Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Getting Ready for 1L of a Semester

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The summer before law school can be filled with excitement, but it can also be a time of worry, questions, and a general feeling of unpreparedness.  Here are a few tips on how to spend your summer in order to answer those questions, give you confidence, and put you one step ahead before your first class.
  1. Hit the Books.  Your reading should start well before your first assignment is given (which is usually a week or two before orientation/classes).  Most schools provide a summer recommended reading list, ranging from how to brief a case to how to ace exams.  If your text book list for classes is available, start hunting down required text and read some of the cases.  Purchase supplements for those books and read them, too.  If you enjoy leisure reading, now is your chance to get that in as well because you won’t have much time for fun reading during the semester.  To learn how to get all of your books for a good price, read THIS.  
  2. Learn Your Learning Style.  While you read, try your hand at briefing cases, outlining, or making flashcards or pictures.  Maybe studying alone teaches you that you work better in a study group.  This is the perfect time to see how you learn best as you won’t have much time or opportunity for trial and error once school begins.  To further help you, read my post on learning your learning style. 
  3. Get Your Supplies.  It’s time to hit up the dollar store office supply aisle.  Here is a great list of supplies that you will want to buy in bulk.  Look for good deals and sales.  Also, most students purchase a laptop.  Try to save up for a laptop instead of using the allotment calculated into your tuition cost (thus lowering the amount borrowed for a student loan).  Paying out-of-pocket is much better than adding the expense to student debt plus interest for thirty years.  If you’re undecided about purchasing a laptop, check out this helpful article.  You should also consider purchasing Carbonite to automatically save your work in case your computer is stolen or breaks. 
  4. Form Your Cheerleading Squad.  This first semester is going to be hard and will test you mentally, physically, and emotionally.  You’ll need some back-up for those days where you want to give up.  Try interning for a law firm, courthouse, or pro bono clinic to garner experience, but also to find a mentor.  Spend time with friends and family.  Hold on to close friends who will keep you focused and won’t cause drama or expect you to party all the time.  Get a workout buddy.  You’ll want to exercise to keep blood flowing to the brain, to keep your body healthy, to make you happy and energetic, and to give you good sleep.  A workout buddy will give you accountability and a push when you need it – and it’s more affordable than a trainer. 
  5. Speaking of Health.  Get all of your doctor appointments and follow-ups out of the way.  Dental cleanings, flu shots, etc.  If you have this all taken care of, you can limit emergency or multiple visits during the semester.  Plus, you’ll feel healthy and be ready to get down to work. 
  6. Get Your Finances in Order.  Calculate your budget and start maintaining it.  The sooner you form the habit, the easier it will be to continue.  My book, Barrister on a Budget, offers tips on how to get ready for classes as well as what costs you might expect.  In the appendix, there are sample budgeting sheets, which include all of the expenses during your first year.  Just fill in the blanks! 
  7. Carve Out Time for Fun.  Make sure you have some time to have fun.  It’s important to let your mind and body relax to avoid burnout during the semester.  Make a mini bucket list and enjoy checking each thing off!

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