Sunday, January 5, 2014

Update from AALS

For those of you who were snowed out of AALS this year, here is an update on our section.

Our section program went beautifully. A HUGE thank you goes to the outgoing section chair, Louis Schulze, now of Florida International Law School, and our own Lisa Young from Seattle Law as Program Chair.

Alex Schimel and Joanne Harvest Koren of Miami Law presented on the definitions we use to find "at-risk" students, and the potential dangers in static definitions. The presentation was quite thought-provoking.

Chelsea Baldwin of Oklahoma City Law presented on stereotype threat and ASP. Chelsea's presentation included a FABULOUS handout on conceptual differences between law school subjects. I plan on stealing her handouts for my own students.

Jamie Kleppetsche of The John Marshall Law School-Chicago presented on creating your own bar exam skill course or program. I was blown away by the different courses offered at The John Marshall Law School, and I will definitely be taking her syllabus ideas back with me to UMass.

Alison Martin of IU-McKinney Law presented on hope and law school success. Alison presented some fascinating data from her snowed-out co-presenter, Kevin Rand.

Lastly, our new section chair is our own blog editor, Dr. Amy Jarmon. (Yeah!)



January 5, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Renew Your AASE Membership

All members of AASE (Association of Academic Support Educators) should have received emails reminding them to renew their AASE membership for 2014. All current members will also receive, by mail, a copy of their membership information from 2013 and an invitation to renew for 2014. Membership runs from Jan-Dec (calendar year) and dues are due by Jan. 30 for 2014. Two types of membership are available; individual and institutional memberships (for schools with 3+ ASP professionals).  

If you have any questions, or would like to join AASE, please email


December 26, 2013 in Academic Support Spotlight | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, December 23, 2013

Happy Holidays and Best Wishes for 2014

All of us here at the Law School Academic Support Blog hope that you and yours enjoy the holiday season.  The Blog will be taking a vacation while law schools are closed for the semester break.  We will look forward to having our readers back in early January.

December 23, 2013 in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

AALS Section on Academic Support

Are you traveling to New York for the Association of American Law Schools Conference?  If yes, please consider joining the Section on Academic Support at AALS for our Business Meeting, Dinner, and Program.  The details are below. 


  • Section on Academic Support at AALS for our Business Meeting on Friday, January 3, 2014, 6:30pm


  • Informal/ Unofficial Dinner Gathering:  Friday, January 3, 2014, 7:30pm. 


  • The Section on Academic Support Program:  “Early Intervention for At-Risk Students" will be held on Saturday, January 4, 2014, 10:30am-12:15pm. 


In light of shrinking budgets, smaller applicant pools, and media criticism of legal education, how can law schools proactively address the potential influx of at-risk students?  What does “at-risk” really mean?  Are law schools responsible for ensuring that students succeed once they are admitted?  Should law schools even admit at-risk students?  This panel will address these questions and provide helpful insights to benefit faculty, administrators, and institutions.  Specifically, panelists will discuss programs and methods for supporting at-risk students, the important issue of “stereotype threat,” at-risk students and bar passage, and a unique empirical method of predicting academic success.     

Joanne Harvest Koren and Alex Schimel (University of Miami):  “At Risk” of What?  Definitional Issues in Law School Academic Intervention     

Chelsea Baldwin (Oklahoma City University):  Intervention Without Threat                                                                                                                     

Jamie Kleppetsch (John Marshall Law School):  Providing “At-Risk” Students with the Skills Necessary to be Successful on the Bar Exam                                                                                                         

Allison Martin (Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law) and Kevin Rand (Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis):  Early Identification & Intervention: Is There “Hope” for At-Risk Students?                      


(Lisa Young)  

December 19, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Immigration Status and the Practice of Law

Last week, the New York Times ran this article, "Bar Exam Passed, Immigrant Still Can’t Practice Law"  While I think that changes are on the horizon, it is important to know how your state stands on the issue so you can best advise your students currently facing this dilemma.


