Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Summer School Experience

Like most law schools, we have an assortment of summer courses - some required and some elective - but it is not a heavily subscribed phenomenon.  Things are pretty quiet throughout the summer.

For most law students, summer school is an adjustment.  Having the same class five days a week for five weeks is new.  They often find that their usual friends are not here for the summer.  They may be juggling a part-time job for the first time with school obligations.  And the heat of a Texas summer is often a jolt for those who normally attend August to May.

For many students the summer is a plus.  They like being able to focus in depth on one or two courses rather than juggling four or five subjects.  They find that the five-day immersion helps their understanding and retention because they constantly have to grapple with the material.  Classes are often smaller than the academic year sections of the same required courses so there is more time for questions and "face time" with the professors.  They become more efficient and effective in their study habits to keep up with the daily pace. 

For procrastinators, the fast pace can be a negative; one cannot put off doing any work until the end of the session and succeed.  Summer school students need to jump in with both feet from day one.  Otherwise, they will become quickly overwhelmed and fall behind.  Everything will seem on fast forward for students who do not have good time and work management skills.

For those without a built-in group of friends, it is an opportunity to work in study groups or partnerships with new people.  They often discover much in common with classmates they previously overlooked during the academic year. 

For those with their first part-time job (or perhaps an externship), they discover the excitement of applying what they have learned in the classroom to practical situations.  Legal concepts and procedures that before were merely knowledge are experienced within the reality of a client's case.  Understanding is increased because of doing rather than just reading or memorizing.

As the temperature is expected to rise to new records in the low- to mid-100's during the coming days, summer school students will find new ways to stay cool.  Staying in the air conditioning to study does not seem like a bad idea after all.  (Amy Jarmon)

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