Many people are told (at least, I know I was) that your first semester will be the hardest semester—not only of law school, but of your life. Going into September I was expecting difficulties, because that is what I was told and warned about. But nothing can truly prepare you for the grueling, exciting, stressful, rewarding experience that is your first semester. As I came out on the other end of it, I realized that while first semester is one of the most difficult challenges I’ve ever completed, there are things that you can do to make it easier on yourself come finals time.
This is the most important skill of all for law school, and when I came into NYU it was one thing that I was told consistently. Make a schedule, get with friends to read for the week—whatever you need to do not to procrastinate. Law school isn’t just reading; it’s also outlining, writing assignments, writing cover letters and resumes, participating in club activities, and completing applications for internships on top of grocery shopping, laundry, cooking, etc. Planning will also help you find time in your schedule for things that aren’t law school.
I’ve also been told many times that law school is a marathon, not a sprint. Burning yourself out by not sleeping your first week will only make the semester more difficult than it needs to be. If you’re managing your time well, there should be no need to pull all-nighters or get three hours of sleep a night. Sleep keeps us functioning, and it’s just as important, if not more important, in law school than it is anywhere else.
Find somewhere else to study
I will promote the Law School library unfailingly as an amazing and especially quiet place to study, but I wish I had found somewhere else to study sometimes, especially at the beginning of the semester. I, like many others, was stuck between my room and the library during finals, and it would have been nice to see a bit less of the library throughout the semester.
Talk to professors during office hours
Many professors welcome students during their office hours. If you have a simple question you can go to the TA, but if you still don’t understand something or your questions are slightly more in-depth, don’t be afraid to take advantage of office hours as well. If talking one-on-one to a professor is nerve-wracking (which it is to many of us), you can bring a friend with you. Don’t waste an opportunity to get insight from a professor.
Take some time for yourself
I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it another 20 times before I graduate: law school is very important, but so is taking care of yourself. Come finals, when everyone is in the library for hours a day, you’ll be glad that you took time out for yourself earlier in the semester so that you walk into finals refreshed and ready to perform!
I won’t try to sugarcoat it. First semester is difficult, but remembering why you wanted to go into the legal profession in the first place, whether it’s to change the world or change your life, can help you survive your most rewarding challenge.