December 10, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Waiting for Grades

Once exams are over students may feel a sense of elation.  Some may feel a let-down.  After expending so much time and energy on preparing for and taking exams, the next hurdle is waiting for grades.  Law school grades are a tricky subject.  Students who receive “good” grades in law school, have opportunities for jobs and clerkships that others may not enjoy.  Law students compare themselves to each other which leads to self-doubt and even to the destruction of relationships. However, grades are not destiny.  Avoid dwelling on grades, and instead, focus on getting as much feedback on exams as possible.  If you are able to review an exam, do so early in the semester before you get too busy.  If there are comments on the exam, note what they are.  What did you do well?  What do you need to improve?  Talk with your professor in person about your exam. Then, with this feedback, reach out to your academic support professional to work on improving performance on exams.  Most importantly, evaluate whether you are learning. Most students will see a steady increase in their grade point average.  Staying mindful of the learning process will aid you in haveing a more meaningful and fulfilling law school career. (Bonnie Stepleton)

December 10, 2013 in Exams - Studying | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, December 6, 2013

Common Sense for Exams

When we are in the thick of things, it is sometimes easy to lose our common sense and work off of emotion and stress alone.  So here are some practical tips for exam takers:

  • When you lose focus, become more active in your studying: read aloud, ask yourself questions about what you are reading, switch study tasks, or discuss the material with another student. 
  • If you focus does not improve by being more active in your study approach, take a break from studying and come back to it fresh.  10 - 15 minutes every couple of hours works for most students.  If you have been studying for a longer period of time, take a longer break.
  • If you hit a wall and cannot absorb anything else no matter what you do, then it is definitely time to walk away for some time.  Perhaps go run and then have a meal.  Or go to the cinema and lose yourself in a good movie.  Or window shop to take your mind off things. 
  • If even one of these diversionary breaks does not help you re-focus, then your brain and body may be telling you to stop and go to bed early.  Get up the next day and start over.
  • Stop listening to the exaggerations, outlandish claims, and scare tactics disseminated by other students.  Do the best you can do each day and ignore all the stress-mongers.
  • After an exam is over, do not talk about it with others.  You are likely to stress over what you think you missed; others are often wrong about issues on the exam.  Put the exam behind you and mentally focus on any exams still ahead.  You cannot change what is already done, so put your efforts on the exams that you can impact.
  • If you get sick, go to the doctor.  Putting off medical attention has negative consequences: you infect others, you get even more ill, you delay your serious illness until the middle of exams.
  • If you have a meltdown, go to the counseling center.  Do not just sit around and be miserable.  You need to talk with someone who can help you handle your stress and be more objective. 
  • Come up with an appropriate reward system for small, medium, and large tasks.  Enjoy a cup of green tea for completing a small task.  Take a 30-minute walk for finishing a medium task.  Go out to dinner with friends for completing a large task.  Set the rewards that will have meaning for you. 
  • Eat balanced, nutritious meals so that your brain has the fuel necessary for exam heavy-lifting.  Avoid junk food, sugary treats, and overdoses on caffeine.  Get those fruits, vegetables, lean meat, and whole grains!
  • Keep a regular sleep schedule with 7-8 hours of sleep each night during the exam period.  Minimal sleep and all-nighters are a sure way to arrive at an exam too tired to think.  If your exams are early morning ones and you are a night owl, begin the change over in your body clock now so that you are able to wake up and be alert for that early exam.  If you tend to sleep poorly the night before an exam, then go to bed even earlier for the week prior to your exam and stockpile some ZZZZZs.

Good luck on exams to everyone.  (Amy Jarmon)

December 6, 2013 in Exams - Studying | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Study Groups: Make Them Work for You

Working with others to prepare for exams can be an uplifting and productive experience.  However, it can also cause frustration and waste valuable study time.  Therefore, as you begin to prepare for your final exams, reflect on whether a study group could be a beneficial or whether you should steer clear of them.  If you decide to move forward with a study group keep these considerations in mind:

