How to Get the Most out of Your Classes (without comparing yourself to others)

Some people kick butt in colds calls. Others, well, don’t.

And guess what? It doesn’t matter.

If you’re even thinking about law school, chances are that you are a competitive person. You’re also smart. Which is great – because it will compel you forward in life, and help you succeed, time and time again. But it also means that you may struggle with comparing yourself to your fellow law students, who are also highly competitive and intelligent.

I am so thankful to be surrounded by people who constantly challenge me. My fellow law students continuously push me to work harder, think more analytically, question my views, and to dream bigger. But there are still days when I have to remind myself that just because someone answered a cold call eloquently, and I babbled, doesn’t mean that they are smarter, or that they even understand the material better.

Which gets me to my main point – everyone learns differently, and one of the most important things you can learn during your first semester of 1L, is that you shouldn’t compare yourself to others in class. Just because someone can sound great on a cold call doesn’t mean much. Conversely, bombing a cold call doesn’t mean the student doesn’t understand the material! Brain freezes happen. Every law student will tell you that.

One of the hardest things about 1L can be learning how you learn. The way you learned in undergrad may be the way you’ll learn the law, but it may not be. And if you’ve taken a few years off (I took 6), you may need to re-learn how to study. And that’s ok! It may take some experimenting, but learning how you learn the law is perhaps the most important part of 1L. Here are some tips I picked up.

  1. Kinesthetic learners – I was not a kinesthetic learner in high school or college. It wasn’t until law school that I realized that I was. I discovered that flashcards were really helpful, as was reading my notes while I biked/walked on a the treadmill.
  1. Listening in class – some people learn by typing, and so will copy down almost verbatim what the professor says. Other people, like myself, really need to listen to the professor, because I’m digesting the material by listening and looking at the professor. It took law school for me to realize that I’m somewhat of an auditory listener, but I also really need to be looking at the professor/speaker to fully take in what’s being said.
  1. Study groups – it works for some people. But not for others. Key here is – don’t compare yourself!! Don’t get stressed out when your best friend is in a study group that meets three times a week, and you only study by yourself. That doesn’t mean your friend is going to get better grades. It just means you have different study styles.

The most important thing is to NOT compare yourself. It is so easy to fall into this trap, especially when you’re surrounded by other ambitious, competitive, intelligent students. Everyone approaches law school, and learning, differently. Get comfortable in your own study habits, and don’t worry what everyone else is doing.

And don’t worry about cold calls – every student will mess one up. It doesn’t say anything about whether or not you will make a good lawyer.

 

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