Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Last Week of Classes

It is the last week of classes here at Texas Tech School of Law.  3L students are counting down in minutes now. 2L students are anticipating summer jobs while still worrying about exams.  And, 1L students are surprised at how fast the semester went.

The 3L students have commented on how difficult it is to concentrate on this last set of exams.  Some have frankly told me that all they want is C grades.  3L students often state their stressors in terms beyond law school: chasing their outstanding job possibilities, planning for their move to a new job, finding housing in their new city, or worrying about the bar exam.

For these students, I often suggest that they become list makers.  By making task lists, they can see the progress that they have made on finalizing their plans as each task is crossed off the list.  For those stressed by decisions about which job to accept, which city to move to in hopes of a job, or which house is the best to buy, I talk about making tallies of the pros and cons for each option.  For those worried about their studying for the bar, I recommend Pass the Bar! by Denise Riebe and Michael Hunter Schwartz.  Once they have a plan of attack for these future concerns, I bring their attention back to planning for exam studying.

Despite their summer plans, the 2L students are very much still focused on this set of exams and doing well.  For many, they are struggling with "burn out" because they have worked part-time, participated in student organizations, been officers in some organizations, done pro bono work or other community activities, and taken some very hard required courses. 

I suggest that these students talk to their employers about shortening their hours or not working at all over the two weeks of exams.  Most employers understand that grades have to be a priority.  I also suggest that these students schedule adequate breaks into their studying so that they can avoid being too tired to concentrate.  Fortunately, most student organizations finished their end-of-the-year events last week.

The 1L students are often uncertain as to how they need to schedule their study time for this week and the two weeks of exams.  I have been working on study schedules with many of them.  In addition to group workshops where students build a schedule as we consider strategies, I work with students one-on-one as needed. 

I encourage them to think about each day as having 3 potential study segments: morning, afternoon, and evening.  I suggest alternative strategies for them to consider depending on their individual abilities to focus: one course per day; two courses per day; three courses per day.  I also suggest that they choose an option for studying this last week of classes: alternate days for courses in the order of the exams; begin with the course in which they feel least prepared and then add in the other courses.  Finally, we discuss the exam period itself and determine the days that need to be focused on one course and the days that need to be focused on two courses.  We also talk about breaks after each exam before they return to studying for the next exam.

The relief on students' faces once they have a plan of attack for their own stressors tells me that planning pays off in a big way.  Modifications may occur, but having an initial plan goes a long way to turning anxiety into action.  (Amy Jarmon)

      

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