  • Think about your study goals and your expectations for the study group before agreeing to work with others. 
  • Be thoughtful about the group size, meeting times, and purpose.  Explicitly agree to all of these parameters.  A larger study group that meets at night may not be the most effective for you if you are not a night owl and prefer small groups.
  • Have each group member identify their learning style.  If 3 out of 4 are read/write learners and you are aural, it may not be the right group for you.
  • Establish a start time and an end time for your study group sessions.  Time is of the essence and you do not want your study group to take over all of your free time.
  • Try to keep open lines of communication.  End each session with a recap and reflection to discuss whether the session was productive.  Or, follow up via email with suggestions for the next group meeting. 
  • Create an agenda that will help each member of the study group come to the meeting prepared.  Knowing what to expect will help retain the focus of the group meeting and help everyone stay on task.
  • Give everyone in the study group a chance to take on a leadership role like: drafting the agenda, leading the discussion, providing handouts or examples, or scheduling the sessions.  When everyone plays a part in the process, a more cohesive group will develop.
  • When you leave you study group sessions, how do you feel?  If you feel positive, that is a good sign.  But, go one step further.  List the top five things you learned during the session.  You want more than a warm and fuzzy feeling after meeting with your study group.  Revisit your personal goals for the group session and make sure that you assess whether you are consistently meeting those goals.

Ultimately, a study group can be a great way for you to grasp difficult legal concepts and to review for final exams.  Additionally, a study group can provide a great support network and can help you avoid procrastination.  Good luck on your finals!


(Lisa Young)

December 5, 2013 in Exams - Studying, Learning Styles | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Friendsgiving!

When I was a law student, I looked at Thanksgiving break as prime study time.  Many of my friends and study partners avoided the travel rush in order to best prepare for final exams and catch up on much needed sleep.  With over 25 million people traveling around Thanksgiving, it may be wise for many of you to opt out of travel as well.

However, maintaining traditions and building community helps strengthen bonds and provides comfort at a time of the year when we need it most.  Therefore, circa 1997, my law school comrades and I decided to create a new Thanksgiving tradition- Friendsgiving.  We all gathered on Thanksgiving Eve and feasted on roasted turkey, pecan topped sweet potato soufflé, and amazing homemade pumpkin and apple pies (with a mug of hot cider spiked with Tuaca).  A foodies delight!   

When we were overwhelmed by the semester and feeling gloomy from the rainy gray Seattle skies, we gathered for a night filled with delicious food and gratitude.  I feel blessed to have found lifelong friends during my time in law school.  I consider all of them my Seattle family.  We spend several holidays each year together and now we are almost outnumbered by our children, but Friendsgiving started it all.  This year I am hosting our 15th Friendsgiving celebration!

Before you jump into your weekend of studying, I encourage you to create your own Friendsgiving tradition! 

Happy Friendsgiving!

(Lisa Young)

November 27, 2013 in Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Another reason law schools need to adopt formative assessments

This will be no surprise to anyone in ASP, but hopefully this sort of study will filter out to a broader law school audience.
Frequent Tests Can Enhance College Learning, Study Finds


Short quizzes at the start of each class increased attendance and performance, an experiment showed.


November 24, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Little Things Can Make a Big Difference: Extending Office Hours During Reading Week

Another small way we can show we are invested in our students success is to add more office hours before exams. So ASPer's do this without being told that it is a good practice. ASPer's can also gently encourage faculty to extend their office hours during reading week.

1) Extended office hours allow last-minute "A HA!" moments.

2) Extended office hours can prevent undue anxiety and meltdowns. Sometimes students just need last-minute reassurance that they are on the right path.

3) Extended office hours can prevent the email avalanche before the final.

4) Extended office hours can allow a student to bow out if they are not going to make it. (RCF)

November 24, 2013 in Advice | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Importance of Waiting

Hat tip to Joanne Harvest Koren for sending this interesting article on the power of patience and how slowing down can lead to more productivity. The article is titled The Power of Patience: Teaching students the value of deceleration and immersive attention.  I especially like the idea that delays in formative assessment can be beneficial. The time a student spends waiting helps influence their experience and their knowledge.  Patience, while nostalgic, needs a comeback. 

(Lisa Young)

November 22, 2013 in Advice, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Time, Time, Time...

Sometimes, timing is everything.  Law students need to learn to use their time wisely to effectively manage the demands of law school while balancing jobs, families, and self-care.  Being at the right place at the right time makes a significant difference for law students who are networking for job opportunities and seeking support systems. Also, timing and pacing during a final exam (or the bar exam) can mean the difference between a passing grade and a failing one.  In this post, I have referenced song lyrics that incorporate the theme of time while relating them to the law school experience.

“If I could save time in a bottle…”  I know I may be dating myself with this one, but I had to begin with this classic line from Jim Croce’s hit love song “Time in a Bottle”.  Ask your students what they would do if they could save time in a bottle.  Are they making the most of each moment?  Are they being intentional with how they plan their schedules, spend their time, and balance their commitments?  We all want more time (especially law students), but instead of focusing on the lack of time we have, highlight ways to use time more efficiently and encourage your students to be present when free moments avail themselves.

