If you don't do so well first semester...

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gobuffs10
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If you don't do so well first semester...

Postby gobuffs10 » Sun Dec 09, 2012 1:45 pm

Is it possible to change your study habits and make a leap second semester? I'm worried for several reasons, mostly because I have so little experience taking law exams (only practice tests, with no model answers), and everyone else seems to be working way harder than me. It really gets into my head, thinking I should be at the library every second of every day like the rest of the class.

Of course, it's entirely possible I'll go in and write some really good exams. I don't know. But someone earlier was describing not knowing if you'll end up 5% or 95% of the class, and that fear is awful. I know if I end up towards the bottom, I'll want to drop out more than anything.

Does first semester seal your fate, or can one turn things around second semester?

shock259
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Re: If you don't do so well first semester...

Postby shock259 » Sun Dec 09, 2012 2:59 pm

Some people improve a lot, but most have modest gains, if any. The problem is that a lot of other students wise up to taking exams too.

I'd recommend finding practice tests with model answers before finals. This school has a bunch of them: http://law.ggu.edu/law-library/study-aids/past-exams

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spleenworship
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Re: If you don't do so well first semester...

Postby spleenworship » Sun Dec 09, 2012 3:06 pm

Also, don't let the fact that people seem to be working harder than you make you worried. There is working hard, and then there is working smart. Most law students work very hard and very stupid.

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kalvano
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Re: If you don't do so well first semester...

Postby kalvano » Sun Dec 09, 2012 3:42 pm

It's very possible to move up and do better.

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Lwoods
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Re: If you don't do so well first semester...

Postby Lwoods » Sun Dec 09, 2012 3:56 pm

kalvano wrote:It's very possible to move up and do better.


Yes. I made a pretty sizeable jump between first and second semester. If you're disappointed after first semester, be sure to talk with each of your professors to get feedback on your exams. It can be a little humbling (one of my professors, in an effort to manage expectations, said most students tend to stay in roughly the same ranking), but if you can't learn from you're mistakes, you're only compounding them.

For now, though, work hard and try to get it right from the start.

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spleenworship
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Re: If you don't do so well first semester...

Postby spleenworship » Sun Dec 09, 2012 4:02 pm

Lwoods wrote:
kalvano wrote:It's very possible to move up and do better.


Yes. I made a pretty sizeable jump between first and second semester. If you're disappointed after first semester, be sure to talk with each of your professors to get feedback on your exams. It can be a little humbling (one of my professors, in an effort to manage expectations, said most students tend to stay in roughly the same ranking), but if you can't learn from you're mistakes, you're only compounding them.

For now, though, work hard and try to get it right from the start.



Yeah, TBF I went from top 40% to top 30% between Fall and Spring of 1L when you look my cumulative. When you look at semester by semester grades I went from top 40% to top 20% or so.

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sambeber
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Re: If you don't do so well first semester...

Postby sambeber » Sun Dec 09, 2012 4:25 pm

kalvano wrote:It's very possible to move up and do better.


This.

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rinkrat19
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Re: If you don't do so well first semester...

Postby rinkrat19 » Sun Dec 09, 2012 4:30 pm

God, I hope so.

MinEMorris
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Re: If you don't do so well first semester...

Postby MinEMorris » Sun Dec 09, 2012 4:38 pm

A significant number of people claim to see dramatic improvement in their spring semester, but obviously it's not technically possible for it to happen to "most" people. There's no special spring semester strategy. Just like you should have been doing in the fall, you should work hard and work smart. A lot of people work smarter during spring semester, but a lot of people also stop working hard either due to burn-out or cockiness inspired by their stellar first semester performance. If you manage to figure out what problems you hd during first semester, devise a way to study efficiently, and put in a hard day's work almost every day, you have a good shot of seeing a significant improvement in your relative GPA.

