job moving forward – so do what you can to avoid back-to-back exams!
Take Courses that Interest you
This seems like a no-brainer, but it may be hard to do in practice. It can be easy to gravitate towards “practical” courses and courses that are relevant to your career path (and of course, you should take some of these) – but don’t forget to take classes simply because they seem interesting, or because the professor is fantastic. If you choose courses you’re excited about, whether it is because of the subject or the professor, you’re far more likely to be engaged and successful. For most law students, this is the last opportunity to truly be a student and to have so many diverse learning opportunities available – so be sure to take advantage of them!
Choosing courses after your 1L year can be exciting and overwhelming at the same time. Fortunately, keeping a few factors in mind when choosing your courses can help make your schedule a bit less stressful.
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