“I’ve got too much time on my hands…”  This classic rock song by Styx was written as a reflection on the unemployment crisis in the 70’s.  The underlying theme in the lyrics rings true in many respects for today’s law students.  They are worried about their careers, finding a job, and performing well on exams.  They may not be able to tighten their focus when they actually do find that they have “time on their hands."  Time management does not always come naturally.  Providing students with tools and resources to help them manage their time will help them prioritize, use their free time wisely, and establish effective routines.

Similar to the melancholy quality of Styx’s lyrics, Otis Redding hits a few low notes when he croons about… “sitting on the dock of the bay…wasting time….”  Students sometimes sit and feel like they cannot catch a break.  Redding’s hit resonates with students who are feeling like they have left the life they knew only to find that law school is challenging, competitive, and sometimes disappointing.  When they feel like “nothing's gonna change”, we step in to give them hope.  Providing the tools for success to law students empowers them to make necessary changes to ensure their success.  Especially at the close of the semester, we need to recognize that law students are exhausted, overloaded, and feeling lost.   As Cyndi Lauper so aptly sings in “Time After Time”, when law students "are lost, they turn and they will find [us]", Academic Support Professionals.  We catch them and lift them back up.

After exams or a when facing a rough patch during the semester, students may need to turn to ASP for this lift or for help with creating a new plan for their upcoming semester.  If their study strategies or exam performance are subpar, they begin humming, “If I could turn back time” (with Cher’s iconic diva-ness echoing in their minds).  Reflecting on study habits, legal analysis skills, and exam performance are key components to succeeding in law school.  Everyone has moments in their past that they wish they could replay (or delete).  Using these moments as opportunities for growth instead of moments of failure, helps students see beyond their initial shock, shame, or disappointment. 

Like the Stones, we want our students to sing (and feel) that "time is on my side, yes it is...."  While this may not always be realistic, there are many ways to get closer to that dream.  Here are a few ideas:

  • Create sample study schedules for your students
  • Give them calendars and checklists to help them plan their time
  • Ask them to keep a journal that tracks how they use their time during a typical day or week and then ask them to reflect on their time management
  • Provide a time management workshop or webinar
  • Have them draft a to do list at the start of each day and evaluate their progress at the end of each day
  • Pair 1L students up with a 2L or 3L mentor to discuss how to effectively schedule their time
  • Challenge students to unplug for a block of time each day (This is a good one for all of us!)
  • Teach students the art of delegation
  • Encourage students to take time each day to recharge. 

By establishing routine time management practices, students will feel more balanced and be more productive.  Because as Pete Seeger so aptly wrote, there is "a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance."  We should all spend more time dancing.

(Lisa Young)


November 21, 2013 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

I Don't Wanna Grow Up



For me, one of the most maddening things about Academic Success is when students don't take advantage of Workshops, tutoring, or any of the advice I have given them over the semester and end up failing because of it.  And, when students do this kind of thing during bar study, I find it even more frustrating (not to mention mind-boggling).

In general, I try to encourage participation in Academic Success and Bar Prep by being nice and accesible -- I answer emails whenever I see them, encourage them to call me "Alex," wash their cars on alternate Sundays, etc.  That seems to work pretty well with most.  But, lately I've been wondering if some of the students would benefit if I actually changed tactics and instead of being "nice," pointed out harsh reality to them (which one of my colleagues referred to as being "mean"). 

If a student chooses not to participate in the help available to them, perhaps the best thing I can do is simply make them own their mistakes. There is nothing inherently wrong with failing the bar exam, pulling the lowest grade in the classs, or failing law school. And, if a student chooses not to talk to their profs, take advantage of academic success, do practice questions, make outlines, go to the school's bar prep, or go to their commercial bar prep, there's not a lot I can really do about it. While I tend to beat myself up over these these students when they fail, at the end of the day, it's up to them whether they want to take chances with their success. If the vast amount of money and time invested and the scary job market can't motivate them, I certainly can't. 

