Studying

Finals schedule

Planning during finals is critical to getting good grades and being prepared for your finals. Now, I’m crazy and have to have things planned out in detail. A lot of students I know don’t plan out the studying specifically but instead say “ok I have X exam in 2 days. I’ll study for X exam for the next 2 days.” It’s a perfectly fine method to studying and I know a lot of students who are successful using that method. I am not one of those students.

My finals planning starts the week before finals. I create a study plan that breaks down my time into studying, relaxing, taking care of life, etc. and it’s fairly concrete. I have lots of different calendars that I use to keep my life organized and they all overlap on my google calendar. My productivity (light blue) calendar is key to planning each week, but especially during finals. I also have my non-negotiables (red), workouts (yellow), and random other things in various colors.

Finals schedule

My calendar has a lot of red and light blue for this week. In my productivity calendar, I make sure to block out at least 2 hours for studying. For me, anything less than 2 hours isn’t enough time for me to get settled, start studying, and actually understand the material. I try to set 3 hour blocks when I can but I need my breaks, too.

I’m terrible with studying at home. I have Patrick, the dogs, Netflix…the distractions are endless. While I will study at home for a good chunk of finals, I’ll eventually run into things that need my full, undivided attention. During finals week, I make sure to schedule in plenty of time to study at school or at a local Starbucks. Luckily, I live far enough off campus they aren’t overrun by college students. It’s a nice change of venue (haha, legal jokes) too so it makes it easier to focus.

This week, I work twice and have three exams: Adoption, Immigration, and Admin law. I know going into the week that my Adoption and Admin exams are closed book and my Immigration exam is open everything, except the internet. I also have a paper due next Monday. With that information, I can start planning what I’m going to study in a general sense. Obviously, I want to study Adoption first and make sure I have a firm grasp on that subject before I move on. With Immigration, I know I need to take an hour and print everything we’ve gone over and compile my notes. For Admin, I need to focus on running through practice problems and creating an outline I can use for those practice problems. My Crim Pro paper on Monday is a 15 page maximum, so it should take me roughly 6 hours with research and writing.

With all that knowledge, I can plan out exactly what I should study when. I never plan what I study in certain blocks but I do plan overall how long I think studying will be for each class. I’m estimating 4 hours for Adoption, 3 for Immigration, and 7-8 for Admin law. Having estimations in mind help me figure out how many breaks I can take and how late I have to study each night. Now, it’s a matter of putting all this into action and studying for my finals!

Studying

Being proactive

Being proactive is hands down one of the easiest ways to be successful in law school. It’s easy to get caught up in work, reading, and events but taking a proactive approach to your education only helps you stay on top of everything you need to do.

Let’s be honest, you will not understand a lot of law school. That’s fine, no one is expecting you to be able to know everything about it. When something comes up you don’t understand and you sit through class scratching your head, it might be time to be proactive. Professors love proactive students who are actively engaged not only in class but during office hours or through emails. I have never had a professor turn me down or treat me badly because I showed up to their office hours or emailed a question. Taking the time out of your schedule to go to office hours, stay after class to ask a question, or even compose a professional email to a professor can go a long way for your education.

Being proactive doesn’t end at the classroom. It may seem daunting but you’re studying for an exam. Not just your semester exams, THE exam. It’s easy to forget that’s why you are in school but being proactive and meeting with the bar prep advisor early on relives a lot of stress. They can give you timelines, answer questions about character fitness, help you figure out where you want to practice, etc.

Everyone in law school is willing to help you but you have to ask for it. Professors, faculty, staff, even other students are not mind readers and don’t know what you need. If you are proactive and say you need help, you’re going to be better off in the long run.

Studying

Hypos

Hypos are some of the worst, most helpful things in law school. Essentially, all your exams are just long intricate hypos so learning how to answer them works perfectly. I’m always really bad at remembering certain things and how they apply. In an attempt to learn torts, I figured out an awesome system for remembering different torts. Here are two of my favorite torts hypos.

1. Mike was angry at Cecelia for cheating on him with Sully. One day, Mike saw Cecelia walking down the street and decided to get revenge. He walked up to Cecelia and smacked her. Did Mike commit battery on Cecelia.