Also, just in reference to your original post, I always personally avoided the library during finals time. People are freaking out, they surround themselves with 6 packs of redbull and chainsmoke outside talking about how they are getting 3 hours of sleep a night because of how much they study. You encounter your classmates and all you do is stand there for 10 minutes talking about how screwed you feel. Being in that environment is really stressful and I don't think it helps performance. For one thing, you might end up spending more time thinking about how screwed you are than actually studying, and for another thing, at least for myself I always found that I learn less when I'm studying under stress. My concentration and retention diminish, which simply doesn't help.

So, I always made a point to chill at home, turn on some low key relaxing background music and hit the books in my pajamas. Take a run in the morning, eat a decent meal (takeout from a legitimate restaurant if cooking intimidates you), get a full night's sleep each night, and sit on the porch/by a window to catch some sunlight. Don't worry about the fact that while you're sleeping one of your classmates is shotgunning Monster energy drinks and nervously typing her outline out over and over. In the end, you're probably getting more done than she is.

There are many deeply unsettling psychological facets of the lawschool environment, and I think a lot of people become unravelled obssessing over them. Don't think about the curve, don't think about how smart those three kids up front seem and how good their answers were to in-class questions, don't think about that conversation you overheard two months ago where a group was talking about being done with their outlines and starting on practice tests already, don't think about your professor's reputation for careless grading. Just concentrate on yourself, the material, the exam, and block out the rest of the world. In the end, the only person you're really competing against is yourself. Get the best score you can get, and if it turns out other people can do better, then so be it.

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gobuffs10
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Re: If you don't do so well first semester...

Postby gobuffs10 » Sun Dec 09, 2012 5:00 pm

Thanks to everyone. Calmed me down somewhat. There's just too much unpredictability this first time, which is what makes me so nervous.

apollo2015
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Re: If you don't do so well first semester...

Postby apollo2015 » Sun Dec 09, 2012 5:54 pm

I've been wondering, assuming that one's first semester grades make it unlikely for them to be able to make it onto OCI/LawReview, is there any point in trying to have above median grades after that point?

(I haven't gotten any final grades back yet, but I'd like to start planning contingencies for the 50% likelihood that I'm not in the top 50%.)

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Lwoods
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Re: If you don't do so well first semester...

Postby Lwoods » Sun Dec 09, 2012 6:19 pm

apollo2015 wrote:I've been wondering, assuming that one's first semester grades make it unlikely for them to be able to make it onto OCI/LawReview, is there any point in trying to have above median grades after that point?

(I haven't gotten any final grades back yet, but I'd like to start planning contingencies for the 50% likelihood that I'm not in the top 50%.)


Is your law review grade-on only? The skills needed to write onto LR are different than those needed to do well on a racehorse exam, so don't assume if you don't test well that you'll fail to write on.

Even if your LR is grade-on only, yes. Things like Latin honors and order of the coif can stay on your resume forever, and good grades your second semester and 2L year can help in your job hunt. Some attorneys say grades are still examined for lateralling, too, but there's some debate as to whether that will always be the case or if that's just ITE. Either way, if you want to be a lawyer, it's definitely worth is to keep trying to do well. If you don't want to be a lawyer, then you might want to look into why you're in law school.

MinEMorris
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Re: If you don't do so well first semester...

Postby MinEMorris » Sun Dec 09, 2012 6:26 pm

Well best of luck to you gobuffs. Like I mentioned, I really tried to take the relaxed-but-focused-tortoise approach to finals and it paid off big for me. It was really hard not to feel intimidated by people who had crockpots in their carrels and just seemed way more ontop of everything from the start, but in the end it was a good thing that I didn't concentrate on that.

I can tell you that a lot of people feel haunted by the fact that they spent their time in law school trying to figure out how to cope with the stress of law school rather than simply studying and preparing for their exam. If you try your reasonable best (reasonable best-- look what lawschool does to us!), even if you end up on the bottom of the class, believe me, you will find a way to own it and move on. If you spend your time worrying about the curve, how much grades matter, posting on facebook about how stressed you are, thinking about how futile your efforts might be, etc. looking back and thinking you could have done better if you had simply ignored that **** and just concentrated on your exam performance instead, you'll feel a remorse much harder to swallow. Point is, don't kill yourself trying to get to the top, but also don't undermine yourself by spending your time trying to project your odds of getting to the top if you try your best.