So, much like medical patients undergoing a risky medical procedure, I'm kicking around the idea of having these students sign an "informed consent" form. I'm thinking the form might read:

"I have decided that I am OK with  potentially [failing this class/failing out of law school/failing the bar]. I think other things are more important than doing the work I need to succeed, such as ___________________________________________ (job, family, exercise, social stuff, significant other, etc.) or I am unable to invest the appropriate amount of time because of __________________________________. 

I do not go to tutoring because: ____________________________________.

I have not started my outline because: ________________________________.

I do not do my legal writing assignments early because: ____________________.

I do not have a set study schedule because: _____________________________.

I do not go to Academic Success Workshops because: ________________________.

I have not met my profs during office hours because: _________________________.

I do not go to Career Services because: ___________________________________.


 My law school cost:    ___________________.

My commercial bar prep cost:        ___________________.

For my career, I am planning to: ___________________________________."

I'm not exactly sure how students will react. I imagine not well. But I would hope that actually having their choices and likely results laid out before them in black and white would make them more likely to change their ways (even if it is just to spite me).

I'm a little worried about doing something like this because a lot of law students react horribly to even the slightest criticism (and I would never use a form like this on a student who is trying but simply flailing out of control).  I've had students complain when I simply noted (without naming names) that students with a GPA under a certain point are at risk for failing the bar. I've had students complain that I didn't hire them for a position they didn't actually turn in an application for. And, I once had a student complain that I was bothering him with too many emails as I was trying to get him to meet with me (another prof had put him on my radar as a student that needed help).

With that student, I backed off. He graduated at the bottom of the class, struggled with the bar exam, and was ultimately disbarred from the practice of law . Not that I delude myself into thinking that I was or could be that important to his outcome, but he made me wonder whether backing off was the right choice. Perhaps I should have pushed harder and maybe that would have forced him to take stock of what he was doing with his student career (which, in turn, might have saved him in his professional one).

The verdict is still out on whether I will try this form.  We will see.  (Alex Ruskell)

November 20, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Little Things Can Make a Big Difference: Reviewing Outlines

I am sitting in my office reviewing 27 Property outlines. I won't lie--it's a chore. But reviewing outlines before final exams is a little thing I can do that can have a big impact on student success.

1) By reviewing outlines 2 weeks before the final review session, I give students a chance to correct their mistakes of law before the final exam.

2) By reviewing outlines, I can snag students who have significant, fundamental misunderstandings of law. I can ask them to see me before the final exam. It gives students the chance for an "A HA!" moment before the exam.

3) I get better exam answers if I know what they understand. I can correct any class-wide errors or misunderstandings, preventing me from experiencing frustration and anger when correcting exams at Christmas. Better exams=happier students + happier teacher.

4) By reviewing outlines before finals, I KNOW they have studied. Outlines are 10% of their final grade. I give them just enough credit to make an impact, but not so much that errors in the outline will derail them. Outlines are not curved or normed.

5) By reviewing exams, I am showing them that their success matters to me. Showing students you care about their success helps them invest in their education, invest in the law school, and give more to their courses. Reviewing outlines helps them see you are not just designing an exam to "curve" them; you are designing an exam so they can demonstrate their knowledge. It's a little way to help students feel like the process is not arbitrary and random. (RCF)

November 19, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

AALS Early Bird Registration Extended

The following information was recently sent out by AALS:

Early Bird Registration: Deadline Extended to December 2nd

 We realize that many law faculties have only recently received the printed AALS Annual Meeting Program Booklet. To allow faculty to review the program and make their plans for New York City, we are extending the early bird discounted registration fee to Monday, December 2, 2013.  This promises to be a very successful meeting.  As of early November, our number of registrants is the highest when compared to the past five years of Annual Meeting registrations.  To register, click here.

We hope you will join law school colleagues from all over country and around the world, as we gather in New York City to consider the Annual Meeting theme, Looking Forward: Legal Education in the 21st Century, and engage and debate the over hundred topics offered by our Sections and Committees. 

Take advantage of the extended early bird registration fee and register before the revised deadline of Monday, December 2. 

To review the program schedule please visit:



November 19, 2013 in Meetings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 18, 2013

West Coast Regional Conference Recap

The West Coast Consortium of Academic Support Professionals (WCCASP) held their second regional conference last week in beautiful San Diego.  A huge thanks to Emily Scivoletto and Kiyana Kiel for hosting the event at the University of San Diego School of Law.  The conference was an immense success.

