Thursday, January 4, 2018

New Semester, New Me?

The beginning of the spring semester is just a few short weeks away! Its time to get prepared, organized and focused on the semester that lies ahead. There are many many things that I do to prepare myself and ensure that I stay on track (including binge watch netflix since I won't have the time to do that). Keep in mind that everything is all trial and error, what works for me might not work for you, you might take what I say and adjust it to fit your own learning style and that is completely okay!

Schedule Planning
I think this is one of the best things that you can do for yourself when it comes to preparing for the upcoming semester -- plan out everything. I usually do this right in excel. I start by doing my courses. This semester I only have class Monday --> Thursday which is going to be nice. On Monday / Wednesday I have:
  • LCR III (transactional drafting) from 8:30 - 9:20 
  • Evidence from 1:00 - 2:40
  • Commercial Transactions from 6:10 - 7:50
Tuesday/ Thursday I only have Con Law II from 3:30 - 4:45

In the sheet, each class is color coded, with the Title, professor & time.  Here is an example:

Originally I started the semester out with 16 credits but I decided to drop a 3 credit course because I am interning on Fridays and working part time. I don't want to over do it. I'd rather focus my attention on four courses and do well than be swamped in 5 courses and do mediocre. Now if I didn't take 17 credits last semester, I would be taking 16 this semester but because I was over this fall, it makes it so i really only have to at least 13 credits (maybe even 12) for the next 3 semesters in order to graduate with enough credits. So my focus is on bar prep courses and courses in my area of interest. 

Next I went ahead and entered in a time block for my internship which will be on Fridays from 9-5:

After both of those things were out of the way, I blocked out times that I should be spending in the Library. This semester, I want to be getting to school no later than 7 am. I know that for me, I do a better job of getting my work done during the morning hours than I do late at night like my one friend. She can grind out work until 2 am without a problem whereas my brain starts to fry out at like 8pm. So my hope (and plan) is to get there by no later than 7 and be there until 8, I can adjust from there. 

One of my new years resolutions is to get back into shape (isn't it everyones?) I really don't want to let go of this so I went ahead and blocked out three days a week where I know for a fact I can fit the gym into my schedule -- T, TR & F.

Now Saturday and Sunday's are typically reading days for me (I get the upcoming weeks reading done so I can spend the time before classes reviewing). Last spring I did this at home and it seemed to work out fine, so for now I plan to do that again unless for some reason I cant do that. Although I am woking part time, my availability is open on Sa & Sun. which I don't mind because I actually pass my school on the way so it would be easy for me to stop before or after to get work done. It will really be a trial and error thing at first. 

Quick Break down on what to include:
  • classes
  • internships/externships/clinics/pro bono
  • library times
  • extracurriculars (moot court, journal, gym, fitness classes, club activities, etc. etc)
Books & More Books
My fall semester I did not have to worry about ordering my books, the school offered a package for 1L students where the bookstore packaged the books you needed and had them available on the last day of orientation. Spring Semester I was all on my own. There are a ton of places that you can go to order your Law books from:
Normally I use amazon because I have prime shipping but I know a lot of people that use all the others listed. It's really just a personal preference. One thing to keep in mind is that you're going to need these books for the first day of classes and you're more likely than not going to have reading assignments due for the first day of classes. ORDER YOUR BOOKS FAR ENOUGH IN ADVANCE SO YOU HAVE TIME TO READ. Some professors will send out pdf versions of the first few weeks of reading just in case some students haven't received books yet but other just expect you to figure it out on your own so be prepared if your book is on back order, etc etc. I have one book for Evidence right now that isn't "expected to ship" until about 1-2 months (the professor recently changed the edition which is currently out of stock....) So i'm going to have to figure out what to do. 

long story short -- order your books in advance.

Course Syllabi
Slowly but surely my professors for the semester are releasing their blackboard pages which typically includes the course syllabi. my best advice -- READ THEM ALL THE WAY THROUGH. Each professor divides the course up differently - some count class participation more than others, some include quizzes, some stick to the "final only" grade. Its important to know these things on top of if computers are allowed to be used, when office hours are, how to best get in contact with them, will the class be recorded, etc. etc.

Also, once you get the syllabi go ahead and (in pencil) add important due dates, exam dates, presentations, projects, etc etc into your planner, calendar, wherever. I say pencil because we all know that sometimes these dates get changed. Honestly, I put these dates in multiple places -- planner, desk calendar and my laptop just so that there is no chance of me forgetting. 

Reading Chart
Last Spring in property I decided to try something new. Once the syllabus was released for the course, I went ahead and created a excel chart that listed all the dates for when the course met and the readings that were due on that day. I printed out a copy of that chart and placed it in the book. It worked out really well and helped me easily keep track of the readings each week. I am definitely going to do the same thing this semester for each course. 

Supplies, Supplies, Supplies!
if you ever read my post School Supplies (if you haven't, go do it) you know that I love school supply shopping. So below is a list of some of my must haves for this semester:
Now there are also some extras that I have found to be useful:
  • book light
  • book stand -- a few options depending on how much you want to spend / material
  • flash drive
  • external hard drive -- do some shopping around for this. I was given one by a friend and it hasn't caused me any issues. But you might have a personal preference.
  • HEADPHONES -- always need a good pair to block out sound, take a break or just take a walk. I personally use the regular and fitness beats. 
  • Ear plugs -- I use these all the time. My friends actually make fun of me for it, but i literally cannot get work done with noise going on all around me sometimes, so they come in handy, especially during finals when all you hear is pounding on the keyboards by all your classmates. 
Update Laptop / Tablet
If you haven't done so already, its time to start updating your laptop and tablets to get prepared for the upcoming semester. You don't want to have a fiasco where your laptop crashes because you haven't kept up with the updates and then loose your paper that you've been working on forever and were at 13 out of 15 pages. Update it now while you still have some time to get used to any updates or go and get any problems fixed.

Locker Essentials
Now I know that not every school has lockers available but we do. There are a few things that I always keep in mine:
  • GUM -- I literally buy a bulk pack of this. 
  • granola bars & fruit snacks.
  • deodorant
  • body spray
  • dry shampoo
  • mascara -- simple, easy, done. 
  • water bottle
  • hoodie / sweater
  • winter seasons necessities: gloves, hat, scarf because I always seem to forget one of the three.
  • extra pens, highlighters, notebook.
Update LinkedIn & Resume
As grades come out, its important to update your resume so that you don't have to worry about it when it comes time to apply for Summer employment. Its not a bad idea to send it to your career services office to look over once you update it, this way they can give you feedback, set up a meeting,  help get the process going before the swarm of students do so here soon. 

LinkedIn is also another great thing to update. Now I haven't posted my GPA or resume on my LinkedIn page but I do make sure to update it as changes occur (work experience, areas of interest, skills, relevant courses, training, etc. etc.) I will be doing a post on this soon. 

Finally.... ENJOY YOUR LAST FEW WEEKS OF BREAK. I cant wait to share with you how I am going to be tackling my first semester back after spending the fall in D.C.!
3 comments on "New Semester, New Me?"
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  2. Very nice post and really helpful for many students. I would like to share this post with QandA hope many other students can get help by it.