This week we welcome back guest writer Briana Borgolini to talk about starting things off on the right foot in the new semester.
Whether you feel satisfied with your performance first semester, or you think you could improve a bit, preparing for a fresh start second semester is something all law students can benefit from. The first semester is often stressful and difficult to manage for many students, which makes starting second semester with a good frame of mind crucial. Regardless of first semester’s outcome, it is important to remember that you can’t change it now. However, you can use it to reflect, and to set yourself up for a fresh start second semester.
Don’t Dwell on First Semester Exams
No matter how difficult it seems, the first step in starting fresh second semester is putting the first one behind you. This may seem difficult, especially at first – and some students may need some time to “thaw out” after exams are over in December. However, the sooner you can put first semester exams out of your mind, the sooner you can start to relax, and approach the spring with the right mindset. There is nothing you can do to change the outcome of the first semester, so try to move on and focus your energy on how you can improve during the second semester.
…But, do reflect on what you could improve upon
While it is not a productive use of your time to dwell on your first semester, you should take some time to reflect on what you can improve during second semester. Rather than hold on to any negative energy you have about first semester, identify areas where you could have done better, and create a plan to improve on those areas moving forward. Hopefully, this can help you feel better about the next semester, because you can see that there are ways you can make positive changes to your habits, and improve your outcome.
Review your Exams with your Professors
If things didn’t go as well as you’d hoped, be sure to contact your professor and set up a time to meet with them about your exam. Most professors expect this, and are more than happy to give you feedback on your performance so that you can improve during the second semester. While this can be intimidating, especially if you were unhappy with your performance, this is immensely valuable feedback because one of the biggest challenges in law school is simply learning how to write a good exam answer. Even if you did well first semester, it is still a good idea to get feedback, because you can always improve, and it will be useful to you to know exactly what you did well so you can keep doing it.
Examine your Study Habits
High on the list of things to seriously reflect on are your study habits, and whether or not they worked for you. Law school places huge demands on your time, especially during the first year. Consider whether you spent enough time studying, and whether you used that time wisely – meaning, doing things that worked well for you (and not necessarily what works well for others). Reading and preparing for class can take huge amounts of time, but it is crucial that you don’t spend too much time on that at the expense of outlining and doing practice exams!
Ask for Help Sooner Rather Than Later
Another great way to start fresh during second semester is to get help as soon as you need it. If you need help identifying areas of improvement, or identifying ways you can improve, seek out a professor or your school’s academic support services early in the semester. Additionally, if you feel like you may need help substantively with your spring semester classes, go to office hours early on, so that you don’t fall behind! Not only will getting help early keep you up-to-speed in your courses, but it will likely reduce your stress as well!
Make a Calendar for the Spring Semester
If you felt like your time got a bit out of control or the semester got away from you during your first semester, take some time before the semester begins (or at the beginning) to create both a semester-long and weekly schedule for yourself. A semester-long schedule can help you see early on how much time you have between assignments and exams, so you can plan time for things like longer-term assignments and outlining early on. A weekly schedule can help you plan your readings for class, so they don’t become overwhelming. Creating these calendars early on can help you control your time, so that it doesn’t get out of hand as the semester moves along.
Use your Break to Relax
Finally, and most importantly, it is crucial that you find some time to relax during your breaks. The first semester of law school is demanding, often more so than anything many students have experienced before. No matter how you did, or how you think you did, you probably need some down time to reset before you have to do it all over again in the spring (same for spring break). The second semester presents its own set of challenges, and approaching it with a clear mind can help you start fresh.
The first semester of law school can be overwhelming, and the second semester presents its own set of challenges. Fortunately, there are some things you can consider doing to reset, so you can start your second semester off right.