I've been wondering, assuming that one's first semester grades make it unlikely for them to be able to make it onto OCI/LawReview, is there any point in trying to have above median grades after that point?

(I haven't gotten any final grades back yet, but I'd like to start planning contingencies for the 50% likelihood that I'm not in the top 50%.)

First, it's your first year grades that really impact OCI/Law Review, not your first semester grades. So if you end up in the bottom 50%, try to even that out by a better performance the next semester. Also, many law reviews now are not 100% grade on, most have a write on component, so your grades don't even necessarily matter on that front.
Even if you get bad 1L grades, getting better grades and improving your GPA is always going to help you. If you have to go through 3L OCI, you'll want to do it with the best GPA possible, and your second semester of 1L is going to be part of it.

Regardless of how you've previously performed, whether you have a job or not, it's never a good or even neutral idea to give up on your grades.

09042014
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Re: If you don't do so well first semester...

Postby 09042014 » Sun Dec 09, 2012 6:31 pm

gobuffs10 wrote:Is it possible to change your study habits and make a leap second semester? I'm worried for several reasons, mostly because I have so little experience taking law exams (only practice tests, with no model answers), and everyone else seems to be working way harder than me. It really gets into my head, thinking I should be at the library every second of every day like the rest of the class.

Of course, it's entirely possible I'll go in and write some really good exams. I don't know. But someone earlier was describing not knowing if you'll end up 5% or 95% of the class, and that fear is awful. I know if I end up towards the bottom, I'll want to drop out more than anything.

Does first semester seal your fate, or can one turn things around second semester?


Being in the library all day is not necessary. Studying has diminishing returns. If you work objectively hard, it doesn't really matter if gunners work harder than you. Once you learn the material, you know the material. Then it's about application.

And most of those in the library all day are incredibly inefficient at studying .

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gobuffs10
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Re: If you don't do so well first semester...

Postby gobuffs10 » Sun Dec 09, 2012 9:17 pm

MinEMorris wrote:Well best of luck to you gobuffs. Like I mentioned, I really tried to take the relaxed-but-focused-tortoise approach to finals and it paid off big for me. It was really hard not to feel intimidated by people who had crockpots in their carrels and just seemed way more ontop of everything from the start, but in the end it was a good thing that I didn't concentrate on that.

I can tell you that a lot of people feel haunted by the fact that they spent their time in law school trying to figure out how to cope with the stress of law school rather than simply studying and preparing for their exam. If you try your reasonable best (reasonable best-- look what lawschool does to us!), even if you end up on the bottom of the class, believe me, you will find a way to own it and move on. If you spend your time worrying about the curve, how much grades matter, posting on facebook about how stressed you are, thinking about how futile your efforts might be, etc. looking back and thinking you could have done better if you had simply ignored that **** and just concentrated on your exam performance instead, you'll feel a remorse much harder to swallow. Point is, don't kill yourself trying to get to the top, but also don't undermine yourself by spending your time trying to project your odds of getting to the top if you try your best.


Thanks MinE. I hope this approach pays off. If there is one thing all my time on TLS taught me, it's that you can do things how everyone else does them, and wind up at the median, or you can try to do something different. I know myself and I know how I learn, and it's not by overloading my brain at the last minute, but gradual absorption over a semester. I went to class, paid attention, worked supplements when needed, and practiced here and there. In my view, killing yourself at the library for these last three weeks is bound to burn you out; your brain can only hold so much information at once. I'd rather walk in rested and ready to go, not reciting rules to myself over and over.

This semester, I focused on learning to write a well-organized, analytically sound exam. Of course, one has to know the rules, but merely spitting them back isn't what's asked for (as I learned on my midterm). If I've spent too much time on style over substance, I'll find out in a few weeks, and I'll adjust accordingly.

