The End of the Academic Year: A 1L Perspective

end of school year examsPlease welcome Shirlene Armstrong, first-year law student at Wayne State University. Today, she’s giving us the 1L perspective on what law school life is like as the second semester draws to a close.

Another semester is coming to an end and a new law school season is about to begin, Studying Fever. This was a phenomenon that I discovered last semester: when everyone suddenly realizes that exams are less than a month away and go into overdrive mode. These are some of my reflections on what a law school looks like toward the end of the year.

Where did the year go?

Talk to a law student in the middle of the first semester, they will say that the semester has gone on so long. Consult any law student in April, and they will be shocked at how quickly the semester and the academic year went.

My theory is that fall semester (in any college for this matter) actually feels like an entirety. This is because you begin classes, then there is Labor Day, and you don’t get another break (usually) all the way until Thanksgiving. After that, classes end and finals begin so it doesn’t even feel like a break.

Spring/Winter Semester is kind of broken up into two sections: beginning and end. By the time you get in the swing of the semester and get into the meat of your classes, Spring Break happens. Then you come back, have projects due, finish up classes and begin studying for exams.

Exams are Looming

April Showers bring May flowers, so studying tears will bring good grades, right? It’s true, exam season is just around the corner. If you go into a law school before the reading period, you can almost feel the tension in the air. Students spend all of the semester trying to comprehend cases in order to extract the rule of law and then apply it to a random set of facts on an exam.

Whether you are a 1L or a graduating 3L, exams are stressful for everyone. Arguably, they do get easier as you go (because instead of learning how to take an exam you are just taking it) but it is still challenging to conceptualize all of the information you have learned and apply your knowledge on some obscure fact pattern.

The best way to prepare is to know your exam and form an attack plan. This will help you prepare and lower your anxiety about taking the exam.

It’s Quiet…

Perhaps even too quiet. It is an interesting reality, but you may notice that there are more parking spots than usual. Part of this is because some students just stop showing up to classes. This is because students feel like they have a good handle on the material and decide they want to maximize their time and study independently.

Also, all law schools want their students to succeed. In order to ensure students have a proper location and environment for productive studying, some schools issue “quiet study hours” in the law school or library.

Even if your school does not have these mandatory quiet hours, you have still probably noticed the eerie quietness. This is because instead of hanging out with your friends and chatting about the latest episode of “This Is Us,” you are probably focusing on your individual studying. There are students who utilize study groups but will probably get a study room or go somewhere that is not as quiet so they can freely discuss the law in a louder environment.

No More Free Pizza

I mean this sincerely though. As the semester begins to end, you will notice that student organizations finish their meetings and stop hosting events. And those companies that typically roam the law school have stopped tabling with free candy and doughnuts.

This is because, as I have established earlier, people are in the grind period. Think to yourself: would you rather go to an hour event that you are semi-interested in just to get a free lunch or stay in the library and maybe crack down what a Fee Simple Absolute is? Normally, you would probably go for the free lunch. However, with the semester ending and exams about to begin, you are more likely to (actually) study during your lunch break.

Last Words of Encouragement

The end of the academic year can be a stressful time because exams are about to begin and people are moving on to the next stage in their education or careers. However, the end of the year marks the end of one journey and the beginning of a new one. Although it may seem like the year has gone by quickly, you have worked hard to get to the position you are in now (so you should be proud of yourself).

Exams can be very daunting (even for a seasoned 3L). Make sure you check in with yourself and your health during the reading and exam periods. And of course, study hard and keep going! The light is at the end of the tunnel, and you are on the train to get there.



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About Shirlene Brown

Shirlene Armstrong is a first-generation student in her last year at Wayne State University Law School in Detroit, Michigan. At Wayne, Shirlene has been involved with numerous organizations and clubs, including mock trial, LexisNexis, the Women's Law Caucus, and the Journal of Law and Society. Shirlene enjoys mentoring others and sharing what she has learned on her legal journey and continues to work hard in accomplishing her dreams.

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