The morning started off with an in depth look at the state of legal education presented by Emily Scivoletto.  The presentation touched upon many of the issues each of us are facing at our institutions- fewer applications, declining LSATS, and limited resources.  The discussion that followed was robust and could have easily filled the entire day. 

Next, our fabulous keynote speaker Pavel Wonsowicz (UCLA), spoke about how we are "Academic Support Artisans."  We are in the trenches with the students and we are extremely valuable to our institutions (whether our schools realize it or not).  I loved his reference to the verse, "give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime."  As noted, we are teaching our students to "fish" by using many different teaching methods.  Whether we are working with individuals or groups; linked to a course or not; mandatory programs or voluntary; we all are on the front lines at our institutions.  Crafting programs that take into account learner profiles and institutional missions is one way we color our institution's canvas and the lives of our students.

One of WCCASP's missions is to provide support and resources to individuals in ASP interested in pursuing scholarly endeavors.  This year we were honored to have Sara Berman (Whittier) share her writing and publishing experiences.  Her most recent book PASS THE BAR EXAM: A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO REACHING ACADEMIC AND PROFESSIONAL SUCCESS was published by the American Bar Association this year.  She brought her wisdom and insights to WCCASP by detailing the publication process from start to finish.   

We were also honored to have three ASPers present their works in progress.  Courtney Lee (Pacific McGeorge), Lisa Blasser (Western State), and Kevin Sherrill (La Verne) gave paper presentations on various topics related to legal education and Academic Support.  The importance of our work as Academic Support Professionals rippled throughout each of these presentations.  Stayed tuned for publication dates...

After a lunch discussion on crafting personal goals, objectives, and a board of directors (post forthcoming), the day ended with three presentations aimed at helping ASPers infuse critical reflection, visuals, and grammar into our programs.  DeShun Harris (UNLV) discussed how we can use critical reflection to improve ASP program materials.  Susan Smith Bakhshian (Loyola) discussed how we can use visuals to teach outlining and essay writing.  And, Harjit Sull (Thomas Jefferson) presented a grammar bootcamp for law students.  These practical presentations provided inspiration and useful tools for all of the participants.

The day was full of camaraderie that many of us do not often experience at our institutions.  If you have not participated in a regional conference, I encourage you to do so.  Consider submitting a proposal for a presentation or simply attend- either way it is a beneficial experience.  As one participant stated in their evaluation, "This is first conference I have attended in a long time where I learned something new from every presentation and I did not get bored."  Enough said.

Lisa Young

November 18, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Saving students at the very end of the semester

We get them every year--the students who, two to three weeks before the exam, realize that they need help. It is always difficult. It is in our nature to try to save every student. Some students will get it together, and make it through first-semester exams. Other students have just missed too much, and cannot pack enough into the last few weeks. When I meet with students in crisis, I discuss a number of factors that affect their outcomes:

1) Have you kept up with the reading?

If the students has blown off the reading all semester, it is near-impossible to catch up at the end of the semester.

2) Have you discussed your challenges with your professor?

If a student is struggling to understand the substantive material, their first stop should be their professor. I find that may students are intimidated by their professors, and resist seeking the assistance they need in order to understand the material. With support and encouragement, I can usually help these students craft questions to ask their professors that help them gain a better understanding of course material.

3) Are you synthesizing the material (outlining/course summaries)?

Many students wait for some magic moment when their courses come together. They do not understand that they create that magic moment for themselves when they synthesize the course material. Synthesizing the course material can come in the form of a tradition outline, or it can be graphs, flow charts, are some amalgamation of all of these things. While waiting until the last 2-3 weeks of class is not a good idea, if a student has not started synthesizing the material into one document, getting them started will help them before finals.

4) If you had a major life issue that disrupted your study plans, is that issue resolved?

If a student has an ongoing, disruptive life issue that consumes a large amount of time and energy, they may be better off taking a leave of absence before finals. Yes, they lose a semester of tuition (not good), withdrawing before finals gives them the opportunity to come back after they have their life in order.

5) Do you feel like you can succeed?

The student has to find it within themselves to succeed; I cannot help them if they are unwilling to help themselves. If a student is too distraught, they cannot focus on the tough work they need to do to catch up. Students need to self-evaluate.