If I spend too much time cramming, I'll go in and throw the whole course on a page. "Oh! That's strict liability! I think I'll discuss that for four paragraphs." My approach has been a bit more broad, learning the framework and trying to understand how big issues unfold into less obvious ones. Maybe there is something to be said for the 10-hour study day, and doing every practice exam imaginable. But, I think it really boils down to how you learn, and that's just not how I learn. Hopefully, it translates into solid performances. If it doesn't, I'll go from there.

Whew. Sorry, I guess I'm still nervous over how much everyone else is working.
Last edited by gobuffs10 on Sun Dec 09, 2012 9:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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gobuffs10
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Re: If you don't do so well first semester...

Postby gobuffs10 » Sun Dec 09, 2012 9:18 pm

Desert Fox wrote:
gobuffs10 wrote:Is it possible to change your study habits and make a leap second semester? I'm worried for several reasons, mostly because I have so little experience taking law exams (only practice tests, with no model answers), and everyone else seems to be working way harder than me. It really gets into my head, thinking I should be at the library every second of every day like the rest of the class.

Of course, it's entirely possible I'll go in and write some really good exams. I don't know. But someone earlier was describing not knowing if you'll end up 5% or 95% of the class, and that fear is awful. I know if I end up towards the bottom, I'll want to drop out more than anything.

Does first semester seal your fate, or can one turn things around second semester?


Being in the library all day is not necessary. Studying has diminishing returns. If you work objectively hard, it doesn't really matter if gunners work harder than you. Once you learn the material, you know the material. Then it's about application.

And most of those in the library all day are incredibly inefficient at studying .


Thanks Fox. That's what all the 2 and 3Ls keep telling me. Physically being in the library does not equal studying. I chose my approach and stuck to it, and others are laughing at me. Whatever. We'll see what happens.

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piccolittle
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Re: If you don't do so well first semester...

Postby piccolittle » Sun Dec 09, 2012 9:33 pm

gobuffs10 wrote:I chose my approach and stuck to it, and others are laughing at me.

As a first semester 1L, this probably means you're doing it right.

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spleenworship
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Re: If you don't do so well first semester...

Postby spleenworship » Sun Dec 09, 2012 11:06 pm

piccolittle wrote:
gobuffs10 wrote:I chose my approach and stuck to it, and others are laughing at me.

As a first semester 1L, this probably means you're doing it right.

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worldtraveler
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Re: If you don't do so well first semester...

Postby worldtraveler » Mon Dec 10, 2012 3:54 am

I finished my first semester around median (I think; tough to tell at Berkeley). After 2nd semester grades that jumped to about top third/top quarter as my grades were substantially better. My grades continued to improve after that. I talked to professors about what I did wrong on exams and how to improve. I also discovered that I'm much, much better at take homes and papers than in class exams and my classes after 1L first semester have mostly been take homes and papers. I didn't work any harder or spend any more time studying.
I can only say that after first semester, if you don't like your grades then figure out why they were bad and don't be afraid to talk to your professors. And stop spending time doing stuff that isn't useful. I think for most people their grades stay relatively similar during law school but most people also don't change their study habits, if it works or if it doesn't work. Don't be that person if you aren't happy with how you're doing.

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TheKingintheNorth
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Re: If you don't do so well first semester...

Postby TheKingintheNorth » Mon Dec 10, 2012 1:31 pm

Yes. Of course you can do better. A lot of people stay where they are--and for every person who does better, there is of course someone who does worse--but it's not a rule.

That you even have to ask this question, however, does not indicate that you are particularly good at improvement. I know that sounds harsh, but climbing up the curve

It isn't hard--just figure out what you're doing wrong and fix it. Don't make any masochistic assumptions that you didn't work hard enough or that you're dumb. Don't latch on to any folk-lore you hear at school or on this board.

For example, I hear the eating/exercise thing repeated a lot by the more neurotic and anxious of my classmates. I think they like it because it corroborates the principle that "the harder you work, the better you do." They think that principle is true (hence the anxiety), so there's a confirmation bias for that kind of advice.

