Stylish Academic’s Guide to Prepping for Finals Early

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Hello, World.

Even though it’s only September, the months in a given semester go quickly, so I wanted to offer my advice regarding how to prep for finals early. This is sort of an extension of my post about steps to better grades. In law school, your final grade is solely based on your final exam. So, it’s wise to begin prepping for final exams early. However, if you just start studying for finals, you’ll likely burn out and lose momentum when you should be kicking into high gear (aka mid-November). So, I’m sharing my top three tips that can accompany my three tips to better grades.

  1. Talk about the material with friends and family. Discussing material aloud with other people will allow you to gauge how well you know the material. I had a criminal law TA who said, “I taught the course to my wife. Teaching it to someone who had minimal understanding allowed me to understand the material, find the areas that I didn’t get as well, and solidified my ability to discuss it, which helped the essay portion of the exam.” This advice was some of the best that I received my first year of law school. My sweet mother talked to me for five hours on the phone as I walked through my torts outline. This process was long and tedious, but I knew which areas I needed help with before the exam. Discussing the material with others throughout the semester will kick-start finals review.
  2. Take “reading notes” and “class notes.” Some people do this, but some people only really take reading notes or rely primarily on class notes. Personally, I find having reading notes that I take based on what I think is important from the reading and separate class notes based on what the professor thinks is important allows me to see where I’m missing points or if I’m pulling out the right highlights of the reading. If I’m not, there’s a chance I will miss points on the exam because my professor and I aren’t considering the same facts important. Ninety percent of a law school exam is issue spotting (they make you think it’s analysis. Let me just say: if you don’t spot the issue, you cannot do the analysis). Recognizing how your professor reads or addresses legal issues is key to getting a high grade on the exam.
  3. Outline beginning at the end of October. You’ll hear a lot of different things in terms of outlining. You may even wonder, “what the hell is an outline?” An outline is just what it sounds like — an outline of the course. You go through major concepts, tests, etc. and outline the course as it is taught to you. I prefer outlining later rather than earlier. Some people disagree, which is fine, but I find that whatever I outline last is what I remember most. If you begin too early, it’s not as fresh because you probably won’t look at the beginning of your outline until a week or so before the exam. Outlining later forces you to review early concepts and understand how and where they fit in the whole course (spoiler alert: sometimes outlines are best ordered different than how you learn the material).

How do you prep for class or finals?

Truly,

Callie leigh

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Academic Lanes: Stop Comparing

Hello, World.

I’ve wanted to write this post for a while now, but I think I wasn’t sure how to articulate what I really wanted to say about academia in relation to others. Academics are often portrayed as pretty individual, but in reality, academics can be just as competitive and troublesome as the olympic trials (okay, maybe not that competitive, but you get my point). Academics are a battle of the brains, a battle of stamina, and a battle of who can put in the most (or the least) amount of work, and manage to come out on top.

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We live in a world where having a work ethic is ridiculed, and it is somehow cool to put in less work and get a high grade. “Oh, that A I got? I wrote the paper in 20 minutes.” “I only studied for an hour for that exam the morning of, and got a 98.” And those people putting in 110%? They’re overachievers, they’re try-hards, they’re “teacher’s pets.” Why do we care so much about how much or little other people are doing? Rather than focusing on everyone else’s academic journey, I think it’s important we focus on ourselves. Making sure our routine is working for us, making sure we’re making time for mental health, for physical health, and for our general well-being.

Now that I’m in law school, the tendency to compare is so much more prominent than it’s ever been in my life. I hear people comparing notes, subtly mentioning grades, likely hoping someone will say they did worse. I also hear people shaming those who have different study habits. And the people who study, essentially, 24-7 are called annoying, gunners, and,  once again, overachievers. Now, I understand that a HUGE part of comparison derives from the curve situation. All of law school is on a curve, so no matter how great you feel you’re doing, what matters more is how everyone else did in relation to you. So, it’s natural to compare yourself, trying to see where you stand on what feels like an arbitrary line.

But similar to sayings like “keep my name out your mouth,” I kind of feel like we, the academics, need a phrase like “stay in your own academic lane, mine’s occupied.” I think friendly competition is healthy in some contexts, but I would like to see more academics striving to be the best academic they can be, without so much focus on what everyone else is doing. You want to be the best? Okay, do your strategy, and if you’re the best, that’ll be obvious. But if you being the best involves constantly ridiculing other people, you’re not the best. Or you are, but you’re an insecure version of the best. Here’s the thing… the more we criticize other people, but worse we look. It’s actually a lot more amazing when the humble people succeed. Actually, not even the humble people, but the people who just do their own thing, without having to measure up against everyone.

I don’t want to make this post too rant-y, but I will conclude by saying that it’s important to stay in your own academic lane. All academics work differently, think differently, and practice different habits, which is GOOD because that’s why academics are interesting. We can all bring a slightly different perspective or point of view. Revel in the difference.

Truly,
Callie leigh