2. Prince Charming wanted Cinderella to marry him. He brought her home to meet the King and Queen and Cinderella did not like them. She told Prince Charming she was leaving. The moat alligator was in defense mode and Cinderella was stuck at the castle for the night. She fell asleep and Prince Charming locked her in the room so she couldn’t leave. Prince Charming realized he would rather marry Drisella and unlocked the door before Cinderella woke up. Did Prince Charming falsely imprison Cinderella?

Hypos using fun characters make it easier to remember. If it was A was angry at B, it wouldn’t be nearly as memorable. It may be a trick that only works for me but you never know.

Studying

Finals lonliness

I’m an alone studier. I don’t like studying in groups; I always just want to sit and gossip. So when finals come around, friends can be difficult to find. During the semester, I have plenty of friends that I hang out with on a regular basis. With everyone so stressed out about finals and the end of the semester, law students tend to either group together to study or spread out and be antisocial.

It’s really difficult to find people who understand what it’s like to be preparing for a three hour, non-stop, exam on a huge topic and be expected to know everything about it. Who else understands that? Other law students. Who’s busy studying for finals and being stressed out? Other law students.

For me, it’s simple. Non-law students don’t understand what it’s like to prepare for law exams just like I don’t understand what it’s like for Patrick to prepare for his engineering exams. I think the thing with undergrad is that you can all relate to having that one difficult class (or two or three) and having to study non-stop for that exam. I remember that from undergrad very clearly. Law exams are so different. Three (sometimes more or less depending on the class) hour exams of non-stop writing and applying laws to different situations. There’s outlines to write, hypos to do, practice exams to get through, sometimes more depending on the class. It’s a longer studying process and for me at least it’s more work.

It really sucks not having anyone to turn to while you’re stressed because it’s hard for other people to understand. “Take a break” or “Don’t worry you’ll do great” doesn’t matter anymore because there is so much pressure on the exams being a huge chunk, if not all, of your grade. It’s hard to not get lonely during exams if you’re a lone studier like me. I will literally see only Patrick for the next three weeks unless I’m at an exam, where we can’t talk anyway. The good part about finals loneliness is it’s only a few weeks and you’re back to normal!

Studying

Let it go

I’ve always been such a control freak about everything. I hate group project, I hate coordinating with other people, I hate letting other people have control over really anything. Now, sometimes that serves me very well: things get done on time, they are typically good quality, and I’m able to stress less once I know things are done. However, it’s also a very bad thing too. Sometimes it’s impossible to do everything on your own and trying to just makes you crazy.

I remember in high school we had to do a project. We were learning about how African countries’ borders were more or less arbitrarily drawn and were supposed to redraw the borders taking into account resources, religion, etc. My teacher was absolutely terrible at explaining the project and my group did it completely wrong. When it came time to present the project, one of our group members had redone the whole project without telling anyone and had only done half the required work for it. So basically we all got a very bad grade. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful that she caught our mistake but like I tend to do, she took on the whole project herself and only got it half done. Then there was a whole lot of fighting with the teacher, lying to cover people’s ass, etc. but that’s a different story for a different time. The point is, sometimes it’s impossible to do it all or to force people to help you do things so you just have to let it go and leave it in the hands of other capable people.

Take my fiance for example. We’re starting to get wedding things set to go and along with a million other things he needs his baptism certificate and I need the address of his family to start addressing our Save the Dates. Sure I could call up his parents and ask for addresses or where he got baptized but that isn’t my job! I have my baptism certificates and family addresses. I’ve reminded him numerous times to get this together because it can take time. Has he done it? Not really. Does it bother me? oh, hell yes! But that doesn’t mean I’m going to go out of my way and take on the stress to do it myself. I know he will get it done; not when I want him to, but he will. Part of the reason I asked him to do it so early is because I know he will take FOREVER just go get it done.

As much as I would love to be able to control everything around me, I just can’t. Some things are just out of my control and I have to find a way to let it go. It’s a struggle and some days I do better than others but I know that in order to be happy and not burn the candle at both ends, it’s something I need to do.