Eating better and exercising might help you! But it probably won't. And it'll hurt, if it stresses you out. A bottle of wine a night might help you relax, sleep, and synthesize ideas freely. It might also ruin you.

For the same reasons, blanket advice such as "do more practice tests" or "don't read, use supplements" or "don't use supplements" should be useless to you.

If when you get your grades back, you think they do not reflect your ability, talk to your professors and figure out what you did wrong. You probably missed some element or theme the professor wanted to see, structured your answers awkwardly, forgot to proofread, proofread too much and ran out of time, or a hundred other possible ways to fuck up. Who knows. (Well, your professors, and hopefully you, will.) But I can guarantee that the problem isn't going to be "you're too dumb for this" or "you didn't work hard enough."

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gobuffs10
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Re: If you don't do so well first semester...

Postby gobuffs10 » Mon Dec 10, 2012 5:31 pm

TheKingintheNorth wrote:Yes. Of course you can do better. A lot of people stay where they are--and for every person who does better, there is of course someone who does worse--but it's not a rule.

That you even have to ask this question, however, does not indicate that you are particularly good at improvement. I know that sounds harsh, but climbing up the curve

It isn't hard--just figure out what you're doing wrong and fix it. Don't make any masochistic assumptions that you didn't work hard enough or that you're dumb. Don't latch on to any folk-lore you hear at school or on this board.

For example, I hear the eating/exercise thing repeated a lot by the more neurotic and anxious of my classmates. I think they like it because it corroborates the principle that "the harder you work, the better you do." They think that principle is true (hence the anxiety), so there's a confirmation bias for that kind of advice.

Eating better and exercising might help you! But it probably won't. And it'll hurt, if it stresses you out. A bottle of wine a night might help you relax, sleep, and synthesize ideas freely. It might also ruin you.

For the same reasons, blanket advice such as "do more practice tests" or "don't read, use supplements" or "don't use supplements" should be useless to you.

If when you get your grades back, you think they do not reflect your ability, talk to your professors and figure out what you did wrong. You probably missed some element or theme the professor wanted to see, structured your answers awkwardly, forgot to proofread, proofread too much and ran out of time, or a hundred other possible ways to fuck up. Who knows. (Well, your professors, and hopefully you, will.) But I can guarantee that the problem isn't going to be "you're too dumb for this" or "you didn't work hard enough."


I think I can improve, if needed. I just think I'm asking because of a general lack of self-confidence.

UCFundergrad
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Re: If you don't do so well first semester...

Postby UCFundergrad » Mon Dec 10, 2012 6:11 pm

If you know the material, it doesn't matter what other people are doing.

There's only one person that is going to do your exam and it is you. I felt the same way 1L year that I didn't spend enough time in the library. It's just I prefer to study at home and only go to the library and work with people if I'm confused. This semester I worked with less people than I normally do and my confidence during exams was at an all time high (we'll see how grades are!).

Moral of the story, just do whatever works for you. If that is 1 hour of studying for each exam and you somehow do great, then fine. If you need 60 hour sin the library for each exam, then fine.

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gobuffs10
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Re: If you don't do so well first semester...

Postby gobuffs10 » Mon Dec 10, 2012 7:06 pm

UCFundergrad wrote:If you know the material, it doesn't matter what other people are doing.

There's only one person that is going to do your exam and it is you. I felt the same way 1L year that I didn't spend enough time in the library. It's just I prefer to study at home and only go to the library and work with people if I'm confused. This semester I worked with less people than I normally do and my confidence during exams was at an all time high (we'll see how grades are!).

Moral of the story, just do whatever works for you. If that is 1 hour of studying for each exam and you somehow do great, then fine. If you need 60 hour sin the library for each exam, then fine.


Thanks. That's really the whole problem. I'm more towards the 1 hour of studying side (I mean, more than just 1 hour, but not a ton), and nobody else seems to be like this. Blinders on. That's all I need.




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