November 16, 2013 in Exams - Studying | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Helping Yourself While Helping Others

My friends in student services alerted me to this article, and I think it is as important for ASPer's as it is for people in student services. While the title might sound alarmist, I know the burn-out rate in ASP is very high. Some points really jump out:

1) We are not counselors. We need to send students to counselors. We experience vicarious trauma  when we try to act as counselors.

2) Self-care is critical. You can't help anyone if you are not well. If you are a one-person shop, the job never ends. Accumulating sick days/vacation days/personal days is a not a badge of honor. Vacations are necessary.



November 14, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Should I or should I not go home for Thanksgiving?

You are homesick.  Your little brother or dog misses you.  You love turkey and stuffing.  Your family expects you to participate in a 5-day round of traditional family events.  You want to go skiing for the week.  You live for Black Friday shopping.

But now you are having second thoughts about making the trek.  Can you afford to give up the uninterrupted study time?  Will you be able to get any studying done if you go home?  Can you go home for a few days but not all of the time? 

Be honest with yourself.  How prepared are you currently for your exams?  What tasks do you still have left to perform to do well on those exams?  Are your outlines in good shape?  Have you been reviewing regularly?  Have you completed lots of practice questions?  Do you have any papers or other assignments to complete?  The amount of work you have already finished to prepare for exams and the amount of work left are important factors to your decision.

Consider your family circumstances carefully.  Some students know that family members will understand the need to study and allow them to do so except for Thanksgiving dinner with the extended family.  Perhaps everyone else will be working much of the time except the actual holiday, and the house will bequiet for solid studying.  Other students know that family members will mean well but be visibly hurt if the student  does not join in all of the preparations and family fun.  In some cases, the family members would understand, but the student will have no will power and not study as planned.  Will the circumstances allow you to get work done?

Decide whether you can have your turkey and eat it too.  Depending on the travel time and expense, you may be able to go home for part of the break and stay in town to study for part of it.  Leave later in the week or return earlier so that the break is split into two parts.  This strategy works especially well if home is not a great distance away; but it can work even in Texas, where nothing is really close to anything else.  If you use the time before you leave efficiently, you can have some concentrated study time completed before your trip.  If you come back early, you can focus on exams after some fun.

Use the next 15 days for a big study push.  By making the most out of every day before the holiday, it is possible to accomplish a great deal of extra studying.  As a result, you will feel better about what studying is left to accomplish over the break. Get on top of all outlines.  Carve out time for exam studying from time you would normally waste.  Get the most results from your study time instead of passively spending time over the books.  Make a to do list for each course.  Cut out your 2-3 hour exercise at the gym.  Stop taking naps.  Turn off the TV.  Get off Facebook.  Use every minute so that you are pleased with your progress.   

Plan your studying before the break starts.  Whether you stay or leave, make a plan before the break.  You are more likely to meet your study goals if you have mapped out what you want to accomplish each day.  If you fly by the seat of your pants each morning, it is too easy to procrastinate and find something to do that is more attractive than studying.  Think about the day as having three parts: morning (8 a.m. to noon), afternoon (1 to 5 p.m.), and evening (6 to 10 p.m.).  Plan to study at least two of those parts whenever possible.  Map out which course and which tasks you will complete in each time block.

Use travel time for studying.  Whether you are driving or flying, you can get some studying done.  Consider listening to CDs from one of the substantive law series.  If travels are with a law school friend, quiz each other with flashcards or discuss practice questions during the trip.  Read through your outlines while on a layover in the airport.  If your travel time is productive, you will feel less stressed about study time.

Take Thanksgiving Day off if you can do so.  Unless you are desperate about your study situation, take off on the actual holiday.  At most, study for a few hours early in the morning or late at night while others are asleep.  But enjoy the festivities: a meal or football or the Macy's parade.  If you are home, be thankful for the day with family.  If you are at school, find some other studiers to spend part of the day with on a break from studying.  You will feel less resentful and unhappy if you have a holiday.  Work hard before and after the holiday so you do not have to feel guilty on the day itself.

Most of all be thankful for all of your blessings.  Being in law school is a privilege that most people will never have.  Even if it is hard work, you are blessed with a future profession that can have a positive impact on our world.  (Amy Jarmon)   



November 12, 2013 in Advice | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)