Monday, February 15, 2010
This is a question that comes up every year. It is not raised by every student. It tends to be an issue for the outliers, the super-high achievers afraid of losing their edge by taking any time away from studying and the bottom quintile, afraid that they will flunk out of law school. There is no one answer that fits all students. But it is a great way to open up a conversation with students on what they should be doing during the entire semester, and how to accomplish their goals without making themselves crazy. Issues I raise with students:
1) What does your studying look like right now? What have you been doing up to now? Where are your outlines? If you have not started them, why not? Do you tend to put off studying or outlining until you "have the time"? When that "time" comes, do you really start studying, or do you procrastinate? Were your outlines done before reading week in the fall? Are you planning on cramming all your outlines into spring break? Do you think you will be exhausted if you try to complete everything in such a short period of time? (Explain how they should be ready to take exams when they come back from spring break, and this means mental readiness as well as academic readiness).
2) How do you feel right now? About yourself? About law school? About family?
3) How are you handling the pressure/stress? Do you feel exhilarated, or are you drained? If you feel drained, do you think more studying will help you feel better by exam time? Do you feel drained because studying/outlining has been hanging over your head? Or do you feel drained because you have given so much of yourself to law school that you don't feel like you have anything left? If you feel exhilarated, are you thriving by devoting yourself to law school?
4) What is your study style? Do you like to get things done in the nick of time, or do you like a steady pace? If you like a steady pace but are behind right now, did events cause you to fall behind? Or are you too exhausted to get everything done? If you are a nick-of-time person, did this serve you well in the fall? (Explain the differences between studying/cramming for undergrad exams and studying for law school exams.)
5) If you have a significant other, what are their plans for spring break? Your friends? Do you feel pressure to go somewhere when you would prefer to do something else (like study)? How did you handle peer pressure in the past? Why does this peer pressure feel different from peer pressure in the past?
Again, this is a student-by-student conversation and the advice differs every time I have the conversation. I don't necessarily tell all procrastinators to get studying, or tell all turtles (steady studiers) to take a break. What matters more is they why; why do they feel this way? Asking questions often leads students to their own answer, and puts them back in control of their life. (RCF)